Tuesday, April 17, 2012 / 12:00 PM
Wander over to Jazz at the Bistro April 18 through April 21, and you won’t find the seasoned veterans of jazz blaring out their grooves. At least not until nightfall, when the big stars (including Stefon Harris, Sean Jones, Poncho Sanchez, and Christian McBride) come out to play. The daytime will be dedicated to the up-and-comings; high school, middle school and college jazz combos on stage, with the veterans in the audience seats, and they’ll have a lot to say.
It’s all part of the 9th annual Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival, presented by the Touhill Center for the Arts, UMSL, and Jazz St. Louis. The goal is to provide student jazz bands throughout the midwest region with practice clinics and accomplished mentors who are eager to provide feedback. Daytime events throughout the weekend begin with student performances; each young musician receives “a clinic, a critique, an adjudication, if you will, from some of the top names in jazz and jazz education,” says Jim Widner, artistic director of the festival and director of the Jazz Studies program at UMSL. “I bring folks in mostly from the outside, just because it’s something they can’t get every day.”
The festival has a strong focus on young artists, and each night culminates with performances by big names in the jazz scene who have strong ties to jazz education: Stefon Harris and Sean Jones, Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band featuring Terence Blanchard, and the recently Grammy-winning Christian McBride Big Band. Snagging these bands was a strategic choice for the festival.
“We want it to be groups or individuals who are world class artists but also have a strong feel and passion for jazz education,” Widner says,. “We want these students and the community to hear the jazz icons.”
The festival takes place April 18 to April 21. Student combos and big bands play daily at the Bistro and Touhill, and are free and open to the public. Headliners Stefon Harris and Sean Jones give two performances April 19th at Jazz at the Bistro. Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band play April 20th at 8 p.m. at the Touhill. The Christian McBride Big Band performs April 21st at 8 p.m. at the Touhill. For more information and to get tickets, visit touhill.org/jazzfestival.
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