The principal venue of not-for-profit presenter Jazz St. Louis, Jazz at the Bistro shows up on just about every list of best jazz clubs compiled anywhere, from USA Today to the jazz trade magazine Down Beat. And while the RFT doesn't just go along with the journalistic pack as a matter of course, in this case, we have no choice but to agree. The Bistro isn't just the best of St. Louis; it's one of the best in the country and, arguably, the world. The club's basic formula — nationally known touring musicians alternating weeks with selected local acts, presented in an uncluttered "listening room" atmosphere — has remained consistent. But as the Bistro's reputation has grown, Jazz St. Louis has been able to attract a number of musicians capable of filling much larger halls, including bassist Stanley Clarke, pianist Ramsey Lewis and bassist Marcus Miller, who opened the 2012-13 season in September. The Bistro also has presented some interesting, one-off combinations of musicians custom-configured under the guidance of artistic and operations director Bob Bennett. This season's examples include the pairings of saxophonist James Carter and organist Dr. Lonnie Smith and saxophonist Harry Allen with pianist and singer Freddy Cole. For world-class jazz in St. Louis, the Bistro remains difficult, if not impossible, to beat.
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