Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Jazz this week: Rudi Mwongozi, Denise Thimes with Llew Matthews, Jazz St. Louis All-Stars, and more

The jazz and creative and music scene in St. Louis usually is in transition this time of year, as the presenting season for many local not-for-profit organizations is winding down and the various summer tours, concert series and other seasonal activities have yet to get underway. Still, there are some noteworthy sounds happening around town this week, so let's go to the highlights.

As graduation time approaches, the musical offerings this week at Jazz at the Bistro are all about youth. On Thursday, the East St. Louis High School Jazz Band will perform with special guests Mardra and Reggie Thomas in what's being billed as a send-off for the band's upcoming trip to NYC for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington competition and festival.

Then on Friday and Saturday, the Jazz St. Louis All-Stars, a group of high school musicians drawn from Jazz St. Louis' educational programs, will take the stage for their annual gig at the Bistro. Although the group's lineup changes from year to year as the players graduate and new ones join, when I've heard them over the years I've always been impressed with the All-Stars' overall level of musicianship and poise. If you're the sort who enjoys checking out the potential "stars of tomorrow," you're likely to enjoy them.

Also on Friday night, saxophonist Willie Akins will play at Robbie's House of Jazz, and guitarist Tom Byrne's trio is performing at the Cigar Inn in Belleville.

On Saturday afternoon, keyboard player Rudi Mwongozi (pictured, above left) will perform in a concert presented by the Nu-Art Series at the Metropolitan Gallery downtown. Mwongozi, who's from Oakland and leads a jazz/R&B/reggae group called SONWA (Sound Of New World Afrikah), will play the music of Duke Ellington with drummer Charles "Bobo" Shaw, bassist Claude Montgomery, alto saxophonist Kendrick Smith, and the Nu-Art Series' own George Sams on trumpet.

On Sunday afternoon, singer Denise Thimes will present her 15th annual Mothers Day show at the Sheldon Concert Hall. Thimes customarily features a guest star or two on this show each year, and this time, it's pianist Llew Matthews (pictured at left), who's served as musical director for singer Nancy Wilson and recorded with well-known jazz musicians such as Kenny Burrell, Buddy Collette, Hubert Laws and Kevin Eubanks. For those looking to make an afternoon of it, a optional dinner buffet is also available before the concert; see the Sheldon's website for details.

Also on Sunday, BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups has a double bill of interest to jazz fans, with the funk/R&B/jazz group Good 4 The Soul performing in the early evening and the Tom Byrne Trio taking the late shift.

Looking beyond the weekend, on Monday BB's has the Sessions Big Band; and on Tuesday morning, the Sheldon Jazz Quintet, with Mardra and Reggie Thomas and guitarist Rick Haydon, will play a Coffee Concert at the Sheldon. (As usual for the Coffee Concerts series, the same program will be repeated on Wednesday. )

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.)

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