No less than jazz pooh-bah Wynton Marsalis recently opined that the Dakota ranks among the top 10 spots in America to hear jazz. He's right. But don't take his word for it. Check out the monthly parade of renowned artists who grace the Dakota's stage and invariably go away singing the club's praises and raring to return. It's pretty much been that way for more than 20 years, first in St. Paul's Bandana Square and for the last few in downtown Minneapolis. There was something about the old venue that didn't quite transfer across the river. But the most important things did: the wonderful intimacy of the place, great sound, one of the best kitchens in town, management that cares passionately about the music, and a lineup of shows that seems to include virtually every contemporary jazz artist of consequence. Just listen to the oohs and aahs every time Lowell Pickett announces the club's upcoming gigs from the stage. And the Dakota's scope has become increasingly broad. Mali kora master Toumani Diabaté's Symmetric Orchestra made its U.S. debut here. And the stage has hosted a stream of talent from the other end of the Mississippi, from R&B legend Irma Thomas to trad clarinet master Dr. Michael White, to piano dynamo Marcia Ball. Locals get plenty of stage time too, whether it's Connie Evingson swinging the Beatles or steaming with a hot club, or tenor sax icon Irv Williams cultivating his deliciously smooth tone. Throw in community-oriented nuggets like the club's J-Train program for students and you get the idea that Marsalis might only know the half of what goes on here.