Monday, August 31, 2009

Jazz at Holmes series sets
schedule for Fall 2009

The Jazz at Holmes series of free Thursday night concerts at Washington University in St. Louis has announced its schedule for Fall 2009.

The series kicks off with what seem like a couple of odd musical choices: a jazz tribute to Woodstock, led by guitarist and Wash U director of jazz performance William Lenihan and held outside on Brookings Quadrangle on Thursday, September 10; and the rock/funk/hip-hop band Fresh Heir on Thursday, September 17.

Regarding the former, the news release announcing the series' Fall schedule quotes Lenihan as saying, "The connections between rock music and jazz of the era of Woodstock are many, and not just that which the sonic possibilities of electric and electronic musical instruments brought to the stage. Breaking stylistic boundaries, creating new expressions and symbols of musical thought, whether through Coltrane, Hendrix or Dylan, American popular music had freed itself from its commercial limitations, with audiences fully participating in it's creation. Jazz at Holmes Series is celebrating the music in this spirit of performance."

Color me puzzled. While there's really no disputing the points about the music of the 1960s extending sonic possibilities and going beyond commercial limitations, this statement doesn't really make a connection between Woodstock and jazz, nor does it attempt to describe what the music that's going to be played that night will sound at this point, your guess is as good as mine.

As for Fresh Heir, an energetic young group that mixes 1970s-style funk and contemporary hip-hop, their music doesn't seem to contain much of a jazz influence beyond the occasional background riff played by trumpet and tenor sax. While they may be popular with college students, and for all I know they're probably a nice bunch of fellas, to these ears they seem out of place on the Jazz at Holmes series. (That said, if someone can point me to some examples of their music that shows more of a jazz influence than the selections on their MySpace page, I'd be glad to take a listen...)

Here's the complete Jazz at Holmes Fall 2009 schedule:

Thursday, September 10: William Lenihan leads a tribute to Woodstock's 40th anniversary. (Concert to be held outdoors on Brookings Quadrangle.)

Thursday, September 17: Fresh Heir

Thursday, September 24: Utter Chaos performs music of Gerry Mulligan

Thursday, October 1: Clarinetist Scott Alberici plays music of the swing era

Thursday, October 8: William Lenihan leads a Miles Davis tribute recreating music from Birth of the Cool

Thursday, October 22: Trumpeter Danny Campbell and drummer Maurice Carnes

Thursday, October 29: Ptah Williams

Thursday, November 5: Willie Akins Quartet

Thursday, November 12: William Lenihan leads a Miles Davis tribute featuring "Petit Machins" and selections from In a Silent Way

Thursday, December 3: Drummer Steve Davis, Willian Lenihan and friends

Note that with the concert featuring Davis (pictured), the Jazz at Holmes series continues its recent practice of booking at least one touring musician each semester. Davis is the author of six books about playing drums; has performed and recorded with musicians including Bill Evans, Lynne Arriale, Benny Golson, Richie Beirach and John Pattitucci; and served as visiting professor of jazz studies at the Berlin Conservatory of Music. He'll play with a group of St. Louis musicians led by Lenihan, who, with major roles in four of the semester's concerts, will once again be a frequent presence on stage in the series as well as an important one behind the scenes.

All Jazz at Holmes concerts are free and open to the public. Holmes Lounge is located in Ridgley Hall, on the west side of Brookings Quadrangle near the intersection of Brookings and Hoyt drives. For further information, call Sue Taylor at 314-862-0874 or email

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