Friday, March 12, 2010

Entertainment St. Louis announces
plans for downtown blues, jazz festivals

The production company Entertainment St. Louis has announced plans to stage a blues festival this summer in downtown St. Louis and also to take over and move an existing (but as yet unnamed) jazz festival to an unspecified downtown location.

The Riverfront Times' Nick Lucchesi was at the news conference on Thursday at which these and several other downtown events were announced, and posted about it on the A to Z blog here.

"Mike Kociela and K. Sonderegger, who collaboratively operate Entertainment St. Louis (and) who also organize the three-day Taste of St. Louis festival each October, couldn't confirm the date of the (blues) festival, but Kociela said more information would be released in the next two to three weeks," Lucchesi's post said. "The group plans to take on (but not "Shanghai," they note) a pre-existing jazz festival in St. Louis, and also move it downtown. Kociela wouldn't name the jazz festival in question."

So, to which local jazz festival could Entertainment St. Louis be referring? Let's ponder that for a moment and make some semi-informed guesses.

Given that there's a strong element of hometown promotion to them, events such as the Old Webster Jazz and Blues Festival, Belleville's Wine Dine and Jazz Festival, the Glendale Jazz Festival and the Miles Davis Jazz Festival in Alton all would seem to be bound tightly to their present communities.

With its emphasis on jazz education, the Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival seems right at home on the UMSL campus, with the Touhill Performing Arts Center as its primary venue.

The Whitaker Music Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden is a weekly series, not a one- or two-day festival like as the others, and also features other musical styles in addition to jazz. It's also quite popular, drawing large crowds to the Garden, and seems an unlikely candidate for a move unless the Garden no longer wants it.

The KMOX Jazz and Wine and Jazz Festival, held previously at Faust Park and Forest Park, lacks strong ties to a particular location and thus could conceivably be a candidate for a move. Given that KMOX's studios are located downtown, moving the event downtown would make a certain amount of sense.

As for the St. Louis Jazz and Heritage Festival, held from 2001 - 2008 in Clayton's Shaw Park, calling it "a pre-existing festival" might be a bit of stretch at this point. The last word from its organizers came way back in November 2008, when they announced they were "going on hiatus" for 2009. Since then, there have been no further public announcements about the event's fate; the website at has gone 404; and the website of producers Cultural Festivals, Inc, no longer makes any mention of the Jazz and Heritage Festival whatsoever.

To most observers, those signs would seem to indicate an event as dead as the Norwegian Blue parrot in that old Monty Python sketch. (For those unfamiliar with this paradigm, see the embedded video window below.) Perhaps someone somewhere might feel that the phrase "St Louis Jazz and Heritage Festival" has some value due to residual name recognition, but given the event's checkered history - click here for StLJN's past coverage - they might do better just to start over from scratch.

StLJN will have more details on this story as they are revealed. In the meantime, what do you think, dear readers? Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section.

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