Jazz this week: "Songs of Freedom," Ramsey Lewis, Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya, and more

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It's another jam-packed week of live jazz and creative music in St. Louis, with two esteemed pianists appearing back-to-back at one of the city's best-sounding halls; a retrospective of music from three of the 1960s' most provocative female vocalists, starring a St. Louis native; a couple of events raising scholarship money for local music students; and more. Let's go to the highlights...

Wednesday, April 11

Drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. presents his show “Songs of Freedom," with featured vocalists Joanna Majoko and St. Louis' own Alicia Olatuja, for the first of four nights at Jazz at the Bistro. Developed by Owens for Jazz at Lincoln Center, the production explores the 1960s through the music of Joni Mitchell, Abbey Lincoln, and Nina Simone.

Also on Wednesday, trumpeter Jim Manley is back at Sasha's Wine Bar, and the weekly “Grand Center Jazz Crawl" features saxophonist Andy Ament at The Stage at KDHX, a jam session led by bassist Bob Deboo at the Kranzberg Arts Center, and trumpeter Kasimu Taylor's band at The Dark Room.

Thursday, April 12

Saxophonist Ben Reece’s Unity Quartet returns to The Dark Room and pianist Adam Maness' trio will be back at Thurman's in Shaw.

Friday, April 13

Pianist Ramsey Lewis is the headline attraction at the Sheldon Concert Hall's annual benefit gala. The concert is billed as Lewis playing the music of the Beatles, but don't be surprised if he slips in a couple of his own hits like “The In Crowd" or “Sun Goddess" along with his interpretations of the Fab Four. As usual with their benefit performances, the Sheldon is offering a limited number of concert-only tickets; contact their box office for availability.

Also on Friday, the Webster Groves Concert Hall reopens for the spring with “Take the “A" Train Cabaret," featuring storyteller and comedian Bobby Norfolk, pianist Tom George, and singer Beverly Brennan; saxophonist Tim Cunningham plays smooth jazz and R&B at Troy's Jazz Gallery; and singer Anita Jackson will be working the late shift at The Dark Room.

Saturday, April 14

On Saturday afternoon, Miss Jubilee will perform at the Scott Joplin House State Historic Site's Rosebud Cafe as part of the Friends of Scott Joplin's new monthly series there.

Saturday evening, pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and his band Ekaya, featuring trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, will present “Jazz Epistles- The Story in Concert" at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

The Jazz Epistles were one of Ibrahim's first bands, bringing a hard bop sound modeled on Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers to his native South Africa in the late '50s, and he's been touring this tribute show since last year with various trumpeters standing in for the late Hugh Masekela, who was part of the original Jazz Epistles and had planned to . For more about Ibrahim and this retrospective show, plus a video from this current tour and more, check out this post from last Saturday.

Also on Saturday, pianist Greg Mills will present original improvisations in a free concert at St. Louis University's Xavier Hall; the Midwest Jazz-tette plays West Coast jazz at the Webster Groves Concert Hall; and Acoustik Element will be joined by percussionists Baba Mike and Matt Henry for a show at Joe's Cafe & Art Gallery.

Sunday, April 15

There's more matinee action on Sunday , as singer Joe Mancuso brings his organ trio to the house concert venue The Judson House, and drummer Chuck Kennedy, pianist Curt Landes, bassist Glen Smith, and singers Valerie Tichacek, Trish Richardson and Tom Kozlowski will present their take on Liverpool's most famous hitmakers, “The Beatles Go Jazz," at the Webster Groves Concert Hall.

Also on Sunday, Jazz St. Louis presents “Swing For The Scholars," a benefit raising money for music scholarships for local students with entertainment provided by Denise Thimes, Good 4 The Soul, members of the Funky Butt Brass Band, and more.

Monday, April 16

The music department at Webster University will present their annual Suzy Shepard and Donald O. Davis Scholarship Concert, featuring students, faculty and perhaps even some alumni performing music associated with Ella Fitzgerald, at Winifred Moore Auditorium on the Webster campus.

Tuesday, April 17

Improvisational keyboardist Thollem, violinist Alex Cunningham, and singer/pianist Ellen the Felon will perform on a triple bill at Foam; and drummer Montez Coleman and guitarist Eric Slaughter will host “The Tuesday Night Hit" jam session at The Dark Room.

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