Saturday, April 14, 2018

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Previewing the 2018 Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival

This week, let's take a look at some videos of the musicians who will be performing at the Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival, which takes place next week and culminates with concerts on Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21 at the Touhill Performing Arts Center.

While the first part of the festival involves student bands from around the area working with and performing for visiting clinicians, the GSLJF also usually has several public events. This year, those performances include a show by trumpeter Hermon Mehari on Thursday at The Dark Room, and the weekend concerts at the Touhill, which will feature the One O'Clock Lab Band from the University of North Texas on Friday and Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band on Saturday, with the UMSL Jazz Band directed by Jim Widner as opening act on both nights. Small ensembles from UMSL also will be performing as part of next week's "Grand Center Jazz Crawl" on Wednesday night.

Based in Los Angeles and stocked with first-call West Coast musicians, the Big Phat Band occupies a place in the jazz world not unlike that once held by Stan Kenton and later Maynard Ferguson. They're favorites of band directors and members of high school and college student big bands across the country, thanks to their energetic live show and slickly executed arrangements, and no doubt aided by their willingness to travel and perform at high schools and small colleges as well as at more prestigious venues.

The first video of the Big Phat Band up above, "Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes," was recorded in 2016 at one of those off-the-beaten-path gigs at New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL, near Chicago. So were "Count Bubba's Revenge" and "Horn Of Puente," the two numbers that follow it after the jump. While the videos are low-res, the audio quality is good, and the three numbers depicted give a good taste of the Big Phat Band's sound and stylistic range.

The One O'Clock Lab Band is the top student band at the University of North Texas, home to one of the most storied and longest-running collegiate jazz programs in the USA. Although like any college band, they have ongoing turnover in membership, the One O'Clock band over the years has maintained a consistent high standard of musicianship rivaling many professional ensembles, as you can hear in the next three videos.

"Hey, It’s Me You’re Talking To" is an arrangement of a tune by drummer Victor Lewis, recorded on March 1 of this year at Winspear Hall on the North Texas campus, as was the Robert Washut arrangement "Beneath the Mask" just eight days later. The third of clip of the group, a new arrangement of the venerable "Harlem Nocturne," was recorded last November, also at Winspear Hall.

Today's last two videos feature Hermon Mehari. who grew up in Kansas City and now splits his time between there and Paris, France. "Minority" is, as Mehari mentions in his introduction, a staple of his live shows, seen here in a version recorded last October at Belleville Brûlerie in Paris, while "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face" showcases Mehari alongside the acclaimed young pianist Aaron Parks in a live-in-the-studio promotional clip for the trumpeter's 2017 debut album Bleu.

You can see the rest of today's videos after the jump...

Updated 4/14/18 to include mention of UMSL ensembles at Grand Center Jazz Crawl.

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