The summer has come to a close. The days are shorter, the autumn breeze blows colder and the long wait for opening night at Jazz at the Bistro has finally ended. To kick off Jazz St. Louis's 19th season, the highly influential Yellowjackets have returned to this intimate setting to dole out four nights of modern jazz and fusion.
The crowd seemed sparse as the showtime approached, but appearances can be deceiving. Locals Mathias & the Pirates took the stage to open the night, and by the close of their first song, the wallflowers had emerged from the booths and shadows and the influx of returning smokers filled the gaps to stuff the floor with a crowd even headliners could appreciate. By the time Dessa took the stage, there wasn't a straggler in the room and all eyes were fixed on the Firebird stage.
Without introduction, a drop in the lights or even stray clack on the drums, Steve Marion took a power stance and drew the mingling crowd to the dance floor with a single chord from his guitar.
The stage of the Old Rock House was flush with microphones, creating a fence of stands along the front edge as the early-bird patrons picked out a table, a drink and a bite to eat before the show.
The world of jazz is expansive and limitless. It combines elements from every style of music that it encounters, generating a sound that belongs entirely to the musicians on stage and those privileged enough to share the experience. Wednesday night, the most knowledgeable of Jazz at the Bistro's regulars joined the Lionel Loueke Trio for a set that was as diverse as it was original.
There was wine on every table with glasses that couldn't stay full. The crowd at Jazz at the Bistro buzzed with a friendly familiarity and mingled between tables waiting for the night's second set, featuring James Carter and the Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio, to begin.
Even before the first note was played, it was clear that this concert at Jazz at the Bistro would be a night of laughter and upbeat sounds.
Widespread Panic has an uncommon style of set creation show by show, touring extensively but never repeating a set, which was likely much more difficult before they had produced more than 11 studio albums worth of original music across over a quarter of a century.
Jazz is an experience. From composition to performance, the unbridled format allows creator and musician to connect with the world around him in a stream of expression, and the Joe Sample Trio embodies the very essence of this process.