Jazz This Week: Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival, Yellowjackets, Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Del McCoury Band, Vanessa Rubin, and More


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It's another busy week for jazz and creative music in St. Louis, with a number of touring musicians and groups performing here over the next several days in styles ranging from traditional New Orleans jazz to big band to fusion to free improv. Let's go to the highlights:

Tonight, the electric jazz/fusion group Yellowjackets returns to St. Louis to open a four-night stand at Jazz at the Bistro. The 'Jackets have been regular visitors to St. Louis, though this will be their first time here since former drummer Will Kennedy returned to the fold last year to replace St. Louis native Marcus Baylor, who spent ten years with them. Given their substantial local fan base, they should draw a good-sized crowd even with everything else going on this week, so advance reservations definitely are recommended.

Also tonight, the highly anticipated tour featuring the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and bluegrass star Del McCoury's band comes to the Family Arena. (The show originally was scheduled for last fall, then postponed until this week.) If you're curious as to what this combination of roots music talent sounds like, the collaborative CD American Legacies featuring both groups has just been released this week, and you can listen to it stream online for free here. Local music freelancer Dan Duchholz also wrote a nice preview story about the show for the Post-Dispatch, and you can read that online here.

Rounding out tonight's musical offerings is percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani, who will organize and perform with a “Gong Orchestra" comprised of local improvising musicians at Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center. Nakatani also will teach a free master class on improvisation and extended percussion techniques at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon at LNAC.

Tomorrow night, the Jazz at Holmes series at Washington University wraps up its spring 2011 series with the music of the Crusaders performed by a group billed as Scratch (which is the title of one of the Crusaders 1970s recordings.) Oddly, JaH has released no information about the specific lineup of players, other than the so-vague-as-to-be-useless description of “some of St. Louis' best musicians," so there's not much more to say about this show.

Also on Thursday, Simon Shaheen will play at SIUE's Meridian Ballroom. Shaheen, a Palestinian-American oud and violin player and composer who mixes Arabic music with Western sounds and has performed with Bill Laswell, Henry Threadgill and the Klezmatics, is appearing as part of SIUE's Arts and Issues series.

On Friday, the public portion of the 2011 Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival begins with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra playing at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. Descended from the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, the VJO has been a Monday night fixture at NYC's Village Vanguard for more than 40 years, serving as a proving ground for several generations of players and arrangers. The UMSL Jazz Ensemble will open the festival's shows on both Friday and Saturday, and they'll by joined onstage by the legendary Clark Terry, who, though no longer able to play trumpet due to health issues, will pick up the mic to sing his famously mushmouthed blues “Mumbles."

Also on Friday, guitarist Brian Vaccaro's trio plays at Robbie's House of Jazz; and guitarist Eric Slaughter's trio will hold forth at the Cigar Inn in Belleville.

The GSLJF continues on Saturday as bassist Ron Carter (pictured) returns to St. Louis for the first time since the mid-1980s to perform at the TouPAC. One of the most recorded and most influential bassists of the past 50 years, Carter will play with his Golden Striker trio, featuring pianist Mulgrew Miller and guitarist Russell Malone. For more about them and the VJO, and some video samples of both groups, please see this post from last Saturday.

Also on Saturday, New Music Circle present the premiere of its Laptop Orchestra Project at the William A. Kerr Foundation, which is at 21 O'Fallon St on the riverfront, just north of Laclede's Landing. The event will feature musicians Jim Hegarty, Steven Thomas, Joseph Potthoff, James S. Hegarty and Thomas Zirkle using laptop computers to perform improvised works and original compositions, as well as pieces by the Princeton Laptop Orchestra, which originated the laptop ensemble concept.

On Sunday, saxophonist Paul DeMarinis will lead his group in an early evening performance at Second Baptist Church for the St. Louis Jazz and Blues Vespers series, and the Northern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble, directed by saxophonist Ronald Carter, will perform at Robbie's.

Robbie's web site this week also added a note that trumpeter Randy Brecker will appear a guest artist with the NIU band, but StLJN has been unable to verify that information as of this writing.

Update׮:30 p.m., 4/13/11: The itinerary on Brecker's website shows Sunday, April 17 as the final day of a five-performance tour with the NIU Jazz Ensemble, but identifies the venue as the Sheldon Concert Hall. The Sheldon's website makes no mention of the show, so it would appear that Robbie's somehow wound up as a substitute venue, and Brecker will indeed be there.

Update㬆:50 p.m., 4/13/11: Just heard from Dorothy Edwards, the co-owner/general manager of Robbie's, who confirmed that Randy Brecker will be in the house on Sunday night. Spread the word...

Looking beyond the weekend, on Monday singer Vanessa Rubin will be at SIUE for two free events sponsored by the university's Singer's Society. She'll lead a master class for vocalists at 3:00 p.m., then perform in concert that night with the SIUE Vocal Jazz Ensemble. Both events are open to the public, and will take place at Dunham Hall on the SIUE campus.

Also on Monday, pianist Peter Martin and singer Erin Bode are performing at Roberts Orpheum Theater as part of benefit kicking off St. Louis Design Week 2011; and the Sessions Big Band returns to BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups.

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