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Happy Apple in the Big Apple

When I first moved to the Twin Cities, 11 years ago, the Artists’ Quarter housed the only semblance of life after 5 pm in Lowertown St. Paul (I had an apartment across from the Farmers’ Market). There was no smoking ban then, and no ventilation in the basement club in the McColl Building, yet I […]

daveking.jpgWhen I first moved to the Twin Cities, 11 years ago, the Artists’ Quarter housed the only semblance of life after 5 pm in Lowertown St. Paul (I had an apartment across from the Farmers’ Market). There was no smoking ban then, and no ventilation in the basement club in the McColl Building, yet I suffered through scorched eyes and choked lungs for any chance to catch Happy Apple. The trio still plays three or four weekends a year at the AQ (it moved several years ago to the basement beneath Great Waters Brewing) to overflowing crowds of college kids and unshaven thirtysomethings with fetishes for flannel and wool caps.

I now tip you to this review in today’s New York Times of Happy Apple’s set Tuesday at Joe’s Pub, in Lower Manhattan. Ben Ratliff, the Times reviewer, is a longtime follower of the band, so I’m a little amused his piece carries the tone of an introduction to the masses. Perhaps it’s a necessity — Apple Apple has defined avant garde jazz in the Twin Cities for close to a dozen years, yet even many jazz enthusiasts only know the band by name. Waves of attention have come from New York and France, and Happy Apple would likely have a larger profile in contemporary music (jazz and otherwise) if drummer Dave King (pictured, in this shot by Walker photographer Cameron Wittig) weren’t splitting his time in The Bad Plus (and eight other projects, at last count). The Walker presented Happy Apple and The Bad Plus in a 2005 tribute concert to Ornette Coleman.

I’ve been a little frustrated with an imbalance in Happy Apple’s recent music — songs have steered away from the more bombastic roundhouses to the soft jabs of melody and balladry — but in concert, there’s no more engaging, entertaining and ferocious band around, in any genre. And any time they’re at the AQ, I make it a point to park myself at the foot of the stage.

  • carlawithac says:

    Did you know…

    They’re playing tomorrow night at the Cedar, http://www.thecedar.org/? Have you ever seen them play there? I highly suggest it. They act and feel as if they’re playing in their own living room there. Happy Apple on a cold winter night is the best thing we have to look forward to in Minnesota winters!

  • pc says:

    I’m a little amused by this piece.

  • sara says:

    i saw the bad plus play in kettle’s yard gallery*, cambridge, uk, a few years ago. it’s an intriguing house museum full of objects collected by and belonging to Jim Ede. Work by artists such as Barbara Hepworth, Gaudier-Brzeska, Eric Gill, L S Lowry and Joan Miro are displayed together with natural/kinetic sculptures, musical instruments, miscellanea and so-called ‘outsider art’.

    I had always heard the piano at the middle of their music, but after seeing Dave King in action, I changed my mind! The man manipulates all manner of toys, rattles and thingymijigs, and was by far and away the most charismatic percussionist i’d seen in a while. The band’s shock at having been booked to play at the Yard (i think they’d expected it to be a club or something!) subsisded – i’ll remember it for ages as they were fantastic!

    http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/

    *i also worked at the house as a cleaner once. very easy work – you were never allowed to touch any of the objects in there!

  • Matt Peiken says:

    Hi Sara — sounds like that show will forever be tattooed to your soul. I hadn’t heard of Kettle Yard — I’ll check it out — but you’re right about Dave King, and that holds true for every band he plays in. I profiled him several years ago when I was on staff at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. You can read that piece here: http://mattpeiken.com/Journalism/Rock-Jazz/daveking.htm