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Jazz This Week: Frank Vignola, David Fiuczynski, the Miles Davis Jazz Festival, Mae Wheeler's 75th Birthday Gala, and More


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This weekend's menu of jazz and creative music in St. Louis includes a couple of first-rate guitar players with very different styles, and birthday tributes to a couple of St. Louis' most beloved jazz performers.

Let's start with guitarist Frank Vignola, who's playing through Saturday at Jazz at the Bistro. Vignola draws on influences ranging from swing and the Gypsy jazz sound of Django Reinhardt to bluegrass, and somehow manages to make it all work together. For some video samples of his playing, see this post from last Saturday.

Then there's the fourth annual Miles Davis Jazz Festival on Saturday at the new riverfront amphitheater in Alton. Saxophonist Willie Akins; trumpeter Jim Manley; drummer Howard Neal and his band, and the Alton High School Jazz Band will perform in celebration of the legendary trumpeter, who was born in Alton on May 26, 1926

On Saturday evening, guitarist David Fiuczynski will perform at The Gramophone. While the aforementioned Frank Vignola often can be found playing acoustic or lightly amplified guitar, “Fuse" Fiuczynski is best known as a plugged-in fusionmeister who comes out blazing, and then cranks it up from there. He'll be playing in a trio setting at The Gramophone, which should allow maximum room to stretch his considerable chops.

Then on Sunday, what I can only assume will be a constellation of St. Louis musical luminaries will gather for Mae Wheeler 75th birthday gala at the Sheldon Concert Hall. I say “assume" because, as best as I've been able to determine, there's been no announcement of the lineup of performers for this event.

(The Sheldon's Web site and the event's page at Metrotix both call it “An Affair To Remember," but don't list any singers or musicians. Similarly, while a Cotton Club-themed flyer received here at StLJN HQ notes that there will be a prize for the best vintage 1930s/1940s attire, and lists some other “Celeb's" who share Ms. Wheeler's astrological sign - Taurus, in case you wondering - there's no mention of who's performing. Calls to Ms. Wheeler, who has been battling cancer, were not returned.)

All of that said, given the esteem in which the local music community holds “Lady Jazz," and her long-established practice of assembling a whole parade of talented singers and musicians for her productions, the proceedings should be worth checking out even if the exact details are a bit vague before show time. There must be hundreds, if not thousands, of fans, friends, musicians, singers and students who have been touched over the years by Ms. Wheeler's music, philanthropy and fighting spirit, and surely many of them will show up Sunday at the Sheldon to help celebrate her 75th.

Elsewhere around town this weekend, the St. Louis Jazz Cafe has saxophonists Readus Miller on Thursday and Rod Tate on Friday, with Trio Tres Bien and vocalist Danita Mumphard on Saturday. Also on Saturday, guitarist Rex Bauer and his trio are at Brandt's.

For more jazz-related events in St. Louis this weekend and beyond, please visit the St. Louis Jazz Notes Calendar.

(If you have calendar items, band schedule information, news tips, links, or anything else you think may be of interest to StLJN's readers, please email the information to stljazznotes (at) yahoo (dot) com. If you have photos, MP3s or other digital files, please send links, not attachments.)

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