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Playing this summer: Sarah Jane & the Blue Notes

Photo provided Sarah Ulrich at right
Photo provided Sarah Ulrich at right

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 22, 2013: Sarah Ulrich’s first working band came together back in the 1980s when she was a teenager and focused on what she now calls “very eclectic, new wave, dirge-y music.”

But these days, Ulrich has a much different musical direction as the lead singer for Sarah Jane & the Blue notes, a band that focuses on music from the 1920s to 1950s and the era of swing, jazz, big bands and the great American songbook.

“The band actually began a couple years ago, when I met Zac Minor,” recalls Ulrich during a recent phone conversation. “I was doing some singing at practices with the Knights of Swing band, and Zac was very nice, helping me with my vocals as far as coming in at the right time. I happened to see him at a coffee shop one day and asked him if he might be interested in starting a band, and that’s how things began to happen.”

The Blue Notes have built a growing following with performances at a variety of venues – from BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups and the Feasting Fox to swing dances at the Mahler ballroom in the Central West End and occasional rooftop concerts at the Deco Fortress on South Broadway near the Lemp Mansion.

“The Deco Fortress is my name for a great building that used to be a medical building, with a pharmacy and a living space on the second floor for the doctor,” explains Ulrich. “I’ve been living there and rehabbing the building for 14 years with my husband, and adding Art Deco items from St. Louis places like a counter and stools from Irv’s Diner, and a 1940s soda fountain bar from Pennsylvania. I call it an unofficial Art Deco museum!”

The band released its first CD last week, and as you might expect, it’s full of classic tunes ranging from “Them There Eyes,” “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” and “Bei Mir Bist du Schön.”

“I’m really happy with the recording, and we just had the CD release party last week,” says Ulrich. “In addition to our regular performances, we’re looking forward to playing some festivals - next Wednesday at the Botanical Garden… and on Sept. 21 at the Old Webster Jazz and Blues Fest.”

Sarah Jane & The Blue Notes’ performance Wednesday, July 24 at the Missouri Botanical Garden is part of the Whitaker Music Series. Sarah Ulrich provides additional background on herself and the Blue Notes below. For additional info, check the band’s Facebook page.

HOME: The Deco Fortress, St. Louis.

AGE: The band formed two years ago, but we’re well seasoned!

INSTRUMENTS: Sarah Jane - vocals, Jerry Greene - saxes, Zac Minor - saxes, Doug Burns - trombone, Ben Osborne - guitar, Mark Hochberg - bass, Mike Major - drums. And for the Botanical Garden concert, we’re adding Randy Holmes on trumpet! Come out to help us celebrate Henry Shaw’s birthday!

HOBBIES: Preserving the past through wearing it, driving it, & singing it.

LAST CONCERT: Joe Mancuso, Jeanne Trevor and Wendy Gordon at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

LATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: We just unleashed our first CD into the world last week.

WHY I DO WHAT I DO: Singing was a bucket list item for me, and I have a love of melody.

QUOTE: “I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way.” - Jessica Rabbit

Whitaker Music Series – Missouri Botanical Garden

The annual Whitaker Music Series has become one of the most popular – and crowded -- summer music festivals in the area. The Festival takes place on 10 Wednesday evenings from June through early August, and it’s common for these concerts to routinely attract crowds of 8,000 people - or more.

There are some basic rules: Admission to the Garden is free starting at 5 p.m., and visitors can bring their own food and beverages in coolers, blankets and lawn chairs. You can even bring a table, but it has to be less than two feet in height. Just remember NOT to bring any pets, flags or banners, sports equipment such as Frisbees, grills or any cigarettes. The Garden is smoke-free at all times. Food and beverages – including beer and wine – are available for purchase. The music starts at 7:30 p.m. and usually ends sometime before 10 p.m.

If you’re looking for a god location to see and hear the music (many attendees opt for a location distant from the stage and listen to the music through strategically placed speakers in the Garden) the best advice is to get there early. Parking can also be hard to come by as concert time approaches. And if you have kids in tow, remember that the Children’s Garden is open with free admission from 5 to 7 p.m.

In case of rain, check the Garden’s website – www.mobot.org - Facebook page or twitter.

Terry Perkins is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. He has written for the St. Louis Beacon since 2009. Terry's other writing credits in St. Louis include: the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis American, the Riverfront Times, and St. Louis magazine. Nationally, Terry writes for DownBeat magazine, OxfordAmerican.org and RollingStone.com, among others.

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