Thursday, August 09, 2018

Jazz St. Louis expands Whitaker Jazz Speaks series for 2018-19 season

Clockwise from top left: Blackburn, Gioia, Kahn, Riccardi
Jazz St. Louis has expanded their "Whitaker Jazz Speaks" series for the 2018-19 season, and will present seven different free programs during the year featuring an impressive lineup of authors and scholars.

Four of the events will be co-produced with local libraries, with the other three taking place at Jazz St. Louis' headquarters in Grand Center.

The series begins on Wednesday, September 12 downtown at the St. Louis Public Library's Central Branch auditorium with "The Crisis in Music," featuring author and critic Ted Gioia.

Gioia, whose books include The History of Jazz and Delta Blues, will discuss "disruptions that are changing -- and perhaps destroying -- the fragile music infrastructure in America" and "will provide predictions on how our songs and performances might change over the next ten years."

Next up is "1950: The Year Jazz Changed on Two Coasts," which will be presented by Marc Myers on Wednesday, October 10 at the Ferring Jazz Bistro in Grand Center. Myers, who blogs at, is a Wall Street Journal contributor, and the author of Why Jazz Happened, will discuss the development of West Coast and cool jazz, followed by a performance of Miles Davis’s complete Birth of the Cool and music from Dave Brubeck, the Modern Jazz Quartet, and Gerry Mulligan.

The final program of 2018 will feature author and NPR jazz critic Kevin Whitehead previewing his book Play the Way You Feel on Wednesday, November 14 at the St. Louis County Library's Grant's View Branch. The book "examines how fiction and biographical films from 1927 to 2016 tell stories about jazz music and musicians," with Whitehead’s talk focused on "screen representations of early jazz in such films, illustrated with clips from Birth of the Blues (1941) and Syncopation (1942)."

The new year starts with a program featuring Julia Blackburn, author of With Billie: A New Look at the Unforgettable Lady Day on Wednesday, February 13 at the St. Louis County Library headquarters. Blackburn will discuss her biography of Billie Holiday, which was compiled entirely from interviews with people who knew the singer, including "piano players and dancers, pimps and junkies, lovers and narcs, producers and critics, each recalling intimate stories of the great Lady Day."

The following month, the Jazz St. Louis Big Band and pianist Reggie Thomas will honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nat "King" Cole with a performance of music associated with the pianist and vocalist on Wednesday, March 20 at the Bistro.

Then in April, author Ashley Kahn will present "A Love Supreme: The Music and Message in John Coltrane's Magnum Opus" on Wednesday, April 10 at the St. Louis Public Library's Schlafly Branch auditorium. Kahn, who has written books about both A Love Supreme and Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, will conduct "a deep dive into the mind and process of the man that gave us one of the most important recordings in jazz."

The final program of the 2018-19 season will feature Ricky Riccardi, author and director of research collections for the Louis Armstrong House Museum, on Wednesday, April 17 at the Bistro. Riccardi will discuss Armstrong's early works, focusing on his Hot 5 and Hot 7 ensembles, followed by a performance of some of the most famous material from those two bands.

All the Whitaker Jazz Speaks programs begin at 7:00 p.m. and are free and open to the public, but because of limited seating capacity, RSVPs are requested for the three programs held at the Bistro. For more information or to reserve a spot, visit the series page on the JSL website

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