Local Current Blog

Longtime experimental jazz series comes to an end

JT Bates at Icehouse. Photo by Nate Ryan/MPR.

One of the Twin Cities’ longest-running jazz series will be discontinued at the end of this year. In a Facebook post published over the Thanksgiving weekend, drummer JT Bates announced the end of his series, JT’s Jazz Implosion. Held every Monday night at Icehouse in Minneapolis, the series has been working to grow the experimental jazz scene for more than two decades.

But even though Bates has been running JT’s Jazz Implosion for so long, he is feeling good about ending the series and isn’t too worried about what the future of jazz will look like at Icehouse.

“I feel like the series has established that music as being a part of Icehouse, and so now Icehouse can continue to have that kind of music and I don’t have to do it,” Bates said. “I guess I do worry a little bit, but I think it’s just on my end: ‘Oh maybe it won’t be the same if I’m not there.’ But this last year, the series has been amazingly great, and I’ve been going most of the year. So I think it’s going to be great and a very positive shift.”

One of the reasons Bates feels good about ending the series is because of the positive working relationship he has had with Icehouse. Although JT’s Jazz Implosion originally started at the Turf Club’s Clown Lounge in St. Paul, when that club closed down temporarily in 2011, Bates remembers how the Icehouse owners saw value in the music and jumped at the opportunity to bring the series to their new venue. 

“Before they signed the final papers to make Icehouse a go, they were like, ‘You’re going to do this here, right?’ They really wanted it to be a part of that place, which was truly incredible. And a welcoming invitation on that level from the ground up from a place is pretty rare, and I’m very blessed that that came my way,” Bates said. “Then with the infrastructure, I was able to turn it into this thing that it’s become now where it’s, you know, amazing touring bands that on a lot of levels, some of which haven’t really had anywhere to play here these last few years, like just based on the demographics of the city and what happens here.”

Looking back on the past two decades, Bates feels good about the work he did and is ready to pass the torch to someone else.

“I remember thinking that I always hope people would leave there and think about what it is that they do and how they can do something positive for somebody else,” Bates said. “I know it sounds cheesy to say I did this series for 20 years, but I guess that’s kind of what I think. It’s not about the Jazz Implosion, it’s the idea that somebody was bothering to do that. So I’m a little tapped out on it at this point, but I feel like there could be an opportunity for someone else to do something.”

Simone Cazares is a student at Saint Paul College. Originally from Miami, Fla., she survives Minnesota’s cruel winters by immersing herself in the Twin Cities music scene.