Saturday, April 09, 2011

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival 2011

This week, let's take a look at the headliners for next weekend's Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. The GSLJF begins Thursday with adjudicated performances by middle school and high school jazz ensembles from around the area, along with workshops and clinics for the student musicians.

Those activities continue during the day on Friday and Saturday, but the main attraction for most listeners will be the concerts featuring the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra on Friday night and bassist Ron Carter's Golden Striker trio on Saturday night. The UMSL Big Band - directed, as is the festival itself, by bassist Jim Widner - will open both shows.

That common element notwithstanding, the two nights certainly offer plenty of musical contrast, with the intimate, chamber jazz of Carter, guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Mulgrew Miller offset by the expansive big band sound of the VJO.

Carter (not to be confused with saxophonist and educator Ronald Carter) perhaps is still best known for his work in the 1960s with Miles Davis, but he's also one of the most-recorded and most influential jazz bassists of the past 50 years. Miller and Malone, both a generation younger than Carter, excel at the kind of straight-ahead, swinging jazz that is the trio's meat and potatoes. Both men also have a local connection, having recorded fine CDs as leaders for the St. Louis based MAXJAZZ label.

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra is the present-day incarnation of the big band originally started in 1965 by trumpeter/arranger Thad Jones and drummer Mel Lewis. Though both founders now are deceased, the VJO continues to be a Monday night staple at NYC's Village Vanguard and a significant showcase for both players and arrangers.

Up above, you can see Carter, Malone and Miller in a video shot from the audience at their performance last month in Kassel, Germany. Down below, you'll find another clip from the same show. The videos are just one static shot, occasionally obscured by audience members walking in front of the camera, but the sound is good and the footage is the most recent available. For more on what to expect from the Golden Striker trio, check out this review of their London show last week from the London Jazz blog.

Next, we've got some clips of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra that also happen to have a connection to Missouri. The first is taken from the VJO's performance two years ago at the Missouri Theatre in Columbia, Missouri. They're playing the first part of trombonist, arranger, composer and Kansas City native Bob Brookmeyer's "Suite for Three," which was commissioned for the occasion.

Down below that, you can see and hear the VJO playing "St. Louis Blues," at the 2008 Hague Jazz Festival. The performance is split into two parts, and the chart is a good demonstration of how much a talented arranger and big band can wring from a well-known standard. For more VJO on video, check out their YouTube channel, and then look here.

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