Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Jazz this week: Ben Reece Unity Quartet, California Guitar Trio, Kevin Bowers' NOVA, "Sculptures in Sound," and more

With performances inspired by pre-historic cave paintings, the upcoming solar eclipse, Bach, Tennessee Williams, French silent film, and more, this week's calendar of live jazz and creative music in St. Louis draws from a vast variety of influences.

Let's go to the highlights...

Wednesday, May 3
Saxophonist Ben Reece’s Unity Quartet will make their debut in the first of the two nights at Jazz at the Bistro.

The band features Reece (pictured, top left) and fellow saxophonist Austin Cebulskii (who replaced him in the Funky Butt Brass Band) plus drummer Marty Morrison and bassist Bob DeBoo, playing Reece's original music and arrangements of standards.

Also tonight in Grand Center, Bertha in Paradise, a play-with-music featuring singer Anita Jackson and pianist Charles Creath that's part of the Tennessee Williams Festival, opens a run continuing through Sunday, May 14 at the Curtain Call Lounge, while the rest of the Grand Center Jazz Crawl proceeds as usual.

Elsewhere around town, there are just two days left to catch a local screening of I Called Him Morgan, the new documentary about trumpeter Lee Morgan, at the Tivoli Theatre.

Thursday, May 4
The California Guitar Trio (pictured, center left) performs at the Old Rock House. Although none of them are actually from  California, acoustic guitarists Bert Lams (who's from Belgium), Hideyo Moriya (a native of Japan), and Paul Richards (who grew up in Utah) offer a crowd-pleasing variety of instrumental styles, from jazz to classical to surf music, delivered with technical polish.

Friday, May 5
Drummer Kevin Bowers' NOVA will perform for the first of two nights at Jazz at the Bistro. Named after Bowers' recent album - described as an imaginary "soundtrack to a movie starring Fred Astaire and Lena Horne, directed by Federico Fellini" - the ensemble will play Bowers' original music incorporating influences from Africa, Brazilian samba, and psychedelic rock; solo drum pieces; and more.

Also on Friday, the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles will hold a fundraiser with music from the Sentimental Journey Dance Band; and the Mizzou New Music Ensemble will be in from Columbia to perform "Eclipse Symphony," a new multi-part work by student composers, in a free concert at the McDonnell Planetarium in Forest Park.

Saturday, May 6
On Saturday morning, the St. Louis Art Museum presents a screening of the 1930 French silent film Au Bonheur Des Dames (Ladies' Paradise) with a live musical score by Elsie Parker and The Poor People of Paris.

Saturday night, the St. Louis Artists' Guild will wrap up their "Sculptures in Sound" series this spring with a performance from saxophonist Christopher Braig's Aboriginal Quartet, featuring trumpeter and Indiana University faculty member Patrick Harbison (pictured, bottom left), bassist Ben Wheeler and drummer Steve Davis.

The event will present a long-form work by Braig, inspired by 30,000-year-old cave paintings discovered in southern France in 1994, that will combine "multiple musical styles, movement, live painting, storytelling, lighting and the natural resonances of the St. Louis Artists’ Guild gallery into a multisensory experience."

Sunday, May 7
Pianist Carolbeth True and Two Times True with singer Kim Fuller will perform in a special service at Second Presbyterian Church in the Central West End, and the Friends of Scott Joplin present their monthly "Ragtime Rendezvous" at the Scott Joplin House State Historic Site.

Monday, May 8
Saxophonist Jamison Williams and bassist Thomas Milovac, two free improvising players from Florida, will perform at the Grand Center art gallery Duet, with the Vernacular String Trio opening.

Tuesday, May 9
The St. Louis Bach Festival, a month-long celebration of the composer's music, will present "Jazz & Bach" at Jazz at the Bistro. The program features guitarist Steve Schenkel, pianist Kim Portnoy, and singer David Gordon using Bach's music as a springboard for improvisation.

Also on Tuesday, guitarist Tom Byrne and singer Erika Johnson perform at Evangeline's, and the new weekly jam session hosted by drummer Montez Coleman will be happening at Troy's Jazz Gallery.

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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