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Tag Archives: music

28 Sep 2020

Kranzberg Arts Foundation partners with Open Highway Music Festival for month-long brunch and live music series

By Caitlin Lally

Sundays in October are about to get a little louder in Grand Center.

The sound of banjos strumming and voices harmonizing will fill the air outside The Grandel as the community gathers, safely, for brunch and live performances by local Americana and bluegrass musicians.

Blue Sky Brunch, presented by Kranzberg Arts Foundation and Open Highway Music Festival, features a lineup of four acts that will take place over the course of the month with brunch catered by Mayo Ketchup from Plantain Girl

On the artist lineup for Oct. 18, and also the founder of Open Highway Music Festival is John Henry, (pictured above), who said he is very grateful for the opportunity to work with Kranzberg Arts Foundation to produce the October concert series.

“It was nice to be able to do something a little different from what we do. It’s strange putting on a show during daylight. And while the [music] industry is shut down in a lot of ways, I feel there is a need for music,” Henry said.

“It’s nice to be able to present these shows in a way that supports the artists and gives the fans something to look forward to … it gives people a sense of normalcy in these really unnormal times.”

Click here to see the lineup and learn more about Blue Sky Brunch.

Like countless events this year, Open Highway Music Festival delayed their ninth annual festival that was scheduled for late July and into August at Off-Broadway due to health and safety concerns caused by COVID-19. 

“We saw the industry shut down, so we’ve had to abide by the guidelines set forth by the city, but most importantly we want to put the safety of the patrons and bands at the forefront of everything,” Henry said, who also books talent for the South City venue Off-Broadway.

However, Henry acknowledged that the support for and among the local music scene has grown amid the pandemic.

“In a time of uncertainty and struggle, it’s good to see that many local artists have grown tighter and embraced a sense of community because, without that, things just fall away.”

While the state of the music industry is open-ended as it currently stands, Henry said it’s nice to see the local support for artists.

“I appreciate the efforts of everyone involved to give local artists an opportunity to present their music to people,” Henry said. “It’s been a rough year, obviously, and any little bit helps.”

For more information about Blue Sky Brunch including the full lineup and ticketing details, click here.

01 Feb 2020
man playing trumpet
By Nancy Kranzberg

I was inspired by two art exhibitions at The Sheldon Art Galleries in Grand Center Arts District. The first was titled “Amazing Horns: Bridging Continents, Bridging Time.” The works were instruments from The Hartenberger Collection of Musical Instruments now owned by The Sheldon. Dr. Aurelia Hartenberger has been researching and collecting musical instruments and artifacts amassing more than 3,000 items. Ninety-four horns from the collection were on display in this exhibition.

Wikipedia describes horns as any of a family of musical instruments made of a tube, usually made of metal and often curved in various ways, with one narrow end which the musician blows, and a wide end from which the sound emerges. In jazz and popular-music contexts, the word may be used loosely to refer to any wind instrument, and a section of brass or woodwind instruments, or a mixture of the two, is called a horn section.

As the name indicates, people originally used to blow on the actual horns of animals before starting to emulate them in metal or other materials. The original usage survives in the shofar (Hebrew), a ram’s horn, which plays an important role in the Jewish religious rituals. The genus of animal-horn instruments to which the shofar belongs is called Keren in Hebrew, Qarnu in Akkadian, and Keras in Greek.

The Wikipedia article on horns describes every horn imaginable from finger horns, marching horns, and saxhorns to horns used all around the globe.

Then I remembered another exhibition at The Sheldon Art Galleries, “The City of Gabriels: The History of Jazz in St. Louis, 1895-1973,” and the wonderful book written about it by Dennis Owsley, jazz scholar, St. Louis Public Radio jazz host and photographer.

Gabriel, of course, refers to the biblical character who blew his horn to announce the judgment day. The trumpet had more references in Owsley’s book than any other instrument.

The definition of a trumpet says it is a brass instrument commonly used in classical and jazz ensembles. The trumpet group contains the instruments (such as the piccolo trumpet) with the highest register in the brass family. Trumpet-like instruments have historically been used as signaling devices in battle or hunting, with examples dating back to at least 1500 BC. They began to be used as musical instruments only in the late 14th or early 15th century. Trumpets are used in art, music styles, for instance in orchestras, concert bands, and jazz ensembles, as well as in popular music.

Adam Corre wrote an article titled “10 Of The Most Famous Trumpet Players of All Time,” and of course Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, and our own Miles Davis were all on the list. But we forget just how famous St. Louis is for its trumpet players in general. The late Clark Terry in the forward to Owsley’s “City of Gabriel’s” says, “I am not certain of the exact reasons why my hometown of St. Louis has had such a great jazz trumpet tradition. It could have been the Midwestern atmosphere or the other great musical traditions of the city, but I know that the origins of that tradition come straight from the great Mississippi River.”

Owsley says, “Trumpet players have shaped the sound and direction of St. Louis from the beginning. The sound of a St. Louis trumpet player is unmistakable, whether the trumpeter is Charles Creath, Dewey Jackson, Miles Davis, Clark Terry, Floyd LeFlore or Lester Bowie. The unique sound is described as a clear, singing tone, with many bent notes reminiscent of the human voice.”

There are many more notable horn players that have and continue to blow their horns in our city, but I’d like to end this commentary by paying tribute to David Hines (1942-1991) whose life was cut short in a motorcycle accident. By 1963, Hines was touring on trumpet with Albert King, T. Bone Walker, and Little Milton and in 1968, Hines was the jazz soloist with Woody Herman and held the same position with Ray Charles in 1970. Hines also played in theatre orchestra throughout the St. Louis area. He was the leader in halting discriminatory practices in the hiring of musicians for theater work by requiring auditions to be held behind curtains. He taught in various school situations and led the University City Jazz Band in the late 1980s. Hines toured Europe with Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy in the winter of 1986.

We can all toot our horns for St. Louis’ rich history of music where it shines in all its guises.

01 Feb 2020
By Melissa Meinzer

As any plugged-in music fan will tell you, the music scene here is rockin’ and rollin’ — no help needed. On any night, you can find local, regional, and national acts in everything from gritty little rooms to stadiums. Now, a trio of new or reworked events aim to shine a light on the city’s lively musical happenings, leveraging connections within the community and bringing the music to a wider audience.

About a year and a half ago, planning began on what would become the Saint Louis Music Initiative. Featuring the revamped Music at the Intersection festival and St. Louis Music Week, both debuting in September 2020, and 2021’s Midwest Music Summit, the initiative can be thought of as connective tissue for the city’s thriving and ascendant music economy.

“Our city has a roster of artists that are on the rise,” says Sean Smothers, director of strategic partnerships for the Kranzberg Arts Foundation. “The number of folks I was starting to see kind of come into their own was just phenomenal. You saw Tonina [Saputo] getting name-checked by the president!” he says, referring to Barack Obama’s year-end tweet about his favorite music of 2018. The city’s contributions to the global conversations on jazz, the blues, Americana, and hip-hop are legendary.

Smothers reflected on his admiration for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, a marquee event that grew from just a few hundred people in Louis Armstrong Park to an international destination. Festival founder George Wein hit upon a stroke of genius in developing the backbone of that festival. “Wein made an overt effort to make sure culture was embedded in the festival in the right way,” says Smothers. “Really, the success of that festival came from not being able to really separate the New Orleans part from the music and heritage part.”

That baked-in culture piece, alongside recognition of the city’s deep well of talent, informed the formation of Saint Louis Music Week, the reimagined Music at the Intersection, and (in 2021) the Midwest Music Summit. St. Louis is known for a tradition of exchange and collaboration, even more so than a specific genre.

“It’s tough to really put your arms around and draw out a single St. Louis sound,” Smothers says. “It’s everybody’s sound. We happen to be right at the geographic center of all these music hubs. We’ve had all these great people pass through our city and leave a piece and take a piece. We’ve also had artists from other places land here to share a new take. That intersection is worth celebrating by lifting up what we have and growing infrastructure for our music economy.”

The whole initiative is in three parts, Smothers explains. St. Louis Music Week, September 4–13, is focused on marketing — illuminating what’s already going on across the city’s vibrant collection of venues. Think of it a bit like Restaurant Week, with artists and venues signing up for no-cost promotion and fans following on social media.

Music at the Intersection, September 11–13, is a place-making event with eight stages hosting more than 60 bands, including local, regional, and national acts. The Intersection name isn’t new; its previous iteration ended about three years ago with a series of shows with local artists in Grand Center Arts District. This new, three-day concept adds the opportunity for music lovers to navigate their own cross-genre music experience.

With one ticket, festival-goers can access shows at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, The Big Top, The Sheldon, The Grandel, Jazz St. Louis, The Stage at KDHX, The Dark Room, Strauss Park, and more. The outdoor venues are also free. (Stay tuned for the artist announcement; at press time, the roster wasn’t yet made public.)

The Midwest Music Summit aims to join artists with publishers, producers, studios, national representation, and each other. Fostering these connections through panels, workshops, exhibitions, and classes will lead to opportunities and relationships. Behind the scenes, partners in the initiative are undertaking a three-year partnership with Sound Diplomacy, an international organization specializing in understanding a city’s unique music economy. This collaborative work will help St. Louis gain a clear picture of the role the music industry plays in our city (economic output, job creation, tourism interest) as well as ways to grow and protect it. The data and insights from the work undertaken by Sound Diplomacy will be made available to the public upon completion.

The effort is uniquely inclusive and grassroots. “We have 100-plus volunteers on seven committees who are helping to inform every aspect of this initiative,” says Smothers. “We don’t consider this initiative as belonging to Kranzberg Arts Foundation. We are helping continue the conversation, but we see this as belonging to the music community and to our city.  We see ourselves as the organization that’s helped ‘build the box.’ But a multitude of organizations are coming forward to put their unique stamp on it.”

That includes bookers from venues across town who are informing the programming for all three events, and marketing directors from a variety of organizations and firms that are pitching in, too. “Instead of viewing this as something that would be competitive, they’re viewing it as something that will lift the tide for all boats,” Smothers says. “It’s a true collaboration.”

For serious music geeks and casual fans alike, the events offer a glimpse at a thrumming ecosystem — one they either live in or don’t know enough about. Either way, the trio of events offers a new lens for considering music in the city and a chance to see work that might otherwise escape their notice.

“We’re really cultivating an experience here,” Smothers says. “This is a choose-your-own-adventure music opportunity. There’s no one genre of music we’re focusing on. Any genre you want to pick, St. Louis has had a significant impact.” 

01 Aug 2019
The Cabaret Project St. Louis at Sophie's Artist Lounge

From concerts to conferences to open-mic nights, the St. Louis scene is thriving.

By Phillip Zacher

Since it started during the turn of the 20th century in France, the art of cabaret has delighted audiences around the world. Typically performed in smaller venues, the sense of intimacy helps differentiate cabaret from musical theatre or a jazz concert. “Cabaret is an intimate style of performance where the singer has a direct relationship to the audience and a personal relationship to their material”, says Tim Schall, the executive director of The Cabaret Project of St. Louis

In St. Louis, cabaret is flourishing. “There’s no comparison,” says Schall. “It’s incredibly vibrant.” And that’s in large part thanks to The Cabaret Project, which was founded in 2010 with a mission to support, develop, and sustain the art of cabaret and song performance in St. Louis. This September, The Cabaret Project kicks off its third season of the Cabaret Series, co-produced with Jazz St. Louis. Running through May 2020, the series brings six nationally and internationally recognized cabaret performers to St. Louis such as Tony winners Lindsay Mendez, Rachel Bay Jones, and Paulo Szot.

Beyond presenting concerts, The Cabaret Project focuses on educating and developing local and national artists and audiences through programs including The Cabaret Open Mic, Sign Center Stage, a five-day training program for high schoolers, and The St. Louis Cabaret Conference.

The Cabaret Open Mic, hosted every third Tuesday at Sophie’s Artist Lounge, offers singers a chance to perform for an open, receptive audience. Hosted by Chuck Lavazzi, with Carol Schmidt on piano, the event invites any and all to bring sheet music and their voice. “It’s a chance for experienced singers to try new material,” says Lavazzi. “And it’s a way for people without experience to get in front of an audience for the first time.”

For performers more serious about developing their skills, there’s the St. Louis Cabaret Conference. Currently, in its 13th season, it’s “the largest and oldest training program in song performance for adults in the nation,” according to Schall. The Cabaret Project has taken the lead in organizing the conference, which attracts and trains performers from across the nation. “We have singers coming from all over the country,” says Schall. “They get training, develop a network, and get connected locally and nationally.”

The conference has made a wide-reaching impact on the local scene. In fact, it’s where Robert Breig, who founded Mariposa Artists in 2009, got his start in cabaret. “I’ll credit Tim Schall,” he says. “I took the St. Louis conference, and I got hooked.” Today, Mariposa Artists helps artists of all experience levels produce shows, but the organization thrives on helping performers with their first shows. It speaks to the group’s roots. “I just kind of landed on the producing side,” says Breig. “I had people tell me they didn’t know where to start, and I said, ‘Hey, we can do this.’”

That attitude is what prompted an exchange program that helps artists perform their first show in a new city. Last June, Mariposa Artists presented A Taste of New York at The Kranzberg. The show featured four accomplished New York performers who had never performed in St. Louis. At the end of September, St. Louis performers will have a chance to perform in New York for the first time.

Locally, one exciting performance from Mariposa Artists is a collaboration with singer and St. Louis native Katie McGrath on Immigrant Songs, November 9 at .ZACK. Created in response to the recent spike in hate crimes, the show is the first in a series of concerts that will focus on the stories and songs of American arrival and, according to Breig, will “support the visibility and importance of immigrants to our country.”

As Mariposa Artists approaches its 10th year, the group is excited about the future of cabaret in St. Louis. “I think our community is thriving and expanding,” says Breig, “as we link arms with other performers and cities.”

01 Aug 2019
St. Louis Blues guitarist at The Dark Room
By Nancy Kranzberg

Now that the St. Louis Blues hockey team has claimed the Stanley Cup and Blues fever has finally died down, we can concentrate on the musical genre called the blues which has had a presence in our fair city for ages.

The blues experience and culture began down South in the late 19th century and gradually moved up to St. Louis and Kansas City and Chicago throughout the years. Blues and Jazz musicians left the South in a mass exodus up Highway 61 so named “the blues highway” in the early 1900s.

In the old days when the hockey players made an entrance on to the ice rink, the organist would pound out the famous “St. Louis Blues” which is a popular American song composed by W.C. Handy in the Blues style and published in 1914. It was one of the first blues songs to succeed as a pop song and actually is a standard performed by jazz musicians. Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Bessie Smith, and even The Boston Pops Orchestra are among the artists that recorded it. Actually, there are known to be over 1,400 recordings of the “St. Louis Blues.”

I’ve often wondered why jazz and blues are discussed in the same vein and checked it out on “Diffen,” the largest collection of unbiased comparisons in the world. The comparison starts saying, “An inside joke in the jazz and blues circles goes, ‘A blues guitarist plays three chords in front of thousands of people, and a jazz guitarist plays thousands of chords in front of three people.” Culturally both jazz and blues had their origins in the South. Blues stylistic origins are from African-American folk music and work songs and spirituals and jazz is a mix of African and European music traditions. The comparisons go on and on, but there seem to be more similarities than differences.

St. Louis was home to Chuck Berry, who although he had a mixture of styles was certainly mostly influenced by the blues and his friend, Johnny Johnson who played the blues on the piano. Of course, Berry’s style and flamboyancy had an impact on the world of music, but we did have other local greats such as Henry Townsend and Roosevelt Sykes who were stalwarts in prestigious circles.

And now we can hear blues every Tuesday night at The Dark Room brought to us by the St. Louis Blues Society, a thirty-year-old club which promotes and supports the blues and provides educational programming in schools and deals with such issues as race in music, advocation for artists, and preservation of the St. Louis Blue’s Legacy. There are over 60 artists involved in the Society.

Let’s not forget the National Blues Museum located in downtown St. Louis which has visitors from around the world, has many public programs, and presents national exhibitions along with the permanent exhibitions. Live music is also presented four times a week in the Lumiere Place Legends Room. The museum takes pride in its commitment to cultural equity.

And Chris Hansen, Executive Director of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, said that in 2020 a new blues space will open in Grand Center which will house the St. Louis Blues Society, have an artist-in-residence program, and more.

All the head honchos of the Blues organizations are thrilled and working together to bring The Blues in its many varieties to St. Louisans and others.

01 Aug 2019
group of 10 musicians sitting and standing

The new class of Music Artists in Residence build on St. Louis’ musical heritage

By Jeannette Cooperman

“To keep creating,” Miles Davis once said, “you have to be about change.” The legendary jazz musician would likely approve, then, of the sophomore class of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation’s Music Artists-in-Residence program. Over the course of 18 months, the residency provides these 10 St. Louis musicians with essential resources, including performance opportunities, access to recording sessions, rehearsal space, marketing support, and industry connections. Besides catching these musicians at local music venues, such as The Dark Room, you’ll be able to hear them on a compilation album slated for release next year. With their impressive chops, these energetic jazz musicians are building on a rich musical legacy.

Scooter Brown, Jr. holding saxophone

Scooter Brown, Jr.

A resident of East St. Louis, Brown grew up hearing the music of Miles Davis and Russell Gunn, and he’s learned from the likes of Wynton Marsalis and Terrence Blanchard. Today, you might recognize him as the alto sax player in local party band Dirty Muggs. Or perhaps you know him as the program director for Jazz St. Louis’ Jazz Academy. Then there’s his creative collective, Ingenuity, which recently released his debut album, Growth. “We’re what I like to call ‘life music,’” he says. “I love adding my own twist to make the audience feel better when they leave.”

Headshot of Brianna "Be.Be." Brown

Brianna “Be.Be” Brown

The soulful singer is studying jazz vocal performance at Webster University, though her lessons began at an early age, with singing and piano lessons. At Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, she added acting to her resume. Brown has traditionally performed R&B, though she’s recently broadened her repertoire, incorporating more jazz. Her band, Be.Be and the NeoSouls, also performs a fusion of the two genres. She appreciates the latitude that the Kranzberg Arts Foundation grants in encouraging her to blend musical influences: “They really focus on me and my music.”

Headshot of Janet Evra

Janet Evra

A native of Gloucester, England, Evra recently moved to St. Louis, where she’s quickly made a name for her unique mix of Latin jazz, samba, and bossa nova. Last year, she released her debut album, Ask Her to Dance, and she regularly performs at The Dark Room and Evangeline’s, as well as The Sheldon, the Old Rock House, and the National Blues Museum. Now, as one of the music artists in residence, she’s looking forward to even more performances. “Kranzberg does so much for the arts and music,” she says.

Mark Harris II

Mark Harris II

Harris’ musical style is hard to pin down, as evidenced by his single “Goin’ Up” from his new CD, Interstellar. The keyboardist describes his music as “a whole bunch of elements”—jazz-infused with pop and R&B. His inspirations include the likes of Swiss harpist Andreas Vollenweider and contemporary jazz/R&B/funk musician Brian Culbertson. He’s a solo artist, but he performs with a range of bands on occasion. After recently graduating from Lincoln University with a degree in Sacred Music, Harris is “looking forward to connecting with different artists in the area and learning more about the inside of the music business.”

Kaleb Kirby

Kaleb Kirby

The St. Louis native and graduate of Berklee College of Music puts his own spin on jazz, which he explains is a “derivative of hip-hop and pop.” Besides performing with the Kaleb Kirby Quintet (including Adam Maness, Teddy Brookins, Kendrick Smith, and Kwanae Johnson), he DJs and works at Jazz St. Louis. “I write every card on sheet music, and it’s all original,” he says.

Brady Lewis plays trumpet at The Dark Room

Brady Lewis

Though just 25 years old, the trumpeter’s played for more than a decade, performing in jazz combos while attending high school in East St. Louis and college at Northern Illinois University. Today, he fronts the BLStet, often performing at The Dark Room. He’s excited to embrace other experiences through the residency. “I want to take advantage of every opportunity possible,” he says.

Headshot of Ryan Marquez

Ryan Marquez

Art has long consumed Marquez’s life, from choir to dance to piano to visual arts and painting. “I have been on this hustle my whole life,” he says. “Music picked me. I didn’t pick music.” He describes his music as “routes of soul, hip-hop, funk, pop, and areas reflective of my inspirations—for example, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles.” A master of the Key bass, Marquez performs with two bands, pop/soul/funk group Fresh Heir and jazz/funk group The People’s Key. The Kansas City native graduated from Webster University and decided to stick around because he “loved the city so much and got really connected with the community,” he says. “I am excited to have the ability to showcase my original ideas and to collaborate with other artists in the community.”

Katarra Parson sitting on curb outside in Grand Center

Katarra Parson

Music runs in the family for Parson, whose family is full of musicians and artists. She traces back the launch of her career to an evening in 2015 when she performed at open mic collective Lyrical Therapy. “That’s where it all began,” she says, adding that she then “kept getting gigs and more shows.” A vocalist, pianist, and production composer, Parson is looking forward to embracing the opportunities that the residency affords: “Now, with this program, I get to show more of St. Louis my talents.”

Andrew Stephen kneels on keyed instrument

Andrew Stephen

The owner of Eightfold Studios, Stephen not only has recorded a wide range of musical styles—hip-hop, R&B, EDM, rock, jazz—but is himself a versatile producer, pianist, and composer. He studied jazz piano at Webster University and spent a term at Austria’s Vienna Conservatory with acclaimed pianist Danny Grissett. Today, he fronts nu-jazz hop quartet Texturz and recently created an innovative album series, Sample Kulture, rolling out smooth tracks that draw from an array of genres.

Ben Wheeler stands against brick wall

Ben Wheeler

Following in the footsteps of his father and brother, who played upright bass, Wheeler studied jazz bass at Webster University, where he now teaches jazz and music history. In the late ’90s, he played in the swing cover band Swing Cat Swing, and he’s performed with such St. Louis jazz legends as Dave Stone and the late Willie Akins. These days, he performs with Dave Venn, Tango Underground, and the LustreLights, though he’s looking to branch out as a bandleader and composer with his new project Solid Ghost.

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