Jazz | St. Louis Public Radio

Jazz

The Spanish Harlem Orchestra
Spanish Harlem Orchestra

Oscar Hernandez has been playing Latin jazz and salsa music for more than four decades, and in that time he’s performed with some of that music’s greatest performers, but also seen people turn away from their musical heritage.

So when Hernandez gets a chance to share the Latin music tradition that emerged from New York with a multigenerational crowd, he counts his blessings.

“I always say thank God for the intelligent, discerning fans that go beyond the commercial [music] that they’re fed continually in this country,” Hernandez said recently. “They go out and seek something better than that. And that’s who our audience is. That’s who our fans are.”

Jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant
Mark Fitton | Courtesy of the artist

When jazz vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant takes the stage Saturday at the Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis, she won't be trying to sing as her storied predecessors might have.

Though the virtuoso performer has been hailed as a successor to such greats as Ella Fitzgerald and Betty Carter, she is very much a contemporary singer. Salvant, a Haitian-American who grew up in Miami, has grown to love jazz standards, show tunes and songs many might miss, like the Kurt Weill/Langston Hughes piece "Somehow I Could Never Believe."

But the 28-year-old also writes original compositions and through her singing wants to make her own statement about the music's past, present and future.

Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock
Douglas Kirkland

If you’re a celebrated jazz artist who has played with some of the genre’s lions, you could continually reinterpret the past and satisfy fans nostalgic for your heydays.

Pianist Herbie Hancock, who performs Thursday at Powell Hall in St. Louis, has no interest in being a museum of sound — or giving a music lesson. Instead, he wants to audiences to experience jazz as a living art.

Members of the SFJAZZ Collective
Photo by Jay Blakesberg

When jazz trumpeter Sean Jones took on the job of interpreting tunes by Miles Davis, he didn’t try to recreate the famed musician’s notes.

Instead, Jones set about pushing the music forward.

He’s part of the SFJAZZ Collective, a San Francisco-based group of musicians that is booked through Saturday at Jazz at the Bistro in St. Louis. The group, which each year honors a big name in jazz, is now focusing on Davis, a trumpeter who helped give birth to the cool but stylistically never stayed in one place.

Alexis J. Roston, seen in this file photo, has performed "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill" in Chicago and Milwaukee.
Provided | Milwaukee Rep

The story of a jazz a singer whose signature song drew attention to the brutal treatment of African-Americans will be on stage in St. Louis for the next two weeks.

Max and Louie Productions presents “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” a drama about the iconic Billie Holiday. The setting is a fictional performance that takes place four months before her death.

The production includes a dozen of Holiday’s songs and a running commentary in which she looks back on her life of love, loss, addiction and struggle with racism.

Jazz pianist Alfredo Rodriguez
Photo by Betsy Newman. Courtesy of the artist.

Anyone who visits Cuba would be struck by two important musical currents: the streetwise character of modern dance music — and the elegance of classically trained performers adept at various genres.

 

St. Louisans this week have a chance to see both when pianist Alfredo Rodriguez, who hails from the Cuban Institute of Music, joins conga player Pedrito Martinez, who had no formal training. Since crossing paths in the United States in recent years, they’ve played together on stage and on recordings.

Their latest collaboration will be at Jazz at the Bistro, where they will perform fuse jazz and Afro-Cuban music, including timba, the fiery dance music that took the island by storm a couple of decades ago.

T.J. Muller, Kellie Everett and Kevin Belford joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss the Sidney Street Shakers.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

If you’re from St. Louis, you know that the region was the epicenter of the nation’s first pop music in the 1800s — ragtime. But St. Louis has contributed much more to the nation’s music legacy.

The Sidney Street Shakers, a local jazz group that solely plays St. Louis jazz of the 1920s, want to bring awareness to that legacy.

The Vijay Iyer Trio
Barbara Rigon

Vijay Iyer knows that people come to his concerts with their own ideas about what the music is all about.

 

Some might expect to hear Iyer evoke the great jazz pianists who came before him. Others might expect intricate interpretations of modern pop tunes, or perhaps wonder if he will draw on his Indian American roots.

Dana Hotle and Adam Maness joined "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss the Chamber Project St. Louis' upcoming concerts.
Mary Edwards | St. Louis on the Air

The 442’s pianist and composer Adam Maness is a lifelong St. Louisan and, with that, he has something on his mind: socioeconomic and racial divisions in the city of St. Louis. He recently composed a piece called “The Delmar Wall” to address those issues.

The jazz-electronica group Koplant No emerged several years ago at the University of Iowa.
Provided by Koplant No

When an emerging jazz band seeks to make a fresh statement, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that its musicians would embrace the modern sounds they grew up with.

That explains the path of Koplant No, a quartet that fuses intricate jazz composition with improvisation, electronica and elements of hip-hop to capture a listener’s imagination. The Midwestern group, which this weekend returns to Jazz at the Bistro in St. Louis, has a light and airy sound that can sound a bit like a futuristic movie soundtrack.

For a while, even its members didn’t know how to precisely describe what they play, saxophone player Joel Vanderheyden said. But they've agreed on a description, perhaps after learning that some listeners feel that hearing the music is like taking a journey.

“Only in probably the last couple of years we sort of stumbled upon the label of cinematic electro jazz,” he said.

St. Louis Public Radio's new arts and culture editor also edits our science and medical reporters.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Do you ever wonder why St. Louis Public Radio covers a particular concert but not an art show opening on the same night? Or a certain play but not a simultaneous music festival?

Editors are instrumental in these kinds of decisions. And we’ve got a new editor for our arts and culture team, who’s come to town with some new ideas. David Cazares (pronounced CAH-sar-ehs ) comes to us from Minnesota Public Radio, where he served as a web editor and music writer with an emphasis on jazz.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

In 1997, St. Louis jazz vocalist — legend, some do say — Denise Thimes lost her mother to pancreatic cancer. In the wake of that loss, Thimes launched the Mildred Thimes Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer. While she’s held an annual Mother’s Day concert for the past 20 years to pay tribute to her mother, her rock, the reason Thimes sings could be applied to anyone who has lost their mother: maternal sacrifice.

Jazz Unlimited host Dennis Owsley
St. Louis Public Radio file photo

The Jazz Journalist’s Association has named Dennis Owsley the second Jazz Hero from the St. Louis region.  He’s recognized in part for his radio show, Jazz Unlimited, with St. Louis Public Radio.

“The way he puts it together in formats and themes, it can be really educational not only for hardcore jazz fans but people who are just coming into jazz,” said Terry Perkins, who oversees the JJA award in St. Louis.

Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis was home to the late, great jazz musician Clark Terry, who died in last year at the age of 94.

Contemporary trumpet virtuoso Byron Stripling was one of the many jazz musicians, from Miles Davis to Quincy Jones, who was influenced by Terry. Stripling, who spent part of his childhood in St. Louis, has returned to the city to pay tribute to Clark Terry at Jazz at the Bistro.

Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

The spring season of the Gaslight Cabaret Festival has returned, featuring 12 artists and 22 performances over the course of nine weekends. Two performers with a long, friendly history on the New York cabaret scene joined “St. Louis on the Air” contributor Steve Potter to discuss their performances this weekend.

Marissa Mulder, a cabaret singer, will perform a tribute to Marilyn Monroe in a variety of styles. She said she drew inspiration to do so from a photograph.

“There was just something about her eyes in the photograph that registered with me,” Mulder said.

Buddy Moreno
Provided by WYYR Yesteryear Radio

Buddy Moreno has died at the age of 103. Mr. Moreno was a guitarist and the lead singer with The Dick Jurgens Orchestra when he made One Dozen Roses the number one hit in the nation in 1942.

Don Wolff
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

Don Wolff, a noted defense attorney and long-time jazz enthusiast died Friday, Nov. 20, of leukemia at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.  On Oct. 2, 2012, Terry Perkins wrote a profile of Mr. Wolff for the St. Louis Beacon, talking to him about his signature phrase: “I’m Don Wolff … and I love jazz” and where it came from. Wolff talks about jazz, when he was awarded the Jazz Hero Award in April 2015.

Detail from book cover

Composer Frank Loesser once explained that a great song is like a train: A locomotive starts it off, a caboose completes it, and different colors fill in the cars in the middle.

But for a lot of music lovers, after the middle of the 20th century, the train had jumped the track, and the era of the great American songbook was over. In his new book, “The B-Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song,” Ben Yagoda explores why and how popular music changed after World War II.

Ben Hejkal Photography; Courtesy of the Nevermore Jazz Ball and St. Louis Swing Dance Festival

You can get a day’s worth of live music and dancing on Cherokee Street on Saturday - all for free.

Eugene Redmond, Professor and Poet Laureate of East St. Louis
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

In the past year, St. Louis has been saturated by a groundswell of art related to social justice concerns, specifically issues of the region’s racial inequalities. For scholars, fans and former members of St. Louis’ Black Artists Group (BAG), the trend is remarkably familiar.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

There’s no reason  for fans of the man who “defined cool” to be “Kind of Blue” this weekend as the Miles Davis Memorial project plans to unveil its sculpture of the renowned jazz musician in Alton.  A musical celebration that will put a swing in the step of local jazz aficionados will accompany the unveiling.

New jazz stream

Sep 11, 2015
Benny Carter playing saxophone
Dennis Owsley

St. Louis Public Radio | 90.7 KWMU is pleased to announce the addition of jazz to its broadcast schedule. Beginning today, St. Louis Public Radio | Jazz 90.7 KWMU-2 will air jazz music 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  Listeners can access the programming on their digital radios at 90.7 KWMU-2, online at www.stlpublicradio.org/jazz, and on all of their mobile devices, using the St.

George Davis, left; Eric Person, right
Alex Heuer

On June 19, for one night only, The Jazz Edge Big Band along with a special guest will pay tribute to St. Louis’ eight most influential saxophonists in their concert entitled “Tribute to St. Louis Saxophonists.”

Among those honored will be Oliver Nelson, Jimmy Forrest and David Sanborn.

On Friday, George Davis, co-founder of The Jazz Edge Big Band and board member of The Jazz Edge, Inc., and Eric Person, saxophonist, joined “Cityscape” host Steve Potter to discuss the event.

Clark Terry
Clark Terry's website

In April 2006, jazz trumpeter and St. Louis native Clark Terry talked to "Cityscape" host Steve Potter about his upcoming performance at the Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival.

By then, Clark was widely regarded as a legend. He was a star soloist with Count Basie's and Duke Ellington's bands, led his own big band, and was the first black man to play in "The Tonight Show" house band.

‘Cityscape’ remembers Clark Terry

Feb 27, 2015
Clark Terry
Facebook | with permission

St. Louis jazz trumpeter Clark Terry made his first trumpet. His neighbors quickly got tired of listening to the racket, and raised money to buy the 10-year-old a real instrument.

Terry became a legend: He was a star soloist with the Count Basie Orchestra and Duke Ellington Orchestra; he led his own big band; and he was the first black man to play in “The Tonight Show” house band. Terry died Saturday; he was 94.

Dennis C. Owsley / Copyright Dennis C. Owsley

Jazz Unlimited for October 19 will be  “Lennie Tristano and His Students.”  Lennie Tristano was one of the first teachers of methods of jazz improvisation.  His piano playing was characterized by dense, emotionally packed and sometimes dissonant sounds.  Tristano's teaching methods recruited students like saxophonists Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, guitarist Billy Bauer, and pianist Sal Mosca, all of whom will be heard on this show.  Konitz and Marsh are two of the most cliche-free improvisers in jazz.

The Slide Show contains images of three of the musicians heard on this show.

Thousands Expected For Jazz And Blues Festival

Sep 19, 2014
Courtesy Old Webster Jazz and Blues Festival

Webster Groves’ largest music festival returns for a 14th year Saturday.

“Great musicians continue to develop here, and it’s really wonderful to give them a chance to get exposure on a big stage in front of up to about 12-, 13,000 people every year,” said Terry Perkins, the festival’s music director.

Streets will be closed and performances will take place on two stages at Allen and South Gore avenues, just north of Lockwood Avenue. The festival starts at noon.

Courtesy of the Charlie Menees Collection, UMKC.

It spanned less than three blocks at the intersection of Olive and Boyle. And it only lasted about ten years.

But the arts and entertainment district known as Gaslight Square flourished in the 1950s and '60s, making St. Louis a national destination for music and culture.

In honor of St. Louis' 250th birthday, I took a little detour off my usual science beat to explore this extraordinary time and place in our city's history.

The neighborhood free outdoor summer concert season is now in full swing. If you know of a free series that isn't on this list, let us know.

You can read more about Javier Mendoza and Miss Jubilee and the Humdingers. Or just check out what's coming this week:

courtesy Gitana Productions

Latin and jazz musicians will share the stage at Union Avenue Christian Church Saturday, June14 in a concert organized by Gitana Productions. The concert, called “Karamu: Fiesta of Latin and African American Music,” will explore the shared musical heritage of Latinos and African Americans.

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