Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jazz this week: Freddy Cole, Claudia Quintet with Theo Bleckmann, Koplant No, and more

It's another busy week for live jazz and creative music in St. Louis, with performances from both touring and local acts ranging from ragtime, traditional New Orleans jazz, and swing to thought-provoking modern jazz influenced by a variety of contemporary genres. Let's go to the highlights...

Tonight, singer and pianist Freddy Cole returns to St. Louis to open a four-night engagement continuing through Saturday at Jazz at the Bistro. Cole, the brother of the legendary Nat "King" Cole, has proved to be a popular attraction here in recent years, and though he even has a song titled "I'm Not My Brother, I'm Me," the two siblings do share a certain relaxed elegance and propensity for mainstream-style swing. Cole usually is a good draw when he plays the Bistro, so advance reservations definitely are recommended. You can see and hear some of his music in this video showcase post from his last appearance here in 2010

Also tonight, the Meramec Jazz Lab Band, directed by Bob Boedges, will perform in a concert at the Black Cat Theatre.

On Thursday, guitarist Steve Schenkel and pianist Kim Portnoy will team up for a free concert featuring the music of George Gershwin for the Jazz at Holmes series at Washington University. Also on Thursday, the Dixie Dudes bring their traditional jazz sound back to Jazz on Broadway in Alton for a no-cover-charge show.

On Friday, the Claudia Quintet (pictured) will perform at 560 Music Center in a concert presented by New Music Circle. The critically acclaimed group, which combines jazz with a variety of other influences informed by a sort of post-modern compositional sensibility, will be making their St. Louis debut. Their most recent album, What Is The Beautiful?, was released late last year, and features the Quintet's original music with the words of poet Kenneth Patchen as interpreted by vocalists Kurt Elling and Theo Bleckmann. Bleckmann, a rising star who's garnered plenty of critical praise for his own work, will be in St. Louis with the group, which only raises the concert's "must hear" score even higher.

For much more about the Claudia Quintet, including a half-dozen video clips of them in action, check out this post from last Saturday. Also, last week I interviewed the group's drummer/leader John Hollenbeck for the Riverfront Times' RFT Music Blog, and that article will be going online soon; once it's up, I'll add a link to it here.

Also on Friday, Koplant No, a "progressive jazz electronic rock band" from the Quad Cities area in Iowa, will be in town to headline a three-band bill with Funky Butt Brass Band and guitarist Teddy Presberg at Jumpin' Jupiter; saxophonist Tim Cunningham returns to Jazz on Broadway; pianist Tim Garcia is at the Cigar Inn; and Robbie's House of Jazz will present a trio featuring drummer Steve Davis, saxophonist Christopher Braig and bassist Ben Wheeler.

On Saturday, the veteran big band trumpeter Roger Ingram will be in town to present a master class that afternoon at UMSL. That evening, singer Gene Lynn will appear at the Frontenac Grill, and Robbie's will feature the 1920s and '30s-style swing and hot jazz of Sarah Jane and the Blue Notes.

Then on Sunday, this quarter's St. Louis Record Collector and CD Show will take place at the American Czech Center. Also on Sunday afternoon, the Funky Butt Brass Band will head out to St. Louis Community College at Meramec, where they'll join forces with the Meramec Symphonic Band and Jazz Lab Band for a concert featuring some (vastly) expanded arrangements of FBBB and New Orleans favorites. And Sunday also is when bassist Willem von Hombracht and singer Joe Mancuso will kick off their new weekly event "Willem's Sunday Jazz Jam" at Johnny Gitto's bar and restaurant.

Looking beyond the weekend, on Monday, BB's Jazz Blues and Soups will feature guitarist Tom Byrne's Have You Heard. Then on Tuesday morning, the St. Louis Ragtimers will play the first of two "coffee concerts" at the Sheldon Concert Hall. (The program repeats on Wednesday.) That evening, the St. Louis Jazz Orchestra under the direction of bassist Jim Widner will perform a concert paying tribute to the music of big band leader, composer and arranger Stan Kenton at the Touhill Performing Arts Center; and guitarist Dave Black will play at BB's.

For more jazz-related events in and around St. Louis, 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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