The Old Webster Jazz and Blues festival today announced the lineup of acts for its 2010 event, which will be held Saturday, September 18 in the Old Webster business district near the intersection of Lockwood and Gore.
The festival will feature ten bands performing on two stages, plus strolling music from the Funky Butt Brass Band. Unfortunately for local jazz fans, the musical menu this year seems to emphasize gimmicks instead of actual working St. Louis jazz musicians.
Starting at noon, the Allen Avenue stage will feature, in order: a presentation from Robbie’s House of Jazz, presumably involving the house band led by the club's co-owner, trombonist Robert Edwards; keyboardist and singer Curt Landes' Ensemble; a group led by KTVI weatherman Glenn Zimmerman, who's an amateur blues guitarist; the Webster Groves High School Jazz Band; and blues singer/guitarist Marquise Knox (pictured).
Meanwhile, the Gore Avenue stage will present blues/rock variety band the Steamrollers; funk guitarist Teddy Presberg’s Resistance Organ Trio; New Orleans R&B/funk cover band Gumbohead; the Webster University Faculty Jazz Band; and an encore of the Johnnie Johnson tribute first presented by the Old Webster fest in 2007, featuring members of Johnson's last St. Louis group playing with NYC pianist Dona Oxford.
Add it up, and you'll count just two professional jazz groups - the Robbie's house band and the Webster faculty group, which isn't really a gigging band per se - plus the student band from nearby Webster Groves HS. Both Landes and Presberg might be expected to serve up up some jazz sounds as part of their sets, too, but even so, it's relatively slim pickings for an event purporting to be a jazz festival.
UPDATE - 3:00 p.m., 6/3/10: Guitarist/composer Steve Schenkel, who's part of the Webster Jazz Faculty ensemble, posed a comment on StLJN's Facebook page with further details on their set: "The Webster Jazz Faculty will be devoting their performance at the Old Webster Festival to lesser known works by Duke Ellington. I'll be doing the transcribing and arranging, and Paul DeMarinis, Carolbeth True, Kevin Gianino, Willem von Holmbracht, and Debby Lennon will be on board. It should be a blast."
Devoting two of the remaining slots to a TV personality with scant credentials as a performing musician and an obscure variety band only waters it down even more. I don't mean to pick too much on Glenn Zimmerman, who I've heard is a good guy and supporter of local music. But given that there are dozens of very good professional blues acts in St. Louis that have never played the Old Webster festival, it's hard to see his set as anything but an attempt to draw in the merely curious and get some free TV coverage from Channel 2.
Still, it's a free event, and, depending on your musical tastes, there are certainly a number of musicians and bands worth hearing. But if you're a jazz fan, you can't help but wonder how much better the lineup could be if musical quality took precedence over what would seem to be a combination of local politics, favor-trading, and ill-advised pandering. The Old Webster Blues and Jazz Festival runs from noon to 10:00 p.m.; for more information, visit their website.
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