Amazing jazz, Rock the Garden and more weekend art

This week is shaping up to be the best of the summer art season, and we haven’t even gotten warm yet. Firstly, anyone with even a mild interest in New Orleans, New Orleans jazz, R&B, or generally shaking your moneymaker (in a classy way) should consider joining myself Friday night in St. Paul’s Mears Park when Allen Toussaint, the dapper pianist/producer kicks off the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, which almost didn’t happen this year in a struggle to secure sponsorships (the effect of fewer local companies on the arts is something we can discuss later). Saturday’s highlight is Esperanza Spalding, a bassist in her mid-20s who’s updating the cool-jazz sound with some funk, blues, Afro-Cuban, hip-hop, etc. And that’s just the big names–there’s plenty more going on in and around Mears Park, the local clubs, etc.

Elsewhere, from June 18 to the 28th at Playwrights’ Center, the inimitable singing Baldwin sisters–Christina Baldwin and Jennifer Baldwin Peden–are coming together under the Nautilus Music-Theater banner to premiere four one-act musical theater pieces entitled, appropriately, Sister Stories.

Gremlin Theater continues its well-received production of a new, yes new, Tennessee Williams production (he wrote a lot that was never produced)–only eight productions through June 28.

The Capri Theater holds its grand re-opening on the North Side of Minneapolis–a terrific venue (Prince played his first public show here!) heralding its return as a jazz hall. Debbie Duncan, Charmin Michelle, Dennis Spears backed by Rick Carlson and the Wolverines Classic Jazz Trio will perform a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, and Joe Williams–it doesn’t get better than that for vocal jazz.

Moviewise, the very cool Solstice Film Festival runs June 18 to 20 with a very intriguing new picture, fresh from the Tribeca Film Festival, called Don McKay starring Thomas Haden Church (who nearly stole Sideways) and Elisabeth Shue (sort a return to the screen). That runs at Suburban World Theater, with many more films following.

The very funky show of paintings called Zen, Myths, and other ways of seeing continues at Gallery 13, Steve Sugarman’s place.

And of course, if you’re interested in Rock the Garden at the Walker Art Center on Saturday, with the Decemberists headlining, you’d better have tickets already. I’ll see you there, and report afterwards on what promises to be the scene of the summer.