Sunday concerts to raise money for Artists’ Quarter closing costs

With only a few weeks before St. Paul’s Artists’ Quarter closes its doors, jazz musicians in the Twin Cities plan a benefit this weekend to help raise money for owner Kenny Horst’s closing costs.

Horst, a jazz drummer, announced in October that the club’s nights would come to an end on New Year’s Eve because rent for the basement space in the Hamm Building at 480 St. Peter Street has doubled in the last few years.

Saxophonist Dave Karr

But closing a club that has been open for nearly two decades likely won’t come cheap. To help cover expenses, more than 50 musicians in the Twin Cities responded to the call to perform at the benefit, expected to pack the club. Anonymous donors will match up to $10,000 in contributions.

The list of stellar performers who will take the stage on Sunday includes singer Debbie Duncan, bassist Billy Peterson, saxophonist Dave Karr, drummer Dave King, guitarist Dean Magraw, trumpeter Steve Kenny, vibes player Dave Hagedorn, trombonist Dave Graf, pianist Bill Carrothers and Horst.

“We are all sick at heart about the Artists’ Quarter closing, and so this is what all the lovely musicians want to do to support the AQ and our friend Kenny, and to try to thank and repay him for keeping open this great jazz club which has been a haven for us all for many years,” said vocalist Lucia Newell, who is spearheading this event.

“It is our goal that Kenny not go out broke from keeping the AQ open for all of us all these years and giving many musicians a place to really play what’s in our hearts and minds, and a home away from home for all to listen to and hear these dedicated, talented musicians play,” she said.

Newell began singing at the Artists’ Quarter when it was on 26th and Nicollet in Minneapolis, and continued to do so when it moved to 5th and Jackson in St. Paul. She also has performed at the current club.

She said the area’s jazz musicians sad and devastated at the closing of the club, a pure jazz venue with a national and international reputation and room for a sizeable but still intimate audience.

Although there are other venues for improvisational music in the Twin Cities – among them the Dakota Jazz Club, Jazz Central and Icehouse restaurant in Minneapolis and Studio Z and the Black Dog Café in St. Paul – only the Artists Quarter offers the combination of a relaxed atmosphere, affordable prices and space for performers and listeners, she said.

“For jazz to live and continue to grow, it needs a place to nurture and present ideas freely and without constraints, and the AQ is one of our last vanguards for this spirit of creativity,” Newell said. “It is also a place where we can hang out with other players socially and exchange ideas. The regulars and fans are feeling the same way as the musicians.”

The benefit starts at 5 p.m. Sunday. Organizers are requesting a $10 donation at the door.

Music lineup:

5 p.m. — Joan Griffith, ML Knudtson, Brian Courage, Nathan Norman, Connie Evingson

5:30 p.m. — Zacc Harris, Bryan Nichols, Adam Linz, JT Bates, Lucia Newell

6 p.m. — Jay Young, Ian Young, Peter Schimke, Mac Santiago, Dave Graf, Debbie Duncan

6:30 p.m. — Davis Wilson – Lord Buckley

7 p.m. — Phil Aaron, Billy Peterson, Kenny Horst, Carole Martin, Brian Grivna, Dave Karr,

7:30 p.m. — Dave Hagedorn, Chris Olson, Tom Lewis, Joe Pulice, Steve Kenny, Jeff Rinear, Vicky Mountain, Jim Marentic, Ellen Martin

8 p.m. — Dean Magraw, Peter Schimke, Graydon Peterson, Jay Epstein

8:30 p.m. — Patty Peterson, Linda Peterson, Billy Peterson, Paul Peterson, and friends

9 p.m. — Bill Carrothers, Billy Peterson, Dave King

9:30 p.m. — Tom O’Donnell, Gordy Johnson, Dave Schmalenberger,

10 p.m. — Rick Carlson, Maud Hixson

10:30 p.m. – Jam session featuring Pete Whitman, Keith Boyles, Laura Caviani, Will Kjeer and others.