The New Standards – Live Music at its Best

By Barry Kempton

Yesterday The Schubert Club and the Saint Anthony Park Community Foundation joined forces to celebrate two anniversaries:  Music in the Park Series’ 35th and the Community Foundation’s 15th.  Many individuals from both organizations put a lot of time and energy into making the occasion memorable and it was a wonderful opportunity to recognize Julie Himmelstrup for her many achievements in Saint Anthony Park, most notably her founding of Music in the Park Series, leading it for 35 years and (together with husband Anders) playing an instrumental role in getting the Community Foundation launched 15 years ago.

We presented two concerts at our regular Music in the Park Series venue featuring Twin Cities trio The New Standards with guests Chris Thomson (saxophone) and the much beloved soprano Maria Jette.  For those not familiar with The New Standards, they are Chan Poling, John Munson and Steve Roehm playing piano, bass and vibraphone respectively.  They don’t like to be put in a single music genre category, but it’s safe to say that they are way more jazz & rock influenced than the regular piano trios we present on our Music in the Park Series.

The performances were certainly louder than most in the Series, and there was more (and better) banter between songs.  But more remarkable than any differences were, I think, the similarities between this trio’s music-making and the best chamber music ensembles that Music in the Park Series presents.

At its core, The New Standards is three hugely talented creative artists baring their souls through their music.  We, the audience, got to experience not only their skills and personalities as individual musicians, but also the interplay of ideas and creativity between the three of them.  That by the way was also true of the larger ensemble for the numbers when Maria and Chris joined them.

What I most enjoyed about the performances was that I was watching and listening to musicians who were clearly totally engaged in what they were doing, what each other were doing, constantly watching and taking cues from one another.  Each appeared to be having the time of their lives, living in the moment and enjoying that moment.  That kind of energy on stage is infectious for the audience.  As I think of other recent live performances which linger in my memory, they all include a combination of both quality music-making and performing artists who are clearly enjoying each other’s musicianship and company.

It doesn’t matter what the musical genre is: jazz, rock or classical.  It’s that I’m listening to extraordinary musicianship and watching musicians whose energy is infectious.  We’ve heard many wonderful ensembles in the Music in the Park Series this past season – Pacifica Quartet (with Anthony McGill), the Miró String Quartet and WindSync to name but a couple.  And yesterday’s concerts by The New Standards were right up there with the best of them.  A great way to celebrate an anniversary!