The 2012 Riverfront Times Music Showcase is a week away. And if that is our own St. Louis Music holiday, then consider this the season: Throughout May, we've been making our cases for all 125 bands and artists nominated for an RFT Music Award this year, introducing the nominees from one or more of our 25 categories. For each artist you will find a photo, a streaming track to sample and a few words from the staff at RFT Music.
Dave Black Known for his versatility as well as his virtuosity, Black excels as a guitarist in a variety of genres, including jazz, blues, rock, classical and Latin. Since moving to St. Louis from his native Indiana in the early 1980s, he's consistently been one of the busiest musicians in town, playing solo gigs, leading a variety of ensembles, and supporting fellow performers, such as saxophonist Paul DeMarinis, singer and flute player Margaret Bianchetta, guitarist Teddy Presberg, singer-songwriter Javier Mendoza, and many others. Black has only recorded a couple of albums as a leader, but his constant gigging definitely has endeared him to local listeners, who voted to make him the winner of the "Best Jazz" category in last year's RFT Music poll. --Dean C. Minderman
Dave Stone Dave Stone's reputation precedes him. In straight ahead jazz circles, some consider the saxophonist a noisemonger desecrating their sacred artform. This unfair assumption is based on Stone's avant garde collaborations like the mind-melting January free improvisation performance alongside Chris Corsano and Darin Gray, or a snap judgement based on his unkempt-yet-committed beard. He gives his detractors ample opportunity to be converted; Stone's abstract performances are few and far between compared to his user-friendly trio gigs at Mangia Italiano. These weekly events show Dave Stone's disciplined approach to the jazz tradition in which his harmonic sensibility and melodic continuity take cues from legends like Sonny Rollins and Sam Rivers and he lets loose the occasional Coltranean outburst. --Ryan Wasoba
Denise Thimes If ever there were a singer's singer on the St. Louis jazz scene, Denise Thimes is it. Her tone and phrasing are impeccable but never studied. Her mastery of jazz standards comes from a kind of intuitive connection to what makes the songs worth singing in the first place: melody and emotion. She seeks to make every interpretation definitive, though she never once over-sings. To take but one example, her reading of Duke Ellington's "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)" seamlessly preserves the classic tune, while stretching out lines, modulating and lightly swinging, and then taking flight when you least expect it. But as remarkable as her balladry can be she also has the muscularity to handle any up-tempo blues you'd care to name. Thimes really can sing it all. --Roy Kasten
Hamiet Bluiett Hamiet Bluiett is a monument to St. Louis' glory days, a time when jazz performers from the area gained worldwide standing for innovation and creativity. The virtuoso from Lovejoy, Illinois, made a name for himself as a member of the World Saxophone Quartet, an outfit that included Julius Hemphill and Oliver Lake. But even with a back catalogue impressive enough for any local musician, Bluiett is still captivating older adherents - as well as curious onlookers - with rapturous sounds from his baritone saxophone. In addition to working with young musical students around the region, Hamiet is still playing gigs in St. Louis - including an upcoming performance at the Botanical Gardens on June 27. --Jason Rosenbaum
Peter Martin A University City native who spent the first part of his professional career living and working in New Orleans, Martin returned to St. Louis with his family after Hurricane Katrina, and has continued to make his home here while touring the world with well-known jazz performers including singer Dianne Reeves, bassist Christian McBride, and trumpeter Chris Botti. When he's not on the road, Martin has been active in the community, working with local music students and curating a series of performances at the Sheldon Concert Hall featuring some of his famous friends. Already well-regarded as a technically accomplished pianist and a sensitive accompanist, Martin also recently was commissioned to write a major new composition commemorating the Sheldon's 100th anniversary. --Dean C. Minderman