Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Local premiere of Black Artists Group documentary among music films at 2020 St. Louis International Film Festival

A long-awaited documentary about St. Louis' Black Artists Group (BAG) will make its local debut at the 2020 St. Louis International Film Festival, which will take place online from November 5-22.

Directed by Bryan Dematteis and co-produced by St. Louis native, trumpeter, arts impresario, and former BAG member George Sams, The Black Artists’ Group of St. Louis: Creation Equals Movement is described in the festival's program like this:
"The Black Artists’ Group of St. Louis (BAG) formed in the late 1960s as an arts collective devoted to raising Black consciousness, battling social injustice, and exploring the far reaches of experimental performance. Beyond St. Louis, BAG’s musicians became influential in Europe and in New York, where members helped to found the Loft Jazz scene.

Locally, the group’s spirit lives on in the many St. Louis musicians who cut their chops learning to play in BAG’s community arts classes. Among those featured in the film are Lake, Hemphill, Charles “Bobo” Shaw, Malinke Elliott, Hamiet Bluiett, J.D. Parran, Portia Hunt, Shirley LeFlore, George Sams, Percy Green II, Patricia Cruz, Ben Looker, and Dennis Owsley."
Dematteis, Sams, and founding BAG members Malinke Elliott and Oliver Lake also have recorded a Q&A session, which will be available to watch online following screenings of the film.

For more information on how to purchase access and stream The Black Artists' Group of St. Louis: Creation Equals Movement, go here.

(Earlier this year, StLJN ran a series of six "Saturday Video Showcase" posts highlighting the work and musical legacy of various BAG members: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.)

Other music-related films that will be screening as part of SLIFF this year include:

Zappa: Directed by former St. Louisan Alex Winter (Bill in the Bill & Ted... movies), this documentary about the late guitarist and composer "had unfettered access to the Zappa family trust and its vast trove of archival footage." It includes interviews with Frank Zappa’s widow, the late Gail Zappa, plus former sidemen such as Mike Keneally, Ian Underwood, Steve Vai, Bunk Gardner, Scott Thunes, Ruth Underwood, Ray White, and more.

River City Drumbeat: A documentary about Louisville, KY music educator Edward “Nardie” White and the after-school community drum corps he has led for nearly 30 years.

The Oratorio: Co-Directed by former St. Louisan Mary Anne Rothberg and Martin Scorsese, this documentary tells "the story of an 1826 performance that forever changed America’s cultural landscape with the introduction of Italian opera to New York City."

The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts "The Tonight Show": A documentary that recounts how for one week in 1968, Belafonte "took a predominantly White institution and transformed it into a multicultural and political experience," featuring Black guests from entertainment, politics, and more.

The Ballad of John Henry: A documentary by St. Louis-based filmmaker Matthew Rice "provides a fresh perspective on the song and folk tale by exploring a myriad of related subjects."

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Todd Mosby releases new album Aerial Views

Guitarist Todd Mosby has released a new recording titled Aerial Views.

The album (pictured) is the third in a series of concept albums highlighting natural elements, following Eagle Mountain, a tribute to earth, and Open Waters, about the seas.

It includes 12 original compositions by Mosby, drawing on his experiences riding in and later flying a plane owned by his father, a professional pilot. "We spent a lot of time in the air, feeling a special freedom and independence whenever we took to the sky," he said in a news release. "As I got older, that freedom evolved into an ever expanding musical and spiritual journey."

With production by Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton, Aerial Views features Mosby on guitar and electric Imrat guitar, an 18-stringed sitar-guitar hybrid that he helped design, plus a supporting cast of musicians including violinist Charlie Bisharat, bassist Tony Levin, drummer Jerry Marotta, bassist Michael Manring, percussionist Jeff Haynes, multi-instrumentalist Premik Tubbs, and pianist and vocalist Lola Kristine.

Aerial Views is available now via Bandcamp, on Mosby's website, and on major digital services including iTunes and Spotify. Mosby also has produced a short "making of" video to promote the release, which can be seen here.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Sunday Session: October 25, 2020

Keith Jarrett
Here's this week's roundup of various music-related items of interest:

* Ronnie's review – fascinating story of the fabled Soho jazz club (
* 5 Questions to Tyshawn Sorey (composer, multi-instrumentalist) (
* Met Opera’s musicians haven’t been paid since April. Now, a third have left New York (
* Master Jazz Drummer Rodney Green on Jason Moran, Charlie Haden and Purgatory Perceptions (
* With COVID-19 stimulus stalled, L.A. clubs face doomsday scenario: ‘We’re in the deep end, drowning’ (Los Angeles Times)
* Earl Freeman: Poems and Drawings (
* Louis Armstrong and Comedy Part 2: “Always a Showman!” 1922-1933 (
* Jazz Educators Step Up to Face COVID-19’s Challenges (Jazz Times)
* The Genius Of… Super Session by Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Stephen Stills (Guitar)
* Toshinori Kondo, Trailblazing Modern Trumpeter, Dies At 71 (NPR)
* Acid, nudity and sci-fi nightmares: why Hawkwind were the radicals of 1970s rock (The Guardian)
* Pianist Keith Jarrett unlikely to perform again after two strokes (The Guardian)
* National Endowment for the Arts Announces 2021 NEA Jazz Masters (
* Nubya Garcia Injects Fresh Energy Into The UK Jazz Scene (DownBeat)
* A Cultural History of the Cranked Snare Drum (
* Analog Africa: digging deeper into forgotten corners of global groove (
* Inside Bob Dylan’s Lost Interviews and Unseen Letters (Rolling Stone)
* Slo-mo artistry of a sax genius (Sydney Morning Herald)
* Little Richard Made Millions. It All Went to His Label (
* Jazz singer Kurt Elling moves back home to Chicago: ‘It was always a question of when was going to be right’ (Chicago Tribune)
* “You Need Both Sides of the Coin to Feel Like There is Substance:” An Interview with Nubya Garcia (
* With The Specter Of Winter Looming, Venues Explore Paths Forward (DownBeat)
* A Guide to the Music of Archie Shepp, Who Kept Jazz Vitally Political (
* Jazz Clubs Are in Crisis (Jazz Times)
* Cindy Blackman Santana Blends Music, Spiritual Approaches (DownBeat)
* As Keith Jarrett Closes a Chapter, Jazz United Reflects on His Monumental Solo Piano Career (WBGO)
* Five Songs That Exemplify the Musical Legacy of Pharoah Sanders (WDET)
* Canadian musician Angie C just used a brainwave-reader to play the monster analogue synth TONTO with her mind (

Saturday, October 24, 2020

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Serious fun with Lester Bowie

This week, let's continue with another in our occasional series of posts featuring the work of St. Louis' best-known jazz musicians, this time with some videos featuring the late trumpeter Lester Bowie.

Bowie, who died from liver cancer in 1999, would have turned 79 this month. He was born in Maryland, but spent most of his childhood and young adult years and first learned to play the trumpet here in St. Louis. He also met his first wife, the singer Fontella Bass, here while both were working with saxophonist and producer Oliver Sain's band, and atill has relatives, including a couple of his children with Bass, living in the area.

He first gained wide attention in the late 1960s as a member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and as a result, many jazz listeners thought of him primarily as an avant-garde musician. But Bowies's musical approach also was shaped by his time in St. Louis, especially his work as a sideman with blues musicians including Sain, Little Milton, Albert King and others, and by his sense of humor. Those influences were prominent in his best-known solo project, the band Brass Fantasy, which used instrumentation similar to a New Orleans brass band and frequently performed arrangements of pop, rock, and R&B songs. Bowie sometimes referred to the band's approach as "serious fun," which wound up as the title of one of their albums (and this post.)

Those diverse influences also are evident in today's first video up above, which documents a 1983 performance by a Bowie project called "From The Roots To The Source" that featured Bass and her brother, singer David Peaston. As the name suggests, the group had an eclectic repertoire including songs from a number of different styles and eras of Black music.

After the jump you can see a show by Bowie and The Brazz Brothers - basically an alternate version of Brass Fantasy with mostly European musicians - recorded in May, 1996 during the Jazz Ost-West Festival at the Großer Saal der Meistersingerhalle in Nürnberg, Germany. For this gig, Bowie brought organist Amina Claudine Myers and the Art Ensemble's percussionist Famoudou Don Moye along from the USA to provide the foundation for the ensemble, which also included trumpeters Jarle Forde and Jan Magne Forde, French horn player Runar Tafjörd, trombonist Helge Forde, tuba player Stein Erik Tafjörd and drummer Egil "Bop" Johansen.

The third video features Bowie's Brass & Steel Band, another variation on the Brass Fantasy concept featuring the addition of steel drummers Anthony Trebuse, Denzil Botus, and Wilfred Kieal, recorded in 1996 at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy.

After that, you can see a set from Bowie's New York Organ Ensemble, recorded in 1992 at the Jazzaldia festival in San Sebastian, Spain. The group could be considered as Bowie's take on a hard-bop type of sound, and along with the leader, features fellow St. Louisan Kelvyn Bell on guitar, Myers on organ, and Moye on drums, plus the veteran trombonist Julian Priester and, in an early high-profile gig that helped make his reputation in the jazz world, a young James Carter on tenor sax.

The last two videos feature Bowie as part of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, with Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman on an assortment of reed instruments, Malachi Favors Maghostut on bass, Famoudou Don Moye on drums, and all the group's members doubling on percussion and "little instruments." The penultimate video was recorded in October 1991 at the venue Fabrik in Hamburg, Germany, and the final video is from July 1987 at the Jazzaldia festival in San Sebastian, Spain.

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

Friday, October 23, 2020

So What: Local News, Notes & Links

Here's StLJN's latest wrap-up of assorted links and short news items of local interest:

* Although David Sanborn has wrapped the "official" first season of his online video series "Sanborn Sessions," in recent weeks the saxophonist has added a couple of postscripts in the form of short "remote sessions" with keyboardist Cory Henry and singer-songwriter Jonatha Brooke.

* Singer Mardra Thomas and her husband, pianist Reggie Thomas, both are part of the cast of "Day Dream," an online audio drama "inspired by the life of jazz artist and composer Billy Strayhorn." Reggie is handling the musical direction, while Mardra, appropriately, is playing the role of a jazz singer named Alice. Two of the eight planned episodes have been released so far, and can be heard at

* Multi-instrumentalist Lamar Harris (pictured) was interviewed on last Friday's episode of KTRS radio's "In The Know with Ray Hartmann."

* As reported by the Riverfront Times' Daniel Hill, The Monocle, the venue in the Grove neighborhood that sometimes featured cabaret and jazz performers as part of an eclectic entertainment policy, has closed permanently.

* In more venue news, according to a report from the Post-Dispatch's Kevin Johnson, construction has begun on The Factory, a new concert club located at The District in Chesterfield, on the site of what was the Chesterfield Outlets mall. The facility, which will have a maximum capacity of 3,000 people, will present a variety of musical genres and is scheduled to open in May, 2021.

* Also in the Post-Dispatch, Ian Froeb reports that the Venice Cafe will close "until spring 2021."

* Tomorrow will be the third and final "RSD Drops" day of 2020, replacing the annual Record Store Day celebration in April that was canceled due to the pandemic. For a list of participating stores in Missouri offering the special RSD releases, go here.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sunday Session: October 18, 2020

Charles McPherson
Here's this week's roundup of various music-related items of interest:

* The Many Instruments of Stanley Crouch, Who Transformed the Entirety of Jazz and Cultural Criticism (Mother Jones)
* Wynton Marsalis Says Cultural Con Jobs Began Long Before Trump (The Daily Beast)
* Late night TV musicians push for parity in pay, health care and residuals (KCRW)
* Alone Together: A Q&A with Pianist Benny Green (
* Philly’s jazz community improvising to deal with COVID-19 (Philadelphia Inquirer)
* Visionary who turned down a gig with Miles Davis and pivoted to cardiology (among other pursuits) is subject of Philly ICA show (Philadelphia Inquirer)
* The company that has a monopoly on ice cream truck music (
* Charles McPherson Straddles The Artistic Fence (DownBeat)
* Stevie Wonder Releases First New Music in 15 Years (Rolling Stone)
* He Helps Folk Musicians Stay Alive (
* Sheet music sales soar 25% as UK turns to piano practice during Covid lockdown (
* Theo Croker Exemplifies This Moment In Jazz (DownBeat)
* Mary Halvorson: New York City and the Pull of the Moon (
* The Spiritual Power of Pharoah Sanders (
* Diana Krall Reflects on Her Creative Process, Her Late Producer, and an Emotive New Album (WBGO)
* 50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B (
* An Oral History Of Tom Petty’s Landmark 1994 Album, ‘Wildflowers’ (
* Billy Childs Engages The Vastness Of Music (DownBeat)
* A Love Supreme: Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackman Santana on Coltrane, Miles and Making Music Together (Jazziz)
* Gearhead: Memories of the Guitorgan (Jazz Times)
* Field Studies: Manfred Eicher, Founder of ECM Records, Picks His Top Five Blue Note Albums (WBGO)
* Field Studies: Don Was, President of Blue Note Records, Picks His Top Five ECM Albums (WBGO)
* Are We Reaching Peak Streaming Subscriptions? (Billboard)
* Michael Cuscuna: In The Vault Playing God (
* The Tragedy of Stanley Crouch (
* Randy Brecker: Overdue Ovation (Jazz Times)
* “AngelHeaded Hipster”: Hal Willner Does T. Rex (The New Yorker)

Saturday, October 17, 2020

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
More from Jazz St. Louis' "Season of Stream"

This week, let's go back into the video vault of the presenting organization Jazz St. Louis for a look at some of the most recent episodes of their "Season of Stream" series of online concerts, started earlier this year after live performances were shut down due to the pandemic. (There are four previous posts in the series: part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.)

First up, though, is a video that technically is not part of that series, a replay of JSL's "25th Anniversary (Virtual) Celebration" that took place online back on Friday, October 2. As the name suggests, it commemorates 25 years of existence for the organization, and features memories, tributes and pre-recorded performances from St. Louis musicians such as Peter Martin and Denise Thimes, plus some of the touring artists who have played the Bistro over the years, including Regina Carter, The Bad Plus, and Ann Hampton Callaway.

After the jump, you can see the most recent "Season of Stream" performance, featuring pianist Adam Maness' trio with bassist Bob DeBoo and drummer Montez Coleman. The video of their set was recorded on October 8 at the Bistro, and released this past Thursday.

Next up, it's saxophonist Ben Reece's Unity Quartet, recorded on September 29 and featuring Reece on tenor sax and flute, Rob Nugent on alto sax, Cody Henry on sousaphone, and Ron Sikes on drums.

That's followed by a set from bassist Bernard Terry. who made his debut as a leader at the Bistro when this video was recorded on September 22. Terry is joined by saxophonist Kendrick Smith, pianist Royce Martin, and drummer DeMarius Hicks.

The penultimate video features Be.Be & the Neosouls, led by vocalist Brianna Elise Brown, who's one of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation's "Music Artists in Residence" this year. Brown was joined for the set, recorded on September 14, by guitarist Connor Low, drummer Desiree Jones, bassist Joshua Huggins and pianist Luke Sailor.

Finally, today's sixth video spotlights saxophonist Carlos "Scooter" Brown, who recorded his set on September 11 with a band including trumpeter Brady Lewis, pianist Antonio Foster, bassist Bernard Terry, and drummer Everette Benton.

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

Friday, October 16, 2020

So What: Local News, Notes & Links

Here's StLJN's latest wrap-up of assorted links and short news items of local interest:

* A long-unheard audio interview with Miles Davis, conducted in 1969 at the trumpeter's NYC home for the Japanese publication Swing Journal, has resurfaced on YouTube.

* In related news, Keyon Harrold joined fellow trumpeters Sean Jones, Jeremy Pelt, and Etienne Charles for a discussion on last week's episode of Jazziz magazine's "Miles Monday" podcast.

* Singer Robert Nelson (pictured) was the featured guest on last week's "Coffee Conversations" podcast from Shock City School of Music.

* Drummer Rob Silverman's latest album Drumology was reviewed by Glide magazine.

* Following the removal of a statue of Christopher Columbus from Tower Grove Park, a report from St. Louis Public Radio's Shala Farzan says that the candidates being discussed for a possible replacement statue include singer, dancer and St. Louis native Josephine Baker.

* Hasan Kenyatta Lake, son of saxophonist and former St. Louisan Oliver Lake, has died at age 48, according to a report in the St. Louis American. The younger Lake worked as a barber and also was involved in music, releasing a rap album, Laclede Town Survivor, in 2001.