This week, let's take a brief look at some of the musicians who will be coming to St. Louis this month for the Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival, which takes place Thursday, April 18 through Saturday, April 20 at the Touhill Performing Arts Center and Jazz at the Bistro.
Student jazz bands from around the area will take part in workshops and adjudications during the three days of the event at the University of Missouri St. Louis, but for the general public, the action begins on Thursday night when clarinetist/saxophonist Anat Cohen and drummer Matt Wilson team up for a performance at the Bistro.
Then on Friday night, the Monterey Jazz Festival 55th Anniversary All-Stars will perform at the Touhill. An all-star sextet assembled specifically for this tour, the group features singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, bassist Christian McBride, pianist Benny Green, drummer Lewis Nash, saxophonist Chris Potter, and trumpet player Ambrose Akinmusire. The GSLJF then concludes on Saturday at the Touhill with a performance by the Doc Severinsen Big Band.
Up above, you can see Cohen playing her composition Anat's Dance" at a gig last June in Washington, DC, backed by pianist Jason Lindner, bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Daniel Freedman. For more about Cohen and additional videos of her performing, check out this post that preceded her headlining gig at the Bistro in February of last year.
As has been the case for the past several years, the GSLJF's Thursday night show will feature a combination of musicians who usually don't work together - in this case, Cohen and drummer Matt Wilson, who's played in St. Louis with his band Arts & Crafts several times in recent years. Down below, you can see Arts & Crafts performing Wilson's tune Bubbles," in a video shot last year at NYC's Tribeca Arts Center. Along with Wilson, that's Terell Stafford on trumpet, Gary Versace on keyboards and Martin Wind on bass.
A couple of the members of Monterey Jazz Festival all-star band also have played here recently with their own groups, and were featured at that time in a video post here. You can see clips of Chris Potter in this post from last December and this one from February 2011, and videos of Christian McBride in posts from 2009 and 2010.
As for the rest of the ensemble, in the next embed window down below you can see trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, performing last year with his band at the Jazz Standard in NYC. Below that, there's a clip of Dee Dee Bridgewater and Benny Green, whipping up a duet on All Blues" earlier this year while visiting the studios of radio station WPLU in Tacoma, WA.
The final two clips feature Doc Severinsen, who gained national fame as the longtime bandleader for NBC's Tonight Show during Johnny Carson's tenure as host, and remains remarkably active today at age 85. In addition to performing with his big band and the small group San Miguel Five, Severinsen continues to do educational events and make guest appearances similar to the one depicted in today's fifth clip, which shows him performing The September Song" with the U.S. Army Blues Jazz Ensemble just last year at the National Trumpet Competition at George Mason University.
Contrast that with the sixth clip, a vintage Severinsen performance of Blues In The Night" and Sunday Morning" recorded way back in 1965 for a local charity telethon in Louisville, Kentucky. While Severinsen's tone and range might not be quite what they were nearly 50 years ago, it's impressive and inspiring to see the degree to which he's been able to maintain his skills at an age when most brass musicians have long since retired.
Severinsen's big band draws on material from his recording career, famous standards, and the book of arrangements used by the Tonight Show band, and features some top-drawer players from the West Coast, including the great tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts. Although there no doubt will be some familiar favorites in the set list, Severinsen's remarks at the start of the clip from 2012 would suggest that he's not content just to relive the past.