Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Jazz this week: Roy Hargrove, "Holiday Brasstravaganza," Ellington's "Nutcracker,"
a big band murder mystery, and more

For this last week before Christmas, the calendar of jazz and creative music performances in and around St. Louis features the long-overdue return of a top touring trumpeter, plus several holiday-themed shows and some other special presentations from local performers. Let's go to the highlights....

Wednesday, December 17
Trumpeter Roy Hargrove returns to Jazz at the Bistro to begin his first St. Louis gig as a leader in more than a decade.

When he last played here, Hargrove (pictured) already had recorded several well-regarded albums of hard-bop-inspired sounds and was tagged as a rising star. Since then, he's gained a good deal of additional recognition for leading groups influenced by Latin-jazz (the Grammy-winning Crisol) and funk (RH Factor), but during his four nights in St. Louis, Hargrove will be fronting a quintet playing in a more straight-ahead style.

For more about what Hargrove's been up to, and some video samples of his quintet performing earlier this year on tour in Europe, see this post from a couple of Saturdays ago.

Also on Wednesday, singer Tony Viviano presents his "Christmas in St. Louis" show at Vito's in the Valley; the Route 66 Jazz Orchestra plays at Kirkwood Station Brewing Company; Cabaret Project St. Louis will hold their monthly "Open Mic Night" at the Tavern of Fine Arts: and Sarah Jane and the Blue Notes will play at The Feasting Fox.

Thursday, December 18
Miss Jubilee plays an early show at the Blues City Deli; guitarist Tom Byrne and singer Erika Johnson will pair up at Evangeline's; and guitarist Dave Black will be joined by a rhythm section and guest vocalist at Nathalie’s.

Friday, December 19
The Funky Butt Brass Band will present the first of two nights of their sixth annual "Holiday Brasstravaganza" at Off Broadway, featuring a long list of guest performers and various seasonal hijinks.

Also on Friday, the St. Louis Big Band adds a theatrical element to their usual program of danceable swing and pop, staging an retro-themed, audience-participation "murder mystery" at Casa Loma Ballroom; and singer and multi-instrumentalist Alan Ox pays tribute to Ol' Blue Eyes with his show "Straight-Up, A Shot of Sinatra" at the Sheldon Concert Hall, backed by pianist  Dave Venn, drummer Miles Vandiver, bassist Dave Troncoso, and Dave Black on guitar.

Saturday, December 20
Trumpeter Jim Manley duets with guitarist Randy Bahr at One 19 North Tapas and Wine Bar.

Sunday, December 21
The Ambassadors of Swing perform at Southminster Presbyterian Church, 10126 E Watson; and BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups has a double bill with singer/guitarist Tommy Halloran playing the matinee, and percussionist Joe Pastor and the Legacy Jazz Band taking the night shift.

Monday, December 22
The Jazz St. Louis Big Band, stocked with many alumni of the jazz program at SIUE, will present Duke Ellington’s famous arrangement of Tchaikovsky's “Nutcracker” along with other selected Ellington favorites at Jazz at the Bistro. The show is one set only, but if you can't make it on Monday, you should know that the program also will be repeated on Tuesday.. The program repeats on Tuesday, and while tickets for the first sets are nearly sold out, there are seats remaining for the second sets on both nights.

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.)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Music Education Monday: A Benny Golson master class, and the Saxophone Museum

This week, Music Education Monday is all about the saxophone, starting with a master class from the veteran saxophonist and composer and former Jazz Messenger Benny Golson.

In the first video below, Golson, writer of well-known tunes such as "Killer Joe," "Whisper Not," and "Along Came Betty," discusses his career with author Tom Piazza as part of a master class held in 2005 at Loyola University in New Orleans. In the second video, Golson gives a performance of "Along Came Betty" and discusses how he wrote the song.

In between videos, you might want to take a break for a virtual visit to the Saxquest Saxophone Museum. While the museum is located physically right here in St. Louis inside the Saxquest shop, you can see photosets online detailing many of the vintage instruments in the collection, including the 1921 King saxello pictured in this post as well as saxes made by Selmer, Buescher, Conn, Grafton, Keilwerth, LeBlanc, Martin, and even a couple of 19th century instruments from Adolphe Sax himself.

Miles on Monday: Cookin' with Miles Davis

For this week's edition of Miles on Monday, we bring you a brief look at Miles Davis as chef.

As the story goes, Davis taught himself to cook by consulting various cookbooks and trying recipes he found in magazines, and compiled his favorites for future reference. “He had a little cookbook about the size of a phone book that you could hold in the palm of your hand. We’re still trying to find that,” his nephew Vince Wilburn told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2011.

While the cookbook has yet to be found, a couple of recipes purported to be Davis' made the rounds on the internet back in August, but given that they were both for chili, perhaps they weren't the most appropriate cuisine for the heat of summer.

Now that fall is about to turn into winter, though, perhaps you might might be interested in trying "Miles Davis' South Side Chicago Chili Mack," and a variant recipe for chili also attributed to Davis, as recounted by the website Open Culture.

One slight problem for the novice cook is that the recipes as originally recorded in Davis' autobiography and by his sister lack some specifics on the steps of preparation. Fortunately, a site called The Recipe Diva has broken down one of the recipes into sequential instructions (which presumably could be followed, making adjustments as needed, for the other).

Of course, in cooking as in music, there are few absolutes. You can start with some ingredients and a basic recipe, and add your own touches, techniques and flavors to suit. Whether you follow Miles' recipes to the letter, or decide to do some improvising, we do have a suggested soundtrack: the 1956 album Cookin' With The Miles Davis Quintet, which you can play from the embedded video window below.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Happy birthday, Clark Terry!

Today, we wish a most happy birthday to one of the greatest St. Louis jazz musicians ever, trumpeter Clark Terry, who turns 94 tomorrow.

A recipient of honors and awards too numerous to count, and enshrined in halls of fame ranging from that of Vashon High School in St. Louis to Jazz at Lincoln Center's Nesuhi Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame in NYC, Terry has had a prolific career stretching from the 1940s into the 21st century, encompassing hundreds of recordings and many thousands of performances.

Among his accomplishments, he's often noted as one of the few musicians to have played in the orchestras of both Count Basie and Duke Ellington, and in the early 1960s he broke the color barrier in network television by becoming the first African-American member of the band on NBC's Tonight Show.

Later, Terry became known as a jazz educator and ambassador, teaching master classes at colleges and universities around the world and serving as a personal mentor to particularly promising musicians, including such current notables as singer Dianne Reeves and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. He continued to travel and perform throughout his seventies and eighties until just a few years ago, when a series of health problems finally forced him to retire from the road to his home in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Even after losing his eyesight and both legs to diabetes, Terry has continued to teach from a hospital bed via telephone and Skype. And though his body may be frail, his spirit remains indomitable, as shown in the recent documentary film Keep On Keepin' On, which follows the story of Terry's relationship with a talented young pianist named Justin Kauflin.

Of course, this is just the barest outline of his storied career. There's so much more to say about Clark Terry - enough to fill a book, and in fact, he's written one himself, which you should read if you have any interest in jazz (or the history of St. Louis, for that matter) - that it's futile to even try to fit it all into one simple blog post. So let's get the birthday party started, and move on to the videos.

We begin with three songs recorded more than 50 years ago in Europe by a band led by Terry and saxophonist Phil Woods. As the story goes, the group originally was assembled by Quincy Jones as the backing band for a touring musical show that went bankrupt, leaving the performers stranded and forcing them to line up a series of gigs to earn enough money to return home to the USA.

In addition to Terry on trumpet and fluegelhorn and Woods on alto sax, the group included Sahib Shihab (baritone sax), Quentin Jackson (trombone), Patty Bown (piano), Buddy Catlett (bass), Joe Harris (drums). You can hear them in the first clip playing "Undecided," recorded in late 1969 in the Netherlands, and after the jump, "Steeplechase" and "A Night in Tunisia," which are from a Paris gig early in 1960.

After that, there's a short set featuring Terry with pianist Oscar Peterson, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Ed Thigpen, recorded in 1965 in Finland. The foursome had made a well-regarded and commercially successful recording together the previous year, Oscar Peterson Trio + One, and this show draws on some of the songs they recorded for that album.

One of those tunes was what some consider to be the definitive version of Terry's signature tune, the mush-mouthed, scat-singing jump blues "Mumbles," and a brief but spirited version of that crowd-pleaser finishes the set.

After that, you can hear four songs featuring Terry's Big Bad Band, recorded in 1974 in England, with a lineup including one of Terry's oldest musical friends from St. Louis, trombonist Jimmy Wilkins, as well as iconic musicians such as saxophonist Jimmy Heath, drummer Grady Tate, and pianist Horace Parlan.

They start off with "Et Toi," followed by "Take The A Train," "Rock Skipping (at the Blue Note)," and "On The Trail" (a jazz arrangement of material adapted from Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite).

We finish up with three more recent clips that pay tribute to Terry in different ways. Today's fifth video is a complete show by one of his proteges, Dianne Reeves, that was presented as a tribute to the trumpeter back in 2000 in Bern, Germany. After an improvised vocal by Reeves telling the story of how they met, Terry appears on stage and plays for a bit, and the warmth between them is obvious. (Though he stays for just a couple of numbers, Reeves and band are in typically good form for the rest of the set as well.)

Next, there's an interview with Alan Hicks, director of Keep On Keepin' On, in which he talks about the film and his relationship with Terry - he started as a student, then was hired to play drums on some of the trumpeter's gigs - and shows a couple of short excerpts.

Last but not least, we hear more about Keep On Keepin' On, this time from Justin Kauflin and Quincy Jones, a longtime friend of Terry's and the film's executive producer. Though the film has already screened in St. Louis back in October, it has made the first cut for Academy Award eligibility and no doubt will be available on home video at some point in the not-too-distant future.

You can read more of StLJN's past coverage of Clark Terry here, and you can see the rest of today's videos after the jump.

Friday, December 12, 2014

So What: Local News, Notes & Links

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

* Clark Terry just got a birthday-week visit from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, who detoured between scheduled stops on their current trek through the southern USA to perform for the legendary trumpeter at his bedside in a Little Rock hospital.

You can read JaLCO leader Wynton Marsalis' account of the visit here, and see more photos here. (In case you didn't know, Terry turns 94 on Sunday; StLJN will be paying tribute in this week's Saturday Video Showcase.)

* Speaking of photo albums, we've got links to several more today, starting with some shots from last week's New Music Circle concert featuring saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell and pianist Craig Taborn.

* Also from last week, the Dave Dickey Big Band has posted some pics to Facebook of their most recent gig at Jazz At the Bistro.

* Lastly, the Kevin Mitchell 4 is one of several local groups and musicians tapped during the holiday season to serenade Metrolink riders from inside their train car, and they've posted the photographic evidence on Facebook here.

* The Lindbergh High School jazz ensemble was featured on Fox 2's Thursday morning newscast. The band heads to Chicago next week to perform at the Midwest Clinic International Band, Orchestra and Music Conference, but first, they'll play for the hometown crowd in a free preview concert at 7;00 p.m. this coming Monday, December 15 at Lindbergh HS, 5000 S. Lindbergh Blvd.

* The recently rediscovered recording of singer and East St. Louisan Leon Thomas performing with the British jazz-fusion group Nucleus at the 1970 Montreux Jazz Festival has been reviewed again for, this time by AAJ's Bruce Lindsay.

* And speaking of "recently rediscovered," a 43-minute video of St. Louis-born guitarist Grant Green playing live in 1969 in Paris has been made available online as a paid download. (A copy of the show briefly posted to YouTube was removed after a take-down notice from Green's son.)

Given that up until now, any video of Green (pictured) has been scarcer than the proverbial hen's teeth, it's certainly a welcome find, though $19.99 for a download - no packaging, no extra materials, just a video file - seems a bit steep, even for something of this relative rarity.

* John Fornaszewski, longtime owner of Fornaszewski Music in Granite City, drummer, and father of drummer and bandleader Stan Fornaszewski, died this past Saturday at age 74 after suffering a heart attack. Our condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues...

* Jazz radio update: WSIE (88.7 FM) aka "The Jazz Station" is conducting another fund-raising drive today, tomorrow and Sunday. You can tune in to the broadcast or check out the live online stream for details on pledge premiums, and to listen throughout the weekend for special guests, interviews and more.

Meanwhile, this Saturday on Radio Arts Foundation - St. Louis, Calvin Wilson's “Somethin’ Else” program will feature the songs of Harold Arlen (composer of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," "Blues In The Night," and many more jazz and pop standards) as interpreted by Nicholas Payton, Max Roach, Dominique Eade, and others.

Right after that, Jason Church's The Jazz Collective will be in a holiday mood with season sounds from Harry Connick, Jr., Lynne Fiddmont, Candy Dulfer, Dave Koz, Vibraphonic, Manhattan Transfer, Mindi Abair, Al Hammerman, Dawn Weber, Funky Butt Brass Band, Jim Manley, and more.

Wilson's program can be heard at 8:00 p.m., followed by Church at 9:00 p.m., on 107.3 FM, 96.3 HD-2, and online at

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Jazz this week: Matt Wilson's Christmas Tree-O, "A Very Manley Christmas," Cornet Chop Suey, Alarm Will Sound, and more

As you might expect, this week's calendar of jazz and creative music in St. Louis features plenty of seasonal sounds, but there also are a variety of other offerings, ranging stylistically from traditional jazz to free improv, for those seeking an audio alternative.
Let's go to the highlights...

Thursday, December 11 
New music ensemble Alarm Will Sound* performs their final show of 2014 at the Sheldon Concert Hall, presenting the world premiere of the complete score of Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy's The Hunger.

While this concert version of the extended work about the great Irish famine doesn't have all of the planned multimedia features in place yet, it will have Iarla Ó Lionáird, of The Gloaming and Afro Celt Sound System, and mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway, a last-minute substitute for Dawn Upshaw, who's ill, as guest vocal soloists.

Also on Thursday, the Funky Butt Brass Band returns to the Blues City Deli for an early evening show; and Franglais, a Gypsy jazz group fronted by singer Eve Seltzer and her husband, guitarist Ben Wood, and newly arrived in St. Louis, will make their local debut at Evangeline's.

Friday, December 12
Drummer Matt Wilson and his Christmas Tree-O wrap up a week-long educational residency with a public concert at Webster Groves High School, performing expanded arrangements of holiday favorites back by student big bands from WGHS.

Also on Friday, trumpeter Jim Manley (pictured) will be in the holiday spirit as he convenes his Mad Brass and Rhythm for the first of two nights of "A Very Manley Christmas" at Jazz at the Bistro.While the material from Manley's newest album Funk Factory doesn't really fit the format for this particular gig, fans no doubt will be able to purchase copies of the just-issued CD at the merch table.

Elsewhere around town, Sarah Jane and the Blue Notes will perform at Nathalie's; and Second Generation Swing plays for dancers at Casa Loma Ballroom.

Saturday, December 13
On Saturday afternoon, there's one more chance to hear the Oikos Ensemble's "What Child is This? A Jazz Nativity," which will be performed this week at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Belleville.

Then that evening, singers Mary Dyson and Diane Vaughn will return to Troy's Jazz Gallery; the Kevin Mitchell 4 will be playing seasonal songs at Evangeline‘s; and Miss Jubilee performs at the Casa Loma Ballroom.

Sunday, December 14 
The St. Louis Jazz Club presents their final concert of the year, a matinee with trad jazz and swing band Cornet Chop Suey performing at the DoubleTree Hotel at Westport; and the Jazz Edge Orchestra, featuring singers Ron Wilkinson and Marsha Evans, will return to Kirkwood Station Brewing Company.

Monday, December 15 
The Sessions Big Band will check in for their last gig of the year at BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups; singer Dean Christopher bring his "Rat Pack and More" show back to One 19 North Tapas and Wine Bar; and Off Topic II, an improvising trio featuring pianist Jim Hegarty, bassist Paul Steinbeck and drummer Gary Sykes, will take the stage at the Tavern of Fine Arts.

Tuesday, December 16
The Tavern of Fine Arts will offer what should be another noteworthy evening of improvised music as the Society for Creative Survival, a new venture spearheaded by pianists Greg Mills and David Parker, presents "Soliloquy - An Evening of Solo Performances," featuring brief solo sets by Mills, Parker, trumpeter George Sams, cellist Tracy Andreotti, percussionist Henry Claude, and more.

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.)

* Full disclosure: StLJN's editor is paid by the firm Slay & Associates to assist Alarm Will Sound with publicity for their gigs in Missouri. However, given our editorial focus, I'd be writing about their shows regardless. So, rather than not telling you about something that might be of interest, you get this disclosure instead. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

Music Education Monday: A music theory reference, and a Matt Wilson master class

For this week's Music Ed Monday, we highlight another useful reference on music theory and history,'s Music Theory and History Online.

While the site design is very Web 1.0, the information contained therein is no less valid for being presented in a slightly less than currently fashionable manner. Perhaps the site's handiest feature is an alphabetical glossary of musical terms, each of which is linked to a detailed explanation of that term.

If you've had theory classes, much of the material will be familiar, but it's still nice to have it all conveniently indexed. And if you haven't formally studied theory, but suddenly need to know, say, what "acciaccatura" means, or the effective ranges of double reed instruments, they've got you covered.

For something completely different, in the embedded video window below we've got an hour-long master class from drummer Matt Wilson, who just happens to be in town this week doing an educational residency in the Webster Groves school district and playing a couple of shows with his Christmas Tree-O.

Although this particular class was recorded in 2013 for the Litchfield Jazz Festival in Connecticut, students in Webster no doubt will be equally appreciative of Wilson's extensive knowledge, down-to-earth approach, and sense of humor.

Miles on Monday: Mid-80s Miles
at Montreux, and more

For this week's "Miles on Monday," check out the Washington Post's review of All of You: The Last Tour 1960, a new four-CD box documenting the final European tour of Davis' first great quintet with saxophonist John Coltrane. (To hear for yourself what writer Giovanni Russonello is talking about, you can listen to audio from the Stockholm concert that's documented in the set, albeit from an earlier release of the material.)

And as long as we're in Europe, at least metaphorically, here's an online video featuring Davis' complete set from the 1986 Montreux Jazz Festival. Performing material dawn largely from then-current releases like Tutu and You're Under Arrest, the band features Robben Ford (pictured, with Davis) on guitar and Bob Berg on tenor sax, along with keyboardists Adam Holzman and Robert Irving III, bassist Felton Crews, percussionist Steve Thornton, and Davis' nephew Vincent Wilburn on drums.

While this particular iteration of Davis' group wasn't necessarily the most challenging ensemble he ever assembled, they do get a nice groove going in a number of spots, and the gig also gets a boost from brief guest appearances for a couple of songs apiece by David Sanborn and George Duke.

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