Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jazz this week: Chris Botti, Byron Stripling, Bill Watrous, UNT One O'Clock Lab Band, St. Louis Rivermen, and more

If there's a keyword for this weekend's schedule of jazz and creative music in St. Louis, it's "brass." The next few days will see three stellar touring brass players - two trumpeters and a trombonist - playing here as soloists or bandleaders, plus a somewhat larger-than-usual number of big band performances, and some other noteworthy shows, too. Let's go the highlights:

On Thursday evening, the University of North Texas One O'Clock Lab Band will be in town for a concert at Webster Groves High School, 100 Selma Ave. The One O'Clock band, which gets its name from the time of day the ensemble meets for class, is the top big band at one of the most storied and long lived collegiate jazz programs in the country; WGHS's jazz groups will open the show.

Also on Thursday, pianist Ptah Williams will play the music of Herbie Hancock in a free concert for the Jazz at Holmes series at Washington University; and singer Erika Johnson and guitarist Eric Slaughter's trio will perform at Robbie's House of Jazz.

Friday night is when local music fans have a choice among among those three stellar brassmen. The popular trumpeter Chris Botti will be in town that evening for what has become an annual visit, playing this time at the Peabody Opera House. No doubt he'll draw a good crowd, but given that Botti's next local appearance has already been booked, for next year at Powell Hall with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, anyone on the fence about going might want to consider skipping it in favor of one of the other shows happening the same night.

That same evening, trumpeter Byron Stripling will open a two-night stand at Jazz at the Bistro. He's been in town all week doing an educational residency for Jazz St. Louis, and as is the custom, will cap it off with some public performances, fronting a quartet. Though not nearly as well known as Botti, Stripling is a versatile and highly accomplished player and a polished entertainer who can hit the high notes, solo with feeling, and even sing the blues. For more about him and some video clips showing off various aspects of his talents, check out this post from last Saturday.

And as if that weren't enough for one night, Friday also is when the virtusoso trombonist Bill Watrous will be here for a concert at the Scottish Rite Cathedral Auditorium, accompanied by trumpeter Scott Vignassi and the Big Little Big Band. A veteran of the big bands of Quincy Jones, Maynard Ferguson, Johnny Richards and Woody Herman, Watrous is capable of some truly astounding stuff, so if you're specifically a trombone aficionado - as opposed to a brass fan in general - this one's got to be your pick for the weekend, especially since Stripling is playing at the Bistro for two nights.

Update - 3:00 p.m, 2/24/12: Just got an email from trumpet player/educator Adam Hucke, who teaches at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville, saying that Bill Watrous also will be playing at SWIC on Saturday night. The concert starts at 7:00 p.m. in the main auditorium on campus (directions at the link above) and will feature Watrous performing with both the SWIC Big Band and The Big Little Big Band. Best of all, it's free and open to the public.

On the other hand, if you'd rather dance to a big band than listen to one in concert, the relatively new group that calls themselves the St. Louis Big Band, made up primarily of younger musicians in their 20s and 30s, has worked their way into the rotation at the Casa Loma Ballroom and will be playing there on Friday. And if brass isn't your thing, or you're just not in the mood (sorry!) that evening, you can hear guitarist Dave Black's trio at the Cigar Inn in Belleville or saxophonist Tim Cunningham at Jazz on Broadway on Alton.

On Sunday afternoon, the St. Louis Rivermen will play traditional jazz and ragtime in a concert presented by the St. Louis Jazz Club at the Doubletree Hotel at Westport. Not long after that event wraps up, trombonist Dave Dickey's big band will return to Kirkwood Station Brewing Company for the first time after securing a monthly slot at the venue with their initial appearance there in January. The Webster Groves HS big band will play at intermission.

For more jazz-related events in and around St. Louis, 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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