Lowertown Blues Festival

Twin Cities Jazz & Blues Scene Plays On

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In mid-July, head to Mears Park for St. Paul's free, two-day Lowertown Blues & Funk Festival / Minnesota Blues Society

Twin Cities Jazz & Blues Scene Plays On

By James Riemermann

It’s been half a century or more since jazz and blues have drawn big crowds or filled arenas. But for fans, this means getting to hear some of the greatest musicians alive from a front-row cocktail table, rather than the back of a crowded and noisy theater.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul area has a number of bars and clubs that cater to lovers of jazz, blues, R&B and related genres, from intimate jazz clubs with fine dining to lively blues bars with full dance floors.

Band performs at Dakota Jazz Club

Catch a set at one of Minneapolis' most notable music venues, the Dakota Jazz Club / Jeffrey Newcomer, courtesy Dakota Jazz Club

Where to See a Jazz or Blues Show in the Twin Cities

At the top of the list is the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, where greats like McCoy Tyner, Ahmad Jamal and Larry Coryell have played many times. Recent shows have featured the likes of the Ramsey Lewis Quartet and The Bad Plus.

It’s been said the Dakota’s great food keeps the great musicians coming back—back in 1985, it was one of the first Minnesota restaurants focusing on “farm-to-table” fare.

It’s impossible to list the many local bars and music halls that include a mix of blues and R&B in their eclectic schedules, but a few of the standouts are Wilebski’s Blues Saloon in Maplewood, Minneapolis’ Cedar Cultural Center with a distinctive blend of blues, jazz, folk and world music, and an handful of lively bars, coffeehouses and clubs along Cedar Ave. in Minneapolis’ West Bank neighborhood.

Here are some resources for finding jazz, blues and related music in the area:

James Riemermann

James Riemermann is a retired writer and editor. Raised in St. Paul, he's a city boy who feels more at home in the woods. Sitting by a campfire on the shore of a quiet north woods lake is his idea of paradise.