Chronologically, the new year starts in January. But the jazz calendar here in St. Louis doesn't seem to really shift into high gear until September. That's when the Jazz at the Bistro season kicks off, concerts at local colleges and universities start to pop up on the calendar and the focus shifts from outdoor venues and festivals to indoor concert halls once again.
The Jazz at the Bistro season officially opens on Wednesday, Sept. 22 with a visit from vocalist Janis Siegel. Although Siegel is certainly best known for her work with Manhattan Transfer, she has also built an impressive list of eight solo recordings as well. In addition, her work as a solo artist is consistently more interesting - and jazzier - than her vocals with the Transfer. For example, check out the lineup of talent backing up Siegel on her latest Telarc release, Sketches of Broadway. The recording was produced and arranged by Gil Goldstein, and features Goldstein, John Pattitucci on bass, Antonio Sanchez on drums, Stefon Harris on vibes and guitarist Romero Lubambo. No word yet on Siegel's backing band for her Bistro sets from the 22nd through the 25th, but you can bet it will be high quality. The Bistro "unofficially" opens up the season with an appearance by bassist Neal Caine on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 17 & 18. A native of St. Louis suburb University City, Caine is best known for his longtime gig backing up Harry Connick, Jr. Fronting a lineup that includes two tenor saxophones (and no piano!) Caine will be highlighting plenty of his original compositions.
On the collegiate music scene, the Webster University Traditional Jazz Band will pay tribute to Count Basie on the centennial of his birth with a concert on Monday, September 20 featuring Basie Band classics. You'll hear everything from "Jumpin' at the Woodside" and "Lester Leaps In" to "Jive at Five" and "Lady Be Good" - all for only $3! The music begins at 7 p.m.
On the smooth jazz front, Bob James and Fourplay return to the Pageant (www.thepageant) on Monday, Sept. 13. And Brian Culbertson headlines the venue on Thursday, Sept. 30. And don't forget the Sheldon Concert Hall's (www,sheldonconcerthall.org) jazz series is on the horizon. Legendary pianist Marian McPartland performs at the intimate venue on Saturday, October 2nd.
The outdoor festival season isn't quite over. You can catch several talented local bands at the Saint Louis Art Fair in Clayton Sept. 10-12. Highlights include sets by sax great Willie Akins on Friday, the Jonathan Whiting Trio, the Jeff Anderson Quartet and Carol Schmidt with her new band, Monk Shui on Saturday, and Black Shirt and the Carolbeth Trio on Sunday. Check out the complete lineup at www.saintlouisartfair.com .
Finally, the Old Webster Jazz& Blues Festival on Saturday, Sept. 18 highlights MAXJAZZ recording artist Erin Bode, Jim Manley's Wild, Cool & Swinging' band and legendary pianist Johnnie Johnson. Go to www.oldwebsterjazzfestival.com for more details.