When St. Louis music mogul Steve Schankman and partners closed Finale Music and Dining at the end of 2007, Schankman said he'd look for a location to re-open the club, which seemed to be doing good business but lost its lease when the building it was in was sold.
It's taken a couple of years, but Schankman will be back presenting some of the same acts that were favorites at Finale later this month via "ENCORE! Stars Shine at the J," a new performance series starting Friday, May 21 at the Jewish Community Center (JCC), 1138 North Warson Road.
The press release issued today by Schankman's Contemporary Productions says the series is a collaboration between Schankman and Michael Staenberg, JCC Board Chair and President of THF Realty, which also has been a corporate sponsor for Jazz St. Louis for a number of years.
Contemporary's Kelly McMahon tells StLJN that the initial series of shows will be staged in JCC's Carl & Helene Mirowitz Performing Arts Center, which seats about 200 people when set up cabaret style. McMahon said they're also looking at the possibility of presenting some future shows in the JCC's Marvin & Harlene Wool Studio Theater, which seats about 125 in a fixed, theater-style configuration. Both spaces are located in the JCC's new Arts & Education Building, which opened in March of this year.
The Encore series will kick off on Friday, May 21 with The Sinatra Songbook featuring Tom Heitman and Schankman's own Orchestra, followed on Saturday, May 22 by Schankman's other personal musical project, the Fabulous Motown Review. Other bookings so far include singer/actor/impressionist Dean Christopher's "Rat Pack & More" (pictured, Friday, June 11); an Earth, Wind & Fire tribute by Arvell & Co. (Friday, June 18); and singers Kim Massie (Saturday, July 17) and Erin Bode (Saturday, July 24).
Show time will be 7:30 p.m., and ticket prices range from $20 to $40 depending on the artist and type of seating. Tickets for the "ENCORE!" Series are now on sale online at Ticketmaster.com, by phone at 800-745-3000 and at all Ticketmaster outlets. For more information, see the JCC's website at www.jccstl.com or Contemporary Productions' website at www.contemporaryproductions.com.
The news release also said that more show announcements would be coming soon. Here's hoping that, in addition to vocalists, Schankman and Staenberg also will be presenting some instrumentalists and jazz players of the same caliber as those who appeared at Finale, which offered some fairly big names, including guitarist Stanley Jordan and organist Brian Auger, as well as local and regional jazz performers.
Schankman may be best known as a shrewd businessman, but he's also a musician - trumpet is his instrument - and a philanthropically inclined jazz lover who in 2008 gave $50,000 to support jazz education at the University of Missouri St. Louis, so there's some reason for optimism. Watch this space for news of further developments...
(Edited after posting to fix a typo and clarify a garbled sentence.)