This week's lineup at the Backstage Bistro doesn't feature one of the national acts that's part of the regular "Jazz at the Bistro" performance series, but the names will be familiar to local jazz fans. On Friday evening, the Bistro features the long-lived combination of pianist Herb Drury and bassist Jerry Cherry. And on Saturday, popular pianist James Matthews leads his trio.
The booking of local musicians on weekends when national acts aren't scheduled has been tried before at the Bistro, but in past seasons the approach was primarily to rotate a couple of local acts throughout the entire season. This year, there's much more variety; for example, Brilliant Corners and the CarolBeth True Trio played the first weekend in November at the club.
"It's really important for us to support local artists," explains Gene Dobbs Bradford, director of Jazz at the Bistro. "St. Louis has always had a strong group of local musicians, and many of them have gone on to work nationally and internationally. We want to make sure people are aware of the wealth of talent we have here." Bradford's original concept for featuring local musicians was to showcase groups that pulled together musicians from various working bands -- giving audiences combinations of talent that usually don't perform together at other local clubs. But a conversation with horn player and SIU-Edwardsville music professor Brett Stamps changed his mind.
"Brett told me he understood what I was trying to do," recalls Bradford, "but he also told me that no one in the area showcases musicians like the Bistro. He told me that playing at the Bistro made musicians feel like they were the focus of the evening, rather than just being there to provide background music." In addition, the Bistro atmosphere seems to bring out the best in the local musicians who play there. "People are there to really listen to the music, and that's something that really motivates a musician," concludes Bradford.