Octoberfest: Jazz Style

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The St. Louis area's German population keeps the tradition of OctoberFest going strong - especially in wine-growing areas along the Missouri river and little towns like Millstadt in Illinois. Given the high count of jazz events taking place in St. Louis over the next few weeks, one has to wonder if there's some kind of unexplored link between jazz, sausages, wine and beer.

By my count, there are over a dozen national jazz acts booked here during October - and that doesn't count some excellent showcase performances by local musicians. Over this past weekend, Marian McPartland performed at the Sheldon Concert Hall and Lynn Arriale played at Jazz at the Bistro . Singer Rene Marie - who has a new CD, Serene Renegade , on the locally based MAXJAZZ label, returns to the Bistro this Wednesday, Oct. 6 through Saturday the 9th. The Bistro is almost like a second home for Marie, and she always puts on a scintillating show at the intimate club.

Avant-garde fare is on the menu on Tuesday, Oct. 12 when Conference Call performs at Steinberg Auditorium at Washington University in a New Music Circle concert. The group includes Gebhard Ullmann on saxophones, bass clarinet and bass flute, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller. Stevens was a member of the Mosaic Sextet in the late 1980s along with famed horn player Dave Douglas and Fonda has toured and recorded with Anthony Braxton. And watch for another new Music Circle event on Wednesday, Oct. 27 when multi- instrumentalist Frank Gratkowski performs solo at Christman Studio, 6014 Kingsbury.

It's a weekend of legends on Oct. 16 and 17 - with singer Tony Bennett at the Fox Theatre on Saturday and Dave Brubeck leads his quartet into the Sheldon Concert Hall on Sunday. Brubeck's concert has been sold out for quite awhile, so you're probably out of luck on that one.

On Tuesday, Oct. 19, guitarist Ralph Towner, noted for his many fine ECM recordings, performs a free concert at Graham Chapel at Washington University. The music begins at 8 p.m. Also that week, trumpet player Jon Faddis headlines at Jazz at the Bistro Oct. 20-23, and San Francisco singer Wesla Whitfield - who adds a jazz flavor to her cabaret style - performs Oct. 20 - 24 at the Sheldon as part of the Grand Center Cabaret series.

There's plenty more action at the Sheldon the last week of the month as well. Singer Steve Tyrell appears on Wednesday, Oct. 27, Latin jazz percussionist Poncho Sanchez heats things up on Friday the 29th, and vocalist Lizz Wright performs on Saturday the 30th.


Lots of local artists in the spotlight this month as well. Pianist Ptah Williams performs at Webster University's Moore Auditorium on Satruday, Oct. 9 at 4 p.m. Admission is $5. A pair of fine vocalists - Denise Thimes and Erika Johnson are featured at jazz at the Bistro this month. Thimes performs Oct. 15 and 16... and Johnson headlines on Oct. 29 and 30.

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