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At the final Talking Volumes event of the 2013 season, crime novelist (and jazz lover) Michael Connelly said he was co-producing a documentary about Minneapolis-born jazz saxophonist Frank Morgan, who died in 2007. Connelly said he often listens to jazz when he writes, especially when he's writing about his popular detective hero Harry ("Hieronymous") Bosch.
Connelly said that Morgan's family members, some of whom were in the audience at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul on Tuesday, had been very helpful in making the documentary, "Sound of Redemption," which Connelly said is likely to be released in spring 2014.
Morgan was born in Minneapolis in 1933, raised mostly in Milwaukee and then moved to Los Angeles, where drugs soon led him to an adult life spent in and out of prison. His late-in-life comeback began in the mid-1980s, and included gigs at the Dakota in Minneapolis, after he moved back to Minneapolis in 2005. The Morgan documentary is being directed by N.C. Heikin, and includes interviews as well as archival footage. James Egan is another producer.
Connelly has written about his love of Morgan's music, and how he came to the idea that detective Bosch would love it, too.
POST BY CAROLINE PALMER, SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
Childhood dreams can come true. Just ask Alexa Maxwell. While growing up in Minnetonka she wore out a VHS tape of New York City Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” determined that someday she would dance with the world-class troupe. Last week the 19-year-old signed a contract to join the NYCB corps de ballet.
But dreams do differ from reality. Maxwell wasn’t just handed this big gig. It’s the result of years filled with body-busting effort and personal sacrifice. After studying locally at small dance schools as well as Minnesota Dance Theatre she left home at age 14 to join the prestigious Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet where she worked on her skills intensively and graduated from high school through online courses.
In June 2012 Maxwell traveled to Manhattan for the summer program at The School of American Ballet, NYCB’s official training program founded by the legendary choreographer George Balanchine. She was asked to stay on and by December earned a coveted apprenticeship plus an opportunity to prove herself worthy of a spot with the company. “They see how you perform, your work ethic,” Maxwell said by phone. “You have one year to try out and then [Ballet Master in Chief] Peter Martins either decides to take you on or you find another job.”
So now the newest member of NYCB will be performing in the “Waltz of the Snowflakes” and the “Waltz of the Flowers” sections of Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” with other exceptionally talented young dancers throughout this month at Lincoln Center. “It’s really exciting, almost all of the shows are sold out,” she said, adding some awe at the large audience she sees when sneaking a peek from backstage.
After “The Nutcracker” Maxwell will prepare for NYCB’s 2014 winter season by learning the “Diamonds” section of Balanchine’s “Jewels” among other signature repertory works. And while Maxwell is thrilled with her new role in the corps she still has goals, including one day ascending to the level of soloist or even principal dancer. But in the meantime, she said, “I’m just going to keep working hard. I’m so happy to be here and I’m feeling very grateful.”
With the Minnesota Orchestral Association's annual meeting set for Dec. 11, the locked-out musicians are getting out their version of the past year a couple of days earlier. The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra will hold a public meeting next Monday, Dec. 9, at the downtown Hilton, which sits across from Orchestra Hall.
The Musicians say they will unveil a new mission statement "that they will work to fulfill in the years going forward, with or without the Minnesota Orchestral Association."
The Musicians have formed a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $300,000 since August.
The meeting Monday will be at 10:30 in the Duluth Room of the Hilton, at 1001 Marquette Av. S., Mpls.
The New York Times has reported that Erin Keefe, concertmaster at the Minnesota Orchestra, is being considered for the same post with the New York Philharmonic. According to the Times, Keefe will play with the orchestra on Friday and Saturday nights, with music director Alan Gilbert conducting Mozart.
Keefe came to the Minnesota job in September, 2011, to replace Jorja Fleezanis. The orchestra has been locked out since October, 2012, and Keefe has frequently been rumored to be in demand for other positions. She previously played with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Brooklyn Chamber Music Society in New York.
The Times story is here.
Dan Wilson/ Star Tribune photo by Tom Wallace
It’s seldom at a benefit concert where the featured singer can speak as eloquently about the cause as Dan Wilson did Saturday night at Sheridan School in northeast Minneapolis.
The cause was to fight school kids who go hungry at home on the weekends. Wilson explained it clearly without overdoing it or getting preachy. He explained that his cousin, Dodd Lamberton, was a board member of the Sheridan Story, the sponsoring organization.
Thanks to Wilson drawing a sellout crowd of 550, Sheridan Story raised enough money to provide 25,000 meals for kids who are “food insecure.” The program began three years ago after school personnel noticed students liberating additional helpings from the cafeteria on Fridays to take home.
A Sheridan Story spokesman told concertgoers that 94 percent of the students at Sheridan School qualify for this program, and that 30 students at nearby Bethune School are “homeless or mobile.”
The stories of these kids – one of whom attended the concert – touched the concertgoers as much as Wilson’s music, which was as eloquent as his succinct speech about the issue at hand.
In his 100-minute performance, the Minneapolis singer-songwriter, who now lives in Los Angeles, did material from his Semisonic days, tunes he’s written for others including Adele and the Dixie Chicks, and songs from first and soon-to-be-released second solo album.
The sweet-voiced pop singer was accompanied by pianist Brad Gordon, the Laurel String Quartet and his own acoustic guitar. Opening act Jeremy Messersmith contributed vocal harmonies on a few selections.
Wilson told back stories behind some of the songs such as how he and the Dixie Chicks came to write the Grammy-winning “Not Ready To Make Nice.” They had rejected his idea for a song called “Undivided” but the next morning, while fueling up on coffee, he came up with the concept for “Not Ready To Make Nice.” But he didn’t sing it Saturday; instead he offered ”Easy Silence,” which he also co-wrote with the Chicks.
He explained that “Closing Time,” Semisonic’s 1998 hit, was actually as much about someone being born as it was about what happens when a bar shuts its doors for the night. After he sang it, some yahoo guy shouts out: “Greatest song ever.” Wilson gracefully retorted: “Wichita Lineman. Next.”
Wilson also served up Semisonic’s “DND,” “Gone to the Movies,” “One True Love” (and the story how he came to co-write it with Carole King) and “I Wish,” which required a couple extra musicians to recreate its epic sound.
The 52-year-old St. Louis Park native didn’t share any stories about working with Taylor Swift, Pink and Dierks Bentley, all of which has led to handsome checks of late. He did talk about dropping his second solo recording next spring, and previewed four appealing pieces -- “Disappearing,” “Love without Fear,” “A Song Can Be About Anything” and “Your Brighter Days,” which he explained was inspired after talking to the mother of a screaming special-needs child on an airplane and comparing resources for special-needs children (Wilson’s older daughter is in that category).
Talking about kids seems to bring out eloquence in Wilson.