Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jazz this week: Al Jarreau, Peter Martin, Davey Williams & LaDonna Smith, Mardra Thomas & Reggie Thomas, and more

It's a busy pre-Valentine's Day weekend for jazz and creative music in St. Louis, and with weather forecasters predicting at least a temporary respite from the deep freeze, it should be a good weekend to get out and about. Here are some of the notable shows coming up:

Tonight, pianist Peter Martin continues his eponymous concert series with a solo piano performance at the Sheldon. Martin hasn't done a lot of solo gigs here in St. Louis, but his CD/EP Set of Five from a couple of years ago showed that he's got the ideas, interpretative skills and technique needed to succeed in that format. Previous shows in the series have been well-attended, but as of close of business on Wednesday, there were still tickets available.

Also tonight, multi-instrumentalist Sandy Weltman will lead a quartet with pianist Kim Portnoy, bassist Ric Vice, and drummer Clancy Newell in a free concert for the Jazz at Holmes series at Washington University. This show will emphasize Weltman's harmonica playing, and he's a standout on the diatonic harp*, with skills that justify comparison to the likes of Toots Thielemans, Charlie McCoy and Howard Levy.

On Friday, singer Al Jarreau (pictured) performs in a concert presented by Jazz St. Louis at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. Given Jarreau's success crossing over to pop and R&B, expect a healthy selection of familiar hit tunes, but one would hope that this particular setting will provide opportunity for him to stretch out a bit, too. For a video sampling of some of Jarreau's concert staples, check out this post from last Saturday.

Also on Friday, two local, musical husband-and-wife couples will open shows with Valentine's Day themes in the Grand Center district. At Jazz at the Bistro, singer Mardra Thomas and her pianist/spouse Reggie Thomas will continue what has become a Valentine's weekend tradition in recent years, performing on Friday and Saturday, plus a special Monday night engagement. Meanwhile, just around the corner at the Kranzberg Arts Center, pianist Joe Dreyer and singer Rosemary Watts will present their cabaret show on Friday and Saturday under the auspices of the Presenters Dolan.

Robbie's House of Jazz will be getting in the mood for love this weekend, too, with a Motown-themed show from the Sean Holland Band on Friday and a Valentine's dinner-and-show package featuring music from singer Tony Viviano's group on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, guitarist Davey Williams and violist LaDonna Smith will perform in a concert presented by New Music Circle at Focal Point in Maplewood. Williams and Smith, who used to be a couple and have remained musical collaborators, are from Birmingham, AL. Both are longtime veterans of the international free improv scene, and they've performed in St. Louis for NMC a number of times, developing a bit of a local fan base in the process. I've heard them together and separately, and if you have any interest in at all in that type of music, Williams and Smith definitely are worth checking out.

On the other hand, if you prefer traditional jazz, there's something for you on Sunday afternoon, as the St. Louis Jazz Club presents Cornet Chop Suey serving up a mix of New Orleans and swing styles at the Doubletree Hotel in Chesterfield.

For more jazz-related events in St. Louis this weekend and beyond, please visit the St. Louis Jazz Notes Calendar, which can be found on the left sidebar of the site or by clicking here. You also can keep up with all the latest news by following St. Louis Jazz Notes on Twitter at or clicking the "Like" icon on the StLJN Facebook page.

(If you have calendar items, band schedule information, news tips, links, or anything else you think may be of interest to StLJN's readers, please email the information to stljazznotes (at) yahoo (dot) com. If you have photos, MP3s or other digital files, please send links, not attachments.)

* Edited to delete a reference to chromatic harp, after Ric Vice emailed to nicely remind me that Weltman plays diatonic almost exclusively - which makes his very precise half-note bends all the more impressive.

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