Hal Davis of Minneapolis:
1 Dakota Dave Hull. His sublime fingerpicking has made the guitarist a Twin Cities legend. He ended his 20-year roots-music program at KFAI Radio (90.3/ 106.7 FM) last month, capped by a well-deserved tribute concert at Hook and Ladder in Minneapolis.
2 Maud Hixson. Her lush vocals recently enlivened “The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer” at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul. She and pianist Rick Carlson keep jazz thriving in the Twin Cities.
3 Charlie Devore. The cornetist for the Hall Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band keeps the Eagles Club in Minneapolis bouncing with his rousing vocals when he joins the Southside Aces.
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune:
1 Maria Schneider Orchestra, the O’Shaughnessy. The celebrated Windom native is one of a kind — composer, conductor and bandleader of a horn-dominated group. Highlight: “Arbiters of Evolution,” with its invigorating saxophone battle.
2 Aaron Diehl’s tribute to Jelly Roll Morton and George Gershwin. The horn section was wonderful; pianists Diehl and Adam Birnbaum were delightfully complementary, and Cecile McLorin Salvant’s vocals were positively sublime.
3 The Suburbs, First Avenue. Revamped without singer/guitarist Beej Chaney, the ’Burbs, one of Minnesota’s all-time great live bands, seemed as arty and joyous as ever, with some encouraging new songs and the horn section’s expanding jazziness and prominence. Party on.