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Notes from the Net: Jimmy Wilkins Profiled; Rollins, Elling and Botti on the Road; Plus News, Reviews, Interviews, and More

Here's the latest compilation of assorted news briefs and links related to jazz, improvisation, and creative music in St. Louis, including news of musicians originally from the Gateway City, recent visitors, and coming attractions, plus assorted other items of interest:

* Starting with some Miles Davis-related items, it seems that the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Davis' Kind of Blue continues without pause, as KoB drummer Jimmy Cobb's all-star So What band played at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY this past weekend as part of an extensive touring schedule.

Also, here's a review of the new reissue of Davis' Sketches of Spain, written for PopMatters.com by Sean Murphy. For more Miles-related news and links, as always we exhort you to visit Jeffrey Hyatt's fine site Miles Davis Online, which recently has spotlighted some rarely-seen photos of the trumpeter alongside interviews with the photographers who shot the pics.

* The late trumpeter and St. Louis native Lester Bowie's 1981 album The Great Pretender was the subject of a recent “Listening Party" post on NPR's A Blog Supreme.

* Here's a recent feature story from the Las Vegas Sun about St. Louis native, trombonist and bandleader Jimmy Wilkins (pictured), a veteran of the Count Basie Orchestra who now lives in Vegas.

* And here's a rediscovered vintage 1999 audio interview of saxophonist, composer and one-time Webster University student John Zorn by Chris Comer.

* Former St. Louisan Bob Koester was profiled last week in the New York Times on the occasion of the 55th anniversary of his Delmark Records label. Koester also owns Chicago's Jazz Record Mart.

* Turning to news of recent visitors to St. Louis, it took Jazz St. Louis three tries to get trumpeter Terence Blanchard here to St. Louis this past season - Blanchard's twice-rescheduled week at Jazz at the Bistro finally happened in May - but the trumpeter isn't always quite so hard to get. Thanks to a gap in their tour schedule, he and his band were able to travel to Canada to play a last minute gig at the Ottawa Jazz Festival on just two days' notice after promoters secured a last-minute grant from the Canadian government.

* Singer Tony Bennett is helping to open a new location for the Frank Sinatra School fo the Arts in his hometown of Astoria, Queens. Bennett was in St. Louis in May to play the Fox Theatre.

* Banjo player Bela Fleck took his Africa Project to Caramoor International Music Festival in Connecticut this past week. The tour was in St. Louis in April at the Sheldon Concert Hall

* Turning to news of coming attractions, saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins is playing this week at the Vancouver Jazz Festival. Rollins will be in St. Louis in September to play a Jazz St. Louis-sponsored show at the Touhill Performing Arts Center.

* Meanwhile, trumpeter Chris Botti is playing at LA's Greek Theatre this weekend. Botti also will be here in September, at the Fox.

* Singer Kurt Elling also is north of the border this week, performing at the Edmonton International Jazz Festival. For a limited time AOL Music is streaming Elling's new CD Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman for free. Released June 23 on Concord Jazz, it features saxophonist Ernie Watts, The Laurence Hobgood Trio and the string quartet ETHEL accompanying Elling. You can stream the album here. Elling will perform the Hartman/Coltrane material here in December at Jazz at the Bistro, with St. Louis' own Willie Akins taking Watts' part.

* Finally, from the “general interest" files, no doubt there's been plenty of gloomy news in the jazz world recently, from the cancellation of festivals this year in New York, St. Louis, and lots of other places to Jazz Times magazine's recent suspension of publication. However, veteran critic Josef Woodard, writing in the Santa Barbara Independent, remains optimistic about the resiliency of the music and the people who play and listen to it: “Jazz retains its status as America's greatest indigenous art form and the 20th century's great musical invention, but the music and its facilitating institutions are facing ominous forces...(snip)...The bright side of this sobering downturn is that jazz is a survivor...Jazz will out, but those of us who need it may have to go some extra miles to satisfy our needs. It won't be the first time."

* And, in a demonstration of Woodard's point about jazz representing the very best of the United States of America, Jazz at Lincoln Center is now accepting band applications for the 2009-2010 Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad program. American music groups specializing in jazz, urban/hip hop and other American roots music including bluegrass, blues, Cajun, country, gospel and zydeco are invited to apply. Over the past four years, 108 musicians from 28 ensembles have toured with the program, visiting 97 countries on five continents. The program, now in its fifth year, is a collaboration with The U.S. Department of States Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Applications are due by Aug. 10.

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