To the casual observer, the quiet, tree-lined streets of Webster Groves probably do not suggest a jazz hotbed. Yet over the years the St. Louis suburb has become home to the independent label MAXJAZZ; a respected jazz studies program at Webster University; and two music stores - Euclid Records and Webster Records - with extensive jazz selections and far-flung clienteles.
Now Webster also has a real live jazz club once again with the opening of Robbie's House of Jazz in the corner storefront at 20 Allen Avenue, the spot formerly occupied by Cookie's Jazz and More. Owned by Dorothy and Robert Edwards, Robbie's has had a series of friends-and-family "soft openings" and preview events over the last month in preparation for last weekend's grand opening celebration, which featured music from Robert Edwards' sixteen-piece big band.
The newly formed ensemble is a multi-generational affair that mixes known players such as trombonist Lamar Harris and pianist Adaron "Pops" Jackson with area jazz educators, students, and moonlighters like saxophonists Calvin Barnes, a radiologist, and Wesley Clayton, a software developer. Edwards, a trombonist and retired high school band director, says the big band will perform a wide range of material, from original compositions to more familiar charts from icons like Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller.
The September calendar at Robbie's features several dates for Edwards' big band, as well as shows from local groups led by drummer Stan Hale (Friday, September 18) and saxophonist Greg Lewis (Saturday, September 26). However, the couple also plans to bring in touring musicians, starting with shows featuring two St. Louis expatriates, guitarist Kelvyn Bell and drummer Ronnie Burrage, and poet Quincy Troupe on October 9 and 10. Dorothy Edwards, who serves as general manager, said they also plan to open the space to local not-for-profit organizations for fundraising events and to rent it for business meetings and private parties.
Currently, Robbie's House of Jazz is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, with live music on Fridays and Saturdays. In October, they'll add weekly Thursday shows from Robert Edwards' big band, and Dorothy Edwards says the club's Web site, located at www.robbieshouseofjazz.com, should be online within a week.