Prince world-premiered his last band, 3rdEyeGirl, at the Dakota in downtown Minneapolis. Don Was, behind-the-scenes superstar, will world-premiere his new band, Don Was & the Pan-Detroit Ensemble, at the Dakota.

While Was' career hasn't been as decorated as Prince's, it certainly has been formidable: Six Grammys including producer of the year for working with Bonnie Raitt, the Rolling Stones and others; current president of the prestigious jazz-oriented Blue Note Records, and bass player for Bob Dylan and Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros., among other credits.

Now comes the Pan-Detroit Ensemble and its jazz-funk sound.

"It's our first gig anywhere, anytime," Was said earlier this month before some Motor City rehearsals. "It sounds like Detroit. They're all great musicians. I'm far and away the worst guy in the band. Part of it is improvisation, it's jazzy but it's got a funky groove running under all of it but ain't nothing smooth about it. You'll be able to dance and you'll be able to groove."

The nine-member group will revisit a few songs, including "I Feel Better Than James Brown," from its leader's past, namely Was (Not Was), his intensely experimental band from the 1980s and early '90s best known for the MTV hit "Walk the Dinosaur."

"I'm so excited about this," Was continued, sounding more like a newbie than a veteran. "I'm going to keep this band together and we're going to play for years. There's a really unique chemistry and the ease with which we fell into the same groove is remarkable and highly unusual. That first night where everyone goes in with a beginners' mind and is just trying to push the limits, there's something really special that happens and you can't go back. I'm going to record that."

Although he's based in Los Angeles, Was tries to make it back to Detroit, where he still has a place, at least once a month. He does a weekly live radio show "The Don Was Motor City Playlist," on the Detroit area's NPR station on Friday nights, where he spins everything from Aretha Franklin and George Jones to Mdou Moctar and Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers.

Was' Blue Note gig keeps him in L.A., though he often conducts business from the road just like other people who work remotely. To celebrate the label's 85th anniversary, Was is releasing 70 albums in 2024 — 25 in its audiophile series, 25 in its classic series and 20 new records from the likes of Charles Lloyd, Meshell Ndegeocello and Bill Frisell.

Was got hooked on jazz as a teenager in 1966. He remembers the moment vividly.

"My mom was making me drive around running errands with her on Saturday. I was an obnoxious grumpy 14-year-old. She got disgusted with me and left me in the car with the keys to play with the radio. The local jazz station was playing what I later found out was a Joe Henderson song, 'Mode for Joe.' I came in about 41 seconds in and he's making these anguished cheers and I'd never heard anything like that coming out of a musical instrument, but it matched my mood. After 20 seconds, the drummer kicks in and Henderson starts swinging.

"I heard him speak to me through the music: You've got to groove in the face of adversity. It chilled me out. By the time my mom came back to the car, I was a good kid again. I was aware that the music totally altered my outlook on life."

The Zen of Sinatra

Was juggles his day job at Blue Note with working in the studio and playing onstage. He learned how to compartmentalize things from a 1960s Frank Sinatra interview when Ol' Blue Eyes was shooting movies, recording and performing in Las Vegas.

"He said whatever you're doing, be 100% there in the moment present. Don't worry about what you might have messed up earlier in the day, don't worry about what's coming up in a couple of hours. Just be 100 % there. The zen of Frank Sinatra, I found that incredibly helpful."

Part of the Zen of Don Was involves serving as musical director for all-star special events. He helmed the Grammys' MusiCares tribute to Dylan and Willie Nelson's 90th birthday salute at the Hollywood Bowl. Last month, he oversaw Mavis Staples' 85th birthday concert, which involved a couple days of rehearsal, but then he was ready to wing it when Bonnie Raitt showed up.

In 2014, he won an Emmy for musical directing for "The Beatles: The Night That Changed America." He's been a music director for many movies including "Thelma & Louise" and "The Rainmaker," and he produced and directed the 1995 documentary "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.

In 2021, the well connected bassist found himself in the studio recording with Dylan for the audiophile "Ionic Originals" series, produced by T Bone Burnett.

"We were all in a room facing each other. No headphones," Was recalled. "And [Dylan] was singing live. There was no fixing anything. There was no punching in. It was a fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I wanted to play those songs with Bob Dylan and I got to do it standing four feet away from him."

Was has a deep appreciation for legends who continue to work. He was involved with the Stones on last year's "Hackney Diamonds" album. But when Mick Jagger wanted to achieve a more modern sound, Was brought in Andrew Watt, who ended up finishing the album. He is thrilled to see the Stones touring behind the new LP.

"It's invaluable to have them out there and playing well. It brings comfort to so many people and just inspires them," Was said. "I'm 72 and I'm busier than I've ever been in my life. I feel fine. A lot of people I went to high school with, they're giving up and slowing down. You see a band of 80-year-olds out there playing well, it reminds you how much there is to enjoy in life."

What has meant so much to Was is touring with Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros. since 2018, including Twin Cities gigs at the Fillmore and Palace Theatre.

"I learned a lot from playing with Bobby about keeping it fresh. Start from scratch every night. Not try to re-create something you already did," the bassist said of the trio. "Bobby's been playing some of those songs for 60 years yet he plays them differently every night."

He's also learned something from Weir's audience of mostly Grateful Deadheads.

"They approach the music a little differently. They're tuned into the energy behind the notes. You don't dazzle them with notes, you dazzle them with feeling. They have this collective ecstasy. The audience starts vibrating together. They want to participate and you can feel them participate. Best audience I've ever played for."

In his daily life, Was wears many hats but he literally takes only one of his signature chapeaus with him on tour.

"It's a different version of the same hat. I got it made in 1996. I gave this guy at Baron Hats in California [a copy of] Bob Dylan's 'Desire' [album] cover and a Merle Haggard cover where he had a cowboy hat with more of a Borsalino brim. I said, 'Make me something that's a combination of the two.' I put it on and it felt like the hat had been waiting for me to grow into it. It felt like home."

Don Was & the Pan-Detroit Ensemble

When: 6:30 & 8:30 p.m. Tue.

Where: the Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.

Tickets: $40-$65,