If you caught any episodes of the recent PBS television series Ken Burns' Jazz, you were exposed to a major chunk of early jazz history -- including quite a few original recordings of classic jazz compositions from the 1920s and '30s. But, given the rather lame qualities of most TV speakers, the power, emotion and subtlety of that early jazz just didn't have maximum impact. And let's face it: Even though modern recording technology has cleaned up the sound on those early recordings, making CD reissues of the music more palatable to modern ears, it takes considerable focus and energy on the part of listeners to get to the real essence of early jazz. But thanks to the Webster University Traditional Jazz Ensemble, you have the chance to hear some of those classic tunes played live. The Ensemble will be performing a free concert, sponsored by the Kirkwood Public Library as part of an extensive program focused on the Jazz Age of the 1920s -- actually, the second of a two-part series.
"We're progressing chronologically through the 1920s," says Webster director of jazz studies and saxophonist Paul DeMarinis, "and I'll be providing some historical background on each piece as well." The Feb. 20 concert will focus on the music of Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. Admission is free, and you can reserve seats by calling the Kirkwood Library at 314-821-5770, ext. 0.