Jazz This Week: Return to Forever IV with Zappa Plays Zappa, Wild Cool and Swingin', and More
While indie rock fans at least have this weekend's LouFest to enliven their late August existence, jazz and creative music listeners in St. Louis have fewer options during the annual interregnum between the end of various summer concert series and the start of the fall presenting season. But rather than complain about what's not happening, instead let's call attention to those intrepid jazz musicians who are treading the proverbial boards to bring us some cool sounds during these dog days.
The marquee event of the weekend happens tonight, when the recently retooled version of the 1970s jazz-fusion group now known as Return to Forever IV (pictured) performs at the Fox Theatre, with Zappa Plays Zappa as opening act. This current edition of RTF includes Jean-Luc Ponty on violin, along with Frank Gambale on guitar in place of Al DiMeola, who played on RTF's 2008 reunion tour but declined to participate this time around.
For more about the new configuration of this venerable band, you can see some videos of RTF IV shot during various tour stops earlier this year in this Saturday Video Showcase post from a couple of weeks ago, and drummer Lenny White talked to Calvin Wilson of the Post-Dispatch for a very brief article here. For more about the opening act, you can read StLJN's review of Zappa Plays Zappa's first St. Louis appearance back in 2006 here, and see some video of them here. As of this writing, it appears there still are some tickets available for tonight's concert; call Metrotix at 314-531-1111 for the latest details.
Also tonight, multi-instrumentalist Jeff Anderson picks up his tenor sax to lead a quintet at Robbie's House of Jazz, joined by Danny Campbell (trumpet), Matt Villinger (piano), Irvin Neal (drums), and bassist Kent Miller, who's in town from Washington, DC for a brief visit.
On Friday evening, trumpeter Jim Manley and Wild Cool & Swingin' will be joined by singers Dean Christopher and Valerie Tichacek for a concert at the Parkway United Church of Christ, 2841 N. Ballas Rd. Proceeds from the performance will benefit the children of Lisa O'Brien, a police dispatcher in Town and Country who died suddenly last month at age 31 of complications from a respiratory illness.
Also on Friday evening, saxophonist Jeff Riley will be at Robbie's; the Yard Dawgs Jazz Quartet, with Brady Page (bass), Dusty Page drums), Bryce Kohn (saxophone) and Sam Brush (guitar), plays at the Cigar Inn in Belleville; and the Ambassadors of Swing perform for dancers at the Casa Loma Ballroom.
On Saturday afternoon, the Bluesweek festival, now in its second year, is presenting a set from an ad hoc jazz ensemble billed as the Jazz Masters and featuring Willie Akins (tenor and soprano sax), Erika Johnson (vocals), Dave Black (guitar), Peter Schlamb (vibes), Keith Moyer (trumpet), Marc Torlina (bass) and Joe Pastore (drums). Bluesweek's free outdoor shows are being held this year on a stage at Washington Avenue and 6th Street downtown, near the location of the proposed National Blues Museum. For a complete schedule of Bluesweek activities, see the event website.
On Saturday night, the eclectic string band Swing DeVille performs at Robbie's, offering a multi-genre blend of Gypsy jazz, western swing, old pop and jazz standards, and more. That same evening, singer Christy Simmons will present a cabaret show paying tribute to Rosemary Clooney at The Chapel, with accompaniment from clarinetist Scott Alberici, drummer Clancy Newell and pianist Mike Sissin.