Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Live at the Dakota

Lots of potential paddling coming up this week so we chose to transition from the Easter festivities to the cold water by listening to a friends band, Romantica, at the Dakota in downtown Minneapolis. The club moved down there from Bandanna Square, a failed retail project in St Paul's Midway district, about 10 years ago. One of the main reasons they survived, in my opinion, is because the owner, Lowell Pickett, is a really nice guy.

Club owners don't always endear themselves to musicians and Mr Pickett seems to be the notable exception. The VOR, BC, and I are heading down next week to see Madeleine Peyroux. One of the waitresses told us that Ms. Peyroux stopped by when she was playing the Orpheum last year, just to say hi to Lowell, and slipped the waitress a couple tickets to her show. Legend has it that when the club was having financial difficulties in the rapidly dying Bandanna Square venue, Lowell got a call from a young singer/pianist that he had booked a few years before. I think the cover was ten bucks for that show. Harry Connick Jr. said he'd come back and play the club and Lowell said there was no way he could afford him now. Harry told him that he had really appreciated his support when he was up and coming and would do two shows for union scale and Lowell could charge whatever he wanted to for the tickets.

My favorite story however, is one that I'm involved in. A number of year ago I took an up and coming young bass player, 1stLtOlson, to see Christian McBride, one of the best jazz bassists on the planet. Lowell noticed the youngest guy in the club, then a sophomore in high school, and wandered over to say hi and see how we were enjoying the show. He asked if 1stLtO was a player and he said he was. He then asked him if he'd like to attend a workshop the next afternoon that Christian was putting on for young bass players. I sprung him from school the next day and he and several other young players were mesmerized byMcBrides stand up bass wizardry.

Fast forward to New York City, 2004. Then SSgtO had just returned from a tour of Iraq as a Humvee gunner. Not really interested in a quick return to the middle east, SOP for MP units at that time, he wandered down to the HQ of the 319th Army Band, the Statue of Liberty Band, and told the CO he was a bass player and was available. Every band needs a bass player and he was able to transfer to that unit.

Infer what you will from the stories but the Dakota remains the best jazz club that I've ever been in and the musicians genuinely like performing there, which makes a world of difference. Back to the kayak world this weekend with a bit of coho trolling from the Ore Freighter (Valley Aquanaut) up on the south shore of Gitchee Gumee. Rather than thinking about the return to work on Sunday night however, I'll be thinking that I have tickets to Madeleine Peyroux on Tuesday at my favorite jazz joint. Its the kind of mental health boost that everyone needs on Monday at the start of the work week.

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