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World Saxophone Quartet Homecoming Highlights February Jazz

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February may be the shortest month of the year, which is good for those of us who are more than a little weary of winter weather as we await the first signs of spring. (At least spring training kicks off in a couple weeks...) Thankfully, there's more than enough interesting jazz on the St. Louis area calendar to keep us occupied in the meantime. As usual there's plenty of music tied to Valentine's Day—but we'll get around to that later. The most exciting event on the February jazz schedule happen at Jazz at the Bistro and Washington University later in Valentine's week with the long overdue return of the World Saxophone Quartet to St. Louis—and a symposium on the Black Artists' Group (BAG) at Wash. U. that features WSQ and BAG members Oliver Lake and Hamiet Bluiett.

BAG was up and running from 1968 through 1972, providing a focal point for artistic expression in the black community that ranged from cutting edge jazz to theater, dance, visual arts and poetry. In addition to Lake and Bluiett, other musicians involved in BAG included the late Julius Hemphill (also a founder of WSQ), J.D. Parran, Floyd and Shirley LeFlore and others. In addition to Lake, Parran and the LeFlores will also be part of the BAG symposium, which is scheduled Feb. 16 and 17. Events include a master class by Lake, a poetry reading by Shirley leFlore and an evening concert featuring the ensembles of Parran and Floyd LeFlore on the 16th—and the presentation of papers on BAG and a musician's forum on the 17th. For a complete schedule of events, go here.

Back to WSQ at the Bistro... The last time WSQ performed in St. Louis (Lake was born here, and Bluiett, who was born in nearby Lovejoy, Illinois, recently relocated back home) was way back in 1989 at Westport Playhouse. This time around should be special for another reason as well. Since David Murray is in Europe, the talented James Carter will take his spot in the WSQ lineup alongside Lake, Bluiett and Bruce Williams. By the way, WSQ will also be playing the Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri on Sunday, Feb. 19 as part of the We Always swing jazz series. Visit We Always Swing on the web.

Other February/early March events at Jazz at the Bistro include a visit by vocalist Tony DeSare Feb. 24 and 25. Vocalist/pianist DeSare's recent Telarc recording, Want You, features a guest appearance by guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. The legendary Ahmad Jamal returns March 1 for a four night run at the club. His Bistro sets almost always sell out quickly, so make plans now.

There's interesting jazz at the Sheldon Concert Hall this month as well. Saxophone and clarinetist Victor Goines—head of the jazz program at the Juilliard School of Music, headlines a concert featuring the music of the legendary Artie Shaw on Feb. 11. Joining Goines will be guitarist Don Vappie (who played with Goines at the amazing Big River benefit in late December at the Sheldon), pianist Ted Rosenthal, bassist Ben Wolkfe, drummer Carl Allen—and local favorite Mardra Thomas on vocals. Pianist Tom McDermott—another performer at Big River and a St. Louis native—returns home to play in a duet setting with the fine sax and clarinetist Evan Christopher on Feb. 27. Both McDermott and Christopher were residents of New Orleans before Katrina—and both have been displaced by the storm. That should make this Mardi Gras eve concert even more memorable.

Finale features local guitarist Cory Christiansen on February 8, followed by St. Louis saxophonist Tim Cunningham on the 10th. Nationally known pianist Beegie Adair visits on the 11th. Erin Bode, riding the success of her second MAXJAZZ recording, Over and Over, released in lat January, returns on Feb. 24 and 25.

RIFFS:

About those Valentine's concerts... Reggie & Mardra Thomas return to Jazz at the Bistro Feb. 10, 11 and Valentine's night for their annual classy, romantic sets. Finale features a free Valentine's night concert featuring vocalist Debby Lennon backed by pianist Carolbeth True and her Trio. And if you want to go big time musically for V-Day, head to the Pageant to catch Will Downing.

By the way, if you haven't checked out Brandt's at 6525 Delmar in the Loop recently, they've done a fine job expanding both their music area and their concert schedule. You can catch fine local musicians—and regional acts on occasion as well—seven nights a week at the Red Carpet Lounge. Erin bode's there on Feb. 15. Check out the rest of the schedule here.


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