Jimmy Jam will look for any excuse to come back to his hometown of Minneapolis. Even if it means commuting back and forth from Grammy activities in New York City twice in four days.
Jam and Terry Lewis — the hitmaking producer/songwriter duo that launched their careers in Minneapolis before moving to Los Angeles a dozen years ago — were asked to consult on talent for a Super Bowl concert series. They ended up curating Super Bowl Live, the 10-day series that starts Friday on Nicollet Mall and features mostly musicians connected to Minnesota.
Earlier this week, Jam, 59, a longtime officer and activist in the Recording Academy, took a break from his work on Sunday’s Grammy Awards to answer a few questions.
On their concept for Super Bowl Live
“The host committee called us and they wanted our opinion,” Jam explained. “Showcasing Minnesota was our thought. We jumped in with both feet.”
Jam pointed out how the Nicollet Mall series is a Super Bowl-related event that the local community can feel part of — for free — because there are so many high-priced events out of people’s reach.
On how non-local Idina Menzel landed in the lineup
“ ‘Frozen,’ ” Jam said simply and succinctly.
Actually, she was booked for the gig before Jam and Lewis got involved.
“She definitely fits,” Jam opined.
On Jam and Lewis performing during Super Bowl activities
They'll play Friday night at Super Bowl Live with Cynthia Johnson, voice of the 1980 international smash “Funkytown.” Johnson also happens to have been the lead singer of Jam and Lewis’ 1970s band Flyte Tyme.
“There will be these little moments throughout the series,” Jam predicted.
On Janet Jackson’s whereabouts during these Super Bowl festivities
“Wait and see,” Jam said coyly.
Not only are they close friends who collaborated on Jackson’s various hit albums, but she is the godmother of Jam’s oldest child. And everyone remembers that she and Justin Timberlake collaborated on a Super Bowl halftime show once before.
On landing the Jets, the Twin Cities siblings known for the 1980s hit “Crush on You”
“When we announced the original lineup, the Jets got the most reaction,” Jam noted.
On Jakubi, the non-Minnesota act nobody’s heard of
“Their Minnesota connection is that we signed them,” Jam said with a chuckle. “But they’re from Australia. They’re amazing writers, producers, musicians. They remind me of my favorite bands growing up like Average White Band. I hope I’m not being sacrilegious but it’s like watching the Time.”
On whether he’ll attend the Super Bowl
“I think so,” he said. “My biggest problem is getting out of town afterward.”
On what Jam and Lewis are working on these days
Lewis was busy in Los Angeles this week mixing an album by veteran R&B star Peabo Bryson that Jam and Lewis produced.
Then there’s a long-in-the-works project titled “Jam and Lewis Volume 1.” It’s like an old Quincy Jones album or a DJ Khaled disc. In other words, Jam and Lewis don’t sing; they enlist others to do that. Vocalists include Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Babyface, Sounds of Blackness featuring Ann Nesby and Jim Wright and, of course, Janet Jackson.
“It’s artists we like, singing songs we like, the way we produce,” he explained.
Then he added: “The reason it’s Volume 1 is because we already started Volume 2.”
On the future of the Time
“We haven’t talked about it,” he said. But Jam and Lewis have done some recording with Morris Day, he said.
On buying the Timberwolves with Kevin Garnett, who is married to Jam’s sister-in-law
First, a little background. In the mid-1990s when it looked like the Wolves might move, Jam and Lewis were seriously interested in being part of an ownership group for their beloved Wolves. The team’s most visible fans, they used to sit courtside. Jam said their potential ownership group involved Basketball Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Kevin McHale, among others.
“I’m happy Glen Taylor stepped in,” he said. “The thing for us was keeping the Wolves in Minnesota, which I think we played a little part in. We tried to do all this due diligence and he walked in and said ‘How much is it? I’ve got it.’ ” [Taylor also owns the Star Tribune.]
As for Jam and Lewis buying the team now with Garnett or others, Jam said, “We’ll see. We’re still open to it. We still love basketball and we still love the Wolves. If someone was interested in making us a part of [an ownership group], we’d take a look at it. My big thing is to keep the franchise in Minnesota. Hometown is hometown.”