The new concert series announced on Friday by jazz pianist and St. Louis native Peter Martin looks to be an interesting and welcome addition to the local jazz scene. Yesterday, I talked with Martin by phone and got a few more details:
* Martin will be directly involved with all the productions, selecting the artists and, at least initially, performing in all the concerts. "It's going to be all stuff that I dig, and people I like to play with," he said. Once the series gets rolling, Martin says he'd like to present concerts on a monthly basis.
* The Sheldon Concert Hall will be home base for the series, though it's possible that other venues might be used eventually as well. Ticketing will be handled through Metrotix and the Sheldon box office, with a block of tickets set aside for online presale through Martin's Web site and the Sheldon's site.
* Martin wants to keep ticket price "reasonable," aiming for the $15 to $20 range, though the first concert on February 5 with singer Dianne Reeves (pictured) likely will cost more like $25 to $30.
* The mix of performers will include both established headliners like Reeves and lesser-known musicians that Martin would like to introduce to local audiences. Though the first concert will be a duo performance, future shows could feature trios or quartets with different instrumentation.
* The series is designed to be "more informal and spontaneous" than the Sheldon's own jazz series in two ways. First, Martin won't be announcing an entire schedule of concerts a year in advance. Instead, he hopes to take advantage of openings in musicians' schedules to bring in performers who might not otherwise be available to come to St. Louis. (Of course, the busy pianist also has to work around his own touring schedule, too.)
Second, Martin hopes to foster a looser-than-usual atmosphere at the concerts themselves, encouraging dialogue and interaction with audience members and, he says, bringing a bit of a club feel into the concert hall.
Having just concluded a four-night run at Jazz at the Bistro with bassist Christian McBride and Inside Straight, Martin seems enthused about the chance to import more of his musical friends and colleagues to perform for hometown crowds. "There's a great audience here, and I wanted to open up more opportunities for stuff I could do here."