Jazz This Week: Bill Charlap and Houston Person, Alarm Will Sound, Peter Martin, so Percussion, Willie Pickens, and More


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This week's menu of jazz and creative music around St. Louis includes performances by three top pianists representing NYC, Chicago and St. Louis, plus local stops for two acclaimed touring new music ensembles, and much more. Let's go to the highlights...

Tonight, pianist Bill Charlap (pictured) and guest tenor saxophonist Houston Person open an four-night engagement continuing through Saturday at Jazz at the Bistro.

Both men have played at the Bistro separately before, but this will be their first time joining forces here in St. Louis. Though of different generations, Charlap, a 47-year-old New Yorker, and Person, who's 79 and originally from South Carolina, have compatible musical values centered firmly in the jazz mainstream.

Given that, they also should have an extensive repertoire to draw upon, so part of the fun of a gig like this is seeing what tunes they'll end up picking to perform. For more about Person, and some video samples of him performing a half-dozen well-known tunes, check out this video post from last Saturday.

Also tonight, members of The 442s, singer Brian Owens, and others from the St. Louis Symphony will present a free Black History Month concert, “Someday We'll Be Free - Celebrating The Music of Donny Hathaway," at Powell Symphony Hall.

Tomorrow night, drummer Maurice Carnes and his trio, featuring saxophonist Freddie Washington, will play a free concert for the Jazz at Holmes series at Washington University. Also on Thursday, the 20-member chamber orchestra Alarm Will Sound* returns to the Sheldon Concert Hall with a program of music from their next album, including compositions by Edgard Varese, the Beatles, Conlon Nancarrow, Charles Wuorinen, and more. 

On Friday, St. Louis' own Peter Martin will be back at Sheldon for the first concert of the year in his ongoing eponymous series there. The pianist's theme this time is “Chamber Jazz," and Martin will showcase some of his new compositions via an ensemble including Bjorn Ranheim on cello and Shawn Weil on violin, plus bassist Chris Thomas and drummer Rob Woodie.

Also on Friday, saxophonist Jim Stevens will team with Good 4 the Soul to present “The Music of David Sanborn" at the Wildey Theatre;  Miss Jubilee performs at the Moonshine Blues Bar in St. Charles; the Knights of Swing play for dancers at the Casa Loma Ballroom; and Lindy Hop St. Louis' monthly  “West End Stomp" dance at the Mahler Ballroom will feature music from The Sidemen. 

On Saturday afternoon, Saxquest will present another in their series of free performances and workshops, featuring saxophonist Randy Hamm with pianist Kyle Aho, plus a set by the Missouri Saxophone Quartet. 

Then on Saturday evening, the much-talked-about new music group So Percussion performs at the Touhill Performing Arts Center as part of their tour this month of University of Missouri campuses; and trumpeter Randy Holmes' quintet will offer a Black History Month-themed performance at Robbie's House of Jazz.

On Sunday afternoon, veteran Chicago pianist Willie Pickens will be in town to play with drummer Jerome “Scrooge" Harris and friends in a jazz brunch performance benefiting Community Women Against Hardship at the Bistro at Grand Center. Later that afternoon, guitarist Steve Schenkel's quartet will play a free concert for the “Inner Jazz" series at Kirkwood United Church of Christ.

Looking beyond the weekend, on Monday pianist Kim Portnoy and his group will perform original music in a concert at Webster University's Winifred Moore Auditorium; and the Sessions Big Band will play downtown at BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups

Then on Tuesday, the St. Louis Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of bassist Jim Widner, will be back at the Touhill for a program of music from “A Night at the Movies"; and guitarist Vincent Varvel will lead a trio at the Tavern of Fine Arts.

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