Jazz this week: Cyrille Aimée, Gregory Porter, Branford Marsalis, Jeff Barnhart, and more


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Although the official celebrations during Mardi Gras week in St. Louis typically don't offer much for jazz fans, leaning heavily on rock cover/tribute bands and DJs, this year the concert calendar countdown to Fat Tuesday just happens to feature several noteworthy touring jazz headliners, plus an assortment of shows from local performers. Let's go to the highlights...

Wednesday, February 3

Singer Cyrille Aimée makes her St. Louis debut in the first of four nights continuing through Saturday at Jazz at the Bistro.

Born in France and working in the US for much of the last decade, the 31-year old Aimée has musical roots in Gypsy jazz and swing, but also deploys some very non-traditional techniques, like using a looping pedal to create one-woman acapella arrangements in real time.

You can read more about her and her just-released album Let's Get Lost in the preview story written by Calvin Wilson for the Post-Dispatch/STLtoday, and see and hear her in action in StLJN's Saturday video post from a couple of weeks ago.

Thursday, February 4

The Funky Butt Brass Band, one of the few jazz or jazz-related local acts that does get extra work at Carnival time, will play an early evening “Mardi Gras Party" at the Blues City Deli.

Around the time that's wrapping up, pianist Ken Kehner, singer and saxophonist Elsie Parker and the Poor People of Paris will be kicking off this semester's Jazz at Holmes series of free concerts at Washington University, and singer Ken Haller will be doing an encore of his popular cabaret performance “The TV Show" at The Monocle.

Also on Thursday, trumpeter Jim Manley will be working his weekly gig at Momo's Greek Restaurant; pianist Ptah Williams and guitarist Eric Slaughter return to their regular spot The Dark Room after taking off to play the Bistro last week; and traditional jazz and swing band The Gaslight Squares will perform at Thaxton Speakeasy.

Friday, February 5

The Saint Boogie Brass Band will headline “The People Party Gras [email protected] Ball on Cherokee" at 2720 Cherokee; saxophonist Christopher McBride will be in from Chicago to lead a trio at Cigar Inn; saxophonist Jay Hutson and Da Wolvez perform at Evangeline's; and the Ambassadors of Swing will play for dancers the Casa Loma Ballroom.

Saturday, February 6

To hear some jazz, funk and/or R&B after the big parade on Saturday, your best bet downtown may be the Old Rock House's Mardi Gras Parade Day celebration featuring the Funky Butt Brass Band and Al Holliday & the East Side Rhythm Band.

However, the most-anticipated local jazz event on Saturday would have to be the return to St. Louis of singer Gregory Porter for the first time in three years for a concert at the Touhill Performing Arts Center.

When Porter was here last back in 2013, he was just starting to enjoy some crossover success. Since then, he's released a Grammy winning album and, as his audience has continued to grow, moved up to headline at bigger venues and major festivals.

He's also now employing two St. Louis musicians- drummer Emanuel Harrold (brother of trumpeter Keyon Harrold) and bassist Jahmal Nichols- in his band, which should make for a lively homecoming feel at the Touhill. You can read more about Porter's successes, and see some of his recent performances, in last week's Saturday video post.

Sunday, February 7 For those not committed to Super Bowl Sunday, the Friends of Scott Joplin will present the versatile pianist Jeff Barnhart, a skilled player in ragtime, stride and more modern styles, in a concert at the Scott Joplin House State Historic Site's Rosebud Cafe.

Monday, February 8

While a three-night, Monday-through-Wednesday booking isn't the usual for Jazz at the Bistro, Jazz St. Louis understandably was willing to change things up a bit to secure the services of saxophonist Branford Marsalis and his quartet, who have proven to be both a good draw and of high musical quality for years now.

Marsalis and pianist Joey Calderazzo played a duo show at the Sheldon back in January 2012, but given that it's been even longer since the saxophonist did a full-band show here, demand for tickets should be substantial. The good news is that while seats for Marsalis' 7:30 sets may be hard to come by at this point, tickets for the 9:30 performances may be more available for shows early in the week than they would be on a weekend. Regardless, advance reservations are recommended.

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