Icehouse Monday jazz series opens with Dave King Trucking Co.

Running a jazz venue has never been easy, even on just one day a week.

Across the nation, jazz clubs have come and gone over the last few decades, making it difficult for musicians to find places to play improvisational music.

So it’s heartening to see the Icehouse Minneapolis restaurant launch its Monday night jazz series space – especially with drummer JT Bates running the show.

After a preview late last month, Icehouse officially opens the Monday sessions tonight with Dave King Trucking Company.

King, an innovative drummer known for his work with The Bad Plus and Happy Apple, will be joined on stage by bassist Adam Linz, bassist/guitarist Eric Fratzke and saxophonist Brandon Wozniak.

Icehouse owner Brian Liebeck said he wanted to have jazz on Mondays to bring back the kind of music Twin Cities jazz enthusiasts enjoyed when Bates held a similar event at the Clown Lounge.

“JT and I have been friends for years,” Liebeck said. “He has heard me talk about doing something like this countless times and I couldn’t imagine opening a venue without his involvement. It is looking to be everything from drums, bass, sax trios to guitar, bass drum trios, quintets with piano and so on — never less than a trio.”

Bates said he plans to present as many different kinds of jazz as possible at the Nicolette Avenue venue while maintaining a high standard for improvisational music.

“I’m absolutely programming Monday nights with the intention of drawing as wide an audience as possible,” Bates said. “People seem to feel a need to categorize and prefer different ‘styles’ of jazz and I guess because I really enjoy all of it, I’d like to see that go away. Honesty and spirit are what I listen for, so I will always try to present those things above and beyond style.”

The new venue has sparked optimism among musicians, who view the Monday series as a helpful push to keep jazz going.

“It’s extremely important to have a new venue like the Icehouse and everyone I know is excited about it,” Wozniak said. “It’s great for everyone, not just jazz musicians as they’ll be featuring different kinds of music each night of the week. There are never enough places for us to play but there’s always someone crazy enough to keep trying and we definitely appreciate it.”

Jazz at the Icehouse continues June 18 with Red Planet, featuring Dean Magraw on guitar, Chris Bates on bass and Jay Epstein, drums.

On June 25, the space will feature Fat Kid Wednesdays, which is returning to the stage after a more than a year off. Joining JT Bates on drums will be Adam Linz on bass and Michael Lewis on saxophone.

The Monday series offers sets at 9:30 and 11:30 p.m.

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