Twin Cities Jazz Festival

The Lead Sheet: Top Voices Come to Town

This articlecourtesy of
Jazz Police Logo

This article originally appeared on Jazz Police.

Cecile McLorin Salvant at the Dakota (2015)

Vocalists seem to love the Twin Cities, and we’ve already had some top voices visit in the past few months, including Karrin Allyson, Marilyn Maye,  Signe Eeg, Sara Gazarek,  Gretchen Parlato, Cyrille Aimee, Stacey Kent and more, on top of our own local vocal standouts. But it’s going to be a whirlwind in the next week! If you schedule your time wisely, you can probably catch them all!

Tierney Sutton (with JazzMN Orchestra, 2016)

Tierney Sutton, at the Dakota May 30, 7 pm. It’s tribute enough that Tierney Sutton has nine Grammy nominations, but consider that every album she has released in the last decade has received the nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album! Switching from Russian studies to jazz, Milwaukee native Sutton studied at the Berklee College of Music, opened for Billy Taylor and Max Roach, and was a finalist in the 1998 Thelonious Monk Jazz Vocal Competition alongside Roberta Gambarini and Jane Monheit, all finishing behind the late Terry Thornton. Her fourteen albums to date cover broad territory, including tributes to Bill Evans, Frank Sinatra, Sting, and Joni Mitchell, and feature her long-running Tierney Sutton Band. Sutton spent a decade teaching at USC’s Thornton School of Music and six years as head of Vocal Music at the Los Angeles College of Music. Among her students, she counts Gretchen Parlato and Sara Gazarek. She’s performed locally at the Dakota and with the JazzMN Orchestra. Just a few weeks ago, Sutton released her 15th album, Paris Sessions II, featuring Parisian guitarist (and husband) Serge Merlaud and world renowned flutist Hubert Laws.

Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz

Kate McGarry/Keith Ganz Quartet, in the Dunsmore Room (Crooners) June 2, 6:30 pm.  There is probably no more perfect setting for this long overdue visit from vocalist Kate McGarry and music/life partner guitarist Keith Ganz. The Wall Street Journal notes that their music is “austere and elegant, an exceptionally appealing blend of folk and jazz.” The New York Times pronounced Kate’s singing “astute and sensitive.” Her credits including touring and recording with jazz stars Fred Hersch, Kurt Elling, Maria Schneider, John Hollenbeck, Billy Childs, Luciana Souza, Theo Bleckmann and Tony Award Winner Jason Robert Brown. She’s also served as a Lincoln Center Teaching Artist, U.S. State Department Jazz Ambassador, and Jazz Arts faculty member at The Manhattan School of Music. Named #1 Rising Star Female Jazz Vocalist by Downbeat in 2016,  she has been featured on NPR shows such as Jazz Set with DeeDee Bridgwater, Piano Jazz with Marion McPartland, and All Things Considered. Husband Keith Ganz serves as guitarist, arranger and producer, winning a 2019 Grammy and lauded by Jazz Times as a “sublime master of subtlety.” Keith has performed Harry Connick, Jr., Tierney Sutton, Luciana Souza, Kurt Elling, Gretchen Parlato, Gary Versace, and Jo Lawry. Together, Kate and Keith have produced 6 critically acclaimed albums, earning two Grammy nominations for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Their 2021 release, What to Wear in the Dark. features vibrant, jazz- fueled rearrangements of songs by iconic songwriters of the 70’s, with performances by jazz greats Gary Versace, Obed Calvaire, Sean Smith, Clarence Penn, Becca Stevens, and the late Ron Miles. Joining Kate and Keith in the Dunsmore Room are renowned bassist Reuben Rogers and drum dynamo Clarence Penn.

Cecile McLorin Salvant (at the Dakota, 2019)

Cecile McLorin Salvant, at the Dakota June 2, 7 and 9 pm.  Seemingly appearing out of nowhere to win the 2010 Thelonious Monk Vocal Jazz Competition, Cecile McLorin Salvant was described by the Wall Street Journal:  “She evokes Vaughan when she releases a taste or two of lush vibrato. She sounds a bit like Betty Carter, swooping up or down between notes to make a point; like Ella Fitzgerald, when she revels in an up-tempo groove. Yet these seem less like references than inherited traits…”  Her trajectory since winning the Monk competition has been steep, her first album for Mack Records nominated for a Grammy and winning Downbeat  Critics’ “Best Album” in 2013, winning New Artist of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year honors  in the 2014 Downbeat Critics Poll, and now holding three Grammy awards for Best Jazz Vocal Album. In 2020, Salvant received the “genius” MacArthur fellowship and the Doris Duke Artist Award. Nonesuch Records released Ghost Song in March 2022. Also a visual artist, Salvant makes large scale textile drawings and typically provides illustrations for her CD covers. She’s completing work on Ogresse, is a musical fable in the form of a cantata that blends genres (folk, baroque, jazz, country). Salvant wrote the story, lyrics, and music. It is arranged by Darcy James Argue for a thirteen-piece orchestra of multi-instrumentalists and will be performed next spring at the Walker Art Center.

[I first considered cloning myself to attend McGarry and Salvant on the same night, then realized I could easily hit the Dunsmore Room at 6:30 and arrive at the Dakota in time to hear Salvant’s second set at 9.]

More From the Local Scene!

We have a vibrant local vocal jazz scene, with these gigs upcoming:

Jennifer Grimm does Judy Garland

Crooners (

  • Prudence Johnson/Tim Sparks, “Songs of Lennon and McCartney), May 27, 6:30 pm (Dunsmore Room)
  • Erin Schwab and Jay Fuchs “Summer of Love”, May 27, 8 pm (Belvedere)
  • Maud Hixson “50s Songbook”, May 28, 5:30 pm (Dunsmore Room)
  • Jennifer Grimm “Judy Garland”, May 29, 5:30 pm (Main Stage)
  • Leslie Vincent, June 2, 8 pm (Main Stage)
  • Andrew Walesch/Orchestra, “Sinatra!” June 3, 7 pm (Belvedere)
  • Wayne Anthony, “Standards and Z Vous Play”, June 3, 8 pm (Main Stage)
  • Laila Biali, June 3, 8:30 pm (Dunsmore Room)
  • Connie Evingson with Patty and the Buttons, June 4, 4 pm (Main Stage)
  • Arne Fogel and Ages of Bing, June 5, 6 pm (Dunsmore Room)’
  • Dennis Spears and Ginger Commodore, June 5, 7:30 pm (Belvedere)

The Dakota (

  • Ginger Commodore Quartet, May 28, 7 pm

Sovereign Estate (

  • Maryann and the Moneymakers (Maryann Sullivan), May 27, 5 pm

Woman’s Club (

  • Connie Evingson with Patty and the Buttons, “Jazz on the Rooftop”, June 1, 6:30 pm

Coming This Summer!

Kurt Elling (at The Dakota, 2021)

More outstanding vocalists will be in town over the next couple months:

  • June 9, Kandace Springs at The Dakota
  • June 22, Kurt Elling with Charlie Hunter at The Dakota
  • June 24, Bruce Henry at Twin Cities Jazz Festival (Main Stage at Mears Park)
  • June 25, Samara Joy at The Dakota
  • July 16, Bruce Henry at Crooners (Belvedere)
  • July 23-24, Ann Hampton Calloway at Crooners (Belvedere)