Jazz St. Louis has announced the summer 2009 lineup of shows at Jazz at the Bistro. For regulars at the Bistro, it's a mostly familiar group of artists, with one notable exception: guitarist and singer Javier Mendoza, who will perform at the Bistro on Friday, May 29 and Saturday, May 30, filling the dates vacated when trumpeter Terence Blanchard's gig at the club was rescheduled to the first week in June.
Mendoza usually is categorized as a Latin/pop/rock performer, but, according to JSL operations director Bob Bennett, he's been wanting to do something more in a Latin jazz vein for a while and is putting together a special presentation for his dates at the Bistro. Bennett said guitarist Dave Black will be part of Mendoza's band for the gig (which certainly adds some jazz credibility to the proceedings) and that JSL's hope was that doing something "a little bit different" with Mendoza might "get some new people into the club."
Similar pragmatic concerns were at the forefront in booking the rest of the summer lineup, as Bennett says musicians were selected primarily based on who had drawn the biggest crowds during the 2008-09 season, and would be likely to draw well again during the summer. Here's the complete summer schedule for the Bistro, including Blanchard's previously announced gig:
Friday, May 29 and Saturday, May 30: Javier Mendoza
Wednesday, June 3 - Saturday, June 6: Terence Blanchard (new rescheduled dates)
Friday, June 12 & Saturday, June 13: Adaron “Pops” Jackson
Friday, June 19 & Saturday, June 20: Musica Slesa
Friday, June 26 & Saturday, June 27: Funky Butt Brass Band
Friday, July 10 & Saturday, July 11: Reggie Thomas' OGD with Willie Akins
Friday, July 17 & Saturday, July 18: Jim Manley (pictured)
Friday, July 24 and Saturday, July 25: Good 4 the Soul
A few thoughts about this lineup: While Mendoza's Latin jazz venture is an unknown quantity, all the rest of these musicians and groups are of proven quality, so there's not much to quibble with from that standpoint. There's a pretty good range of stylistic diversity represented, too.
However, as I have in the past, I wonder once again if Jazz St. Louis is going back to the same wells too often - or, if you prefer, putting too many eggs in too few baskets. When one group and its spin-offs and individual members end up playing four or five weekends a year at the Bistro, as happened during 2008-09, it seems like overkill - especially given that there's certainly no shortage of very good musicians who'd like the chance to play there.
One can certainly understand the impulse to go with proven commodities, especially in these recessionary times, but promoting a diverse roster of acts not only makes sense in terms of JSL's artistic mission, over time it should establish a greater number of groups as the sort of proven attractions that presenters need. That said, credit where it's due: overall I think Jazz St. Louis has done a reasonably good job, especially during the last couple of season, of working different groups and musical styles into the mix at the Bistro. Here's hoping that trend continues when the 2009-10 season schedule is announced.
Single ticket prices for Jazz at the Bistro's summer series will be $20 for OGD with Willie Akins and for Good 4 The Soul, and $15 for the other shows. Tickets will go on sale at 10:00 a.m., Tuesday, May 12 and will be available at all MetroTix outlets, online at metrotix.com, or by phone at 314-534-1111.