Friday, October 24, 2014

So What: Local News, Notes & Links

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

* Singer-guitarist John Pizzarelli, in town to perform 
through Saturday at Jazz at the Bistro, was a guest yesterday on John Carney's program on KTRS.

* Saxophonist Oliver Lake has a new album, What I Heard, out on his Passin' Thru label. Available any day now via the usual outlets, it's the third release from his organ quartet with trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, drummer Chris Beck, and organist Jared Gold, and features all original compositions by Lake.

* Keep On Keepin' On, the new documentary featuring trumpeter Clark Terry and his student Justin Kauflin, got a favorable review in this video from New York Times film critic A. O. Scott.

* Saxophonist Eric Person has put on YouTube a new video of his big band playing the original composition "And Then There Was Light."

* Actor/director Don Cheadle talked with Variety about completing and searching for a distributor for his Miles Davis movie, Miles Ahead.

* Speaking of Davis, NPR's new program "Jazz Night in America" debuted last week with trumpeter Wallace Roney's set from the Detroit Jazz Festival in which he performed a series of recently "rediscovered" works written for Davis and orchestra by saxophonist Wayne Shorter

* Meanwhile, the controversy over Mostly Other People Do The Killing's note-for-note remake of Davis' Kind of Blue continues, with another review of the album, by AllAboutJazz.com's Bruce Lindsay, while over at his blog Do The Math, pianist Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus weighs in with some interesting thoughts about the project as a work of conceptual art.

* Ladue News has party pics from the recent opening of Jazz St. Louis' new HQ.

* And in a related development, JSL's executive director Gene Dobbs Bradford has been named the St. Louis American's Nonprofit Executive of the Year. Bradford will be honored at the American's annual awards luncheon on Friday, November 14 at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis.

* Following a recent series of thefts of equipment and valuables from touring bands that had their vehicles broken into, St. Louis police were scheduled to meet yesterday with owners and managers of several rock music venues in the city to come up with plan to catch the thieves.

* There's bad news this week for the Palladium, as artist, author and preservationist Kevin Belford reported on Twitter that the historic building in Grand Center, once the site of shows by numerous touring jazz and blues performers, has been tagged with a Notice of Condemnation. No word yet as to if this is truly the end of efforts to save the structure; please stay tuned...

* St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts continues their efforts to get "Every Artist Covered" by health insurance with two workshops, about the Small Business Health Options Program for not-for-profit organizations and "Navigating Health Care Reform" for individuals, on Tuesday, November 11 at the Regional Arts Commission. VLAA also will offer individualized, in-person help with health insurance enrollment during four sessions in November and December. For more details, visit the VLAA website.

* Jazz radio update: This Saturday on Radio Arts Foundation - St. Louis' “Somethin’ Else,” DJ Calvin Wilson pays tribute to the late pianist Mulgrew Miller. Right after that on "The Jazz Collective," host Jason Church will remember singer Tim Hauser of Manhattan Transfer, who passed away this week, and spin tracks from Johnny Britt, Jonathan Butler, Dan Siegel, Rick Braun, Herb Alpert, Larry Carlton, Donald Byrd, Erin Bode, The Funky Butt Brass Band, Chris Hazelton's Boogaloo 7, and Tim Cunningham.

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 http://www.rafstl.org/listen. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jazz this week: John Pizzarelli, Esfoma,
The Cunninghams, a tribute to Charles Mingus, Bad Luck, and more

Autumn is definitely in the air in St. Louis, and it's looking like a fine weekend to get out and hear some live jazz and creative music. Here's a look at some of the most noteworthy performances coming up over the next few days...

Tonight, singer and guitarist John Pizzarelli opens a four-night engagement continuing through Saturday at Jazz at the Bistro. The longtime St. Louis favorite has a new band for this visit, still featuring his brother Martin on bass, but also including two new members, pianist Konrad Paszkudzki and drummer Kevin Kanner. For some samples of Pizzarelli in action, check out this video post, made before his four-night run with his dad, guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, last year at the Bistro, and this one from before his 2012 gig at the club. 

Also tonight, Esfoma, an improvising ensemble led by pianist Greg Mills, will perform at Tavern of Fine Arts. Mills played out and recorded frequently from the late 1970s through the 1990s as a solo pianist and with the duo Exiles, but has kept a low public profile of late. He'll be accompanied on this gig by percussionist Henry Claude, cellist Tracy Andreotti, poet Michael Castro, saxophonist Dave Stone, and fellow pianist David Parker.

Tomorrow night, bassist Bob DeBoo leads a group playing the music of Charles Mingus in a free concert for the Jazz at Holmes series at Washington University; singer Denise Thimes will perform in her tenth annual show raising funds for pancreatic cancer research at the Sheldon Concert Hall; and the Gaslight Cabaret Festival resumes with Antonio Rodriguez performing his show "Memories, Mistakes and Moving On" at the Gaslight Theater

On Friday, the Gaslight Cabaret Festival continues with singer and pianist Steve Ross, who will present his show "An Evening with Steve Ross" at the Gaslight Theater. Once called "the suavest of all male cabaret performers" by the New York Times, Ross will repeat the show again on Saturday.

Also on Friday, Second Generation Swing plays for dancers at the Casa Loma Ballroom; singer Joe Mancuso fronts a quartet at Nathalie's; and the The People's Key play the house concert venue KindaBlue, located at 6101 1/2 Idaho on the south side. Elsewhere around town, Miss Jubilee will be swinging at Prasino in St. Charles; guitarist Brian Vaccaro's trio will host a jam session at The Wolf in Ballwin; and Midwest Jazz-tette will play West Coast-style "cool" jazz at the Cigar Inn in Belleville.

On Saturday, the Seattle-based drum and saxophone duo Bad Luck will perform a late-afternoon show at the Tavern of Fine Arts. Regarded as one of the top experimental, improvising pairs in their hometown, drummer Chris Icasiano and saxophonist Neil Welch use live audio loops and digital effects to augment and enhance their sound.

Then on Saturday evening, vocal duo The Cunninghams will be in town from their home in Las Vegas to play at the Ozark Theater. Former St. Louisan Don Cunningham and his wife Alicia (pictured) have a long and fascinating history in the music business, some of which is detailed in this post from last Saturday and the accompanying linked material. But you don't need a lesson to enjoy their music, which features closely harmonized vocals, in the style of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross or the Manhattan Transfer, with accents of Latin jazz and exotica.

Also on Saturday, singer Erin Bode is at Nathalie's; singers Feyza Eren and Ayse Eren, aka the Eren Sisters, and guitarist Dave Black will be at The Wine Press; the Ann Dueren Trio returns to Il Bel Lago; and the Funky Butt Brass Band will be back at the Broadway Oyster Bar.

On Sunday morning, The Sidemen will be filling in providing music for the jazz brunch this week at Evangeline's, and later on that day, Sarah Jane and the Blue Notes will play a matinee at BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups.

Looking beyond the weekend, on Monday the jazz faculty of Webster University will present their annual TKT Scholarship Benefit Concert at Winifred Moore Auditorium on campus. The event raises money for music scholarships in the names of Terry Jackson, Kirk Cappello and Tony Saputo, three musicians and Webster alumni who were killed in a 1991 plane crash along with five other members of country singer Reba McEntire's road band. This year's theme is "Jazz Interpretations of the Music of Jule Styne," paying tribute to the composer of songs such as "I Fall In Love Too Easily," "The Party's Over" and "People."

Also on Monday, singer Dean Christopher bring his "Rat Pack and More" show with pianist Chris Swan and trumpeter Jim Manley to One 19 North Tapas and Wine Bar; and "Blind" Willie Dineen and the Broadway Collective will return to BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups.

Then on Tuesday, pianist Jim Hegarty will lead a trio at Tavern of Fine Arts; and the weekly Tuesday jam sessions once held at Robbie's House of Jazz have been resurrected, like much of Robbie's other programming, at the Ozark Theatre.

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 http://twitter.com/StLJazzNotes 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.)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
The return of The Cunninghams



This week, our video spotlight shines on The Cunninghams, a duo comprised of singer, multi-instrumentalist, and former St. Louisan Don Cunningham and his wife Alicia, a singer and pianist. The Las Vegas-based couple are returning to St. Louis for a show next Saturday, October 25, at the Ozark Theatre.

Billing themselves as the "Super Jazz Vocal Pair," the Cunninghams' main calling card is their close harmony vocals, delivered in a style that may remind jazz fans of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Jackie Cain and Roy Kral, or the Manhattan Transfer, and spiced with touches of Latin jazz, lounge and exotica. They've toured with the Count Basie Orchestra, enjoyed great success in Asia as well as in the US, and even were nominated for a Grammy Award back in 1989.

Don Cunningham began his professional career here in the 1960s, playing in Gaslight Square and leading the house band at the Playboy Club, which is what led me to write about him and Alicia for the first time back in 2007 for the Riverfront Times. Since that piece and one of today's videos recap much of their back story, we won't do that again today.

Instead, let's go straight to the videos, starting up above with a brief promo clip they put together a couple of years ago to help introduce their act to the uninitiated.

After the jump, you can see a segment from the April 2012 episode of HEC-TV's "I Love Jazz" that includes performance footage as well as an interview, conducted by the program's host Don Wolff. After that, there's an extended excerpt from another homecoming gig the Cunninghams did a few years back at Harris-Stowe State University, accompanied by pianist Jeter Thompson's trio.

Since that's all the footage of them that seems to be available online, we'll wrap up with some vintage audio, specifically "Tabu," the track from Don Cunningham's St. Louis days that 40 years later helped him become known by DJs and record collectors all over the world. From the 2007 RFT article:
"Cunningham also earned international attention a couple of years ago when the San Francisco label Luv N' Haight reissued Something for Everyone, an album he cut in 1965 while his group was the house band at the St. Louis Playboy Club. Inspired by Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman, Les Baxter and music he heard in Hawaii while touring with Mathis, Cunningham incorporated those exotic sounds into his own act, eventually cutting an LP and pressing up 500 copies to sell at the club.

More than 30 years later, one of those copies found its way to Luv N' Haight, which included a bootlegged version of the song "Tabu" on a multi-artist compilation aimed at DJs. "Tabu" caught on with record spinners in Brazil, Japan and elsewhere, prompting the label to locate Cunningham and arrange an authorized re-release of the entire album."
For more about The Cunninghams, check out this article that Dennis Owsley wrote in 2011 for St. Louis magazine; this story written by Roscoe Crenshaw in 2009 for the St. Louis American; and this 2005 interview with Las Vegas Talk Radio.

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

Friday, October 17, 2014

So What: Local News, Notes & Links

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

* New music ensemble Alarm Will Sound's two performances this weekend are previewed by Stef Russell of St. Louis magazine.

* Meanwhile, the Post-Dispatch's Kevin Johnson takes a look at tonight's "250 Years of St. Louis Music" show at the Sheldon Concert Hall, which features Alarm Will Sound* playing a new work by Peter Martin, plus performances from a diverse list of St. Louis jazz, blues and roots musicians.

* Drummer/bandleader and U City native Ronnie Burrage is the subject of a feature article in Jazz Times.

* To promote an upcoming gig at LA's Jazz Bakery, saxophonist Greg Osby has put together a brief online playlist of some of his favorite music.

* St. Louis singer Katie McGrath will perform her cabaret show "Love in the Desert, Romance in an Age of Scarcity" at NYC's Metropolitan Room next Thursday, October 23.

* Keep On Keepin' On, the new documentary about trumpeter Clark Terry and his student Justin Kauflin, was reviewed by AllAboutJazz.com's Mark F. Turner. 

* Miles Davis' "Blue Xmas" b/w "Devil May Care" will be released as a limited edition 7" blue vinyl single (pictured) for Record Store Day's annual Black Friday event on November 28.

* In more Davis-related news, Jazz Times critic Nate Chinen weighs in on Mostly Other People Do The Killing's controversial note-for-note remake of Davis' Kind of Blue, and Popmatters has an interview about the record with MOPDTK bassist and bandleader Moppa Elliott.

* In response to the controversy, the Davis estate felt the need yesterday to issue an official statement: "I Vincent Wilburn Jr., drummer and nephew of Miles Davis, and Cheryl A. Davis, daughter of Miles Davis, want to clarify that “Blue” the ultimate tribute by the band Mostly Other People Do The Killing, is not supported by us, nor done with our cooperation or participation."

* Saxophonist David Sanborn's performance this week in San Diego was previewed by the local daily the Union-Tribune.

* The performances last week by Sanborn at Jazz at the Bistro and Chick Corea at the Sheldon Concert Hall were reviewed by Calvin Wilson for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

* Bassist Stanley Clarke's show Tuesday at The Pageant was documented via a photo set posted on Facebook by Hip 96.3 FM.

* The Riverfront Times this week published a set of photos by Mabel Suen showing off the newly renovated Jazz at the Bistro.

* The Funky Butt Brass Band's version of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" was listed at #4 in an article on the website Mashable about "13 Brass Band Cover Songs That Are Better Than The Originals."

Not only that, but while on a recent trip to Arkansas to play the King Biscuit Blues Festival, the FBBB stopped off in Memphis for a visit to the Stax Records museum, where saxophonist Ben Reece, trumpeter Adam Hucke and trombonist Aaron Chandler met famed trumpeter Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns.

* KDHX has posted online a photo set of Wack-A-Doo's performance last week at one of the station's "Harvest Sessions."

* Speaking of photo sets, the Midwest Jazz-tette has posted two of them to Facebook, documenting performances earlier this year at First Unity Church and Cigar Inn

* Trombonist Dave Dickey is moving his monthly big band gig to Jazz at the Bistro, effective Sunday, November 2. The band now will play on the first Sunday of each month, continuing in their new location the practice of having local student bands perform at intermission. Their run of monthly shows at Kirkwood Station Brewing Company lasted three years. Tickets for the November 2 debut performance at the Bistro go on sale at 10:00 a.m. today via Metrotix.

* The Regional Arts Commission is accepting applications for the 2015 Katherine Dunham Internship, which provides hands-on experience in arts administration for an African-American student. The deadline to apply is Monday, November 3.

* Jazz radio update: This Saturday on Radio Arts Foundation - St. Louis' “Somethin’ Else,” host Calvin Wilson explores the landscape of extended improvisation via tracks from Henry Threadgill, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis and more. The program can be heard at 8:00 p.m. on 107.3 FM, 96.3 HD-2, and online at http://www.rafstl.org/listen.

* Disclaimer: I've been working with Alarm Will Sound since 2010 on publicity for their gigs in Columbia and St. Louis, including this one. However, given their demonstrated accomplishments and StLJN's usual editorial focus, I'd be writing about them here even if I had no relationship with them.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: David Sanborn at Jazz at the Bistro

Opening his second set last Thursday with "Coming Home Baby" seemed a very appropriate choice for David Sanborn. Not only is the tune one of his longtime concert staples, but the Kirkwood High School graduate was in fact back in his hometown, headlining the first full week of shows at the newly expanded and renovated space of Jazz at the Bistro.

Accompanied by a quartet of St. Louis musicians, Sanborn seemed relaxed and relatively low-key as he ventured forth on familiar material like "Maputo" and "Benny," penned for him by, respectively, Bob James and Marcus Miller, as well as the ballad "What Will I Tell My Heart," and "Sofia," from his recent Quartette Humaine album with James.

Though his signature sound has mellowed slightly in recent years, Sanborn's alto still displayed some bite as he spun out his characteristic blues-inflected melodic lines. His approach, much closer to a vocal sound than the pattern-based soloing favored by many contemporary players, may have had its genesis in the blues and funk-based music for which Sanborn is best known, but it also serves the slower, prettier material quite well, as he's able to wring considerable emotion from both a standard like "...Heart" and the original "Sofia," dedicated to his wife.

Though all native to the St. Louis area, the band - Peter Martin on piano and Rhodes, Eric Slaughter on guitar, Chris Thomas on bass, and Montez Coleman on drums - was no mere "local rhythm section," as all have touring credits with major jazz artists. With just one brief rehearsal before beginning the four-night run, the quartet nevertheless provided very sympathetic and capable support for Sanborn, digging in for an extended jam on the opener but also showing appropriate concision when needed.

Martin, whose resume includes work with Dianne Reeves, Christian McBride, and Chris Botti, unsurprisingly got the most space to play, serving as an effective foil for Sanborn on both acoustic and electric keyboards and building thoughtful solos when called upon. Slaughter only got a couple of brief solos, but also acquitted himself well, using a rockish tone that evoked the late Hiram Bullock's work with Sanborn.

Thomas and Coleman mostly concentrated on establishing and protecting the groove, adding just enough variation to keep things building without overwhelming the soloists. Coleman did get a brief solo spot near the end of the set, cleverly punctuating his ideas with space instead of just serving up a rote flurry of fast licks.

With a well-established and highly successful musical persona, at this point in his career Sanborn may not deliver many surprises in terms of format or repertoire, but he's a very likeable performer, his playing remains quite engaging on a moment-to-moment basis, and the fans who turned out clearly found it to be a satisfying show all around.

Regarding the new Bistro, while the exterior looks mostly familiar except for some new signage, there's a brand new lobby area, and the remodeled performance area inside feels considerably more open and spacious than the old one. The new layout of the room, with the stage against the long wall on the east side of the room instead of the short wall at the back, achieves the desired goal of bringing more seats closer to the stage, and also allows for better positioning of the lighting instruments.

As for the decor of the room, when I first saw the drawings made public at the start of the project, I must admit my first thought was "cocktail lounge in a Scandinavian airport." While the actual room doesn't feel anywhere near that stark, as someone who prefers his music venues on the funky side, it would be nice to see some St. Louis jazz-related photos, posters, artwork, or memorabilia on some of the wall areas that aren't covered with material to reflect or absorb sound. Admittedly, this is kind of a nitpick, and something that can be dealt with as finishing touches are put on the facility, but I do hope there's a plan to add some sort of visual homage to local jazz history.

More importantly, the sound, though generally regarded as good at the old Bistro, has been noticeably improved. The design of the room and the purchase and installation of the sound system were done in consultation with Sam Berkow, who performed similar duties for Jazz at Lincoln Center and SFJAZZ's new building, and the results are impressive.

The gear is visually unimposing, with speakers flown above the stage and small subwoofers tucked into the front corners, but does a good job of distributing the sound throughout the space. While everything, including the drums, now runs through the PA (which can get dicey in a room the size of the Bistro) the mix seemed relatively natural, nicely balanced, and not too loud for the room. Slaughter's guitar solos did get a bit hot, at least from where I was sitting, but that's one small fader adjustment. For the most part, things seemed pretty well dialed-in for only the second week of operations.

All in all, the new Bistro seems a fine place in which to play or hear music, and I'd expect that musicians and listeners both will give it very favorable reviews. That said, I'm a bit skeptical of the notion that the mere existence of this new space somehow will transform the entire St. Louis jazz scene for the better. Look for a further examination of that topic in an upcoming commentary...

Photo provided by Madeline Dames of HEC-TV.

Jazz this week: "250 Years of St. Louis Music," Phil Dunlap Quintet, Karen Mason, and more

So what's going on this week with live jazz and creative music in St. Louis? Glad you asked, as we just happen to have some recommendations for you, including the return of a local favorite who's been away for a couple of years, a diverse salute to St. Louis music history, and more. Let's go to the highlights...

Tonight, pianist Reggie Thomas, the former St. Louisan and former faculty member at Michigan State who's back a little closer to home now that he's heading up the jazz program at Northern Illinois University, will be performing with the Mineral Area College Jazz Ensemble and MAC Kicks Band at the college's Fine Arts Theatre down in Park Hills.

Also tonight, singer Joe Mancuso and Friends - in this case, guitarist Randy Bahr, bassist Willem von Hombracht, and drummer Gerald Warren - will be at Nathalie’s; and Miss Jubilee has a double-header on tap, with a trio show for happy hour at Magpie's on Main in St. Charles, followed by an evening gig at Thaxton Speakeasy.

Then on Friday, yr. humble StLJN editor must first invoke a disclaimer, as I've been working in my "day job" in recent weeks to help promote the "250 Years of St. Louis Music" concert taking place that evening all over the Sheldon Concert Hall and Galleries.

The centerpiece of the event is an 8:00 p.m.set by the new music ensemble Alarm Will Sound featuring a new composition by Peter Martin (pictured) inspired by Miles Davis. But the festivities actually kick off at 6:30 p.m. and continue after AWS' set with music upstairs and down from jazz performers including Martin, Denise Thimes, Carolbeth True, and Willie Akins; blues from Kim Massie and Billy Peek; hip-hop from Illphonics; the St. Louis Ragtimers; folk and country from Gary Hunt and Dade Farrar; the Webster University Chamber Singers, and more. (See the "250 Years" link above for details on who's playing when and where.)

Also on Friday, pianist and Jazz St. Louis education director Phil Dunlap will lead the latest iteration of his quintet in the first of two nights of performances at Jazz at the Bistro.  Featuring Danny Campbell on trumpet, Ben Reece Aaron Giraudo on tenor sax, Montez Coleman on drums, and young phenom Nathan Pence on bass, the group will mix Dunlap's originals, no doubt including some from his forthcoming album, with hard-bop covers.

Elsewhere around town, the Gaslight Cabaret Festival resumes with singer Karen Mason performing her show "Secrets of the Ancient Divas" for the first of two evenings at the Gaslight Theater; guitarists Brian Vaccaro and Tim Fischer (the latter a recent transplant from California) will duet at Chasers Lounge in the Chase Park Plaza Hotel; the Gateway City Big Band plays for dancers at the Casa Loma Ballroom; trumpeter Jim Manley returns to One 19 North Tapas & Wine Bar; and vibraphonist Tom Rickard leads a trio at Cigar Inn

On Saturday afternoon, saxophonist Jim Stevens and group will be getting funky by the riverside at the Loading Dock up in Grafton; and Saxquest will present a free concert by the Saxquest Nonet Jazz Orchestra, performing music from the "cool jazz" movement of the 1950s.

Then on Saturday evening, pianist Carolbeth True and Two Times True will play at the Ozark Theatre; the Wire Pilots return to the Tavern of Fine Arts; and the Coleman Hughes Project with singer Adrienne Felton will be at Troy's Jazz Gallery.

On Sunday, early risers and/or runners can take in some swing and jump blues from Sarah Jane and the Blue Notes as they entertain participants and observers of the annual Rock and Roll Marathon from a stage at Chippewa and S. Broadway.

Later on Sunday, Alarm Will Sound will play a free concert outdoors at the new Public Media Commons, 3653 Olive St. in Grand Center, premiering "Ten Thousand Birds," a new work from Pulitzer Prize winning composer John Luther Adams. Artist Michael Eastman will provide visuals projected on the Commons' two-story tall video screens, and St. Louis electronic musicians Eric Hall and NNN Cook each will do short opening sets, with Cook's enlisting five members of AWS to provide live instrumentation for his piece.

Looking beyond the weekend, on Monday the Sessions Big Band will be back for their now bi-monthly gig at BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups; and on Tuesday, the weekly jam session formerly held at Robbie's House of Jazz in Webster Groves has been re-started at the Ozark Theatre (which now is being programmed by former Robbie's GM Dorothy Edwards).

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 http://twitter.com/StLJazzNotes 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.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Greg Mills' Esfoma to perform Wednesday, October 22 at Tavern of Fine Arts

From the late 1970s through the 1990s, pianist Greg Mills was a frequent public participant in the St. Louis creative music scene, performing and recording as a solo artist and as part of the duo Exiles with multi-instrumentalist Jay Zelenka.

More recently, Mills has been much less visible, but now he's scheduled a return to the stage as a leader with a gig at 7:30 p.m. next Wednesday, October 22 at the Tavern of Fine Arts.

Performing under the name Esfoma (after his 1984 solo release of the same name), Mills will be joined by saxophonist Dave Stone, cellist Tracy Andreotti, percussionist Henry Claude, poet Michael Castro, and fellow pianist David Parker.

You can hear samples from the album Esfoma and from Mills' other recordings, both solo and with Exiles, via the website of Zelenka's label Freedonia Music.

Admission to the performance on October 22 at Tavern of Fine Arts is free.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Remembering Lester Bowie

Today, we remember the great St. Louis trumpeter Lester Bowie, who was born October 11, 1941.

Though Bowie (pictured) actually was born in Maryland, he grew up in St. Louis as part of a family that included two brothers who also became professional musicians: Joseph Bowie, a trombonist and leader of the funk-jazz band Defunkt; and Byron Bowie, a saxophonist and arranger/composer.

After developing his trumpet chops playing blues gigs around St. Louis with singers including Albert King and Little Milton and jazz wherever and whenever he could, Lester Bowie moved to Chicago in 1965, where he became a founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the group with whom he is most closely associated.

In addition to the AEC, Bowie was involved in many different musical projects, recording in duo and trio settings with many of the musicians from BAG and Chicago's AACM, and leading a number of his own groups, notably Brass Fantasy and the Lester Bowie Organ Ensemble. His work incorporated many types of music, from free improv and knotty post-bop to gospel and doo-wop, and he stood out among trumpet players of his generation for his combination of deep concepts, a sense of humor, and use of extended techniques. Sadly, Lester Bowie died young, passing away from liver cancer on November 9, 1999 when he was just 58.

In the first video window below, you can see him in 1983 performing with From The Root To The Source, a multi-stylistic group reflecting Bowie's love of popular and church music as well as jazz that also was something of a family band, since it featured his ex-wife Fontella Bass and former in-laws Martha Bass and David Peaston.

In the window below that, you can see him performing "Summertime" in an undated clip with Brass Fantasy, and below that, in two parts, a complete Art Ensemble concert recorded in 1991 in Budapest.







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