Thursday, May 21, 2015

Jazz St. Louis announces
2015-16 season schedule

Melissa Aldana
Jazz St. Louis has announced their 2015-16 season schedule, and with it, a new, explicitly stated policy of offering live music every Wednesday through Saturday at Jazz at the Bistro.

That will mean more acts playing two-night stands at the Bistro, with touring groups occasionally showing up midweek as well as on the weekends. Given the developments this year since Jazz St. Louis purchased its building and renovated and expanded the Bistro, that change may be more evolutionary than revolutionary, but it does move the venue toward being essentially a full-time operation rather than a seasonal presenter.

Some of the most noteworthy bookings for 2015-16 include a trio version of bassist Dave Holland's Prism, with guitarist Kevin Eubanks and drummer Eric Harland, but minus keyboardist Craig Taborn (October 21-24); a pairing of singer DeeDee Bridgewater with a band led by New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield (March 16-19); and the current edition of the all-star SFJAZZ Collective, returning to St. Louis for the first time since 2007 (March 30-April 2).

Cyrille Aimée
Notable St. Louis debuts will include singer Cyrille Aimée (February 3-6); saxophonist Melissa Aldana (April 27-30); the Dave King Trucking Company, led by the drummer who's played the Bistro many times with The Bad Plus (September 4 & 5); and the previously mentioned Omaha Diner, with guitarist and Bistro veteran Charlie Hunter along with drummer Bobby Previte, saxophonist Skerik, and trumpeter Eric Bloom in place of Steven Bernstein (November 18-21).

Gregory Porter
As for returning acts, singer Gregory Porter has been booked for a much-anticipated encore appearance, but since his shows at the Bistro back in January 2013, his star has risen sufficiently that this time he'll be doing a one-nighter at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on Saturday, February 6 instead of a week at the Bistro.

Bassist Stanley Clarke's electric band also will play on Saturday, November 21 at the Touhill under the auspices of Jazz St. Louis, apparently renewing the collaboration between the two presenters that seems to have been dormant for a couple of years.

Nostalgically speaking, Jazz St. Louis will celebrate its 20th anniversary officially in September with a custom assemblage of musicians who have played the Bistro numerous times over the years, including bassist Christian McBride, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, drummer Gregory Hutchinson, guitarist Russell Malone, trumpeter Terell Stafford, and saxophonist Tim Warfield.

DeeDee Bridgewater & Irvin Mayfield
Return appearances by pianist Monty Alexander and singer Karrin Allyson also will harken back to the Bistro's early days. Both (along with a return visit from pianist Kenny Barron, who was here just this past season) are part of a new series named after the late Barbara Rose, the presenter and impresario whose "Just Jazz" series evolved into Jazz at the Bistro and the founding of Jazz St. Louis.

Saxophonist and hometown hero David Sanborn also will be back, along with such now-familiar figures as The Bad Plus, saxophonist James Carter, trumpeter Sean Jones, pianist Freddy Cole with saxophonist Harry Allen, the fusion band Yellowjackets, and more.

After the jump, you can see the complete 2015-16 schedule, ticket ordering information, and some additional commentary and analysis...

Here's the complete Jazz St. Louis 2015-16 season schedule in chronological order:

Thursday, September 2 & Friday, September 3: Erin Bode "Sings Standards"
Friday, September 4 & Saturday, September 5: Dave King Trucking Company
Wednesday, September 9 & Thursday, September 10: Monty Alexander Trio
Saturday, September 12: Jahmal Nichols
Sunday, September 13: Dave Dickey Big Band
Wednesday, September 16 & Thursday, September 17: Two Times True with Larry Johnson
Friday, September 18: Willie Akins/Montez Coleman Group
Wednesday, September 23 - Saturday, September 26: "Jazz St. Louis at 20" w/ Christian McBride, Cyrus Chestnut, Gregory Hutchinson, Russell Malone, Terell Stafford & Tim Warfield
Wednesday, September 30 & Thursday, October 1: The 442s

Friday, October 2 & Saturday, October 3: Phil Dunlap Quintet
Sunday, October 4: Dave Dickey Big Band
Wednesday, October 7 - Saturday, October 10: Yellowjackets
Wednesday, October 14 & Thursday, October 15: Adam Larson
Friday, October 16 & Saturday, October 17: Byron Stripling & Jazz St. Louis Big Band "Tribute to Clark Terry"
Wednesday, October 21 - Saturday, October 24: Prism Trio w/ Dave Holland, Kevin Eubanks & Eric Harland
Wednesday, October 28 & Thursday, October 29: Lamar Harris w/ Anita Jackson
Friday, October 30 & Saturday, October 31: Houston Person Quartet

Wednesday, November 4 - Saturday, November 7: Poncho Sanchez
Sunday, November 8: Dave Dickey Big Band
Tuesday, November 10: SIUE Concert & Alumni Jazz Bands
Wednesday, November 11 & Thursday, November 12: Karrin Allyson "Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein"
Friday, November 13 & Saturday, November 14: Tommy Halloran’s Guerrilla Swing
Wednesday, November 18 - Saturday, November 21: Omaha Diner
Saturday, November 21: Stanley Clarke (at the Touhill Performing Arts Center)
Friday, November 27 & Saturday, November 28: Jeremy Davenport

Wednesday, December 2 - Saturday, December 5: Sean Jones
Sunday, December 6: Dave Dickey Big Band
Wednesday, December 9 & Thursday, December 10: The Service
Friday, December 11 & Saturday, December 12: Jim Manley’s Mad Brass & Rhythm - "A Very Manley Christmas"
Wednesday, December 16 - Saturday, December 19: Matt Wilson’s Christmas Tree-O
Monday, December 21 - Wednesday, December 23: Jazz St. Louis Big Band plays Ellington’s "Nutcracker"
Saturday, December 26 & Sunday, December 27: Good 4 The Soul

Saturday, January 2: Jazz St. Louis All-Stars Alumni Quintet
Wednesday, January 6 - Saturday, January 9: The Bad Plus
Friday, January 15 & Saturday, January 16: Jazz at Lincoln Center Group w/ Terell Stafford, Jeff Hamilton, Bob Stewart, & Todd Williams
Wednesday, January 20 - Saturday, January 23: Warren Wolf & Wolfpack
Friday, January 29 & Saturday, January 30: Funky Butt Brass Band

Wednesday, February 3 - Saturday, February 6: Cyrille Aimée
Saturday, February 6: Gregory Porter (at the Touhill Performing Arts Center)
Friday, February 12 - Sunday, February 14: Erin Bode
Wednesday, February 17 - Saturday, February 20: Marcus Roberts Trio

Wednesday, March 2 - Saturday, March 5: James Carter Organ Trio
Wednesday, March 16 - Saturday, March 19: Dee Dee Bridgewater & Irvin Mayfield
Wednesday, March 30 - Saturday, April 2: SFJazz Collective - "Music of Michael Jackson"

Wednesday, April 6 & Saturday, April 7: Kenny Barron Trio
Friday, April 8 & Saturday, April 9: Anat Cohen, Matt Wilson, Marquis Hill, & Linda Oh
Wednesday, April 13 - Saturday, April 16: David Sanborn
Tuesday, April 19: SIUE Concert & Alumni Jazz Bands
Wednesday, April 27 - Saturday, April 30: Melissa Aldana

Wednesday, May 11 - Saturday, May 14: Pat Martino Trio
Wednesday, May 25 - Saturday, May 28: Freddy Cole w/ Harry Allen

Ticket prices start at $15 and $20 for local acts, and $25 and $35 for most touring headliners, with a few shows, such as Sanborn and Bridgewater & Mayfield, going up to $50 or more. Season subscriptions for the various series are on sale now, with single tickets available starting at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, August 19.

And now, some additional observations:

* In the same news conference, Jazz St. Louis also announced "Swingin’ for the Fences," a three-part series of events this summer that will "explore the connection between two of St. Louis favorites: jazz and baseball." The series steps up to the plate on Thursday, July 23 at the Bistro with "Big Bands & Baseball," which will feature a talk by writer and Smithsonian curator John Edward Hasse, followed by a performance by the Jazz St. Louis Big Band.

It continues on Thursday, July 30 at the Bistro with writer and Washington University professor Gerald Early presenting a talk on "Jazz & the Negro Leagues: A Story of Black Urbanization," and concludes on Sunday, August 2 with a "town picnic" at Lafayette Park. That event will feature "a vintage ballgame using rules from the late 1800s" followed by an outdoor concert by the Spats ‘n’ Flapper Speakeasy Orchestra, a group based in Clear Lake, IA that plays traditional jazz of the 1920s and 30s.

* Local acts making their official debuts at the Bistro next year will include the eclectic acoustic ensemble The 442s, funk band The Service, and bassist Jahmal Nichols. While this may seem like a relatively small number, it could increase, as more St. Louis bands and musicians filling out the rest of the 2016 part of the schedule will be announced at a later date.

* There will be two full weeks of seasonal programming in December, with trumpeter Jim Manley reprising his holiday show, plus a weekend of drummer Matt Wilson's Christmas Tree-O (making their Bistro debut, though Jazz St. Louis presented them last year at Joe's Cafe) and three performances of Duke Ellington's "Nutcracker" by the Jazz St. Louis Big Band.

* While the talent level of the members of the SFJAZZ Collective is unquestionably high, the music of Michael Jackson seems an odd choice for a critically acclaimed group whose previous seasons have explored the catalogs of Thelonious Monk, Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, and other substantive jazz composers.

Setting aside for the moment the fact that Jackson, though no doubt a uniquely gifted entertainer, only wrote or co-wrote a portion of his own material, there still would seem to be a large number of jazz musicians remaining whose compositions are deserving of further examination and exposure.

Given the oceanic glut of tribute shows that jazz fans have been subjected to over the past decade-plus, passing over those jazz composers, lesser known though they may be, to do music associated with Jackson feels uncomfortably close to pandering. (Note that while this is not a Jazz St. Louis issue per se, as the SFJAZZ Collective chooses their own touring programs, this seemed to be the appropriate time to get my skepticism on the record.)

* Irvin Mayfield currently finds himself involved in considerable controversy in his hometown, with a story published Monday in the New Orleans Times-Picayune noting that, "At least three appearances for musician Irvin Mayfield have been canceled this week, and he will not be performing for the rest of the month at the Bourbon Street club that bears his name. Mayfield's schedule changes come amid increasing scrutiny into his role in the spending of nearly $1 million in nonprofit resources." Some press accounts even have suggested there may be potential for criminal charges to be brought, which of course then could affect Mayfield's touring plans.

* Speaking of New Orleans, it's nice that trumpeter and St. Louis expat Jeremy Davenport gets invited back from there to play the Bistro every year at Thanksgiving. So why is it that some other former St. Louisans who seem to be held in equally high regard within the jazz community - such as the saxophonists Oliver Lake and Greg Osby - aren't asked to return more frequently?

True, both Lake and Osby have headlined at the Bistro before; the former most recently in 2009, the latter in 2007. But after enough years have elapsed since those gigs, at some point the lack of a return visit no longer can be blamed on the vagaries of scheduling or similar. So one can't help but wonder if the issues preventing their return are musical, financial, personal, or "other" in nature.

* Other musicians StLJN would like to see back in St. Louis sometime soon: Singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding (who's no doubt in high demand these days); Snarky Puppy (ditto); drummer Jack DeJohnette; and pianist Jason Moran. Also notably absent from local stages in recent memory have been saxophonists Charles Lloyd and Steve Coleman; trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire; and singer Gretchen Parlato, who has yet to make her St. Louis debut.

Then, there are the veteran multi-instrumentalists Henry Threadgill and Anthony Braxton, both of whom may have played here at sometime in the distant past, but in any case are long overdue for St. Louis performances; and a vast number of Chicago musicians, from saxophonist Ken Vandermark to flute player Nicole Mitchell and a whole host of AACM-associated players, who never seem to make it here despite it being less than a day's drive down I-55 from our town.

While it's conceivable that New Music Circle eventually may pick up some of the slack with some of the more experimentally oriented musicians from this group, it's likely they just don't have the financial resources to afford musicians like DeJohnette or Lloyd, both major jazz figures who regularly headline at important festivals and concert halls, yet have not played here in decades. So if Jazz St. Louis doesn't do it, who will?

* On a similar note, now that the new Bistro apparently has the necessary seating capacity to make big band performances financially viable, perhaps Jazz St. Louis might entertain the idea of someday booking a touring big band not led by Wynton Marsalis.

Given the organization's historic reluctance/antipathy towards avant-garde music, it likely would be too much to ask for JSL to bring the Sun Ra Arkestra to town, but what about the Maria Schneider Orchestra, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, the Mingus Big Band, Either/Orchestra, or another of the big bands who don't quite fit the more traditional Basie/Kenton/Ferguson-inspired template usually favored by the Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival?

Granted, not all these bands tour with anything approaching the regularity of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. But then again - pulling together two threads from this collection of miscellany - the aforementioned Oliver Lake has a big band that gigged just last week, as does fellow saxophonist and St. Louis expat Eric Person. The point being, there doesn't seem to be a shortage of potentially interesting big bands that are not JaLCO. And again, this seems like a case of "If they don't do it, no one will."

So, what do you think of Jazz St. Louis' 2015-16 schedule? Your comments are welcome, either here on the main StLJN site or on Facebook.

Update after posting to fix a couple of garbled sentences.

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