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Bobby Watson Quintet

Sunday, August 11; Blueberry Hill's Duck Room

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The ultimate NYC jazz club is the Village Vanguard, an intimate wedge-shaped basement space in lower Manhattan. From street level, it doesn't look like much -- just an awning bearing the name and a door to a narrow set of stairs leading down to the club. But the Vanguard has played host to legends ranging from Monk, Miles and Dizzy to the best musicians on today's scene.

What's that got to do with St. Louis jazz fans? Head down to the Duck Room, beneath Blueberry Hill, on Sunday, and all will be revealed. The intimate basement club -- home to an array of alt-rock, new-country, folk and fusion bands -- will exude a Big Apple jazz-club vibe when the Bobby Watson Quintet takes the stage for two sets.

"As a jazz venue, I think the Duck Room rivals many clubs in New York and Chicago," says Madeline Dames, head of Tradin' 4s Productions, which will book two jazz shows a month at the venue. Watson seems like the ideal choice to kick off the series. Now the head of the University of Missouri Kansas City jazz-studies department, he also has a fine new CD, Live & Learn, on the Palmetto label.

But is there really room for another venue here featuring nationally known jazz musicians? Dames thinks so: "The Duck Room gives touring artists another option to showcase their talents here, and it gives local fans the chance to hear great musicians who otherwise would have passed St. Louis by. University City has produced more than its share of fine jazz musicians. It seems only right to have a quality jazz venue in the Loop."

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