As part of its Live at Powell Hall" series, the SLSO will present a program called The Music of Ray Charles" on Friday, September 21. Charles' vast catalog certainly provides plenty of material to work with, and with the right songs and vocal soloists, it could be a solid programas long as no one at the SLSO makes the mistake of thinking they can sound credible trying to play Charles' early rhythm and blues material.
Much more problematic, however, is the booking of Kenny G to perform with the orchestra the following evening, Saturday, September 22. Given the near-universal critical revulsion of the saxophonist, the rather insubstantial nature of his material, and the bland mediocrity of his playing, it's hard to see this show as anything but a blatant, pandering money grab, unless you choose to view it as a carefully studied insult to the tastes of both local jazz enthusiasts and the SLSO's own patrons. Either way, it seems a terrible lapse in artistic judgment that one can only fervently hope won't ever be repeated.
(And yes, yr. humble editor remembers writing back in 2010 that all the critical vitriol expended on the G-Man was basically a waste of everyone's time. However, it's one thing for him to play his own show somewhere, and another thing entirely for him to be endorsed by an ostensibly serious musical organization like the SLSO.)
On a more harmonious note, the SLSO has booked trumpeter Wynton Marsalis (pictured) and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra as the musical main attraction for the organization's annual fundraising gala, which will be held on Saturday, October 20 at Powell Hall. The concert will feature the St. Louis premiere of Marsalis' Swing Symphony, which received its world premiere in 2010 in Berlin and later was broadcast as a PBS special.
The SLSO also has set a return appearance for trumpeter Chris Botti, who will perform with the orchestra on February 23 at Powell Hall. Botti appeared with the SLSO last February, and will be here in a couple of weeks on Friday, February 24 to play the Peabody Opera House.
The 2012-13 season also will include performances of contemporary orchestral works by Thomas Adès, Cindy McTee, John Adams and Christopher Rouse, as well as a continuation of the SLSO-sponsored concerts at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, which also have featured music by living composers. To see the entire season schedule and purchase tickets, visit the SLSO's website.