The best New Year's Eve jazz shows in the Twin Cities

Categories: Concert Preview
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Courtesy of davinaandthevagabonds.com

News Year's Eve is perhaps the most universally bitched-about holiday. We come to expect long lines, impossible parking and cab situations, and clubs filled with amateurs crowding the bar with obnoxious shot requests.

But for live music junkies, New Year's Eve in the Twin Cities is Mecca, with most venues and many restaurants featuring live bands, even with the holiday falling on a Monday. Choices run the genre gamut, but to eschew dance parties or crazy bar chaos, our illustrious local jazz scene offers a range of New Year's Eve options that promote a less abrasive vibe and a bit more intimacy.

For big spenders:

Davina & the Vagabonds at the Dakota for the second year in a row, performing their last hometown show before heading off on tour to the West Coast and Finland. Just given a year-end nod for her soulfully sincere cover of Sam Cooke's "Bring it on Home to Me," Davina's unabashed throwback sass is raucous enough to push the envelope, but familiar enough to keep you comfy and cozy. Best bet: score a leather booth and get one of the Dakota's many jazz-themed martinis, setting the stage for perhaps the perfect New Year's kiss.


The band and club offer two performances -- a dinner show at 6 p.m. including a five-course prix fixe and a "cocktail hour" show at 10pm. Both run you $70 a pop, but feature plenty of perks, and of course, a warm, sexy spot to ring in the new year.

For any budget:

Since opening several months ago, thanks to the help of jazz drummer phenom/curator JT Bates, Icehouse has quickly established itself as the pinnacle scene for the best of Twin Cities jazz renegades. Bello Duo (Michael Rossetto on banjo and Ethan Sutton on cello) will play during the dinner hour, starting things off with lush ease. Beginning at 8 p.m., the esteemed Fat Kid Wednesdays will perform three sets of boundary-pushing, delicious jazz. The long standing trio (Michael Lewis on saxophones, Adam Linz on bass and Bates on drums) never fail to bring a rollicking palette both reverent to the canon and intensely personal and nuanced.

On New Year's Eve, they'll flex their kitchen chops as well with a six-course Prix Fixe Menu for $85 featuring amuse bouche and a wine flight. At only a $15 cover after 8 p.m., which includes complimentary champagne toast at midnight for all guests and whiskey flight specials available from 10 p.m. -2 a.m., Icehouse appeals to those on a budget too.

Throwback special:

The Artists' Quarter celebrates its 17th New Year's with esteemed torch singer Carole Martin, an evening perfect for those with a penchant for the Rat Pack past. Martin, known for her storytelling lyricism and an alto with the "warmth and character of a fine brandy" released her first albums in 36 years in 2011 and 2012 and approaches the standards with a thoughtful seduction that keeps time-old classics relevant. With an all star band including Pat Mallinger on sax, Phil Aaron on piano, Chris Bates on bass and Kenny Horst on drums, the Artists' Quarter is a perfect choice for any cross-generational New Year's Eve planning.

Show starts at 9 p.m., tickets are $45. Price includes complimentary hors d'oeuvres, champagne toast, party favors and more.

Almost like staying in:

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Stuck at home with a stickler this year? Drag your party pooper to the Red Stag Supper cClub for tasty drinks, a locally sourced, affordable happy hour and menu specials, set to aurally-pleasing post-bop stylings of the Jon Pemberton Trio. The highly respected trumpet and piano player melds well with the Red Stag's dual vibe of dim lit conversation and bustly energy, juxtaposing iconic jazz classics with more avant garde moments. As per usual, the Stag features music sans cover and always holds spots in the dining room for non-reservations, which makes it an apt choice for both the cost-conscious and plan-procrastinators among us.

Music starts at 10:30 p.m.. I recommend asking for an apricot egg white whiskey sour, which came off the cocktail menu, but remains one of my favorite drinks in town.



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