A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:


The Brute Squad, Mayslacks. This Twin Cities band can heat up the coldest of Minnesota winter nights. The group is rhythmically tight, and lead singer Matt Hazard is just as at home singing Led Zeppelin as Hall and Oates. A great range of styles with something for everyone.

Caro Emerald, “Deleted Scenes From the Cutting Room Floor.” Born in Amsterdam, this singer is a great hybrid of early big band and current pop. Her silky vocals backed by hip arrangements will make the most ardent pop fan take a look at big-band jazz.

Plastic Musik’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” on YouTube. Talented musicians with too much time on their hands and a serious set of boomwhackers. Guaranteed to make you smile, and then go practice your instrument some more.
Steve Lyons, Champlin

Jose James, the Cedar. The Minneapolis-bred Brooklyn jazz/soul vocalist presented an extraordinary show featuring four first-rate sidemen and his own vibey 1970s-inspired contemporary tunes from the stellar “No Beginning No End” CD.

Peter Asher, the Dakota. The Forrest Gump of rock charmed with his insider tales of the Beatles, James Taylor and U.S. TV during the 1960s. He even brought a special guest, Denny Laine, to sing the Moody Blues’ 1965 hit “Go Now.” A delightful evening of nostalgia and wit.

Steve Kramer’s funeral. There was lots of joy and laughter at this service celebrating the Wallets frontman turned ad man who created joy, laughter and happy feet with his music and jingles. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak even read a proclamation about his super-cool neighborhood idol. Kramer was totally creative. RIP.
Jon Bream, Star Tribune