The third annual U.S. Bank Saint Louis Jazz Festival turned out to be a winner in terms of music on stage and numbers at the box office. While other Midwestern jazz fests have fallen by the wayside (Indianapolis lost its event this year, and the Blues & Jazz Fest in Kansas City has been dormant for a couple of years), the Saint Louis Fest clearly solidified its presence with outstanding attendance – especially on Saturday, June 21.
The crowds kept pouring in that afternoon and into the evening to catch sets by Joe Lovano, Marlena Shaw, Arturo Sandoval and Al Jarreau. In terms of music, Lovano easily turned in the best set of the day. Dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and a straw porkpie hat, Lovano clearly relished the opportunity to play in an outdoor setting before an appreciative crowd. Sandoval threw in the usual assortment of Eustachian-tube clearing high horn notes during his set, but also cranked out some excellent Latin jazz with the help of a powerhouse backing band. Shaw was her usual soulful self, and proved she can still grab almost any song and make it her own.
But the crowds were there primarily to see Jarreau, who didn’t disappoint with a performance that blended weaker material from his latest CD, All I Got
, with classic hits. Friday’s crowd was about half the size of Saturday’s tremendous turnout, but those who did show were treated to a killer set by the Dave Holland Big Band, an energetic opener by Chris Botti and an entertaining, technically adept closing set by Dianne Reeves – backed by the strong work of pianist Peter Martin, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer greg Hutchinson.
Over all attendance figures haven’t been confirmed, but it’s certain that the two day attendance figure broke the 20,000 mark – clearly enough to insure the future, and hopeful expansion of the fest in future years.
July’s concert calendar features a heavy dose of contemporary jazz. Grammy collector Norah Jones makes her St. Louis debut at the Fox Theater on July 15, but if you don‘t already have tickets – forget it. This one’s been sold out for months. The Pageant brings in the “Guitars & Saxophones” tour on July 24, a show that pulls together guitarists Jeff Golub and Peter White with sax players Richard Elliot and Steve Cole. The following Thursday, July 31, it’s the Rippingtons headlining at the Pageant.
And if that’s not enough for you, radio station 106.5 FM, debuts its own summer jazz fest with three Sundays of music at the Dwight Davis Tennis Center in Forest Park. The series kicks off on July 20 with special guest Gerald Veasley joining Pieces of a Dream, continues with a performance by guitarist Norman Brown on July 27. The series concludes on August 3 with multi-instrumentalist Brian Culbertson, whose latest release Come On Up, currently tops the contemporary jazz charts. All shows start at 3:30 p.m. and admission is $25. By the way, don’t forget the Dirty Dozen brass band at Mississippi Nights on July 18. And the price is definitely right for several performances by the Webster University Jazz Studies faculty during the week of July 14. At 7 p.m. each night Monday through Friday, you can catch a free concert at the Webster University Music Annex at 8282 Big Bend Blvd. The shoes are part of the Webster Summer jazz Camp, and feature the Paul DeMarinis Quartet on Monday, assorted groups of faculty members on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Willie Akins Quartet on Thursday and student combos on Friday. For more info, call 314-968-7032.
For more info on these shows:
106.5 FM http://www.smooth1065.com