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Looking Forward... Looking Back--the Best of 2005

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It's another new year, and let's hope it's a year of continuing recovery for the New Orleans and gulf coast communities devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Special good wishes go out to all the musicians and their families displaced by the disaster — and who may have lost family members or close friends in the flooding.

2005 here in St. Louis closed on a high note with a great benefit concert for New Orleans featuring an all-star lineup of Ellis Marsalis, Nicholas Payton, Dianne Reeves, Wess Anderson, Victor Goines, Don Vappie, Thaddeus Richard, Herlin Riley, Troy Davis, Geoff Clapp, Jesse Boyd, Tom McDermott, Neal Caine, Jeremy Davenport and Peter Martin. The latter four musicians all grew up in St. Louis before moving to New Orleans, and Martin was the driving force behind the event, billed as the Big River Hurricane Relief Concert. All proceeds were donated to The Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Fund, which provides relief and assistance to musicians from the New Orleans area, and Oxfam America's Hurricane Katrina Response and Recovery Fund, which provides relief to smaller rural communities possibly overlooked by the larger relief organizations.. It was a great evening of music, and a great experience to see so many New Orleans musicians obviously relishing the chance to play together once again.

Unfortunately, the beginning of 2006 brings sad news. One of our area's finest jazz DJs, Leo Chears, passed way after a long illness right after the new year. "Known as "the man in the red vest, Chears was a fixture on the light night/early morning airwaves for decades on a succession of stations, playing classic jazz that always seemed to fit the mood. His body will lie in state for viewing from 4pm to 8pm Saturday January 7th at Nash Funeral Home. 144 N. 16th St. East St. Louis, IL. The funeral service will be held Sunday, January 8th at 7pm. At The Rising Star Missonary Baptist Church. 3424 LaSalle St. in St. Louis.

The January jazz scene at Jazz at the Bistro has been curtailed a bit. Fly, the fine band consisting of Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier, Larry Goldings and Jeff Ballard, cancelled its January tour dates, which included four nights at the Bistro. The rest of the month's schedule at Jazz at the bistro remains unchanged. Drummer Montez Coleman is set for Jan. 13 and 14, Nicholas Payton retunrs to town Jan. 18021, and Erin Bode celebrates the releases of her new MAXJAZZ CD Jan. 27 and 28.

Pianist Marcus Roberts plays the Sheldon Concert Hall on Jan. 28. Finale brings in an interesting show on Jan. 26 when saxophonist Tim Ries brings his Rolling Stones project to town (the night before the Stones play Savvis Center, interestingly enough). Singer Debbie Lennon also reprises her successful November CD release concert with a return visit to Finale on Jan. 7.

The We Always Swing jazz series in Columbia, Missouri kicks off 2006 with a concert by the always excellent Arts and Crafts band assembled by drummer Matt Wilson. With Larry Goldings on keyboards, Terell Stafford on trumpet and Dennis Irwin on bass, this is one top notch band. Catching them in the intimate confines of Murry's in Columbia will be a treat.

RIFFS:

Here's my Top 10 jazz recordings of 2005... in alphabetical order...

  • Dave Douglas, Keystone (Greenleaf Music)
  • Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie Parker, Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945 (Uptown)
  • Donald Harrison, Free Style (Nagel-Heyer)
  • Charles Lloyd, Jumping the Creek (ECM)
  • Keith Jarrett, Radiance (ECM)
  • Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane, At Carnegie Hall (Blue Note)
  • Jason Moran, Same Mother (Blue Note)
  • Wynton Marsalis, Live at the House of Tribes (Blue Note)
  • Joshua Redman Elastic Band, Momentum (Nonesuch)
  • Kermit Ruffins with the Rebirth Brass Band, Throwback (Basin Street)

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