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Jazz This Week: Chris Potter Underground, Craig Hultgren, Jazz St. Louis' Benefit Gala, Mardi Gras Music, and More


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It's Mardi Gras week, and here in St. Louis there's a variety of jazz and creative music coming up on local stages (though not at the city's official Mardi Gras celebration; a bit more about that later.) Let's go the highlights...

The most highly anticipated performer of the week likely is saxophonist Chris Potter (pictured), who brings his electric group Underground to Jazz at the Bistro for the first time beginning tonight and continuing through Saturday. The 40-year-old Potter has been one of the more talked-about saxophonists on the scene for a decade now, and though he's played the Bistro before with his acoustic group, Jazz St. Louis tried for a couple of years to get Underground here before the proverbial stars finally aligned this season. Given both of those factors, expect good crowds for Potter all weekend, but at last word, there were tickets remaining for most sets.

For more about Potter, check out this StLJN video post from last Saturday; this short article by Calvin Wilson from last Friday's Post-Dispatch; this 2008 NPR broadcast featuring a set of Underground recorded live at NYC's Village Vanguard; and this 2010 interview with Potter conducted for the jazz studies program at NYU.

On Thursday, the Funky Butt Brass Band will get the weekend started with an early evening set at the Blues City Deli; and guitarist Eric Slaughter's trio will play a free concert for the Jazz at Holmes series at Washington University.

The FBBB will be back in action for an hour Friday night, performing from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. for the Mayor's Ball at City Hall before yielding to the band Groovethang, best known for their tribute shows to Earth Wind & Fire and Steely Dan. Alas, said hour-long set would appear to be the only jazz and/or blues-related sounds offered at any of this year's official St. Louis Mardi Gras events; all the music for Saturday's parade-related doings in Soulard is slated to come from DJs and a list of depressingly generic-seeming local rock cover bands. (Yr. humble StLJN editor has ranted about the lack of appropriate music at these events before; follow the links to learn all the reasons why I think the Mardi Gras powers-that-be continue to err in their music-booking reasoning. )

Fortunately, there's jazz to be found elsewhere throughout the weekend, starting on Friday as saxophonist Kendrick Smith's quartet plays at Robbie's House of Jazz; and guitarist Tom Byrne's trio, with Phil Graves on drums and Chris Watrous on bass, is at the Cigar Inn in Belleville.

On Saturday, the Funky Butt Brass Band will perform in late afternoon at the Old Rock House, along with the New Orleans R&B/funk cover band Gumbohead, with whom they share a couple of members.

That evening, cellist Craig Hultgren will employ his impressive array of extended techniques in a performance at Focal Point under the auspices of New Music Circle, and saxophonist Stan Coleman's University Jazz Big Band takes the stage at Robbie's.

Also on Saturday, guitarist William Lenihan's trio will play a Mardi Gras-themed fundraiser at Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Charles to benefit the church's choir program; and the eclectic roots music band Sins of the Pioneers will play jazz, blues, honky tonk and more at Iron Barley's basement room Fred's 6-Foot Under.

On Sunday, the St. Louis Record Collector and CD Show will hold their spring event, typically the largest and best attended of year, at the American Czech Hall on the south side.

That evening, Jazz St. Louis will hold their annual fundraising gala at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark, featuring dinner, an auction, and music from the Jazz St. Louis All-Stars student group, saxophonist Ronald Carter and the East St. Louis High School Jazz Band, and the seemingly ubiquitous Funky Butt Brass Band. Tickets start at $250 per person, and proceeds benefit Jazz St. Louis' educational programs. For more information, call JSL's Melissa Jones at 314-289-4037 or email her at melissa @

Also on Sunday is the March edition of the monthly jam session at Bossanova Restaurant and Lounge in Alton, featuring saxophonist Jason Swagler and Eric Slaughter's trio with Marty Morrison and bassist Nick Jost.

Looking beyond the weekend, on Fat Tuesday you can catch the Funky Butt/Gumbohead combination at the Broadway Oyster Bar, or take in the traditional jazz sounds of Bud Shultz and his “You Can't Beat Experience" Jazz Band as they perform for a Mardi Gras celebration at the Lewis & Clark Community College's Benjamin Godfrey Memorial Chapel in Godfrey, IL.

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