Your weekend arts guide

There’s a lot of compelling music to be heard this weekend, but none more inspirational perhaps than the Friday and Saturday comeback gigs by local guitarist Billy McLaughlin, who slowly lost control of his right hand and arm starting in 2001. It was due to the mysterious crippling disease called dystonia, which has ruined many musicians’ careers. But McLaughlin, not to be deterred, retaught himself to play left-handed and his return to the stage will also be complemented by not just one but two movies that have been made about his battle. Both shows are at the Parkway Theater, tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 pm.

More great music is to be had–and for a $5 bargain–Saturday night during the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant’s late-night series (starting at 11:30 p.m.), which features emerging jazz artists from not just here but around the country. This Saturday, the spotlight is on multi-instrumentalist Aakash Mittal and his quartet from Boulder, Colorado. Mittal, who recently released his debut CD, Possible Beginnings, plays saxophone, clarinet, and flute and blends straight-ahead American jazz with the music of his Indian heritage—often in subtle but highly original ways—earning rave reviews on both continents. Just 24 years old, he’s already composed more than 30 works for his quartet and has performed with such familiar names as Ravi Shankar.

Really, you should just plan to camp out at the Dakota all Saturday, as the prime-time slots are filled with standouts of very different styles. At 7:30 p.m. it’s the Chiara String Quartet from New York — yes, a string quartet. Their motto is Chamber Music in Any Chamber, and they’re living up to this challenge by performing all over the Twin Cities over several days. Friday at 6:15 and 7:30 pm in a family concert ($6!) at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul; the Dakota gig on Saturday (just $10); and a big concert ($22) at  St. Anthony Park United Church of Christ on Sunday at 4 p.m. True to their motto, they have performed all over, from Lincoln Center to the famed Cafe Vivaldi in the West Village.

And after them, Regina Marie Williams takes the stage, a personal favorite of mine for her good-humored, theatrical even, takes on vocal-jazz standards (she did star as Dinah Washington in the popular Ordway show a couple years back).

If you’re looking for theater, check out the Cody Rivers Show, a favorite of recent Fringe Festivals, performing their new show, Meanwhile Everywhere, through Saturday at Patrick’s Cabaret.

Going on later tonight is the History Theatre’s big fundraising show, Come to the Cabaret, with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, A Prairie Home Companion’s Sue Scott, and frequent PHC guest singer Jearlyn Steele. Performances and auctions from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the downtown University Club.

And if you don’t want to leave home to get your theater fix, TPT has picked up the nationally syndicated Theater Talk, with New York Post theater columnist Michael Riedel–and the Guthrie Theater’s Joe Dowling, along with acclaimed actor (and frequent Guthrie board-trodder) Charles Keating, takes Riedel behind the scenes at the theater in the show airing this Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

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