Jazz St. Louis has announced additional bookings to fill out the winter/spring 2009 schedule at Jazz at the Bistro:
Friday, January 16 & Saturday, January 17: Lamar Harris
Friday, January 30: Bennett Wood Quartet
Saturday, January 31: Utter Chaos
Friday, March 13 & Saturday, March 14: Funky Butt Brass Band
Friday, March 27 & Saturday, March 28: Legacy Jazz Quintet
Friday, April 24 & Saturday, April 25: Jazz St. Louis All-Stars
Friday, May 8 & Saturday, May 9: Erin Bode
Friday, May 22 & Saturday, May 23: Kim Massie
Three of these ensembles are making their debuts at the Bistro: alto saxophonist Bennett Wood and his quartet; Utter Chaos, which features a front line of trombone and baritone sax modeled on the Bob Brookmeyer/Gerry Mulligan group of the 1950s; and the Funky Butt Brass Band (pictured), a spin-off of the New Orleans-inspired funk/R&B/zydeco group Gumbohead that focuses specifically on the Crescent City's brass band style.
Wood and Utter Chaos have both played at The Gramophone as part of the the Tuesday night series Jazz St. Louis is co-sponsoring there. If they draw sufficient numbers of listeners at the Bistro, it would certainly help validate the notion of those Tuesday shows as another way for JSL to experiment with new talent and programming ideas.
As for the Funky Butt Brass Band, I haven't heard them yet, but I do know the band's tenor saxophonist Ben Reece by virtue of having played a few casual gigs with him. Ben's a good player, and seemed very enthused about the FBBB when I asked him about it a couple of months ago.
Overall, this strikes me as a good, representative mix of new talent and proven attractions (Harris, Bode and Massie), plus the second appearance at the club by the Legacy Jazz Quintet (which includes JSL director of education Phil Dunlap on piano) and the annual gig by the All-Stars, an ensemble of student musicians drawn from JSL's educational programs.
I'd still like to see Jazz St. Louis doing something at the Bistro with both traditional and avant garde/experimental jazz. Executive director Gene Dobbs Bradford and operations director Bob Bennett have indicated to me that they'd consider both if the shows could be made to work from a financial standpoint. So here's a thought: Book a weekend with a traditional jazz band on Friday and something avant garde, experimental and/or free improvisational on Saturday. (Or vice versa.) Booking one night per act instead of a two-night stand would concentrate the turnout, mitigating the financial risks somewhat, and perhaps it could be tied into the organization's educational programs as well.
If nothing else, such a weekend would give young musicians and students a chance to hear, compare and contrast two jazz styles that are currently under-represented at area venues, and who knows, perhaps it could be turned into a genuine teaching moment. There are certainly commonalities between early jazz and the avant garde, such as collective improvisation and the use of vocal-type sounds by brass instruments and extended techniques by reeds, that could be interesting and informative for young players and students (and jazz fans of all ages) to experience and explore.
Tickets for the additional 2009 performances go on sale Tuesday, December 9, 2008 through all Metrotix outlets and the Jazz St. Louis box office.
(Edited slightly after posting to fix a garbled sentence. Edited again to add links.)