The Sheldon Concert Hall on Friday released the schedules for their various 2011-12 season series. For jazz fans in St. Louis, the biggest news might be the confirmation of two dates that previously had leaked out through Pollstar.
More specifically, as we told you here last month, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis will return to the Sheldon on Friday, September 30 in a benefit performance for the Sheldon's educational programs.
Also, as noted here earlier this week, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones will play the Sheldon on Thursday, March 29. This will be the new/old lineup of the Flecktones, with original member Howard Levy on keyboards and harmonica returning to replace saxophonist Jeff Coffin, who's now playing with (and presumably cashing some very large checks from) the Dave Matthews Band.
Both the Marsalis/JaLCO performance and the Flecktones show are designated as "special concerts," which means that tickets are not sold as part of any of the series packages.
As for the Sheldon's 2011-12 jazz series, it will include the Clayton Brothers Quintet (Saturday, October 29), pianist Chucho Valdés (pictured) and the Afro-Cuban Messengers (Saturday, February 11), the Detroit-based, all-female group Straight Ahead (Saturday, March 24), and singer Sara Gazarek (Saturday, May 5).
So what's the takeaway on this lineup? Well, Gazarek is one of the best young female jazz singers around, and Valdés' skills as a pianist and composer certainly are impressive, though deployed in a rather conventional Latin-jazz format (for which, to be fair, Valdes helped draft the blueprints). Those two shows seem worthy of eager anticipation; the Clayton Brothers and Straight Ahead, maybe not so much.
For one thing, both groups already have played St. Louis within the past 18 months, so it's not like those who have an interest have been deprived of the chance to hear them. More to the point, while both undeniably offer skilled musicianship, neither group is particularly innovative, buzzworthy or even musically distinctive. Given the universe of possibilities out there, it's hard to get too excited about a four-show series in which half the concerts are devoted to such middling, recycled fare.
Meanwhile, the Sheldon's "Coffee Concerts" series will offer return appearances from pianist Carolbeth True and singer Christi John Bye (Tuesday, October 11 & Wednesday, October 12), the St. Louis Rivermen (Tuesday, April 3 and Wednesday, April 4), and trumpeter Bob Ceccarini and pianist Pat Joyce (Tuesday, May 8 and Wednesday, May 9), as well as a non-subscription show celebrating the 50th anniversary of the St. Louis Ragtimers (Tuesday, March 6 and Wednesday, March 7).
Rounding out the jazz offerings for the year, the Saturday matinee series will include a concert from Cornet Chop Suey on April 21. The Sheldon's news release also mentioned that pianist Peter Martin will continue his eponymous series next year, but offered no further details.
Patron tickets for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performance are on sale now for $150 and $125. Single tickets will be priced at $65 and $55 and will go on sale August 13. However, subscribers can request single tickets with their subscription order.
Subscription tickets for the "Jazz at The Sheldon" series are priced at $150 and $135; the Coffee Concerts series is $65 and $55; and Saturday matinee tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children. Current subscribers are being offered the opportunity to renew now, and new subscriptions will go on sale at 10:00 a.m. Monday, May 16 and continue through the first concert in each series. For more information or to order tickets, call the Sheldon at 314-533-9900 or visit their website.
Brian Simpson @ Pizza Express, London
4 hours ago