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Swingin (and singin') Into Spring

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Forget the old cliché about March coming in like a lion. It hit 70 degrees in St. Louis today, and I even had the chance to crank up the grill and do some ribs on Feb. 29. And even though experience tells us there’s sure to be some sleet and snow before spring really arrives, days like this make it easy to look forward to listening to jazz outdoors... specifically the U.S. Bank Saint Louis jazz Festival on June 25 & 26th at Shaw Park in Clayton. Maybe it was just coincidence, but the same day the smell of BBQ was wafting from my grill, the lineup for the year’s STL Jazz Fest hit the local media. And the 4th annual event has a most promising lineup of talent on the schedule.

Friday’s lineup on the two main stages kicks off with vocalist Lizz Wright performing from 5:30 to 6:30, followed by the John Pizzarelli Trio from 7 to 8. The evening wraps up with a rare visit from Lincoln Center’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, led by the legendary Chico O’Farrill.

Saturday’s lineup at the main stages kicks off with guitarist John Scofield from 3:30 – 4:30, followed by vocalist Carla cook from 5-6 p.m. Then Wynton Marsalis – in a quartet performance with the band from his upcoming Blue Note debut recording, The Magic Hour – plays from 6:30 – 8. The Fest winds up with a performance by New Orleans’ own Aaron Neville from 8:30 – 10. And yes, he’s touring behind his latest Verve jazz vocal effort, Nature Boy.

Local bands will play at a third stage on the half hours between main acts. Look for hometown vocalist Erin Bode (whose MAXJAZZ debut will be released earlier in June) to highlight that stage). Tickets go on sale April 1, and are priced at $20 per day. It’s a strong lineup, and the major names should make the 4th annual event the most successful Fest yet.

On the Scene:

Jazz vocalists seem to everywhere this month. Steve Tyrell makes his jazz at the bistro debut March 10-13; Ann Hampton Calloway makes her many local fans happy with a return to the Bistro March 17 – 20, and Jane Monheit headlines at the club March 31 – April 3. On the instrumental side, pianist Cyrus Chestnut and his Trio take the Bistro spotlight March 3-6... then travel to Murry’s in Columbia, Missouri for two shows on Sunday, March 6 as part of the We Always swing series.

Up-and-coming jazzers (plus their talented leaders) get a chance to shine at the Sheldon on March 23 and 24. On the 23, Ron Carter, head of the Northern Illinois University jazz program, brings an NIU ensemble to the Sheldon to share the bill with a band of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville students who will be led by piano and organ player Reggie Thomas of the SIUE faculty. On the following night, Victor Goines brings in the Juilliard Jazz Ensemble for a performance at the Sheldon.

For more info:

U.S. Bank Saint Louis Jazz Festival
Jazz at the Bistro
We Always Swing Jazz Series
Sheldon Concert Hall

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