Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Jazz this week: Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival, The Sunset Stomp, "Bach and Jazz," and more

It's a big week for big bands in St. Louis, as the calendar of upcoming jazz and creative music events in St. Louis features a couple of famed large ensembles as headliners of the annual Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival.

There's also a retrospective of the Harlem Renaissance and a look at how Johann Sebastian Bach influenced jazz, plus plenty of other performances in jazz styles ranging from vintage to modern. Let's go to the highlights...

Wednesday, April 18
Jazz St. Louis' "Whitaker Jazz Speaks" series continues at Jazz at the Bistro with Washington University professor Gerald Early talking about "Harlem's Renaissance,"  followed by a performance of music associated with the period.

Meanwhile, this week's "Grand Center Jazz Crawl" will help kick off the Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival by featuring small ensembles from UMSL's jazz program at The Stage at KDHX and as opening acts for the jam session led by bassist Bob DeBoo at the Kranzberg Arts Center and for trumpeter Kasimu Taylor's band at The Dark Room.

Also on Wednesday, the Ambassadors of Swing return for the monthly "Shake n Shout" event at Tin Roof St. Louis.

Thursday, April 19
Singer Erin Bode performs at Cyrano's, and the Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival continues with trumpeter Hermon Mehari (pictured, top left), who's originally from Kansas City and now splits his time between there and Paris, leading a quartet at The Dark Room.

(You can find out more and see some videos of performances by Mehari and the headlining bands of the GSLJF's weekend shows in this post from last Saturday.)

Friday, April 20
The SLGJF presents the University of North Texas One O'Clock Lab Band at the Touhill Performing Arts Center, while drummer Kevin Bowers reunites the band from his Nova project for the first of two nights at Jazz at the Bistro.

Also on Friday, pianist Dave Venn begins a new weekly. early-evening gig at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel's Sidecar Lounge, and singer Danita Mumphard will perform at the Webster Groves Concert Hall

Saturday, April 21
The Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival concludes with a performance by Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band (pictured, bottom left); and Carolbeth True and Two Times True will be joined by singer Joe Mancuso at the Webster Groves Concert Hall.

Sunday, April 22
This week's Sunday jazz brunch options include The Bonbon Plot playing bossa nova and more at The Dark Room, and Miss Jubilee singing vintage jazz and blues at Evangeline's.

Also on Sunday afternoon, the St. Louis Jazz Club presents traditional jazz band The Sunset Stomp from Indianpolis, IN at the  Doubletree Hotel St. Louis at Westport.

Monday, April 23
The Webster University Jazz Singers will show off what they've learned this year in a performance at  Winifred Moore Auditorium on the Webster campus.

Also on Monday, Dizzy Atmosphere returns to The Shaved Duck, and trumpeter Jim Manley will be back at his weekly residency at Momo's Greek Restaurant.

Tuesday, April 24
As part of St. Louis Bach Festival 2018, the Bach Society of St. Louis will present "Bach & Jazz" with singer Erin Bode, guitarist Steve Schenkel and pianist Kim Portnoy at Jazz at the Bistro.

For more jazz-related events in and around St. Louis, please visit the St. Louis Jazz Notes Calendar, which can be found on the left sidebar of the site or by clicking here. You also can keep up with all the latest news by following St. Louis Jazz Notes on Twitter at or clicking the "Like" icon on the StLJN Facebook page.

(If you have calendar items, band schedule information, news tips, links, or anything else you think may be of interest to StLJN's readers, please email the information to stljazznotes (at) yahoo (dot) com. If you have photos, MP3s or other digital files, please send links, not attachments.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Joe Policastro Trio to perform
Thursday, May 3 at The Dark Room

The Chicago-based Joe Policastro Trio is coming to St. Louis to perform at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 3 at The Dark Room. Admission to the show is free (though The Dark Room does require a food or drink purchase).

The group (pictured), which includes the leader on bass along with guitarist Dave Miller and drummer Mikel Avery, is touring to promote their latest album Screen Sounds.

The trio's third release, after 2013's West Side Story Suite, and 2016's POPS!, Screen Sounds features their re-imaginings of music from film and TV, ranging from Cool Hand Luke to Yojimbo to Twin Peaks and more.

When not touring, Policastro, Miller and Avery perform three nights a week at Chicago’s Pops For Champagne, and individually, their credits include work with the likes of Phil Woods, Jeff Hamilton, Diane Schuur, Patricia Barber, Joshua Abrams, Rob Mazurek, and more.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Willie Akins Jazz Festival set for
Sunday, May 27 at Grandel Theatre

The second annual Willie Akins Jazz Festival will take place starting at 3:00 p.m. Sunday, May 27 at the Grandel Theatre.

The event honors the late St. Louis saxophonist by raising money for music scholarships in his name at Webster University, where Akins (pictured) was an adjunct faculty member. Singer Joe Mancuso is organizing the fest and will serve as co-MC with singer Erika Johnson, who worked with Akins early in her career.

The concert will feature music from saxophonist Ben Reece's Unity Quartet, trumpeter Danny Campbell's quartet, and the "Willie Akins All-Stars," an ad hoc group of musicians who worked with and/or knew Akins, including saxophonists Freddie Washington, Paul DeMarinis and Kendrick Smith, guitarist Tom Byrne, bassist Willem von Hombracht, and drummer Kyle Honeycutt.

Following the concert, the action moves to The Dark Room, where pianist Ptah Williams, bassist Darrell Mixon and drummer Gary Sykes will host a post-performance jam session.

Tickets for the Willie Akins Jazz Festival will be $12 for general admission, available at the door.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunday Session: April 15, 2018

Nina Simone
Here's a roundup of various music-related items of interest that have shown up in one of StLJN's various inboxes or feeds over the past week:

* The British jazz explosion: meet the musicians rewriting the rulebook (The Guardian)
* Monika Herzig’s SHEroes Addresses Gender in Jazz (DownBeat)
* Why Hip-Hop Is Taking Center Stage On Netflix's Original Music Programming (
* At Tiny Telephone music studio, recording to tape is not a metaphor (KALW)
* MATA at 20 (New Music Box)
* How Drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath Learned to Play Jazz (Westword)
* Philadelphia native James Mtume returns to celebrate 35th anniversary of ‘Juicy Fruit’ (New Pittsburgh Courier)
* Jimmie Vaughan’s B-3 Vibe (Jazz Times)
* The Deceptively Accessible Music of Cecil Taylor (The Atlantic)
* Illuminating Cecil Taylor with Pianist Jason Moran, on The Checkout (WBGO)
* Turning The Tables: The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women (As Chosen By You) (NPR)
* “All at Full Fullness”: Remembering Cecil Taylor - Steve Coleman, Vijay Iyer, Jason Moran, Matthew Shipp and Wadada Leo Smith pay tribute to an avant-jazz icon (Jazz Times)
* All That Jazz: A #JazzAppreciationMonth Podcast Round-up (
* Music Publishers Win Major Copyright Fight Over Streaming of Legendary Rock Concerts (Hollywood Reporter)
* Composer Tyondai Braxton: 'I'm at war with myself. That's what the piece sounds like' (The Guardian)
* Spotify could kill Jazz, Soul and Classical music. Really. (
* Q&A with Al Di Meola: In a Good Place (DownBeat)
* The New Jazz Torchbearer: Kamasi Washington on His Musical Message (Rolling Stone)
* Cecil Taylor and the Art of Noise (The New Yorker)
* The Revolutionary Genius of Cecil Taylor (The New Yorker)
* The British Guitar Embargo: When Brits Were Banned from Buying American (
* How Nina Simone Captivated a New Generation (Rolling Stone)
* In Memoriam: Cecil Taylor (DownBeat)
* ‘It’s an insane project’: Toronto resident documenting city’s live-music history through posters (The Globe and Mail)
* Esperanza Spalding: Redefining Production - The bassist, composer and bandleader on her innovative recent "pop-up" album, "Exposure" (Jazz Times)
* How Musicians Are Using Field Recordings to Capture the Politics of Place (
* ‘A Singular Sound, A Singular Force’: Artists Remember Jazz Great Cecil Taylor (
* Saxophonist Kamasi Washington Announces New Album 'Heaven and Earth' With Two Teaser Videos (
* Hitting Reboot: Manhattan Transfer (DownBeat)
* American orchestras: Revamping the model, or embracing the obvious? (Washington Post)

Saturday, April 14, 2018

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Previewing the 2018 Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival

This week, let's take a look at some videos of the musicians who will be performing at the Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival, which takes place next week and culminates with concerts on Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21 at the Touhill Performing Arts Center.

While the first part of the festival involves student bands from around the area working with and performing for visiting clinicians, the GSLJF also usually has several public events. This year, those performances include a show by trumpeter Hermon Mehari on Thursday at The Dark Room, and the weekend concerts at the Touhill, which will feature the One O'Clock Lab Band from the University of North Texas on Friday and Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band on Saturday, with the UMSL Jazz Band directed by Jim Widner as opening act on both nights. Small ensembles from UMSL also will be performing as part of next week's "Grand Center Jazz Crawl" on Wednesday night.

Based in Los Angeles and stocked with first-call West Coast musicians, the Big Phat Band occupies a place in the jazz world not unlike that once held by Stan Kenton and later Maynard Ferguson. They're favorites of band directors and members of high school and college student big bands across the country, thanks to their energetic live show and slickly executed arrangements, and no doubt aided by their willingness to travel and perform at high schools and small colleges as well as at more prestigious venues.

The first video of the Big Phat Band up above, "Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes," was recorded in 2016 at one of those off-the-beaten-path gigs at New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL, near Chicago. So were "Count Bubba's Revenge" and "Horn Of Puente," the two numbers that follow it after the jump. While the videos are low-res, the audio quality is good, and the three numbers depicted give a good taste of the Big Phat Band's sound and stylistic range.

The One O'Clock Lab Band is the top student band at the University of North Texas, home to one of the most storied and longest-running collegiate jazz programs in the USA. Although like any college band, they have ongoing turnover in membership, the One O'Clock band over the years has maintained a consistent high standard of musicianship rivaling many professional ensembles, as you can hear in the next three videos.

"Hey, It’s Me You’re Talking To" is an arrangement of a tune by drummer Victor Lewis, recorded on March 1 of this year at Winspear Hall on the North Texas campus, as was the Robert Washut arrangement "Beneath the Mask" just eight days later. The third of clip of the group, a new arrangement of the venerable "Harlem Nocturne," was recorded last November, also at Winspear Hall.

Today's last two videos feature Hermon Mehari. who grew up in Kansas City and now splits his time between there and Paris, France. "Minority" is, as Mehari mentions in his introduction, a staple of his live shows, seen here in a version recorded last October at Belleville Brûlerie in Paris, while "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face" showcases Mehari alongside the acclaimed young pianist Aaron Parks in a live-in-the-studio promotional clip for the trumpeter's 2017 debut album Bleu.

You can see the rest of today's videos after the jump...

Friday, April 13, 2018

So What: Local News, Notes & Links

Here's StLJN's latest wrap-up of assorted links and short news items of local interest:

* Pianist Ramsey Lewis, who's in town to perform tonight at the Sheldon's benefit gala, was interviewed about the show by the Post-Dispatch's Kevin Johnson.

* Meanwhile, pianist Abdullah Ibrahim's retrospective concert paying tribute to his early band The Jazz Epistles, which will be presented this Saturday night at the Sheldon, was the subject of a feature article on the website of Brooklyn Academy of Music (where Ibrahim will perform later this month).

* Singer Denise Thimes, who recently moved from St. Louis to Chicago, is featured on The Celebrity Front Page, an entertainment website based in her new home city.

* North County's newest musical instrument store Low Key Music officially opened for business this week, and was featured Monday on the morning newscast at KTVI/Fox 2. The store also has posted to YouTube a brief video tour of their premises.

* The reality TV show Autopsy on the REELZ network last week ran an episode about the death of trumpeter Miles Davis (pictured), and has a video excerpt.

* On a happier note, if you're willing to give them an email address, has a free transcription from Davis' album Relaxin' intended for musicians who want to study or play along with a classic from the trumpeter's hard bop period. It's a sample from a series of transcriptions of Davis' mid-1950s sessions for Prestige published by the company; to get a copy, go here.

* has a short article spotlighting how singer, dancer and St. Louis native Josephine Baker dealt with a particularly egregious episode of racial discrimination on a visit back to the United States in the 1950s after a couple of decades as an expatriate in Paris.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Jazz this week: "Songs of Freedom," Ramsey Lewis, Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya, and more

It's another jam-packed week of live jazz and creative music in St. Louis, with two esteemed pianists appearing back-to-back at one of the city's best-sounding halls; a retrospective of music from three of the 1960s' most provocative female vocalists, starring a St. Louis native; a couple of events raising scholarship money for local music students; and more. Let's go to the highlights...

Wednesday, April 11
Drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. presents his show "Songs of Freedom," with featured vocalists Joanna Majoko and St. Louis' own Alicia Olatuja, for the first of four nights at Jazz at the Bistro. Developed by Owens for Jazz at Lincoln Center, the production explores the 1960s through the music of Joni Mitchell, Abbey Lincoln, and Nina Simone.

Also on Wednesday, trumpeter Jim Manley is back at Sasha's Wine Bar, and the weekly "Grand Center Jazz Crawl" features saxophonist Andy Ament at The Stage at KDHX, a jam session led by bassist Bob Deboo at the Kranzberg Arts Center, and trumpeter Kasimu Taylor's band at The Dark Room.

Thursday, April 12
Saxophonist Ben Reece’s Unity Quartet returns to The Dark Room and pianist Adam Maness' trio will be back at Thurman's in Shaw.

Friday, April 13
Pianist Ramsey Lewis (pictured, top left) is the headline attraction at the Sheldon Concert Hall's annual benefit gala. The concert is billed as Lewis playing the music of the Beatles,  but don't be surprised if he slips in a couple of his own hits like "The In Crowd" or "Sun Goddess" along with his interpretations of the Fab Four.  As usual with their benefit performances, the Sheldon is offering a limited number of concert-only tickets; contact their box office for availability.

Also on Friday, the Webster Groves Concert Hall reopens for the spring with "Take the "A" Train Cabaret," featuring storyteller and comedian Bobby Norfolk, pianist Tom George, and singer Beverly Brennan; saxophonist Tim Cunningham plays smooth jazz and R&B at Troy's Jazz Gallery; and singer Anita Jackson will be working the late shift at The Dark Room.

Saturday, April 14
On Saturday afternoon, Miss Jubilee will perform at the Scott Joplin House State Historic Site's Rosebud Cafe as part of the Friends of Scott Joplin's new monthly series there.

Saturday evening, pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (pictured, bottom left) and his band Ekaya, featuring trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, will present "Jazz Epistles - The Story in Concert" at the Sheldon Concert Hall. 

The Jazz Epistles were one of Ibrahim's first bands, bringing a hard bop sound modeled on Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers to his native South Africa in the late '50s, and he's been touring this tribute show since last year with various trumpeters standing in for the late Hugh Masekela, who was part of the original Jazz Epistles and had planned to . For more about Ibrahim and this retrospective show, plus a video from this current tour and more, check out this post from last Saturday.
Also on Saturday, pianist Greg Mills will present original improvisations in a free concert at St. Louis University's Xavier Hall; the Midwest Jazz-tette plays West Coast jazz at the Webster Groves Concert Hall; and Acoustik Element will be joined by percussionists Baba Mike and Matt Henry for a show at Joe's Cafe & Art Gallery.

Sunday, April 15
There's more matinee action on Sunday , as singer Joe Mancuso brings his organ trio to the house concert venue The Judson House, and drummer Chuck Kennedy, pianist Curt Landes, bassist Glen Smith, and singers Valerie Tichacek, Trish Richardson and Tom Kozlowski will present their take on Liverpool's most famous hitmakers, "The Beatles Go Jazz," at the Webster Groves Concert Hall.

Also on Sunday, Jazz St. Louis presents "Swing For The Scholars," a benefit raising money for music scholarships for local students with entertainment provided by Denise Thimes, Good 4 The Soul, members of the Funky Butt Brass Band, and more.

Monday, April 16
The music department at Webster University will present their annual Suzy Shepard and Donald O. Davis Scholarship Concert, featuring students, faculty and perhaps even some alumni performing music associated with Ella Fitzgerald, at Winifred Moore Auditorium on the Webster campus. 

Tuesday, April 17
Improvisational keyboardist Thollem, violinist Alex Cunningham, and singer/pianist Ellen the Felon will perform on a triple bill at Foam; and drummer Montez Coleman and guitarist Eric Slaughter will host "The Tuesday Night Hit" jam session at The Dark Room.

For more jazz-related events in and around St. Louis, please visit the St. Louis Jazz Notes Calendar, which can be found on the left sidebar of the site or by clicking here. You also can keep up with all the latest news by following St. Louis Jazz Notes on Twitter at or clicking the "Like" icon on the StLJN Facebook page.

(If you have calendar items, band schedule information, news tips, links, or anything else you think may be of interest to StLJN's readers, please email the information to stljazznotes (at) yahoo (dot) com. If you have photos, MP3s or other digital files, please send links, not attachments.)

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Sunday Session: April 8, 2018

Cecil Taylor
Here's a roundup of various music-related items of interest that have shown up in one of StLJN's various inboxes or feeds over the past week:

* Spotify Is Killing Song Titles (
* Branford Marsalis talks jazz, classical and playing with Miles Davis, Grateful Dead, Public Enemy (San Diego Union Tribune)
* Did Simon & Garfunkel Write The Jewish ‘Sgt. Pepper?’ (The Forward)
* Arcade Fire: 'People have lost the ability to even know what a joke is. It’s very Orwellian (The Guardian)
* You Can’t Find What You Don’t Look For: Spotify, Google, Pandora Can’t Find Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry–but what about Martha Stewart (
* The Festival Legend: George Wein – 64 Years Of Producing Festivals From Newport To New Orleans And Far Beyond (
* At Roulette, Admirers Gather To Honor John Abercrombie (DownBeat)
* The Lofty Optimism of Spotify and the Influence of the Streaming Revolution (The New Yorker)
* Instrumental Listens to 30,000 New Songs a Day to Find the Next Hit. So Why Do We Need A&R People, Again? (
* The sample legacy of Sly And The Family Stone (
* The Day Herbie Hancock Met the Electric Piano (
* Q&A with Norma Winstone: The Consummate Voice (DownBeat)
* Stream a 144-Hour Discography of Classic Jazz Recordings from Blue Note Records: Miles Davis, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman & More (
* How a Calypso Anthem Became the Surreal Centerpiece of Beetlejuice (Pitchfork)
* Inside Jimi Hendrix’s blood-spattered record collection (NME)
* Venture Beyond a Walking Bass Line with the All-American Walter Page, in Deep Dive (WBGO)
* Can Biomusic Offer Kids With Autism a New Way to Communicate? (Smithsonian)
* Love, London, and an enormous Moog: how Simon & Garfunkel made Bookends (The Telegraph)
* How much will artists get paid from the major labels’ Spotify profits? (
* Avant-Garde Pianist Cecil Taylor Dies at 89 (DownBeat)
* Cecil Taylor Dies at 89 - Piano titan pioneered the jazz avant-garde with an utterly unique sound, technique and approach to improvisation (Jazz Times)
* Cecil Taylor (1929 - 2018) (The Free Jazz Collective)
* Cecil Taylor, Jazz Icon Of The Avant-Garde, Dies At 89 (NPR)
* Cecil Taylor, Pianist Who Defied Jazz Orthodoxy, Is Dead at 89 (New York Times)
* How The #VinylRevival Is Paradoxically Threatening Record Shop Survival (
* What’s Up Tiger Lily?: The wild story of the tax scam record label run by the notorious Morris Levy (