Ah, September: the month when performing-arts series clog the calendar with opening-night events designed to stir up audience enthusiasm -- and, with any luck, boost ticket sales for the remainder of the season. Jazz at the Bistro, which kicks off its seventh season this week at Bistro Europa, has wisely chosen to open with the John Pizzarelli Trio, a group with a proven ability to generate a high-voltage reaction among St. Louis jazz fans. Pizzarelli (pictured) bases his musical approach on the classic piano/guitar/bass lineup used by the late Nat "King" Cole and later by pianist Oscar Peterson. Without the solidity of a drummer keeping the beat, it's a style that demands top-notch technique -- and requires an almost telepathic communication among the band members to keep the complex rhythms humming along in a swinging, subtle groove.Guitarist/vocalist Pizzarelli, his brother Martin on bass and Ray Kennedy on piano are all based in the New York City area these days, but St. Louis surely qualifies as a second home. Over the past two years, Pizzarelli has appeared at the Bistro and the Sheldon at least six times, always playing to capacity crowds. Even when he's not doing a gig in town, you might find Pizzarelli dropping in to croon the national anthem before a Cards game. "We've been really fortunate," Pizzarelli explains during a phone interview from Los Angeles. "St. Louis really supports us well. Of course, Ray grew up here, and people show up just to hear him. But for the style of music we do, I think St. Louis jazz fans are just a little smarter than in other cities. They really listen and are incredibly supportive." See the Jazz at the Bistro Web site for more information about the series: www.jatb.org.
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