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Jazz & blues hotspots in the Twin Cities

By James Riemermann

Minnesota’s Twin Cities are home to many places that cater to lovers of jazz, blues, R&B, from intimate clubs with fine dining to lively bars.

Dakota Jazz Club
Dakota Jazz Club (Credit: Jeffrey Newcomer)

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.

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 blues and related music in the area: