The 2001 version of the St. Louis Juneteenth Heritage & Jazz Festival boasts a streamlined lineup focusing on a different musical style in each of its four scheduled evening concerts. The fest kicks off Thursday, June 14, at the Ambassador with a "Gospel Jubilee" featuring the Canton Spirituals and Garnelle Spearman singing with the Glory to Glory Choir. Local gospel group Du Season is also on the bill. On June 15, the Ambassador hosts "Blues on the Big Muddy," with Little Milton, Bobby Rush and Oliver Sain. Smooth jazz takes the spotlight at the Ambassador on June 16 with a double bill of saxman Walter Beasley and organist Lonnie Liston Smith (pictured). Also, a proposed tribute to Miles Davis featuring Wallace Roney -- a protégé of Miles' in the late 1980s -- and pianist Geri Allen is tentatively scheduled for June 19 at Spruill's. Free noon concerts by local bands on June 14 and 18 at Kiener Plaza will round out the festivities.According to organizer Curtis Faulkner, this year's Juneteenth Fest has a tighter focus for two reasons. "All the Miles Davis events taking place this year, including the East St. Louis Arts Festival concert on Memorial Day, were in the spotlight," he notes. "Also, the new St. Louis Jazz Festival is scheduled for the weekend right after June 19. There really wasn't enough of a time frame to do a longer Juneteenth event. And we also decided that we needed to get away from having multiple events -- like a jazz concert and a blues concert on the same night. When we did that, we ended up competing with ourselves, as well as other events."
Faulkner continues to try expanding Juneteenth in other areas. He's bringing South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela to the Ambassador on July 12 and starting a "Blue Note" jazz series at Spruill's that will begin on July 20 with an appearance by guitarist Ronny Jordan. For more info about musical Juneteenth events, check out the Web site, www.juneteenthjazz.org.