The Jazz at the Bistro series began its 2001-02 season with a flurry of big names. Guitarist John Pizzarelli, who's built a dedicated following here, kicked things off, followed by the interesting pairing of veteran pianist Kenny Barron and talented young violin player Regina Carter. Organ legend Jimmy Smith attracted sellout crowds with a rare St. Louis visit a few weeks ago. But this week is definitely "trick or treat" for Jazz at the Bistro director Gene Dobbs Bradford: He'll soon learn whether his decision to add relative unknowns to the mix of old favorites will affect attendance.If talent were the only criterion, booking tenor-sax player David Sánchez and his quintet would be a no-brainer. Sánchez has earned Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations for his last two recordings, Obsesin and Melaza, and his latest release, Travesía, is an invigorating blend of Afro-Caribbean sounds and cutting-edge bop. The 33-year-old Sánchez, who hails from Puerto Rico, incorporates plenty of his native plena and bomba rhythms in his musical approach. Several compositions condemn the use of the island of Vieques as a target range for the U.S. Navy; others comment on the harsh conditions of sugarcane workers in Puerto Rico. With his group's unique double-sax front line (featuring cohort Miguel Zenn on alto) and the support of a powerful rhythm section, Sánchez generates an irresistible sense of excitement onstage. Let's hope St. Louis audiences are hip enough to turn out for a great musician who's not yet a household name.
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