Saturday, April 14, 2012

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Previewing the Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival

This week, let's take a look at the musicians who will be performing at next week's Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival.

The GSLJF actually will begin on Wednesday with a series of performances and adjudications of local high school jazz combos at Jazz at the Bistro. That continues on Thursday, followed by a similar program of performances and adjudications for student big bands at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on Friday and Saturday. The festival schedule (.pdf file) says these events are free and open to the public, but there's no specific information there or anywhere on the GSLJF site about starting or ending times, or which bands might be playing when.

The festival's headlining performances begin on Thursday evening, when vibraphonist Stefon Harris and trumpeter Sean Jones will play two sets at the Bistro. You can see Harris in the embedded video window up above, performing "The Afterthought" with bassist Ben Williams, pianist Sullivan Fortner, and drummer (and East St. Louis's own) Terreon Gully. Down below, you can see Jones perform the song "Transitions" in a clip from the 2010 Detroit Jazz Festival.

On Friday night, percussionist Poncho Sanchez and his band plus special guest trumpeter Terence Blanchard will be at the Touhill. They'll be playing material from Chano y Dizzy!, their 2011 CD paying tribute to conga drummer/composer Chano Pozo and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, whose pioneering collaboration in the 1940s laid the groundwork for today's Latin jazz.

Today's clip of them is excerpted from a performance in February 2011 at Yoshi's in Oakland, and features a cover of Mongo Santamaria's "Besame Mama" in which Blanchard and Sanchez' regular trumpeter Ron Blake trade eight-bar breaks. For more about the Sanchez/Blanchard alliance, check out this review of a show of theirs from earlier this year in Virginia.

The GSLJF wraps up on Saturday night with a performance by bassist Christian McBride's big band at the Touhill. McBride won the 2012 Grammy Award for "Best Large Jazz Ensemble Recording" for the band's debut release The Good Feeling, but there's not really any performance video of them online, except for an electronic press kit created to support the CD's initial release.

To fill in some of the back story, I had hoped to interview McBride for a piece to run next week on the RFT Music Blog, but alas, his "people" turned down the request for an interview. (Whether this was out of general disdain for the press, St. Louis, or the GSLJF, or a more specific disdain for the RFT or yours truly, is anyone's guess. Said "people" implied that interviews were granted to others here in St. Louis, so I suspect the latter, but we'll have to wait and see what sort of coverage turns up elsewhere in the next few days. )

Until then, all that's left to do is put up a couple more clips, the first of which shows McBride and the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra in 2011 playing "Shake and Blake," the leadoff track from the Good Feeling CD. While next Saturday's concert at the Touhill no doubt will feature a completely different lineup of musicians, this video and the one below it of the song "Broadway," also from The Good Feeling and recorded at the same Detroit gig, at least provide some examples of McBride's approach and arranging style.

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