Coming attractions at the Dakota

The Dakota Restaurant and Jazz Club in Minneapolis is my favorite spot to hear live music. It’s an intimate venue that combines class and warmth. Proprietor Lowell Pickett sports an easy smile at least in part because the restaurant combines his passion for music with his vocation. Britt Robson profiled Lowell in “Planet Pickett,” and the Dakota naturally assumes a prominent role in the profile.

In the past year we’ve seen several outstanding shows at the Dakota. In one, Lowell brought together Benny Green and Bucky Pizarelli for a first-ever pairing that I think is giving rise to a forthcoming recording. In another, we saw Bucky’s son John Pizarelli playing a terrific set from his new recording. In yet another, we sat a few feet from Shawn Colvin as she brought down the house a couple of months ago. We were also able to get up close when Boz Scaggs did likewise giving new life to his old hits with a fantastic jazz ensemble just after election day.

Among the Dakota’s coming attractions are Ann Hampton Callaway. I dragged my daughter to see Callaway perform last year at the Blue Note in New York City. Even though my daughter wasn’t familiar with the repertoire from which Callaway drew, we were both blown away by her artistry. I wrote up my impressions of her show in “But Beautiful” and then followed up with an interview that I reported this past April in “In praise of Ann Hampton Callaway.” Ann is in my opionion the foremost living singer of the great American songbook. She has dedicated herself to keeping the flame alive.

Also among the Dakota’s coming attractions are Nicholas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. Ashford and Simpson are the gifted husband and wife team who wrote pop/soul classics including “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “You’re All I Need To Get By.” He writes the words, she the music. They have a remarkable personal story that begins in a Harlem church choir and is enhanced by their longevity as a writing and performing couple.

After turning out hit songs for artists at Motown and elsewhere — Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell were an especially memorable vehicle for their work — they launched their own performing and recording career. They now have some 20 albums to their credit and have developed a hot nightclub act. We saw their show at the Dakota in June and I wrote it up in (what else?) “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.”

Ann Hampton Callaway will be appearing for four shows at the Dakota on February 9 and 10. Ashford and Simpson will be appearing for four shows at the Dakota on February 20 and 21. Tickets for any of the shows can be purchased online here. We’ll be attending one of Callaway’s shows on February 9 and plan on returning for another shot with Ashford and Simpson on February 21. If you’re in the Twin Cities, please take note of the opportunity to see these winning artists up close and personal in a congenial environment.

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