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Pat Moriarty and Phil Hey – Reprising the Duo Magic at Jazz Central, March 1

TCJF Twin Cities
Phil Hey and Pat Moriarty © Andrea Canter

© Andrea Canter

Saxophonist Pat Moriarty and drummer Phil Hey are among the most creative improvisers in Minnesota music, and have shared a collaboration for more than 40 years. Back in the day, they won a Minnesota Music Award as Best Contemporary Jazz Group, released an album Let Them All Come, and received a Best Live Show of the Year award from City Pages. The duo has performed a few times in the past five years as well as with their quartet, Round Trip. Now its time for another reunion, this Wednesday night, March 1, 8:30 pm at Jazz Central Studios.

Pat Moriarty © Andrea Canter

Pat Moriarty has been on the freer end of the Twin Cities jazz scene for the past four decades, playing with a long list of the edgier musicians and ensembles in the metro area. In addition to composing and performing, Moriarty keeps busy leading the award-winning jazz bands at Roseville Area High School. He has also appeared with the Nathan Hanson Saxophone Choir. With wife/pianist Ellen Lease, Pat co-leads their quintet and offshoot trios and quartets, including Insurgent and Resurrection, playing several times each year, usually at Studio Z or the Black Dog in St. Paul.

Phil Hey © Andrea Canter

A former student of Ed Blackwell and Marv Dahlgren,  Phil Hey was born in New York City and raised in Philadelphia. One of the busiest drummers in the Twin Cities, Phil toured for 20 years with the late Dewey Redman and is often is on the bandstand at the Dakota and Artists Quarter backing touring artists, local vocalists (Connie Evingson, Lucia Newell), and small ensembles (Chris Lomheim, Laura Caviani, Mary Louise Knutson).  Along with bassist Gordy Johnson), Phil  toured with British vocalist Stacey Kent, including gigs at Birdland in New York. He also manages percussion duties for the Pete Whitman X-Tet and Good Vibes Trio, has a weekly gig with the Benny Weinbeck Trio, and teaches at the U of M, St. Olaf College and MacPhail Center for Music. Phil’s recording credits include the Chris Lomheim Trio (The Bridge), Pete Whitman Quintet (Sound of Water) and X-Tet (Where’s When; Solid Liquid), a duo with Kelly Rossum (Conflict), and the Mary Louise Knutson Trio (In the Bubble). Phil also contributed to Von Freeman’s Live at the Dakota, rating four stars from Down Beat. In 2006, City Pages named Phil its Jazz Artist of the Year, following the release of his quartet album, Subduction.

Pat and Phil. Phil recalls meeting Pat in 1973. “I was at the University of Hawaii and a mutual friend, Jack Engerfhoff, wrote me about Pat. Jack knew I was coming to the U of M and urged us to get together.” The two ended up at a jam session in Roseville and “we just hit it off,” recalls Phil. Adds Pat, “The level of listening going on was something I had never experienced before. Phil and I started talking about music on the break and started playing together right then and there.”

Phil and Pat © Andrea Canter

The two formed a quartet with Anthony Cox and a revolving cast of musicians, performing at such 70s venues as the Rainbow Gallery, Triangle Bar, Olympia Dance Studio, and Walker Art Center — “Almost every venue where you could play contemporary music,” notes Pat. “As a duo we warmed up for Old and New Dreams at the Children’s Theatre and won the Insider Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Group.  That was around 1978-80?  In 1978 we also released the album Let Them All Come, which has become something of a cult classic and is featured in the jazz cover art book, Freedom, Rhythm, and Sound, published by Soul Jazz Records in London. Our other big thing was Workshop, an Ornette/Monk repertory band that had Tom Hubbard on bass and Homer Lambrecht on trombone.  We did some regional touring with that, courtesy of the Minnesota State Arts Board.  “There were a lot of people in and out of the group, ” recalls Phil, “and eventually we just got down to a duet –the essence of the music.”

From 2011-2013, Pat and Phil reconvened at the Artists Quarter, both in duo and with their Ornette Coleman-influenced quartet, Round Trip, with saxophonist Chris Thomson and bassist Tom Lewis. They’ve also played together in several versions of the Ellen Lease/Pat Moriarty Quartet, most recently at the Black Dog.

So what will the duo perform at Jazz Central? Recalls Pat, “Our usual routine in those [early] days  was that we would get on the bandstand and start playing, and about 45 minutes or an hour later we would stop playing, take a break, then play for another hour. We might play some tunes but a lot it was free improv.” And that’s the plan for March 1.


Jazz Central Studios is a nonprofit performance and education venue at 407 Central SE in Minneapolis. Donations of $10 ($5 students) requested to support the venue and the musicians. Full schedule at Hear Andrea’s KBEM interview with Pat and Phil at