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Divin' Into 2005

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Before we dive into 2005, let's take a quick look back at the 2004 jazz scene in the St. Louis area. As usual, Jazz at the Bistro led the way in terms of bringing in top national acts. Highlights for me at the Bistro last year including gigs headlined by Jeff Watts, Russell Gunn, Stefon Harris and Rene Marie. The Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri St. Louis hosted Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in February for a great show. Wynton returned with his quartet in June to shine again at the Saint Louis Jazz Festival - which also featured fine performances by John Scofield and John Pizzarelli, among others. Brother Branford Marsalis played in August down on the banks of the Mississippi in a free RiverSplash concert, and later that month Diana Krall showed a sold out crowd at the Fox Theatre that she's headed in some interesting new directions by highlighting tunes from her latest CD.

On the club scene, the Crossings Taverne and Grille and Cookies Jazz and More - both located in Webster Groves - are showcasing the best local musicians on a weekly basis. And the locally-based MAXJAZZ label continues to turn out outstanding recordings by the likes of Mulgrew Miller, Jessica Williams, Denny Zeitlin, Rene Marie - and St. Louis' own Erin Bode. All in all, a promising year as more venues provided more opportunities to hear top local musicians.

2005 gets off to a strong start at Jazz at the bistro with visits by tenor sax great Houston Person Jan. 5 -8 and captivating Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza Jan. 19-22. East St. Louis homeboy Montez Coleman takes a break from drumming for the likes of Bobby Watson, Russell Malone. Rene Marie, Russell Gunn and Rufus Reid to head up a trio at the Bistro Jan. 14-15. And on Friday, Jan. 28 get in gear for Mardi Gras with a special one-night visit by the Rebirth Brass Band. Check out the Bistro's website for more info.

Roy Hargrove comes to the Sheldon Concert Hall on Jan. 29 (with an acoustic group, not his RH Factor Band). And on Jan. 30 in Columbia, MO, the We Always Swing series presents an interesting combination of Eric Alexander on tenor sax and Harold Mabern on piano at Murry's.

Riffs:

Plenty of great local talent on display at the afore-mentioned Cookies jazz and More and Crossings Taverne and Grille in Webster Groves this month. Cookies highlights include sets by the Tom Kennedy Trio on Jan. 7, the Randy Holmes Quintet with Tom Heidman on Jan. 8 & 29, and rare appearances by sax great Freddie Washington on Jan. 15 and the Paul Demarinis Quartet on Jan. 21. Check out the full January lineup at Cookies at. Erin Bode is at Crossings on Jan. 20.

Finally, jazz guitar fans are directed to Moore Auditorium at Webster University on Jan. 31 for a performance by local guitarist Tom Byrne in tribute to the music of Pat Metheny. It's part of the University's jazz series and the music begins at 7 p.m.

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