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Jazz This Week: "250 Years of St. Louis Music," Phil Dunlap Quintet, Karen Mason, and More


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So what's going on this week with live jazz and creative music in St. Louis? Glad you asked, as we just happen to have some recommendations for you, including the return of a local favorite who's been away for a couple of years, a diverse salute to St. Louis music history, and more. Let's go to the highlights...

Tonight, pianist Reggie Thomas, the former St. Louisan and former faculty member at Michigan State who's back a little closer to home now that he's heading up the jazz program at Northern Illinois University, will be performing with the Mineral Area College Jazz Ensemble and MAC Kicks Band at the college's Fine Arts Theatre down in Park Hills.

Also tonight, singer Joe Mancuso and Friends - in this case, guitarist Randy Bahr, bassist Willem von Hombracht, and drummer Gerald Warren - will be at Nathalie’s; and Miss Jubilee has a double-header on tap, with a trio show for happy hour at Magpie's on Main in St. Charles, followed by an evening gig at Thaxton Speakeasy.

Then on Friday, yr. humble StLJN editor must first invoke a disclaimer, as I've been working in my “day job" in recent weeks to help promote the “250 Years of St. Louis Music" concert taking place that evening all over the Sheldon Concert Hall and Galleries.

The centerpiece of the event is an 8:00 p.m.set by the new music ensemble Alarm Will Sound featuring a new composition by Peter Martin (pictured) inspired by Miles Davis. But the festivities actually kick off at 6:30 p.m. and continue after AWS' set with music upstairs and down from jazz performers including Martin, Denise Thimes, Carolbeth True, and Willie Akins; blues from Kim Massie and Billy Peek; hip-hop from Illphonics; the St. Louis Ragtimers; folk and country from Gary Hunt and Dade Farrar; the Webster University Chamber Singers, and more. (See the “250 Years" link above for details on who's playing when and where.)

Also on Friday, pianist and Jazz St. Louis education director Phil Dunlap will lead the latest iteration of his quintet in the first of two nights of performances at Jazz at the Bistro.  Featuring Danny Campbell on trumpet, Ben Reece on tenor sax, Montez Coleman on drums, and young phenom Nathan Pence on bass, the group will mix Dunlap's originals, no doubt including some from his forthcoming album, with hard-bop covers.

Elsewhere around town, the Gaslight Cabaret Festival resumes with singer Karen Mason performing her show “Secrets of the Ancient Divas" for the first of two evenings at the Gaslight Theater; guitarists Brian Vaccaro and Tim Fischer (the latter a recent transplant from California) will duet at Chasers Lounge in the Chase Park Plaza Hotel; the Gateway City Big Band plays for dancers at the Casa Loma Ballroom; trumpeter Jim Manley returns to One 19 North Tapas & Wine Bar; and vibraphonist Tom Rickard leads a trio at Cigar Inn

On Saturday afternoon, saxophonist Jim Stevens and group will be getting funky by the riverside at the Loading Dock up in Grafton; and Saxquest will present a free concert by the Saxquest Nonet Jazz Orchestra, performing music from the “cool jazz" movement of the 1950s.

Then on Saturday evening, pianist Carolbeth True and Two Times True will play at the Ozark Theatre; the Wire Pilots return to the Tavern of Fine Arts; and the Coleman Hughes Project with singer Adrienne Felton will be at Troy's Jazz Gallery.

On Sunday, early risers and/or runners can take in some swing and jump blues from Sarah Jane and the Blue Notes as they entertain participants and observers of the annual Rock and Roll Marathon from a stage at Chippewa and S. Broadway.

Later on Sunday, Alarm Will Sound will play a free concert outdoors at the new Public Media Commons, 3653 Olive St. in Grand Center, premiering “Ten Thousand Birds," a new work from Pulitzer Prize winning composer John Luther Adams. Artist Michael Eastman will provide visuals projected on the Commons' two-story tall video screens, and St. Louis electronic musicians Eric Hall and NNN Cook each will do short opening sets, with Cook's enlisting five members of AWS to provide live instrumentation for his piece.

Looking beyond the weekend, on Monday the Sessions Big Band will be back for their now bi-monthly gig at BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups; and on Tuesday, the weekly jam session formerly held at Robbie's House of Jazz in Webster Groves has been re-started at the Ozark Theatre (which now is being programmed by former Robbie's GM Dorothy Edwards).

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