Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Old Webster Jazz and Blues Festival announces 2010 lineup

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.


soulnoir said...

That last paragraph sums it up...ill advised.

Anonymous said...

I agree with some of the comments, but at the same time, you can't just bag on all the local groups. They're some of the premier groups in the area. The Webster faculty group will probably be one of the most talented groups there, and the Webster high school band is one of the best high school groups in the country (Best high school group I heard at the JEN conference). Robbie Edwards, being a former band director usually puts together a quality group too...

Dean Minderman said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment, Anonymous, but you might want to go back and re-read the post. I didn't "bag on" any of the groups you mention; they are mentioned positively in the context of the festival's amount of jazz content, and, in the followup post, as examples of local interests taking precedence in the festival's booking policies.

There were no negative comments about the musicianship of any of those three groups. It was noted that the Webster faculty is not a regular working band as such, but that's not a slam against them, just an observation (albeit one made in the context of criticizing the event for not booking enough local, working groups).