Who: Jazz fans and philanthropists.
What: An evening of entertainment for board members and friends of the Under the Radar Foundation touted "The Best Party in Town"
Where: Dakota Jazz Club
When: November 21, 2010
Why: To support Under the Radar Foundation, and to eat, drink, and be merry in the company of friends and musicians.
On a chilly Sunday night, what could be cozier than the company of friends, great live music, and a good meal? On a particularly nippy November evening, we hurried across Nicollet Mall into the Dakota Jazz Club for a truly memorable event.
The atmosphere was friendly, with musicians readily mingling among partygoers at the bar and guests weaving through the crowd to greet old friends. Seating configurations were such that diners seated on the main floor ate side by side, adding a special camaraderie to the revelry. Not that the event needed any more good feelings: from the beginning, the event set an upbeat, hopeful tone that was a perfect start to the holiday season.
The night kicked off with some opening remarks from director Barbara Applebaum Portnoy, who spoke about Under the Radar's beneficiaries: Twin Cities residents suffering from hunger, the students at Minneapolis's High School for Recording Arts, and embattled Gulf Coast residents. While some causes may fade in and out of media and public attention, Applebaum Portnoy says Under the Radar stays committed: "We do not forget."
The entertainment began with a call-and-response chorus from students at the High School for Recording Arts, which is an inspirational institution in itself. The school provides a peaceful and much-needed haven to many students: 23 to 25 percent are homeless. The ensemble, led by J.D. Steele, had the crowd singing and clapping along. After the performance came a live auction, which thrilled with its last-minute inclusions; in one memorable instance, a dinner at J.D. Hoyt's with former Viking Jim Marshall quickly turned to a heated bidding war. Other items up for auction included a getaway at Pebble Beach, an original work by Tacumba Aiken, and a private cooking session with the Dakota's own chef Jack Riebel. Throughout the event, we noshed on dinner from the Dakota's celebrated kitchen; a zesty Caesar salad, unbelievably tender roast chicken, and a warm, flaky apple crisp were on the menu for the night.
The headliner of the evening was acclaimed jazz accordionist C.J. Chenier, son of Zydeco king Clifton Chenier. The upbeat music—backed up by the Red Hot Louisiana Band—had even the stodgiest-looking guests grooving. When Chenier stepped off the stage and into the crowd, pandemonium ensued. A wiggling line of revelers weaved between tables, urging their fellow guests to get up and dance. When we finally left the event, it was still hopping—with no signs of letting up. Talk about one hot night!