December is always an iffy month for jazz concerts. Many venues prefer to shut down for at least the last two weeks of the month for the holiday season. The usual routine for many clubs is to concentrate on putting together a big New Year's Eve event in which music seems to be of secondary importance to the food menu and party experience.
But there's definitely one major jazz event worth catching in St. Louis this December 29 at the Sheldon Concert Hall. a collection of top notch jazz talent will get together for a benefit for the Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Fund, which provides relief and assistance to musicians from the New Orleans area, and Oxfam America's Hurricane Katrina Response and Recovery Fund, which provides relief to smaller rural communities possibly overlooked by the larger relief organizations.
The concert organized by pianist Peter Martin, a longtime new Orleans resident and who grew up in the St. Louis area, will also feature (in alphabetical order) Wess Anderson, Neal Caine, Jeremy Davenport, Victor Goines, Ellis Marsalis, Tom McDermott, Nicholas Payton, Dianne Reeves, Herlin Riley and Don Vappie. Tickets are on sale now for $40 and $45 through Metro Tix (314-534-111), and $75 through the Sheldon (314-533-9900). The $75 ticket guarantees you preferred seating, admission to a post-concert reception with the artists... and great food at the reception provided by Boogaloo restaurant.
Jazz at the Bistro brings in the Carol Beth Trio featuring the fine local pianist Carol Beth True on Dec. 9 and 10, followed by the fine trumpeter Ray Vega and his Latin Jazz Quintet from Dec. 14-17.
Finale in Clayton features Erin Bode on Dec. 9 and 10... fresh from a two week tour of Italy with saxophonist Seamus Blake joining her fine band. It's billed as a holiday standards show, but you're also sure to hear planty of tunes from Bode's new MAXJAZZ CD, set for release early in 2006. View the complete Finale schedule.
There's one special New Year's Eve jazz event in Columbia, Missouri that deserves mention. The We Always Swing jazz series A HREF=http://www.wealwaysswing.org TARGET=_BLANK>wealwaysswing.presents singer René Marie in concert at Murry's that night in two sets at 6;30 and 9;45 p.m. The second set will be broadcast live across the U.S. on NPR's "Toast of the Nation program. Only a few tickets remain. Call 573-449-3001 for more info.