Thursday, September 04, 2008

Jazz this week: "Peanuts" Whalum's 80th birthday party, Craig Russo Latin Jazz Project, St. Louis Art Fair, St. Louis Jazz Club picnic, and more

Now that the fall presenting season is officially getting underway, there's more and more jazz and creative music to be heard on St. Louis' concert and club stages. This week's highlights start with singer/pianist/saxophonist Hugh "Peanuts" Whalum's 80th birthday party, which begins at 7:00 p.m. Sunday at Brandt's Cafe and Red Carpet Lounge. Of course, Whalum (pictured), a much-loved and respected part of the St. Louis music scene for more than 50 years, will perform, backed by his trio featuring Jeff Anderson on bass, Eric Slaughter on guitar and Marty Morrison on drums.

Edie Bee of LouRadio will serve as MC, and, yes, there will be birthday cake, served at 9:00 p.m.. Special guests expected to appear include "Peanuts" Whalum's nephew, smooth jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum, as well as many of his St. Louis musical colleagues including singers Jeanne Trevor and Gene Lynn, guitarist Dave Black, and more. Given "Peanuts" Whalum's long history in the community and the fact that he's as fine a gentleman as he is a musician - which is very fine indeed - there's likely to be a packed house of friends, fans and well-wishers, so get there early.

Also on Sunday, the St. Louis Jazz Club kicks off their fall 2008 schedule with their annual picnic, which runs from noon to 6:00 p.m. at Concord Farmer's Hall, 10140 Concord School Rd. In keeping with the Club's emphasis on pre-WWII styles from ragtime to swing, the music will be provided by the St. Louis Banjo Club, Norm Menne and his Dixie Dudes, and Michael Lacey and his New Orleans Swing.

Of course, there's music to be heard all weekend, as the Craig Russo Latin Jazz Project opens the fall 2008 season at Jazz at the Bistro with performances on Friday and Saturday night. A drummer and percussionist, Russo is a transplant to central Illinois from Syracuse, NY who has made multiple trips to Cuba and other spots in the Caribbean to study percussion. He formed the band eight years ago, and although central Illinois may not intuitively seem like a hotbed of Latin jazz, the presence of the music school at the University of Illinois - Champaign/Urbana brings some significant talent to the area. Two members of the U of I faculty in Russo's band, saxophonist Chip McNeill and pianist Chip Stevens, have particular credibility in Latin jazz thanks to their experience performing and recording with Cuban ex-pat trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. Rounding out the ensemble are trumpeter Jeff Helgesen, once part of Ray Charles' road band, bassist Josh Walden and drummer/percussionist Jeff Magby.

Elsewhere in town, Brandt's has singer Jeanne Trevor on Friday night, and flute player and singer Margaret Bianchetta with the Dave Black Trio on Saturday. Also on Saturday, the Chicago Afrobeat Project brings their mix of funk, world music and jazz to Lucas School House.

The annual St. Louis Art Fair also is happening this weekend, and in keeping with tradition, the staff of Cultural Festivals - which also produces the St. Louis Jazz and Heritage Festival - has once again booked some musicians of interest to jazz listeners, including the Jazz St. Louis All Stars student ensemble, singers Anita Rosamond and Kim Massie, world/jazz/folk chamber group Autumns Child, and Afro-Cuban/jazz group Rolando Matias & Intrin-x-ico on Saturday, plus vibist Jonathan Whiting and his trio and the eclectic guitarist Stuart Johnson on Sunday. See the Art Fair's Web site for details on who's playing when on which stage at the free event.

Looking beyond the weekend, on Tuesday trombonists Brett Stamps and Jim Owens will have a CD release party for their new album Bad to the Bone at the Sheldon Concert Hall, while "Peanuts" Whalum is back at Brandt's. And on Wednesday, get your skronk on with Squid Choir Orkestra, saxophonist Jay Zelenka's free jazz/electronics group, when they open for experimental rock band Skarekrau Radio at the Way Out Club, 2525 S. Jefferson, or if you're in the mood for something more mainstream, saxophonist Ed Doney once again is visiting from Lake of the Ozarks to sit in with Park Avenue Jazz for their weekly Wednesday night session at Hammerstone's.

Alas, there's still much updating to do to the St. Louis Jazz Notes Calendar, as yr. humble editor's non-jazz-blogging work schedule and an unfortunate series of computer freezes and crashes have delayed the the update process. Fear not, though, as the work of updating said calendar will continue at the best possible speed until completed, so feel free to look there for a rapidly expanding list of more St. Louis jazz-related events this weekend and beyond.

(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.

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