Sunday, October 04, 2015

Sunday Session: October 4. 2015

Phil Woods
For your Sunday reading, here are some interesting music-related items that have hit StLJN's inbox over the past week:

* Frank Sinatra's Radio Broadcasts Unearthed for Reissue (Rolling Stone)
* Saxophonist Phil Woods Dies at 83 (DownBeat)
* Shhh! New Orleans Takes Steps to Turn Down the Music (Reuters)
* Interview: Harry Gregson-Williams talks his score for The Martian (
* The Hit Charade - An algorithm might create a playlist you enjoy, but don’t mistake that for creativity (Technology Review)
* For Jukebox Salesman, Collecting Records Isn't Just A Job: It's A Hobby, Too (NPR)
* Life on Mars: The Surviving Members of the Earliest No Wave Band Talk Muggings, Warhol, and 1977 (
* The New Payola: Chart-Rigging and Scams in the EDM Bubble (
* A look back at the 58th Monterey Jazz Fest (* Gary Clark Jr on being the 'chosen one' and getting phone calls from Beyoncé (The Guardian UK)
* The Night That John Coltrane Played Seattle and Launched a Movement (Seattle Weekly)
* Muhal Richard Abrams interview (
* Crusaders Saxophonist Wilton Felder Dies at 75 (Jazz Times)
* Akinmusire Debuts Poignant Multimedia Project at Chicago’s Hyde Park Jazz Festival (DownBeat)
* Chucho Valdés Brings Irakere Revival Tour to U.S. (Billboard)
* Terry Riley: 'I haven’t felt nailed down to anything' (The Guardian UK)
* How Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ Kicked Off the Streaming Revolution (Grantland)

Saturday, October 03, 2015

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Peter Martin's What Lies Ahead

Today, our video spotlight is focused on pianist and U City native Peter Martin, who has a new recording out this week and a performance scheduled next weekend in St. Louis to celebrate the release.

The album is called What Lies Ahead, and it features Martin in a trio setting with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, plus some guest performances from singers Erin Bode and Brian Owens and members of The 442s.

It was recorded in May at Shock City Studios here in St. Louis, and parts of the sessions also were captured on video, as seen in the first clip up above, which features Martin, Rogers and Hutchinson performing a track from the album called "Clapper Dapper."

After the jump, you can see them perform "Broadmoor," another song from the What Lies Ahead sessions.

Below that, there's some live footage of Martin, specifically a funked-up version of "Summertime" recorded this past July at the Montreux Jazz Festival. It features Martin and his colleagues from the touring band of singer Dianne Reeves, for whom he has served as music director for more than a decade. That's East St. Louis' own Terreon Gully on the drums, along with guitarist Romero Lubambo and bassist Reginald Veal.

That's followed a video uploaded by Martin himself, offering a backstage look at the Reeves band's 2015 European tour.

The final two clips are excerpted from a concert Martin did back in February at The Sheldon, where he's been presenting a series of performances in recent years and will return next Saturday, October 10 for a concert promoting the release of What Lies Ahead.

Shot by St. Louis videographer James Ross, the two clips feature Martin in a duo with fellow keyboardist Federico Gonzalez Pena, performing Italian guitarist/pianist Egberto Gismonti's "Loro" and an unspecified selection (possibly a spontaneous creation?).

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

Friday, October 02, 2015

Willie Akins 1939 - 2015

Friends and musical colleagues of Willie Akins reported Friday night on social media that the veteran saxophonist has died. He was 76, and had battled heart disease for more than a decade.

A native of Webster Groves, Akins (pictured) gained early experience with local bands including Eddie Randle's Blue Devils and a group led by his music teacher, bassist Walter Latham. After graduating from Douglass High School, he moved to New York City in May, 1957 to try to make it in the music business.

He spent eleven years in NYC, but, as detailed in a 2002 Riverfront Times profile, was mostly frustrated in his attempts to break into the city's highly competitive jazz scene. After the breakup of his first marriage and the death of his father, in 1968 Akins returned to St. Louis to look after his mother, and wound up staying for good.

Once back home, Akins worked as steadily as any local jazz musician could - painting houses during the day to help make ends meet - and for more than 40 years was generally regarded as one of the city's top modern jazz performers. While his illness had curtailed his playing schedule in recent months, Akins did make one last brief appearance at a benefit concert on September 4 at the Kranzberg Arts Center.

Before that, though, his weekly Saturday matinees at Spruill's in midtown were for 20 years a staple for St. Louis jazz fans, and often attracted visits and sit-ins from touring musicians as well. Akins also mentored several generations of St. Louis musicians, some of whom, such as saxophonists Greg Osby and Chris Cheek, drummer Kim Thompson, trumpeter Keyon Harrold and his brother, drummer Emmanuel Harrold, have gone on to national and international recognition.

In 2004, when the Riverfront Times' annual music issue named him "Best Jazz Artist," yr. StLJN editor was tasked with summing up his appeal, and this is what I wrote
An old-school jazzman in the tradition of Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane, tenor saxophonist Willie Akins blows both tough and tender while conjuring entire universes of sound from a few pounds of metal and a few lines on a score. On the bandstand, wielding his sax like a tool and a talisman, Akins can sketch dark fantasies in chiaroscuro, meditate over love lost in infinite shades of blue or paint jubilation in colors as bright as the sun.

Dapper in appearance, modest and gentlemanly in manner, off the bandstand Akins is representative of a very particular sort of jazz legend, that of the local guy who could have made the big time but chose a calmer life close to home and family. Those who revere Akins can't help but wish he'd been recorded more often, so as to share his considerable talents with the world. That said, it's a gift to have Willie Akins as part of the St. Louis music scene, and anyone who loves jazz should be thankful for his continued presence.
In 1998, Akins released Alima, his only album as a leader. The quartet date featured a mix of originals, covers and standards performed by Akins, bassist Willem von Hombracht, drummer Montez Coleman, and pianist Simon Rowe.

Akins' survivors include his wife, Sandra and children Hassan Corbin of Las Vegas, NV; Voncia Taylor of Aurora, CO; Yusuf Reynolds of Carbondale, IL; Vanessa Cunningham of Amityville, NY; Kenya Brown of Boston, MA; Alima Dunn of Houston, TX; and Omar R. Akins of East St. Louis, IL; and several grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are pending at Eddie Randle and Sons Funeral Home, 4600 Natural Bridge Avenue.

In the embedded video below, you can see Willie Akins performing Thelonious Monk's "Ask Me Now" in 2011 at the Artists' Quarter in St Paul, MN, backed by Montez Coleman, Willem Von Hombracht, and Simon Rowe.

Updated 10/3/15 with information about survivors and funeral arrangements.

Tatsuya Nakatani seeking musicians for
Gong Orchestra performance on October 11

Percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani is coming back to St. Louis to present another performance of his Nakatani Gong Orchestra, and he's looking for some local musicians who want to join in.

Nakatani (pictured) will be in St. Louis to play at 8:00 p.m. Sunday, October 11 at Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center. He'll do a short solo performance as well, but the evening's main attraction will be the NGO, described as "a non-traditional music orchestra delving into the rich harmony of multiple gongs."

The NGO has performed with various lineups more than 50 times at venues around the globe, including the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, as well as previously here in St. Louis at LNAC.

To realize the performance, Nakatani is looking for up to ten St. Louis musicians willing to take part in a pre-show workshop to learn his specialized bowed gong and conduction techniques, and then do the concert. If you're interested, email LNAC's Mark Sarich at

For listeners, admission for this event will be $10 at the door, and an early arrival is suggested, as seating is limited

So What: Local News, Notes & Links

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

* Pianist Peter Martin's new album What Lies Ahead is out today. It's a self-released trio date with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, also featuring guest appearances from singers Erin Bode and Brian Owens and members of The 442s.

You can see a video of Martin, Rogers and Hutchinson playing "Clapper Dapper" from the album (pictured) here, and hear audio excerpts from some of the other tracks and/or order a copy here.

Martin and company will celebrate the release with a performance next Saturday, October 10 at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

* Jazz St. Louis now is offering four pairs of free student tickets for selected Wednesday night performances via a pre-show lottery. Students 25 years old and younger can go to the box office starting at 6:00 p.m., present their ID and enter their name to win one of the pairs of free tickets.

A drawing then will take place at 7:00 p.m., and each of the four winners will be able to use their tickets for either the 7:30 or 9:30 p.m. performance that evening. For details, see the Jazz St. Louis website.

* Trumpeter and East St. Louis native Russell Gunn is composing original music for Fetch Clay, Make Man, a new play opening later this month in a production from Atlanta's True Colors Theatre.

The play, which is based on a true story about a meeting between Muhammad Ali and actor Lincoln Perry (better known as his character "Stepin Fetchit") before Ali's second fight with Sonny Liston, opens October 27 and runs through November 22 at the Southwest Arts Center in Atlanta.

* Pianist Reggie Thomas, another St. Louis expat who's now heading the jazz studies department at Northern Illinois University, will be part of the rhythm section for the Thelonious Monk Institute's International Jazz Vocals Competition to be held November 14 and 15 in Los Angeles.

Thomas, bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Carl Allen will back the contestants as they perform for a panel of judges including Patti Austin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Freddy Cole, Al Jarreau, and Luciana Souza.

* Vintage Vinyl has made the website Thrillist's list of "The 21 Best Record Shops in America."

* John F. Goodman (a writer, not the St. Louis-born actor) of Jazz Inside and Out reviewed the DVD of the Clark Terry documentary Keep On Keepin' On.

* Pinched by a series of budget cuts affecting state universities in Illinois, radio station WSIE has launched another IndieGoGo campaign, this time hoping to raise $10,000 to help with operational expenses. You can learn more about the campaign and pledge your support here.

* Saxophonist Oliver Lake has posted to Facebook some photos from Tuesday's night Trio 3 performance with guest pianist Ethan Iverson at the Blue Note in NYC

* The Riverfront Times annual "Best of St. Louis" issue is out this week, and to no one's surprise, Jazz at the Bistro aka Ferring Jazz Bistro was named "Best Jazz Club" in both the staff-written listings and the reader's poll.

Unanimity did not prevail in the selection of "Best Blues Club" though, as the readers picked BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups, while the staff selected the Blues City Deli.

Edited after posting to correct errors in the item about the RFT's "Best of St. Louis" list.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Recently on Heliocentric Worlds

It's the start of a new month, and so it's time once again to check in with StLJN's sibling site Heliocentric Worlds, where each day we present a different online music video, drawing on genres including jazz, blues, soul, funk, classic rock, prog rock, experimental and more.

The most-viewed videos added to the site last month were:

Taj Mahal & Ry Cooder - "Statesboro Blues"
Eddie Palmieri - Live at the Newport Jazz Festival 
So Percussion - Cage's "Third Construction"
Ray Bryant - Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival
Gil Scott-Heron - Live at Woodstock '94 

Other clips posted last month featured performances from Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, The Neville Brothers, Curved Air, Rashied Ali Quartet, Art Ensemble Of Chicago, George Coleman Octet, Graham Parker & The Rumor, Duke Ellington, The Rolling Stones, Sun Ra Centennial Dream Arkestra, Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, T-Bone Walker, Steve Coleman and the Council of Balance, John Lee Hooker, Billy Cobham, Edgar Winter, Herbie Mann, George Adams/Don Pullen Quartet +1, Diana Krall, Gene Harris, Ray Brown & Grady Tate, Les McCann Trio, Bud Powell, Robert Cray, and Hank Jones.

If you've somehow missed out on all this until now, you still can see all of these videos, plus thousands more clips from the archives, by visiting

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Jazz this week: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Evan Parker & Peter Evans,
Ronnie Burrage's RoBu Big Band, and more

This week's schedule of jazz and creative music in St. Louis is jam-packed, with three notable big band performances, two shows benefiting an ailing elder statesman of the local jazz scene, an evening of free-form music from two intriguing improvisors, and much, much more.

Let's go to the highlights...

Wednesday, September 30
The eclectic acoustic ensemble The 442s perform for the first of two nights at Jazz at the Bistro, and pianist Greg Mills plays free improv and contemporary compositions at the Tavern of Fine Arts.

Thursday, October 1
Guitarist Tom Byrne will lead a quartet in a free concert for the Jazz at Holmes series at Washington University, serving up "original compositions, some Pat Metheny tunes, some Jobim" and more.

Elsewhere on Thursday night, there are a couple of opportunities for some short-distance road-tripping for those so inclined. In DeSoto, MO, the fourth annual Mel Bay Jazz Festival begins with a show from guitarist Larry Bay and Sugar Moon at the Fountain City Grille on Main St.

The festival continues for two more nights with music from singer Joe Mancuso, guitarists Eric Slaughter and Dave Black, singer Lena Seikaly, and pianist Chris Grasso on Friday at the Fountain City Grille and on Saturday at The Arlington Inn event space, also on Main St.

At the same time across the river in Lebanon, IL, the Count Basie Orchestra will be performing for the first of two nights at McKendree College's Hettenhausen Center for the Arts. Friday's show is sold out, but some tickets apparently still remain available for Thursday's concert.

Friday, October 2
New Music Circle opens their 2015-16 season with  an evening of free improvisation from saxophonist Evan Parker and trumpeter Peter Evans (pictured, center left) at Joe’s Cafe, 6014 Kingsbury Ave.

For more about Parker and Evans, see this video post from last Saturday. (While they're here, both men also will take part in a free workshop and Q&A session on Saturday morning at Foam on South Jefferson.)

Also on Friday, the Italian pianist Roberto Magris will be in town to lead a quartet in a performance at Ozark Theatre; the New Orleans Suspects return to St. Louis to play at Broadway Oyster Bar; and Feyza Eren offers a "Tribute to Billie Holiday" at the Kranzberg Arts Center.

And as if all that weren't enough for one evening, Jazz St. Louis education director Phil Dunlap will bring his quintet to Jazz at the Bistro for the first of two nights showcasing material from his forthcoming album. Along with the leader on piano, Dunlap's group features trumpeter Danny Campbell, saxophonist Ben Reece, bassist Nathan Pence, and drummer Montez Coleman.

Saturday, October 3
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, led by famed famed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, return to serve as the featured performers at the "Friends of the Sheldon Benefit Gala" at Sheldon Concert Hall. (For availability of concert-only tickets, check with the Sheldon's box office.)

Marsalis and JaLCO (pictured, top left) have just released Live in Cuba, a two-disc set recorded earlier this year, and the first album on Jazz at Lincoln Center's new in-house imprint Blue Engine Records.

Also on Saturday, drummer/multi-instrumentalist and U City native Ronnie Burrage will be back home from his current residence in Pennsylvania to reactivate his RoBu Big Band (pictured, lower left) for the first of two performances at Voce, 212 S. Tucker.

The group will include Burrage and fellow St. Louis expat, guitarist Kelvyn Bell, plus saxophonists Jeff Anderson, Stanley Coleman, Chad Evans, and Jerome "JDubz" Williams; trumpeter Khamali Cuffie-Moore; bassist Darrell Mixon; pianist Ptah Williams; percussionist Henry Claude; and vocalist Charisse Swan.

The RoBu Big Band also will play a matinee on Sunday afternoon, and both gigs will be recorded on video for what promo material for the shows describes as "a larger film documentary initiative to explore the rich cultural history of St. Louis and to tell the stories of numerous artists that have come from the region." You can read more about that at the GoFundMe page that Burrage has set up for the film project.

Sunday, October 4
Tom Byrne and friends will present a "Tribute/Benefit Event for Willie Akins" at BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups, raising funds for the veteran St. Louis saxophonist who's now ailing from heart disease and unable to work.

Along with Byrne on guitar, the list of prospective performers includes drummers Montez Coleman and Kyle Honeycutt, bassists Bob DeBoo, Ben Wheeler, and Willem von Hombracht; trumpeters Danny Campbell and Randy Holmes, saxophonist Paul DeMarinis, guitarist Eric Slaughter, singer Erika Johnson, and, crossing over from Ronnie Burrage's matinee gig, Jeffrey Anderson, plus sit-ins and/or special guests TBA.

Also on Sunday, the Dave Dickey Big Band returns for their monthly show at Jazz at the Bistro, with the Ft. Zumwalt North HS Jazz Band performing during intermission.

Monday, October 5
Dizzy Atmosphere plays Gypsy jazz and swing at The Shaved Duck.

Tuesday, October 6
In another fund-raiser for the saxophonist, singers Wendy Gordon, Jeanne Trevor and friends will offer "Music for Willie Akins"at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

In addition to Gordon and Trevor, the announced list of performers includes singers Marty Abdullah, Elaine Donahoe, Marsha Evans, Chuck Flowers, Linda Kennedy, Joe Mancuso, Diane Vaughn, and Ron Wilkinson, along with keyboardists Arthur Toney and Pauline Stark, bassists Jimmy Hinds and Willem Von Hombracht, saxophonist Kendrick Smith, trumpeter Adrian Bowers, guitarist Eric Slaughter, and drummer Alfred Barnes.

Also on Tuesday, the Spiritual Revolution Ensemble plays free jazz at Tavern of Fine Arts; and the First Tuesday Composers Club will have their monthly meeting 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.)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Music Education Monday: Paquito D'Rivera
on composing and playing clarinet, and more

Born in 1948 in Cuba, Paquito D'Rivera first became well-known in the USA in the early 1980s as the fiery alto saxophonist for the high-energy band Irakere.

Over the ensuing decades, he's revealed other aspects of his musical personality, too - such as his clarinet playing, which has been consistently good enough to earn D'Rivera (pictured) a place in the critical conversation about the most capable contemporary jazz clarinetists.

For today's Music Education Monday, here's a video of a master class with D'Rivera, recorded in 2012 at an event sponsored by the reed manufacturer Van Doren, in which he discusses clarinet playing and composing. You can see the video in the embedded window at the bottom of this post.

* Also of interest to music students: Jazz Times and ArtistWorks are offering readers a chance to win a year's worth of free online music lessons from one of ArtistWorks' teachers. The company's roster of instructors includes guitarists Chuck Loeb, Martin Taylor, and Andreas Oberg, bassist John Patitucci, saxophonist Eric Marienthal, and pianist George Whitty. You can enter the drawing for the free lessons here.

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