Many music fans came to the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis Friday night wearing purple or some kind of Prince glyph. One of his guitarists, 3rdEyeGirl’s Donna Grantis, was debuting her new group of Minnesota musicians.
About a half-hour into the second set, she pointed out that this was the same club where 3rdEyeGirl made its debut in January 2013. After calling Prince her mentor, the Toronto-reared, Minneapolis-based guitarist proudly explained that he heard about her new musical direction before he died in April 2016.
The new all-instrumental music played by the five-piece ensemble – billed simply as Donna Grantis – wasn’t like Prince music. Except maybe for one funky workout. This was more new millennium jazz-rock fusion, sorta like Jeff Beck meets a post-modern Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Grantis pointed out that Miles Davis from his “Big Fun” period (early to mid-1970s) hugely influenced her new group. As a salute to him, the quintet played Davis’ “Recollections,” the quietest and most contemplative piece of the night. It was lovely.
Despite the group’s moniker, Donna Grantis seemed like a very democratic group, with plenty of space for each musician to be featured. Bryan Nichols was confident and assertive on organ and electric keyboard and Suphala sparkled on tablas, adding integral and often exotic textures.
The exceptional J.T. Bates, who drums in several Twin Cities bands of different genres, was a steady force, versatile in his power and subtleties. Bassist Cody McKinney teamed effectively with him.
Early in the 80-minute set, Grantis seemed a bit restrained in her playing. But as the night unfolded, she showed the range of her expressive vocabulary, aided by numerous effects pedals. She has serious jazz-fusion chops, rock muscle, funk licks and ethereal finesse, all tied together with an unshowy, kinda cool Canadian passion.
It was clear that the Dakota-goers – whether purple believers or not – want to hear more from Donna Grantis.