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March-ing into Festival Season

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The March concert calendar indicates the annual winter slowdown in live music is most definitely over. But the big news lately is the announcement of acts for the both the U.S. Bank St. Louis Jazz and Heritage Festival at Shaw park in Clayton on June 23 and 24... and the headliners for the Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival—held at the University of Missouri-St. Louis on April 21 and 22.

The U.S. Bank Fest—now in its sixth year, is the better-known event, and this year's lineup features Kirkwood native David Sanborn holding down the closing slot on Saturday evening. (By the way, Sanborn also headlined the First Festival back in 2001—and is town this Friday, March 3 to perform with Chris Botti at the Touhill performing Arts Center.) Other Saturday attractions include singer Lizz Wright and the retro-fusion combo of Stanley Clarke and George Duke. Presumably, a local act will be added to kick off Saturday's schedule.

Friday at the U.S. Bank fest begins with local diva Denise Thimes, followed by a tribute to New Orleans featuring the Preservation Jazz band followed by Dr. John. (Guess that's where the "heritage part of the title—new this year comes from... a tip of the hat to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest.

Of course, when you include the word "heritage in the title of any St. Louis jazz festival, it implies that your event might actually might have something to do with St. Louis' illustrious jazz tradition. It's true that Kirkwood native Sanborn developed his sax style playing with St. Louis area blues, R&B and jazz groups in his teens. And Thimes has been a presence on the local music scene for quite a few years. But amid rumors that the small third stage area that was devoted to presenting local artists at past Fests is now history, one has to wonder what those who book the U.S. Bank Fest actually think heritage means.

The Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival continues to grow year-by-year—expanding from its home base at UMSL for a performance at Jazz at the Bistro on Friday, April 21. Part of that night's bill will feature Festival visiting artists Tim Ries on sax (recently in town with his Rolling Stones Project), drummer Jeff Hamilton, saxophonist Scott Hamilton, trombonist Scott Whitfield, Clay Jenkins on trumpet and UMSL Coordinator of Jazz Studies Jim Widner on bass. The THF Realty All-Star Ensembles—two bands of top local high school musicians put together under the direction of Bistro Operations Director, Bob Bennett—will open the evening before the name players hit the stage. On Saturday, special guest Clark Terry will play with the UMSL Jazz Ensemble at Touhill Performing Arts Center on campus. More details in next month's column.

Much more about this and other various St. Louis Jazz Fest thoughts on a website called St. Louis Jazz Notes,. a blog created by local musician and writer, Dean Minderman. I'll be part of a roundtable discussion on the topic over the next few days—along with other local writers. By the way, Minderman's site also has a continually updated calendar of St. Louis jazz events. Make sure and check it out regularly for updates on the info provided in this column...

Speaking of March jazz events, the list is impressive. Jazz at the Bistro features the legendary Ahmad Jamal this week (through March 4). The club brings in Patricia Barber March 10 and 11, Ann Hampton Calloway from March 15-18, the Bosman Twins March 24 and 25... and wraps up the month with the duo of Bennie Green and Russell Malone March 29—April 1.

There's some interesting jazz at the Sheldon Concert Hall at the end of March. Victor Goines leads the Juilliard Jazz Small Ensemble in concert on March 30—with plenty of workshops with local high school and college musicians planned around that show. And on March 31, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band perform at the Sheldon along with the Dixie Hummingbirds. Check out the details at

A few other notable concerts in the March mix: Jamie Cullum at the Pageant on March 14. Chicago vocalist and Blujazz recording artist Typhanie Monicque is at Finale. on March 9. The free Holmes Lounge jazz series at Washington University features drummer Roger Guth and bassist Tom Kennedy on March 2, vocalist Jan Shapiro and guitarist William Lenihan on March 9, and saxophonist Paul DeMarinis on March 30. Finally, the We Always Swing Jazz Series. in Columbia, Missouri presents the incredible Maria Schneider and her Orchestra at Jesse Hall on March 2... and the up-and-coming Latin jazz band, Tiempo Libre at the Blue Note on March 15.


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