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Bistro Beats

This summer, the town's top jazz club opens its doors to a wider variety of sounds

"The Bistro just has a different feel than a club," she explains. "It's also a very good restaurant, and there's just a different atmosphere for people. I think we'll still have some of the upscale ambiance that you have at a Jazz at the Bistro concert, but there's also going to be a more relaxed, looser feeling, too. It's definitely not going to be a 'listening room' like Jazz at the Bistro."

That "relaxed, looser feeling" has caught the attention of Jazz at the Bistro's director, Gene Dobbs Bradford. Although Bradford is pleased to see that the restaurant will remain open for the summer and is trying to attract a wider audience with an eclectic lineup of music, he has reservations.

"I think it's great that the restaurant is going to remain open all summer," he says. "We have a great relationship with the management of the restaurant, and I think the summer music will bring in folks who haven't been to the Bistro before. And I'm glad there are some good jazz artists in the lineup, like Russell and Kurt Elling, who have been part of the Jazz at the Bistro series. Hopefully that will whet everyone's appetite for the start of our series in the fall. But I have to admit I do hope that the Bistro is able to maintain its identity as the place to go to see jazz in St. Louis. That's vital."

Any new music series is a gamble, and the Bistro's summer series certainly faces some hurdles. In addition to the decreased traffic in Grand Center during the summer, there's no real guarantee that audiences really want to see a band such as the Iguanas in a setting like the Bistro. But O'Dea is confident that the concept will work.

"I think the Bistro is a great space," she says. "We'll be able to change the seating to fit the performers. For bands like the Mamou Playboys, we'll clear out tables to create a dance floor, and for someone like Iris DeMent, we can have a really intimate feeling that fits her music. It's a chance for people to hear musicians who haven't played here in a while, to hear music in a different setting -- and hear it in a different way."

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