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Jazz This Week: Bela Fleck and the Africa Project; a Tribute to Eddie Jefferson; Jan Shapiro; Matt Wilson; Ntozake Shange and Hamiet Bluiett; and More

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There's lots going on in St. Louis over the next few days with regard to jazz and creative music, so let's go right to the highlights, starting with tonight when the much-anticipated Bela Fleck and the Africa Project tour comes to the Sheldon Concert Hall. For more on the Africa Project, see this article that I wrote for last week's Riverfront Times. Also, new this week, Playback STL's Amy Burger has a piece on the show here.

Next up come three performances in which the human voice will play a key role, beginning with “The Genius of Eddie Jefferson," which opens tonight at Jazz at the Bistro and runs through Saturday. This tribute to the late jazz singer and lyricist features vocalists Carla Cook and Allan Harris and pianist Eric Reed, and there's lots to see and hear about them and Jefferson in this post from last Saturday.

Also, Jazz St. Louis is offering a two-tickets-for-the-price-of-one deal for the 8:30 p.m. show on Thursday only; for details on how to get the discount, see this post. As a longtime fan of Eddie Jefferson, I'm glad to see his music revisited in this way; the fact that it can be done by two singers as different from Jefferson (and each other) as Cook and Harris certainly is a testament to its wide range of expression and long-lasting appeal.

On Thursday night, singer and St. Louis expat Jan Shapiro, who now heads the jazz vocal program at Berklee College of Music in Boston, will perform with guitarist William Lenihan in a free concert for the Jazz at Holmes series at Washington University. As you'd expect from a vocal teacher, Shapiro's got a fine technique, and unlike many of the more callow female singers on the scene today, she's lived enough to know how to use that technique to best advantage while imbuing her song interpretations with some real emotional weight.

Moving on to Saturday afternoon, the Nu-Art Series will present poet and author Ntozake Shange in a spoken word performance with music from legendary baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett and multi-instrumentalist Dr. London Branch starting at 3:00 p.m. at the Metropolitan Gallery, 2936 Locust St. in downtown St. Louis. The program also will feature the musical group JBMG, which includes the grandchildren of singer Fontella Bass and trumpet player Lester Bowie.

On Saturday evening, trombonist and low brass man Lamar Harris brings his mix of jazz, funk, hip-hop, R&B, classical and who-knows-what-else to downtown's newest live music venue, the St. Louis Jazz Cafe.

Then on Sunday afternoon, drummer Matt Wilson (pictured) and his Quartet will do a matinee starting at 3:00 p.m. at the Black Cat Theatre. in Maplewood. The group, founded in 1996, includes Andrew D'Angelo on alto saxophone and bass clarinet, Jeff Lederer on tenor and soprano saxophones and clarinet, and Chris Lightcap on acoustic and electric bass. Wilson is a consistently interesting drummer as well as a prolific and sometimes provocative bandleader, and given that the Quartet has played together since 1996, they've got a lot of shared experience and repertoire to mine, which should make for an entertaining and musically substantive show.

UPDATE, 4/1/09, 1:00 p.m. - As yr. humble editor is not really the charity-party type, I neglected to mention in the first version of this post that this Sunday is also the date of Jazz St. Louis' annual fundraising gala, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark. The event features dinner, an auction, cocktail music from the Jazz St. Louis All-Stars student ensemble, and a headlining set from the lovely Italian-born, Berklee-educated singer Chiara Civello.

Tickets are $250 per person. I don't know if there's any room left as of this writing, but if you'd like to go, you can contact Melissa Jones at Jazz St. Louis by calling 314-289-4037 or via email at melissa@jazzstl.org to ask about ticket availability.

Looking beyond the weekend, on Sunday night, the eclectically funky Good 4 The Soul plays the early set at BB's Jazz Blues and Soups, and the St. Louis New Jazz X-Tet holds forth as usual at Riddles. On Monday night, the Sessions Big Band returns to BB's, and on Tuesday, Bennett Wood and Friends are back at The Gramophone.

As always, these are just some of the more noteworthy shows happening around St. Louis this week, and with the start of a new month, there will undoubtedly some updates and additions over the next few days. To see the latest listings for jazz-related events in St. Louis this weekend and beyond, please visit the St. Louis Jazz Notes Calendar.

(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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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
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