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Teddy Presberg brings jazz home

May 31 Schedule & Parking Info

Emerson Stage 

  • 12:30-1:30 p.m. Two Times True
  • 2-3 p.m. Lao Tizer with Karen Briggs
  • 3:30-5 p.m. Tito Puente Jr. Orchestra
  • 5:30 - 7:00 p.m. Joe Sample and Randy Crawford
  • 7:30 - 9:00 p.m. Cassandra Wilson (above)

Soul School

  • 1-2 p.m. Teddy Presberg
  • 2:30-3:30 p.m. St. Louis Jazz Orchestra, Directed by Jim Widner
  • 4-5 p.m. Ptah Willims - The Music of Stevie Wonder
  • 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. The Brian Owens Group piano

If you go: Free parking is available at the city of Clayton Public Garage, 8011 Bonhomme and all street meter parking is free on Saturday.
Hourly parking is available at the 230 Building, 230 S. Bemiston; Bank of America, 7800 Forsyth Building Garage, Bemiston entrance; Bemiston Tower, 231 S. Bemiston; Clayton Center, 120 S. Central Bemiston entrance; Bonhomme Garage, 8011 Bonhomme Place; Bonhomme Place, 7700 Bonhomme; Sevens Building, 7777 Bonhomme; Sheraton Clayton Plaza, 7730 Bonhomme; N. Brentwood Lot, 10 N. Brentwood; Central & Maryland Lot, NW corner of Central & Maryland; 222 Building, 222 S. Central; Jefferson Smurfit, 182 Maryland, Forsyth entrance.

The St. Louis Jazz and Heritage Festival, which runs from 12:30-9 p.m., May 31, always makes it a point to feature performers of national repute as well as local talent. Jazz/funk guitarist Teddy Presberg is a bit of both.

A St. Louis-area native raised in Webster Groves and Chesterfield, Presberg released his debut album, "Blueprint of Soul," near the end of an eight-year sojourn in Oregon. While living there, he attended college and did environmental non-profit work, but continued playing music on the side.

"It got to the point where my job became my hobby and my hobby became my job," Presberg says. "It kind of flip-flopped on me when I started touring a little more and accompanying other guys and getting into production."

Presberg's musical ambitions date back to his high school years ("Parkway Central - do we have to go there?" Presberg says with a laugh) during which he "did the whole thing where I had to sneak out at night to play with guys who were older than me" at venues like the Way Out Club and Cicero's.

He earned a scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music, he says, but decided to take a different tack. "I was like, well, I can still learn how to play music without studying it formally at school."

Seasoning his skills by playing in all manner of settings, from jazz to folk to reggae and dub outfits, Presberg put the material for "Blueprint of Soul" together by thinking of the City of Roses and improvising music evocative of its various aspects.

"I wanted to make a kind of scrapbook of Portland," he says. "I realized this later, when I was reading some Jack Kerouac, about the way he approached writing. It's kind of a similar method, where you see the subject - I'd visualize a street I lived on or a particular place where I'd go get tacos or something like that, and try to recreate it sonically."

His use of mostly first takes on the album also echoes Kerouac's "first thought, best thought" method of writing.

"When we play live, it swings a lot harder, but the album is its own thing," Presberg says. "It's lo-fi and we don't try to cover that up. It was done with one microphone, real basic. It was kind of a neat experiment."

Initially, the album appeared in early 2007 on Presberg's own Outright Music label, but some months later was picked up for distribution by Ropeadope Records, whose impressive roster includes Medeski, Martin and Wood, Charlie Hunter, DJ Logic and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Ropeadope's involvement put the album on the national stage and "gave it a second wind," Presberg says.

Family played a big part in the guitarist's decision to return to St. Louis. "It was a good time for me to come back - being my own boss, freelancing a bit, being flexible - to be able to come back here and be with family and just check things out," he says. "It's been a really receptive scene. We've had a good response to our music."

Locally, Presberg is about to start a biweekly Friday night residency at the Delmar Lounge, and has played other venues, such as the Tin Can and the Tap Room as well. Later this summer he'll tour the Midwest, including a stop at Minnesota's 10,000 Lakes Festival.

His band, the Red Note Revivalists, features drummer Eric Nolly and bassist Shlomo Ovadyah. He also plays with other groups, including the Brothers Lazaroff and the Roly Poly Dub Band.

Presberg is looking forward to new projects and says he has "two or three albums worth" of material that he's sitting on right now, hoping to record some of it when touring for his current album is over. And he hasn't left his past as an environmental worker behind.

"On the Outright Music website there's an eco button you can hit [for more information], he says. "We run our business as green as we can. We even work with sustainable clothing companies to outfit us when we're on the road. So, I'll be onstage and my boxers will be made out of corn."

Too much information? Perhaps. But can anyone else playing the Jazz and Heritage Festival say that?

 

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