Every weekend, September through May, jazz singer pianist JoAnn Funk and bassist Jeff Brueske hold forth in the Lobby Bar of the elegant Saint Paul Hotel in St. Paul Minnesota. The quality of their music and the timeless elegance of the hotel remind one of the great rooms like the Algonquin or the Carlyle. Now in their eighth season, the duo have accumulated a dedicated fan base. They recently celebrated by releasing their new CD "Jazz in The Lobby Bar", to rave reviews.
JoAnn Funk's disarmingly intimate piano vocal style, skillfully accompanied by bassist Jeff Brueske, fits perfectly in the "place to see and be seen" Lobby Bar, with its eclectic mix of guests, performers, locals and celebrities. Wonderfully arranged tunes swing through the songbooks of Nat King Cole, John Pizzarelli, Diana Krall, Blossom Dearie, Bob Dorough and Tony Bennett to Norah Jones, Leonard Cohen, Dave Brubeck, Dan Penn, and Madeline Peyroux, to name a few.
"When does a hotel piano bar become a jazz venue? When the talent belongs to musicians who not only soothe bar patrons with refined artistry, but at the same time can engage jazz cognescenti with their interpretive skills and serious repertoire. Pianist/vocalist JoAnn Funk and bassist Jeff Brueske effectively cross that line every weekend in the Lobby Bar of the venerable Saint Paul Hotel in downtown St. Paul. One of the most elegant spots in the city … Blossom Dearie is a favorite" … Andrea Cantar, JazzPolice
Here's an interview JoAnn and Jeff did with PRX's Phil Nussbaum on the eve of the Jazz in The Lobby Bar CD Release http://www.prx.org/p/149103
Jazz in The Lobby Bar Style Section
Hal Davis on Celebrity Spottings at The Saint Paul Hotel
Saturday, October 1, 2011 St Paul Pioneer Press, Hal Davis
15 nanoseconds of fame
Semi-Legend: "Subject: Center of the universe? For a moment.
The lobby of the Saint Paul Hotel is a fine perch for people-watching and occasional celebrity-spotting.
As we listened in the lobby bar to jazz singer/pianist JoAnn Funk and her trio record a session for KBEM-FM Jazz88's 'St. Paul Live' series, also in attendance was English singer-songwriter Nick Lowe, who had just performed on Garrison Keillor's 'A Prairie Home Companion' radio show.
We watched members of at least three wedding parties go by (we stopped counting at three brides); then my wife said: 'That looks like the guy who sounds like you.'
Wallace Shawn,' I said. (Ain't marital telepathy wonderful?)
And it was. Emerging from the elevators was actor Wallace Shawn, with his longtime companion, writer Deborah Eisenberg. Shawn was in town for a program with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Rob Hubbard, reviewing it for the Pioneer Press, noted his 'tone of incredulous exasperation that might be his trademark.' That's the tone some have claimed to hear from me, as in a squeaky 'Conceivably!'
Speaking of the Pioneer Press: Also at the hotel, in the St. Paul Grill's bar, was the former editor of the newspaper, Walker Lundy. But that's a more specialized sort of fame."
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: "Specialized" is one way to put it.