The Firstar St. Louis Jazz Festival, which debuts this Friday and Saturday at Shaw Park in Clayton, features a host of national and local jazz musicians certain to appeal to a wide cross-section of music fans. Trumpeter Terence Blanchard, Latin percussionist Poncho Sanchez and vocalist René Marie headline Friday night, and Saturday's lineup features violinist Regina Carter (pictured), guitarist Larry Coryell and sons, vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater and Kirkwood native David Sanborn. Local players Denise Thimes, Ptah Williams and Reggie Thomas' OGD Trio will also play.But it takes more than an attractive lineup to get a fledgling jazz festival off the ground -- especially when there's a cover charge ($15 a day, $25 for both days). Fortunately, the organizers of the Firstar Festival appear to have the myriad details of producing the event under control. That's not surprising, given that the production team is the same group that's made the annual Clayton Art Fair one of the most popular events in the metro area.
Says Cynthia Prost, president and executive director of the Firstar St. Louis Jazz Festival (and director of the Art Fair for the past four years as well), "We book the music for the Art Fair through the staff of the Sheldon Concert Hall. A couple of years ago, Dale Benz of the Sheldon and I were talking at the Jazz Stage of the Art Fair about the idea of putting together an event that was focused on music rather than presenting it as a sidebar to the Art Fair, and it's evolved over the past couple of years into a reality -- thanks to a lot of hard work by a lot of people and great support from the business community."
You can find additional info on the festival's Web site, www.saintlouisjazzfest.com, but here are a few items to keep in mind: Performances will take place on three separate stages, making for continuous entertainment. All metered parking in Clayton will be free during the event, and wristbands will allow ticketholders to come and go. And for those who like gourmet fare along with their jazz, such restaurants as Portabella, Del Pietro's, Shiitake and Kilkenny's will be serving items from their menus. You'll even be able to get autographs at a CD tent on the grounds. Bring a blanket and check it out.