Saturday, April 30, 2016

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
A Cyrus Chestnut sampler

This week, let's check out some videos of pianist Cyrus Chestnut, who will be performing at the Sheldon Concert Hall next Saturday, May 7.

Chestnut has been a frequent visitor to St. Louis over the last decade-plus, most recently serving as the pianist for the all-star band assembled for the "Jazz St. Louis at 20" celebration last fall at Jazz at the Bistro. He also has co-headlined at the Bistro with guitarist Russell Malone, and has led his own band there on several occasions. Yet somehow he's never been in StLJN's video spotlight before, an omission that this post now rectifies with a sampling of recent performances by the pianist and his trio.

Now 53 years old, Chestnut grew up in Baltimore and graduated from Berklee College of Music. He served an early career apprenticeship in the bands of Jon Hendricks, Terrence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Betty Carter, and, briefly, Wynton Marsalis. In the ensuing years, Chestnut also has performed and/or collaborated on record with many other well-known musicians and singers, including Freddy Cole, Bette Midler, Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Scott, Isaac Hayes, Kevin Mahogany, Christian McBride, Kathleen Battle, Vanessa L. Williams, Brian McKnight, Manhattan Transfer, and the Boys' Choir of Harlem.

As a leader, Chestnut has released 17 albums, the most of recent of which was 2015's A Million Colors in Your Mind on the Highnote label. A versatile player with plenty of keyboard chops, he has a sound rooted in gospel and blues, yet also is known to deploy more than occasionally the sort of melodic and harmonic digressions associated with Oscar Peterson and especially Art Tatum.

So, it's probably not a coincidence that the tune Chestnut is playing in the first video up above - "Brotherhood of Man" from the 1960s musical How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying - entered the jazz repertoire thanks to a very successful recording made by Peterson's trio (with guest trumpeter Clark Terry). This version, recorded last year at Shanghai Jazz in New Jersey, clearly draws some inspiration from Peterson, even as Chestnut does his own thing.

After the jump, you can see Chestnut perform the standard "I've Never Been in Love Before," recorded at the same Shanghai Jazz gig. Below that, there are performances recorded last year in Cuernavaca, México of Chestnut's original "Ami's Dance" and a version of Lionel Richie's 1980s pop hit "Hello."

Those two clips are followed by a full set from a concert by Chestnut's trio last year at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME. The final video features Chestnut in an episode of the Voice of America's program Beyond Category, being interviewed and playing with his trio.

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

Friday, April 29, 2016

So What: Local News, Notes & Links

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

* Writing for DownBeat, Terry Perkins reported on last week's reunion of former members of the Black Artists Group for a discussion and performance at Jazz at the Bistro.

* The reunion of former BAG members included saxophonist Oliver Lake, who's now playing with bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Andrew Cyrille as Trio 3 at NYC's Village Vanguard through Saturday.  

Lake also was named this week as co-recipient of a $25,000 grant from the Multi-Arts Production (MAP) Fund to support the development and staging of Interruption!, a live performance piece for 14-piece ensemble with music by Rob Reddy and a libretto written and performed by Lake.

* Two St. Louis musicians, drummer Emanuel Harrold and bassist Jahmal Nichols, can be heard on the new album from singer Gregory Porter, which NPR made available online this week for a "First Listen."

* Guitarist Todd Mosby is featured on the latest episode of the podcast A Concert Pitch. Mosby will play music from his new album On Eagle Mountain on Saturday night at Focal Point.

* The Black Rep's production of Twisted Melodies, a play about singer/songwriter, pianist and former St. Louisan Donny Hathaway's battle with mental illness, was reviewed by Kenya Vaughn of the St. Louis American and by HEC-TV's Two On The Aisle. The one-man show by Kelvin Roston Jr. (pictured) closes this Sunday, May 1.

* A proposal from The 442s was one of three selected for Forest Park's new artist-is-residence program.

* The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's annual "Go List" issue has named Jazz St. Louis' Ferring Jazz Bistro as the "Best Place to Hear Jazz."

* Saxquest has posted to Facebook a photo album from saxophonist David Liebman's appearance there last Saturday.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Jazz this week: Melissa Aldana, Keri Johnsrud, Peter and Will Anderson, and more

Although this week's schedule of jazz and creative music is considerably less jam-packed than last week's, listeners still will have a chance to check out several intriguing young performers visiting St. Louis, plus an assortment of shows from various hometown favorites.

Let's go to this highlights...

Wednesday, April 27
Saxophonist Melissa Aldana (pictured, top left) makes her St. Louis debut with the first of four evenings of performances continuing though Saturday at Jazz at the Bistro

Aldana, a 27-year-old native of Chile who studied at Berklee College of Music, draws significant inspiration from saxophonists a couple of generations her elder - most notably Sonny Rollins, but also Joe Henderson, Cannonball Adderly, and even older players as Don Byas and Lucky Thompson, whom she learned about as a young girl from her father, also a professional sax player.

She first made a big splash here in the US in 2013 when she became the first female instrumentalist ever to win the annual Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. For more about Aldana, and some video samples of her performances - including her award-winning set at the Monk competition - see this post from last Saturday.

Also on Wednesday, The 442s will perform for the monthly music series at the World Chess Hall of Fame.

Thursday, April 28
Saxophonist Jim Stevens leads a quartet at Hammerstone's; pianist Brad Ellebrecht and singer Wendy Gordon will perform at Evangeline's; the Tavern of Fine Arts hosts their monthly open mic featuring live improvised music; and singer Ken Haller reprises the cabaret show "Song by Song by Sondheim" at The Monocle.

Friday, April 29
Chicago-based singer Keri Johnsrud, who made her St. Louis debut a few weeks ago with a concert at The Chapel in Clayton, will be back in our town for a more informal show at Evangeline's.

Johnsrud (pictured, center left) is a third-generation singer who's originally from Iowa. She's played top Chicago venues including the Green Mill and the Jazz Showcase, and has released two albums, the most recent of which, 2015's This Side of Morning, featured all original material.

Also on Friday, the saxophone-playing brothers Peter and Will Anderson will perform at the Tavern of Fine Arts. Hailing from Washington DC, the brothers both studied at the Juilliard School and then took up residence there in NYC after graduation. Since then, in addition to fronting their own group on tour and as leaders on a couple of recordings, they've also appeared with the Jimmy Heath Big Band, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.

Elsewhere that evening, Sarah Jane and the Blue Notes will play for a swing dance sponsored by Lindy Hop St. Louis at the Casa Loma Ballroom, and the Funky Butt Brass Band plays their monthly gig at Broadway Oyster Bar.

Saturday, April 30
Guitarist Todd Mosby (pictured, bottom left) will play music from his new album On Eagle Mountain at the Focal Point in Maplewood; singer Feyza Eren will perform at Alton's Jacoby Arts Center; and guitarist Vincent Varvel leads a trio at The Dark Room.

Sunday, May 1
The Spring edition of the St. Louis Record & CD Collector Show will take place Sunday morning and afternoon at the American Czech Hall, and that evening, the St. Louis Low Brass Collective will present their annual "Showcase Concert" at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, 1201 S Warson Rd, 63124

Monday, May 2
Trumpeter Jim Manley continues his regular Monday night residency at Momo's Greek Restaurant in U City.

Tuesday, May 3
Pianist Greg Mills and friends will present "Soliloquy IV," a night of solo improvised performances, at the Tavern of Fine Arts.

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, April 25, 2016

Miles on Monday: When Miles met Prince, plus the latest Miles Ahead reviews, and more

This week in Miles Davis news:

* With the unexpected death last week of multi-hyphenate pop/rock star Prince, unreleased audio has surfaced online from an attempted late-1980s collaboration between him and Miles Davis. Billboard magazine has details and the audio here, while a story on went "Inside Miles Davis’ Prince Obsession, As Detailed By Davis’ Family and Collaborators."

* The BBC compiled memories of Davis' late-career performances in the United Kingdom from musicians, promoters, and others involved with the British jazz scene for a feature story headlined "Miles Davis: The rare UK shows near the end of a jazz life."

* A post on highlighted a video interview with keyboardist Herbie Hancock revealing "What Miles Davis Taught Herbie Hancock: In Music, as in Life, There Are No Mistakes, Just Chances to Improvise."

* Meanwhile, news and reviews of the film of Miles Ahead - playing this week in St. Louis at the Tivoli and the AMC Creve Coeur 12 - continue to proliferate. Here are links to the latest, grouped roughly by topic; for much, much more about Miles Ahead, check out previous posts here under the "Miles on Monday" tag.

* Miles Davis movie short on facts but packed with action (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
* ‘Miles Ahead’ is a free-form take on life of jazz great Miles Davis: 2.5 stars (Kansas City Star)
* Seymour Movies: So What? That’s What. (
* Jazz portrait Miles Ahead hits the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order, writes BRIAN VINER (The Daily Mail UK)
* Rebirth of cool: Cheadle shines in Miles Davis biopic (
* Don Cheadle's Miles Davis biopic is an unconventional pleasure - Worth of the Cool (Nashville Scene)
* ‘Miles Ahead’ adds unnecessary fiction to the life of Miles Davis (Las Vegas Weekly)
* Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic a missed opportunity (Cape Cod Times)
* Review: Miles Ahead (Gambit)
* Miles Ahead, film review: an open-ended biopic with a glorious performance from Don Cheadle (The Independent UK)
* REVIEW: 'Miles Ahead,' Don Cheadle's Miles Davis bio-pic (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
* Don Cheadle gives mesmerizing performance as Miles Davis (Richard Roeper/Universal Press Syndicate)
* Miles Ahead: A Powerhouse Film, But is it the Truth? (
* ‘Miles Ahead’ leaves Miles Davis behind (Seattle Times)
* A Miles Davis biopic as gloriously messy as the man himself (The Telegraph UK)
* Nice effort, Don Cheadle, but no film will ever do Miles Davis’s defiant, volatile music justice (The Spectator UK)
* 'Miles Ahead' movie review: Jazz biopic eschews convention in search for the essence of Miles Davis (New Orleans Times-Picayune)
* Miles Ahead review – magnificent mooch through the wilderness years (The Guardian UK)
* Miles Ahead review – ode to a jazz giant (The Guardian UK)
* Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis Film, Miles Ahead, Isn’t a Real Biopic—It’s Something Better (
* 'Miles Ahead' review: Don Cheadle finds Miles Davis' spirit in wild, subversive biopic (
* FILM REVIEW: Don Cheadle's Miles Ahead (London Jazz News)
* Review: Miles Ahead (Brilliant Corners, A Boston Jazz Blog)
* 'Miles Ahead': The great Don Cheadle puts the great Miles Davis in a bizarre heist movie (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
* Miles Davis biopic ‘Miles Ahead’ is a hot mess (Charlotte News-Observer)
* Don Cheadle Plays Miles Davis in Miles Ahead - Also Featuring an Unnecessary Ewan McGregor! (Portland Mercury)

Interviews and features
* Who shot Miles redux (
* Conversation between friends about Miles Davis – the movie, the music and the man (Buffalo News)
* Don Cheadle: Miles Davis was mercurial and dangerous... he was the real original gangsta (The Sun UK)
* Q&A: Actor/Director Don Cheadle On His Miles Davis Biopic 'Miles Ahead' – 'It Became A Monkey On My Back' (
* Man with the Horn: Actor Don Cheadle on Channeling Jazz Great Miles Davis in Miles Ahead (San Antonio Current)
* Don Cheadle on Miles Davis: ‘He touched on everything. And he changed everything’ (Irish Times)
* Miles Davis’s story brought to life as Don Cheadle fulfils a dream (The Australian)
* "Miles Davis consumed everything to create what he created..." talks to Don Cheadle (
* Don Cheadle interview: Miles Ahead, directing and more (

Music Education Monday: An online course
in improvisation from MIT, and more

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA is known as one of the top schools in the country for engineering, math, and science, and as such, they've also been a pioneer in online learning, putting material from many courses on the internet for anyone to access for free.

And while MIT may not be known particularly as a mecca for the arts, they do have some music courses among those online offerings, including the one being spotlighted here today for Music Education Monday, a series of 13 videos recorded in Spring 2013 for the course "Musical Improvisation."

Taught by trumpeter Mark Harvey and saxophonist Tom Hall with some help from MIT students and various guests, the course deals with improvisation more on a conceptual level than in a "here's how to navigate the chord changes" sort of way.

This first video in the series is a lab session "about sonic experimentation, improvising free from judgments of right vs. wrong. It begins with structured improvisation exercises incorporating sound and movement, followed by more exercises with graphic notation."

The series continues with concerts and workshops dealing with an eclectic selection of topics including electronics, improvisation in Indian classical music, and "In A Silent Way," plus demonstrations from musicians including trombonist Robin Eubanks and cellist Eugene Friesen.

All 13 videos are collected in a playlist that will show them in order from the embedded video window at the bottom of this post. You can find more course materials, including supplemental readings and a recommended list of recordings for additional listening, here.

If this piques your interest in some more big-brain content on the subject, read "Improvised Music after 1950: Afrological and Eurological Perspectives," an essay by composer, trombonist, electronic musician, Columbia University professor and AACM member George Lewis that appeared originally in the Spring 1996 issue of Black Music Research Journal, a journal published by the Center for Black Music Research - Columbia College Chicago and University of Illinois Press.

For some more conceptual musings on improvisation from an academic perspective, check out some of the articles collected under "Music and the embodied mind: A jam session for theorists on musical improvisation, instrumental self-extension, and the biological and social basis of music and well-being," at the online journal Frontiers.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

StLJN turns 11

Eleven years ago today, the first post went up on St. Louis Jazz Notes. More than 4,200 posts later, StLJN remains one of the longest continuously operating outposts of the jazz blogosphere and one of the longest running music blogs in St. Louis, as well as the city's most regularly updated source devoted to news about jazz.

Thanks once again to all the readers, commenters, musicians, music students and educators, presenters, club owners, publicists, tipsters, media people, record label employees, and others who have taken an interest in the site over the years. Your time and continued attention are much appreciated.

As usual, if you have any anniversary wishes, congratulations, questions, suggestions, or complaints, the comments are open.

Sunday Session: April 24, 2016

Henry Threadgill
Some interesting music-related items that have landed in StLJN's inbox over the past week:

* Artist's Choice: Linda Oh on Duo Tracks Featuring Bassists - Jaco/Don Alias, Tim Berne/Michael Formanek & more (Jazz Times)
* Embrace Everything - The Big Ears Festival, in Knoxville (The New Yorker)
* 48% Of People Who Buy Vinyl Don’t Even Listen To It, Study Finds (
* Hear Now: 5 New Jazz Albums You Need to Check Out (Billboard)
* Museum Concerts Capture Iyer, Taylor, Smith in Peak Artistic Form (DownBeat)
* Henry Threadgill wins 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Music (New Music Box)
* Henry Threadgill on his Pulitzer prize win for music: 'I just try to stay hopeful' (The Guardian UK)
* Jazz bands capture youthful attention at Coachella (Palm Springs Desert Sun)
* A Remembrance For Chicago's Jazz Record Mart (NPR)
* REWIND: The Meters, Fire on the Bayou (Offbeat)
* Why Pitchfork Made a Magazine About Jazz (
* Sonny Rollins: The Saxophone Colossus (
* Upcoming Amazon series is based on the music of Bob Dylan (
* Two Turntables and a Saxophone (
* Incredibly Clear Duke Ellington Recording Surfaces Online (Offbeat)
* Jazz funeral to commemorate Shakespeare’s life (Tulane University)
* When Music Pirates Used Pirate Ships (The Daily Beast)
* Can’t We Honor James Brown’s Last Wish? (The Daily Beast)
* Only known film of Louis Armstrong in studio discovered in storage facility (The Guardian UK)
* Depending On Who You Talk To, Jazz Is Alive And Well In San Francisco - Or It's Dead And Never Coming Back (SF Weekly)
* How the orchestra is arranged by the biology of the brain (
* Trip celebrates Monk's birthplace (Rocky Mount Telegram)
* Thelonious Monk: So Plain Only the Deaf Can Hear (
* Philly 'Real Book' would collect local jazz compositions under one cover (Philadelphia Inquirer)
* Cuban-born musician who wrote to Obama says White House confirmed his participation in upcoming event (
* The Beach Girl Behind the Beach Boys (
* What's old is new: MTV plots a major return to music (Los Angeles Times)
* Prince, Musician And Iconoclast, Has Died At Age 57 (NPR)
* Maybe We Should Just Leave Prince’s Vault Closed (
* Yellowjackets Showcase New Bassist, Fresh Material at Birdland (DownBeat)
* Photos: Jazz Fest Opens with Steely Dan, Gov’t Mule, Grace Potter and So Much More (Offbeat)
* Mason Ruffner, Aya Takazawa Shine on Day One of Jazz Fest (Offbeat)
* Are Algorithms Ruining How We Discover Music? (

Saturday, April 23, 2016

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Introducing Melissa Aldana

This week, let's check out some video performances featuring saxophonist Melissa Aldana, who will making her St. Louis debut starting next Wednesday, April 27 through Saturday, April 30 at Jazz at the Bistro

A 27-year-old native of Santiago, Chile, Aldana began learning saxophone at age 6 from her father Marcos Aldana, a professional saxophonist in Chile. She started playing in local clubs as a teenager, and in 2005 met pianist Danilo Pérez, who was touring in Chile with saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Pérez helped arrange an audition for Aldana at Berklee College of Music, where she was accepted and studied with teachers including Joe Lovano, George Garzone, St. Louis' own Greg Osby, and others.

After graduating from Berklee, Aldana moved to New York, where she was mentored by Osby and veteran tenor saxophonist George Coleman. In 2013, she entered the Thelonius Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition and became the first female instrumentalist to win the prize.

Aldana has released four albums, the most recent being Back Home, which came out earlier this year and features her current trio with bassist Pablo Menares and drummer Jochen Rueckert.

You can see and hear that trio in action in the first video up above, which features Aldana performing her tune "Sonny" (named in honor of Sonny Rollins) in January of this year at the Movitz Jazz Club in Östersund, Sweden.

After the jump, you can see nearly an hour's worth of Aldana's trio, as recorded by Vermont PBS last fall during the Discover Jazz festival at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, VT. That's followed by an outtake from the program, a version of "My Ship".

Below that, you can see Aldana play "M&M" in September 2014 at the Monterey Jazz Festival, followed by another full set recorded by radio station WBGO in October 2013 at Berklee College of Music, featuring Aldana, Menares, and drummer Francisco Mela.

The last clip shows Aldana's award-winning performance at the 2013 Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Saxophone Competition. And yes, that's former St. Louisan Reggie Thomas backing her up on piano, along with bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Carl Allen.

For more about Melissa Aldana, see her 2014 interviews with Jazz Times, Revive Music and NPR, and her interview recorded earlier this year at radio station KUSP in Monterey.

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