© Andrea Canter
Steve Kenny’s Illicit Jazz Workshop presents its namesake band at Jazz Central this Friday, October 27. Both managed by Illicit Productions, the new weekly jazz series and the Illicit Sextet converge at 8 pm. One of the oldest jazz ensembles still performing in the Twin Cities (30 years with a 15-year hiatus midway!), the band includes Kenny, Paul Harper, David Roos, Chris Lomheim, Tom Pieper and Nathan Norman.
Steve Kenny, Kelly Bucheger, and David Roos formed the IS in 1987 with cohorts from the University of Wisconsin River Falls. The band decided to focus on original compositions as “an outstanding vehicle for personal and group expression.” The focus on original material was one of the unique features of the band, and a long-standing weekly gig at O’Gara’s in St. Paul afforded them the opportunity to try out their new music. But in the mi-90s, the band, for various reasons, went on hiatus. A long one. Fifteen years is a long wait to reconvene, but the band reunited in 2009 at the Artists Quarter with the same personnel who were playing in the mid 90s. In 2013, the sextet finally released the sequel to its debut Chapter One — Chapter Eleven. The recording gap closed considerably as IS waited only three years for number three, Addendum (2016).
Steve Kenny, FLUMPET™, co-founded the Illicit Sextet after graduating from UW-River Falls. Among other projects, he led The Bastids and then Group 47 weekly at the Artists Quarter, and more recently at Jazz Central, the Icehouse, the Black Dog and more. Group 47 recorded an LP, Straight to Vinyl, released in summer 2014. Kenny also received a Metropolitan Regional Arts Council grant to produce a 10-week summer series of jazz at Studio Z in 2014, which he has brought back each year since, featuring “All Originals” from local ensembles, including the Illicit Sextet. In fall 2014, Steve launched the Saturday Night Jazz at the Black Dog series, and with Illicit Productions, assembled and released the first Twin Cities Jazz Sampler, a collection of tracks from 13 area jazz ensembles; the second volume was released in 2016. In 2015, he inaugurated another weekly series, Friday Night Jazz at The Nicollet (later Thursday Night Jazz at Reverie) in Minneapolis; the series moved to Jazz Central when Reverie closed in August. Steve also curates three nights of jazz at the Black Dog during the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. In addition to IS and Group 47, Steve leads several quartets, Central Standard Time, What Would Monk Do, and performs with a long list of area musicians including Larry McDonough, with whom he has performed a tribute to Miles Davis and Chet Baker.
Paul Harper, tenor sax, joined the Illicit Sextet in the mid 90s. A busy Twin Cities performer, Paul has appeared on numerous recordings (including Charmin Michelle’s Pure Imagination) and performs on sax and flute with guitarist Joel Shapira, Charmin & Shapira & Friends, and other ensembles through Sunset Park Music. Paul leads several ensembles, including Show and Tell, Chordless Quartet, and the Bardo Quartet.
David Roos, guitar, also a founding member of the Illicit Sextet, leads the trio Exquisite Corps, sold guitars at The Podium in Dinkytown until it closed recently, and devotes time to teaching and writing about jazz guitar and theory.
Chris Lomheim, piano, was a protégé of the late Bobby Peterson. Today he is one of the most in-demand pianists in the metro area, backing area vocalists and heading his own trio, quartet and quintet, as well as playing and recording with the Reid Kennedy Trio and more. Chris returned to the studio in 2014 to record a trio project of all original compositions (Timelines), released to rave reviews. Chris is heard at least monthly in solo at Vieux Carre’, continues to perform solo for High Tea at the Saint Paul Hotel, leads his trio, quartet, and quintet, and is a featured performer at Orchestra Hall, the Dunsmore Room.
Tom Pieper, bass, is on the faculty of the MacPhail Center for Music. With wife Karen, he performs as SpiritJazz, and is also the middle school orchestra director for the Wayzata Schools.
Nathan Norman, drums, has an extensive resumé performing with area artists, including vocalists Debbie Duncan, Connie Evingson, JoAnn Funk, and Charmin Michelle. He’s also played and/or recorded with Bill Banfield, Nancy Bierma, Rick Carlson, Robert Huntley, French 75 and more, and performs regularly with the Travis Anderson Trio.
A nonprofit venue for performance and education, Jazz Central is located at 407 Central Av SE in Minneapolis. The Illicit Jazz Workshop holds cutting-edge jazz concerts every Friday at 8 pm (see https://theillicitjazzworkshop.info/schedule). Donations of $10 requested to support the venue and the musicians. Full calendar at http://jazzcentralstudios.org.