New York Caliber Jazz Served Up in Fargo

Article on a jazz troupe in Fargo, ND, published in the FM Arts Forum

All That Jazz!

Up until the summer of 2005, Fargo and jazz were terms that did not mix. HoDo’s owner Karen Burgum with jazz pianist Simon Rowe stand behind the revival of this urban music movement dating back to the 1920s in the area and continuing a local tradition set forth by the Fargo Jazz Arts Group.

Starting with weekly performances of the Simon Rowe Trio on Saturday night, jazz appreciation in Fargo-Moorhead has picked up speed and gained loyal followers over the past two years.  NightClubafter9 is the official name of the HoDo’s jazz program; the venue is the hotel’s restaurant.

NightClubafter9 now features different guest performers Thursday nights and the Simon Rowe Trio with or without local quests on Saturdays. In 2007, Burgum and Rowe will be adding a Monday night performance, featuring local high school and college musicians. Burgum’s vision is to have an open mic night of sorts, where aspiring performers will show off their talent for restaurant patrons.

Since its birth, NightClubafter 9 has attracted a medley of nationally recognized musicians, including Lidsay Mac, Debbie Duncan, Stephanie Nakasian and Lucia Newell, to name a few. Some of the local performers who have played at the HoDo are Russ Peterson and The Funk Commission, Toby Curtright and Allen Carter of the Simon Rowe Trio, Matt Patnode, Dan Phillips and Tom Strait – most teach music full-time at local schools and practice jazz regularly. As full-time professor of music at MSUM, Rowe admits that the ability to practice their art in a high form energizes creative artists to hand down their skills and experience to their students.

An Australian native, Simon Rowe has dedicated his life to music. He explains that one has to experience music to feel the spirit of jazz, where everything is fair game. A musical genre, born by extensive improvisation, jazz often becomes a dialogue between performers and influences from the outside world. “Hearing is believing,” says Rowe, and invites everyone to quench their curiosity by attending a NightClubafter9 performance. “You don’t have to be jazz savvy or know a ton of terms to enjoy jazz,” is his response to those who may not feel that their knowledge about this type of music is up to par.

Today, NightClubafter9’s audience includes a growing, wide demographic, including high school and college students, retirees, families and out-of-town visitors. The program, which adds a much needed pizzazz and sophistication to Fargo’s night life, has also gained a solid core of loyal followers who attend every performance. Rowe’s vision is to educate and develop a local audience by creating a unique environment for community members to benefit from. While much of what artists perform at the HoDo is musical fusion, some is based on reworked and rearranged versions of the Great American Song Book. In Rowe’s observation, Fargo-Moorhead residents are very receptive, appreciative and hungry for good music and art of any kind.

Growing in popularity and continuously attracting diverse talent, NighClubafter9 is a great thrill for the performers and clearly an experience anyone who enjoys music can indulge in. The program starts at 9 p.m. sharp and ends around 11:30 or later, with a short intermission at 10:30. The cover charge is $5 on most days but can go up at headline shows. Reservations are optional; dinner is served until 10 p.m.

For more information on future performances, go to www.hoteldonaldson.com and click on Happenings. You can also sign up for regular event updates by joining the HoDo’s mailing list.

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