Twin Cities Jazz Festival

Illicit Jazz Workshop Presents the Aaron Hedenstrom Quartet on December 15

This articlecourtesy of
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Aaron Hedenstrom © Andrea Canter

© Andrea Canter


Since returning to the Twin Cities after studies at UW-Eau Claire and earning is doctoral degree at the University of North Texas, saxophonist Aaron Hedenstrom has become a busy member of the local jazz scene. His Quartet performs on Friday, December 15 (8 pm) at Jazz Central, part of the Illicit Jazz Workshop series curated by Steve Kenny. The band  this weekend includes Julian Manzara on guitar, Ted Olsen on bass, and Theo Harris on drums.

Aaron Hedenstrom © Andrea Canter

Aaron Hedenstrom was born in Lesotho (Africa) where his parents were teaching; he grew up in the Twin Cities where he developed his interest and talent in music, discovering the area had  “more than enough opportunities to listen to amazing local musicians, study music with them, and partake in fun extra-curricular music programs such as the Minnesota Institute for Talented Youth and Minnesota Youth Jazz Band.”  Aaron attended the jazz program at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, performing in the pop/rock band Underdub and with the John Raymond Project. Raymond described Aaron as “a very eclectic kind of guy” and “a monster player… I get so much inspiration from him in his playing, his writing, and just the way he approaches improvising.”

Aaron moved to Denton, TX  where he enrolled in the master’s degree and then the doctoral programs at the University of North Texas, serving as a Teaching Fellow and performing in the famed One O’Clock Lab Band.  He also performed as a freelancer in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metro area before returning to the Twin Cities in 2015. As a student, Aaron earned a number of composing and arranging awards–2012 Detroit Jazz Festival Arranging Contest (for his arrangement of Wayne Shorter’s “Yes and No”), the Herb Alpert ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award, the Jazz Education Network Student Composer Showcase, 2013 Downbeat Student Award, Best Graduate Blues/Pop/Rock Soloist, and 2014 Downbeat Student Award, Best Graduate Jazz Soloist.

Aaron has released two recordings to date: A Symphonic Jazz Hip Hop Experience was the tantalizing title of his debut recording with his Aaron Hedenstrom Orchestra, released in 2010, bringing together a long list of young area musicians. Supported through a successful Kickstarter campaign, he released A Moment of Clarity on Shifting Paradigm Records in 2014, featuring six original compositions that Hedenstrom noted “represent a part of my daily spiritual journey through life as well as my faith in Christ…  This album is all about creating meaningful art that speaks from the heart. The idea behind the music is to take all of the tools I’ve learned from my modern jazz training and create something that is both interesting to listen to as well as emotionally moving.”  In addition to these albums, Aaron recently released The Living Room Sessions with cohorts Gabe Evens, Jack Helsley, and Matt Young.

Aaron has performed across the United States as a jazz saxophonist, clinician, and composer; and has written numerous big band works, string arrangements, small group pieces, and chamber works. His collaborations have included saxophonist Bob Reynolds, the University of North Texas One O’Clock Lab Band, vocalist Marlene Verplanck, vocalist Don Most and Sean Carey. As a saxophonist, Aaron has been a featured guest artist at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Wichita State University, and Eastern Washington University. He has performed at top-tier music venues and festivals nationwide including the Dakota Jazz Club, Snug Harbor, Scat Jazz Lounge, Next Generation Jazz Festival, and the Eau Claire Jazz Festivals.

Julian Manzara © Andrea Canter

Guitarist and composer Julian Manzara leads his own quartet, performing in the past year at Jazz Central, Black Dog, Reverie, the Twin Cities Jazz Festival and more. A Minneapolis native, Julian studied at the Berklee College of Music before heading out on tour with the rock band The Lone Crows. He returned to the Twin Cities to finish his degree (in Guitar Performance) at McNally Smith College of Music, and currently performs, composes, and is developing a home recording studio. His quartet performed on the Makers’ Mark (5th Street) Stage at the 2017 Twin Cities Jazz Festival.

Ted Olsen © Andrea Canter

Ted Olsen studied bass with Travis Schilling and Adam Linz, graduating from St. Paul’s Como Park High School in 2010. He went on to study composition at Luther College in Decorah, IA, finishing college studies at the University of Northern Colorado in spring 2015. In the Twin Cities, Ted has taught at the Twin Cities Jazz Workshop and has performed as leader and sideman at various venues including the Artists Quarter, Jazz Central, Black Dog, Twin Cities Jazz Festival, and more, often in the company of Javi Santiago and Miguel Hurtado. He has also branched out into working with artists from the folk, rock, R&B, and contemporary classical scenes. Ted won the 2012 Eric Stokes Song Contest held by the American Composers’ Forum; in 2015 he was a finalist in the ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers’ competition. Ted released his first recording as leader, Joyfire, earlier this year.

Drummer Theo Harris has performed around the Twin Cities with Jay Young’s Lyric Factory and Ian Young’s Color Me Kindly.


Jazz Central Studios is located at 407 Central Av SE in Minneapolis; This nonprofit venue presents a wide range of jazz at least five nights per week. Schedule for the Illicit Jazz Workshop at $10 donation requested to support the venue and musicians.