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Jazz This Week: Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, George Benson, Garage a Trois, and More


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With nice weather forecast for St. Louis for the next few days and a diverse menu of music that includes both fine local players and big-name touring acts, it should be a good weekend to get out and hear some live jazz. Let's go to the highlights:

Tonight, singer Erin Bode and her group will do a free outdoor concert at Kirkwood Plaza Station in downtown Kirkwood.

Also tonight, the Jazz at Holmes series at Washington University presents a free concert from a group billed as “St. Louis Swing." Though announcements from the JAH series typically list the musicians who are playing, the description for this week doesn't mention anyone specifically: “Featuring a 7-piece band consisting of clarinet, trumpet, trombone, banjo, piano, bass, and drums, this performance will run the gamut of swing music from Count Basie and Lester Young to Benny Goodman." I really have no idea why they're being so darned cryptic about the lineup of players, but if you enjoy that era of jazz, it's a free show, so why not check it out, right?

On Friday, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra return to St. Louis to perform once again at the Sheldon Concert Hall as part of a benefit for the Sheldon's educational programs. At last word, this show was very close to a sell-out, but if you really want to go, it may be worth it to call the Sheldon directly to see if there have been any last-minute cancellations or returns.

Also on Friday, the funk/fusion/rock/jam band Garage A Trois will be back in town for a show at 2720 Cherokee. For more about them, plus a sampling of their performances on video, see this post that ran here on StLJN before their last St. Louis gig in August 2010.

And if that's not enough, there's still more fusion on Friday, thanks to the debut of the new local group Rare Departure, who that evening will open a two-night stand at Jazz at the Bistro. The band features Rick Haydon (guitar), Miles Vandiver (drums), Zeb Briskovich (bass), Jason Swagler (alto sax) and Adaron “Pops" Jackson (keyboards) playing electrified fusion jazz in the style of Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Yellowjackets, and Return to Forever.

In addition to all of the above on Friday, bassist Bob DeBoo will lead a quartet with Ptah Williams on piano and Willie Akins on tenor sax at Robbie's House of Jazz; and guitarist Tom Byrne will bring his trio with bassist Chris Watrous and drummer Ron Carr to the Cigar Inn in Belleville.

On Saturday, singers Jeanne Trevor and Wendy Gordon will be at Robbie's to perform “Billie Holiday & Nina Simone Meet," a cabaret show devised by Gordon. There's a package deal that includes dinner before the show; see the website or call Robbie's for details.

On Sunday, guitarist and singer George Benson (pictured) will be back in town for the first time in more than five years to perform at the Touhill Performing Arts Center under the auspices of Jazz St. Louis. As one of the most famous jazz musicians of the last 40 years, Benson likely needs no further introduction to readers of this site, but if you'd like to sample some of his guitar prowess on video, check out this post from last Saturday. Also, Benson recently spoke with Calvin Wilson of the Post-Dispatch for an article that's now online here.

Looking beyond the weekend, on Monday Benson's keyboard player David Garfield is staying in town to join forces with saxophonist Jim Stevens for an early set at BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups; and on Tuesday, the St. Louis Jazz Orchestra, directed by bassist Jim Widner, will play at the Touhill.

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