The Staples community is providing excellent arts programming, as was in evidence Sunday afternoon, Feb. 11.
The Centennial Auditorium Series and its supporting cast of sponsors and donors brought in The George Maurer Jazz Group for a two-hour program unlike any Sunday showcase I've had the pleasure of attending. And that covers more than three decades of concerts as a music lover and professional journalist.
As a member of the Five Wings Arts Council, I am especially proud that the state has a way to make such venues possible for us in rural Minnesota. The Arts Board delivers a portion of state tax dollars allotted by the Legislature for just such outlets. We're fortunate to have this network for enrichment and cultural stimulation.
This was special. Central Minnesota may be an icebox, but it can also be a hotbed when it comes to artistic talent. Maurer and friends make me proud to be neighbor to the creative energy.
This was fun. It's impossible to sit still and to not smile when you observe the "teamwork" that propels jazz musicians as they pass off the lead to celebrate one another's individual talent.
From the dramatic vocals of voluptuous Ann Michels to the fine-tuned tapestry of brass from the heart and soul of a former polka prodigy, trumpeter Tom Pattock (of Six Fat Dutchmen fame), Centennial Auditorium was in a groove.
Maurer deserves credit for sharing it. He has enough mastery on the piano and other keyboard instruments to serve up a full plate of savory song. But add in the ingredients that cooked on Sunday and you have a smorgasbord to feed the masses.
We could use more of this delicious menu. Staples-born Jeff Engholm danced his digits from top to bottom on the standing bass, showed his vocal value as well. Muggsy Lauer (as in coffee mugs, thanks to his day job as a bean roaster in St. Cloud) makes his guitar roast too. Richard Witterman's trumpets tapped a wellspring of musical talent, and his voice was a solid fit in duet or solo role. Drummer Joey Van Phillips, a senior at St. John's University, has Kansas roots and an unlimited future if he continues to stretch his rock and roll foundation with this eclectic ensemble.
They played lots of familiar favorites in their own souped-up, spontaneous style. They gave us two brand new songs of their own, both played for only the second time before a paying audience. The first was Muggsy's "To His Coy Mistress" inspired by a 17th century poem by Marverl. The second was Maurer's rapturous "Little Blue Waltz."
The George Maurer Jazz Group will record a second album live March 16 and 17 at The Dakotah Bar and Grill in the Cities. You're invited. I think you'll have plenty of competition for a seat.
(Waller, a Breezy Point resident, is a member of the Five Wings Arts Council and is a public information specialist at Central Lakes College.)
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