Jazz This Week: Dafnis Prieto, Bobby Watson, New Music Circle Showcase, Denise Thimes with Tom Braxton, and More


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There are several noteworthy jazz and creative music shows happening this weekend in St. Louis, and for once, the schedule lays out so that it's possible to hear all the touring musicians coming through town, provided you've got the stamina and the necessary funds to go out five nights this week. Let's go to the highlights...

Tonight, drummer Dafnis Prieto (pictured) makes his St. Louis debut and opens a four-night engagement continuing through Saturday at Jazz at the Bistro. Prieto certainly is one of the more talked-about jazz drummers of recent years, enjoying a rapid rise in fortune since coming to the USA from his native Cuba in 1999. In 2011, he won one of the coveted “genius grants" from the MacArthur Foundation, which, aside from serving as a pretty convincing refutation of all those old jokes about drummers being dumb, also helped him gain wider recognition among the general public.

Genius grant notwithstanding, there's no question that Prieto is both a very impressive drummer and a thoughtful composer, bandleader and teacher of jazz and Latin music, as you can hear for yourself in the performance video clips and interviews included in this post from last Saturday.

Also tonight, saxophonist Jim Stevens will play at the Cigar Inn; and on Thursday, Good 4 The Soul, which includes several of Stevens' frequent collaborators, will perform an early evening show at BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups.

Then on Friday, New Music Circle wraps up their 2011-12 season with a showcase of regional and local performers including Olivia Block, Joseph Raglani, Kevin Harris, Pat Boland, and Jeremy Kannapell at the William A. Kerr Foundation, 21 O'Fallon St. on Laclede's Landing.

Following the showcase, NMC will host an end-of-the-season celebration and fund raiser, with food, beer, DJs and video, plus a raffle of prizes and gift certificates to local businesses. Admission is a suggested $10 donation in addition to the ticket price of the concert, and includes food, drink and one raffle ticket. Additional raffle tickets also will be available for sale, giving you more chances to win the stuff donated by Vintage Vinyl, Euclid Records, Apop Records, St. Louis Tap Room, Tivoli Theatre, Dierberg's, Local Harvest Market, Left Bank Books, and numerous others.

While NMC certainly is deserving of your support - without them, St. Louis audiences would not have had a chance this year to hear musicians like Joe McPhee, Matthew Shipp, and the Claudia Quintet - they do have some tough competition on Friday in addition to Prieto.

That's because alto saxophonist Bobby Watson is coming in from Kansas City on Friday to play the first of two nights at Robbie's House of Jazz. Though perhaps still best known for his stint with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Watson is a true master of the hard bop idiom who's played with dozens of other jazz greats over the course of his long and distinguished career. If you've heard Watson play before, you're probably already making plans to be there. If you haven't heard him, and you have any interest in jazz saxophone, he's definitely worth the trip to Webster Groves.

Watson now teaches at the University of Missouri-Kansas City's conservatory of music, and though he's based just a couple of hundred miles away, doesn't make it to St. Louis all that often. Fortunately, he'll be sticking around to perform again on Saturday at Robbie's, so if you're doing something else Friday, like checking out Prieto or the NMC event, you'll still have another chance to hear Watson.

And as if those weren't enough options for Friday, you can always head east of the Mississippi to catch guitarist Dave Black with bassist Willem von Hombracht and drummer Kevin Gianino at the Cigar Inn in Belleville, or saxophonist Tim Cunningham at Jazz on Broadway in Alton.

On Saturday, Tim Cunningham will be back at Jazz on Broadway, along with singers Anita Jackson and Theo Peoples, the St. Louisan who's worked with both the Temptations and the Four Tops, for a special Mother's Day show. Also on Saturday, singer Joe Mancuso and his quartet with special guest saxophonist Christopher Braig will play at Johnny Gitto's.

On Sunday afternoon, singer Denise Thimes will present her annual Mothers Day performance at the Sheldon Concert Hall, featuring saxophonist Tom Braxton as his year's special guest. There's also a dinner at the Sheldon before the show; check out the show page on Sheldon's site for times and details.

And speaking of the Sheldon Concert Hall and special guests, on Monday night the East St. Louis High School jazz band and their special guest, trumpeter and ESLHS alumnus Russell Gunn, will perform at the Sheldon in an event raising funds to provide band camp scholarships for kids from the ESLHS music program.

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
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