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Jazz this week: Jane Monheit, Douglas Ewart and the STL Free Jazz Collective, Battle Trance, holiday jazz begins, and more

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This week's busy calendar of live jazz and creative music in St. Louis includes a return engagement from one of the most popular female vocalists in jazz; a couple of shows featuring adventurous woodwind players; the first few of what will be many holiday-themed concerts for the season; and more.

Let's go to the highlights...

Wednesday, November 29

Singer Jane Monheit returns to St. Louis for the first of four nights at Jazz at the Bistro. Monheit last performed here in 2015 with singer and guitarist John Pizzarelli at the Sheldon's annual benefit gala, and before that in 2014 at the Bistro.

She first won wide public attention shortly after the turn of the century, applying a plush vocal tone and a sure sense of swing to mostly standards from the Great American Songbook. Since then, Monheit has released a dozen albums as a leader, and also made guest appearances on record with a wide variety of performers, from fellow singers such as Sara Gazarek and Tony DeSare to instrumentalists including David Benoit, Ray Brown Jr., and many others.

After recording for five different labels, including Sony, Concord, and Decca/EmArcy. Monheit in 2016 started her own record company, Emerald City Records, inaugurating the imprint with the release of The Songbook Sessions, a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald. Listeners this week at the Bistro can expect an emphasis on that material, though the multi-night gig also should give Monheit a chance to dig into her back catalog as well.

Also on Wednesday, singer Joe Mancuso continues his weekly gig at Taha'a Twisted Tiki in The Grove; the Cary Colman Jazz Trio plays at Evangeline's; and this week's “Grand Center Jazz Crawl" features Jacob Alspach at Squatters Cafe/The Stage at KDHX, the jam session led by bassist Bob DeBoo at the Kranzberg Arts Center, and trumpeter Kasimu Taylor's band at The Dark Room.

Thursday, November 30

Guitarist Vincent Varvel leads a quartet in a free concert for the Jazz at Holmes series at Washington University; the Liberation Organ Trio plays at Evangeline's; singer Feyza Eren and her quartet will perform at Joe's Cafe; and saxophonist Ben Reece's Unity Quartet returns to The Dark Room.

Friday, December 1

Pianist Carolbeth True and Two Times True with guest vocalist Kim Fuller will perform at the Webster Groves Concert Hall; singer/guitarist Tommy Halloran continues his weekly residency at Das Bevo Underground; and saxophonist Tim Cunningham is at Troy's Jazz Gallery.

Saturday, December 2

Freddie Washington will be the latest local saxophonist to be featured in Saxquest's series of free Saturday matinee performances, while just down the street at Dead Wax Records, Battle Trance will be promoting their Saturday evening show for New Music Circle with a free in-store performance.

Then, as fate would have it, Saturday evening offers a tough choice for fans of woodwinds and/or creative music, with two shows of interest happening simultaneously.

Battle Trance, who will be making their St. Louis debut in their Saturday evening concert at The Luminary, is an ensemble of four tenor saxophonists who use extended techniques to play music that's a mix of composition and improvisation, though it can be hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. You can find out more about them, and see videos of some sample live performances, in this post from a couple of Saturdays ago.

Meanwhile, across town in the Old North neighborhood, multi-instrumentalist Douglas Ewart will be in town to join the STL Free Jazz Collective for a free concert at the 14th St. Artist Community.

Ewart, who plays a whole arsenal of woodwinds, percussion, and self-made instruments, was one of early members of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and has performed and/or recorded with many of the most important creative musicians of the past half-century. There's more about Ewart, including videos of some of his live performances, in this post from last Saturday.

Sunday, December 3

It's another day for matinees, as the St. Louis Jazz Club presents Cornet Chop Suey playing traditional jazz and swing at the Moolah Shrine Temple, while the Friends of Scott Joplin present their monthly “Ragtime Rendezvous" at the Scott Joplin House State Historic Site's Rosebud Cafe.

Also on Sunday afternoon, the UMSL Jazz Ensemble directed by Jim Widner, Vocal Point, and University Orchestra will present their annual free concert, “UMSL's Jazz For The Holidays," at the Touhill Performing Arts Center; and trumpeter Randy Holmes, singer and impressionist Dean Christopher, and a mini-big band will pay tribute to Frank Sinatra and Hoagy Carmichael at the Webster Groves Concert Hall.

Monday, December 4

Trumpeter Jim Manley is back at Momo's Greek Restaurant, and Washington University's student jazz combos will show off what they've learned this semester in a free performance at the 560 Music Center.

Tuesday, December 5

Dean Christopher, having a busy week, headlines “A Vegas 'Rat Pack and More' Christmas" at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved.

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