There's plenty of interesting stuff on tap for jazz fans in St. Louis over the next few days, including visits from two touring musicians and a couple of free concerts featuring two of the area's talented jazz pianists.
The first of those free shows is tonight, when keyboard player Adaron "Pops" Jackson performs in a free concert at the newly renovated Soulard Preservation Hall as part of Jazz St. Louis' Whitaker Community Concerts series. Jackson, who also plays with Good 4 The Soul, and members of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra will perform the music of legendary alto saxophonist and bebop progenitor Charlie Parker.
On Friday, bass virtuoso Victor Wooten, best known for his work with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, takes the stage at The Pageant. In general, Wooten's solo projects seems to be a bit more funk-oriented than the Flecktones, but the bassist also displays a similarly wide range of musical influences, and of course, he's got the sort of chops that bring out the guitar-magazine-reading, bass-fanboy contingent in droves. Depending on your point of view, this may or may not be a good thing, but there's no doubt Wooten can flat out play.
Also on Friday, the Funky Butt Brass Band opens a two-night stand at Jazz at the Bistro. The six-member group draws on jazz, funk and the New Orleans brass band tradition, mixing in some unexpected song choices and interpretations of their own. After a busy Mardi Gras season, they should be well-lubricated for their debut appearance at the Bistro.
On Saturday, singer Rachael Price (pictured) performs at the Sheldon Concert Hall. The 23-year-old Price, born in Australia and raised in Nashville, is considered by some critics to be one of the more promising new female jazz vocalists of the last few years. For example, writing in the Los Angeles Times, the respected veteran jazz critic and producer Don Heckman said that "she is clearly a talent with extraordinary potential."
However, from what (admittedly little) I've seen and heard of her so far, Price still seems a little green to be a major headliner, a talented youngster trying a bit too hard to mimic the sound and persona of an older, wiser and more world-weary woman. For my money, she sounds most natural on the country/jazz/bluegrass recording she made with the group The Tennessee Terraplanes, but Price seems determined to try to be another Ella Fitzgerald or Nancy Wilson.
As is always the case in such subjective matters, your mileage may vary, and I suppose if nothing else, it's good that the Sheldon is taking a chance on a new talent. (Price fans, if you're out there, please feel free to try to turn me around by pointing me to any online audio or video that showcases her jazz singing in a better light. )
On Sunday, there's another free concert, featuring the Ptah Williams Trio with singer Marsha Evans at Second Baptist Church in Richmond Heights as part of the church's St. Louis Jazz and Blues Vespers series. Williams' combination of harmonic sophistication and sheer pianistic force is always impressive, and it should be fun to hear Evans, a shrewd and gutsy singer and entertainer who's usually heard around town singing blues, soul and R&B with her own group, the Marsha Evans Coalition, go to work on some jazz material.
As always, these are just a few of the highlights happening around St. Louis over the next few days; to see listing for more jazz-related events this weekend and beyond, please visit the St. Louis Jazz Notes Calendar.
(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.)