Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jazz this week: The Langston Hughes Project; Julian Lage; Hamiet Bluiett's Big Orchestra Band, Youth Division; Orange CD release; and more

This week's jazz and creative music offerings in St. Louis are a varied lot, from a multimedia project with an historical focus to a concert featuring a 50-piece band of students playing the compositions of one of St. Louis' greatest living jazz musicians, plus lots more. Let's go to the highlights...

Tonight, trumpeter Ron McCurdy brings his multimedia presentation The Langston Hughes Project to SIUE's Meridian Ballroom. For much more about this musical look at the jazz-influenced poet, author and essayist, check out last Saturday's Video Showcase post.

Also tonight, the Jazz at Holmes series at Washington University resumes after spring break with a free concert from guitarist Vince Varvel's trio; and singer Kim Massie performs at the Sheldon Concert Hall to benefit the March of Dimes.

On Friday, the talented young guitarist Julian Lage and his group will be in town for one night only to play at Jazz at the Bistro. Jazz St. Louis is offering a 2-for-1 discount on tickets for Lage's performances; you can find out more about that offer, and hear some samples from his new CD here.

Also on Friday, saxophonist Kendrick Smith and his quartet will take the stage at Robbie's House of Jazz, and songwriter Al Hammerman will present a benefit concert for the Make A Wish Foundation at the Sheldon. Although not a jazz performer in the strict sense, Hammerman clearly has been influenced by the Great American Songbook, and typically deploys a number of local jazz players to help realize his compositions. Friday's concert will include vocals from Debby Lennon and Alan Ox, among others, and a 12-piece band playing arrangements of Hammerman's original songs.

On Saturday afternoon, the great baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett (pictured) will unveil his latest project The Big Orchestra Band, Youth Division in a concert for the Nu-Art Series at Metropolitan Gallery. The 50-piece ensemble is made up of kids participating in school and community center music programs in St. Louis City, St. Louis County and East St. Louis, and they'll perform new arrangements of some of Bluiett's compositions.

That evening, the group Orange will celebrate the release of their first CD at Jazz at the Bistro. Together now for a couple of years, Orange is essentially a busman's holiday for members of singer Erin Bode's band - pianist Adam Maness, bassist Syd Rodway, and drummer Mark Colenburg - plus vibraphonist Peter Schlamb. (Steve Davis will fill in on Saturday for Colenburg, who's on the road with pianist Robert Glasper.)

Their eponymous self-released CD features seven of Maness' original compositions, plus one from Schlamb. You can read more about it in Terry Perkins' article for the St. Louis Beacon here, and check out samples from the CD on Orange's Facebook page.

The busman's holiday will be short-lived, however, as Maness, Rodway & co. will be back at work Sunday evening, accompanying Erin Bode in a concert at Chapel of the Cross Lutheran Church in St. Peters to benefit Peace Lutheran Church and the Ablaze Center in Riverview, MO.

Looking beyond the weekend, on Monday guitarist Tom Byrne's trio is playing at BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups; and guitarist Dave Black and others have put together a homecoming celebration for vibraphonist Lee Roth at Pop's Blue Moon on the Hill. Roth, who worked with a number of local jazz groups from the late 1970s to the 1990s, is back in town for a few days, and musicians, especially those who might have known him back in the day, are encouraged to bring their instruments and take part in a jam session.

For more jazz-related events in St. Louis this weekend and beyond, please visit the St. Louis Jazz Notes Calendar, which can be found on the left sidebar of the site or by clicking here. You also can keep up with all the latest news by following St. Louis Jazz Notes on Twitter at or clicking the "Like" icon on the StLJN Facebook page.

(If you have calendar items, band schedule information, news tips, links, or anything else you think may be of interest to StLJN's readers, please email the information to stljazznotes (at) yahoo (dot) com. If you have photos, MP3s or other digital files, please send links, not attachments.)

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