By Roy Kasten
By Kris Wernowsky
By Chaz Kangas
By Joseph Hess
By Julie Seabaugh
By Mike Appelstein
By Rachel Brodsky
By Kelsey McClure
Raised in University City as the son of two classical musicians, pianist Peter Martin studied at Juilliard and then established himself professionally in jazz as part of the highly competitive New Orleans music scene. Martin's fluid keyboard technique and his skill at providing thoughtful accompaniment eventually helped him become a preferred sideman for headliners like singer Dianne Reeves, bassist Christian McBride and trumpeter Chris Botti. Resettling in his hometown after Hurricane Katrina, Martin has continued to tour internationally, but he also has made a contribution to the local scene by presenting a concert series at the Sheldon and working with music students.
—Dean C. Minderman
Reggie Thomas is a man of many talents: pianist, organist, bandleader, sideman for touring performers, recording artist, arranger/composer and educator at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Often teaming with his wife Mardra, a singer and actress, Thomas has been a constant presence and a consistent indicator of quality on the St. Louis jazz scene. At the same time, he's also developed a national reputation as a teacher and clinician for events such as the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Essentially Ellington festival at New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center. This will be the Thomas' last summer in St. Louis. He has accepted a new job at Michigan State University, but he'll leave behind many enjoyable musical memories. (DM)
BEST BLUES ARTIST
Big George Brock
It's one thing to sing jazz and blues. It's another one entirely to live them. Big George Brock was born in the Mississippi Delta, where he worked on a cotton plantation. Later, he moved to St. Louis' fertile musical grounds. His 2007 album, Live at Seventy-Five, garnered much positive press; after its release he toured the UK for the first time ever. Now 79 years old, the singer continues to be a bigger-than-life presence on the stage and on the harmonica. Those wanting to witness a living legend at work can catch him regularly at BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups and Highway 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen. (RFT)
Roland Johnson and the Voodoo
Roland Johnson isn't just one of the most purely emotional soul singers in St. Louis. He's also a terrific bandleader, directing the moves and grooves of the Voodoo Blues Band during its regular gigs at the redoubtable Beale on Broadway. If there's ever been a sure thing for live music in St. Louis, Johnson's residency is it. Dapper and smooth as a Lincoln just off the lot, Johnson understands what to do with an Otis Redding or Sam & Dave number. He sings like a man who knows the story of soul music, because it's ultimately his story, and he adds a new, sweat-stained chapter with every set. (RK)
Ground Floor Band
The Ground Floor Band has been a midweek mainstay at Beale on Broadway downtown for nearly a decade now, and its extensive gigging history stretches back at least another ten years before that. Led by founder and guitarist Charles Hunt, whose razor-sharp licks evoke Albert King and Albert Collins, the current edition of the group includes bassist Eugene Johnson, drummer David Timms and keyboard player Derrick Thomas and may be its strongest lineup yet. With all four members contributing lead and background vocals, the Ground Floor delivers groove-conscious interpretations of songs from a variety of genres, from straight-up blues to soul, funk, R&B and even disco, rock and pop. (DM)
A four-piece blues band in the classic style, Rough Grooves follows a musical path that winds from Mississippi to Memphis to St. Louis on up to Chicago and all the way back again. All four members are long-time veterans of the local music scene, experienced in mixing originals, obscure covers and familiar blues standards that keep crowds entertained and imbibing. Guitarist Rich McDonough and harmonica player and vocalist Eric McSpadden are both considered to be among St. Louis' best on their respective instruments, while bassist/vocalist Sharon Foehner and drummer Joe Pastor are bandleaders in their own right and are equally capable of offering solid support or taking their own turns in the spotlight. (DM)
If zydeco, blues and R&B had a threesome, their bastard child would be Rockin' Jake. Letting the good times roll as the relaxing sounds of a harmonica groove with a little bass guitar, this band transports you onto Louisiana porch swings where music rolls off the waters of the bayou. An easy guitar rhythm kicks things off, followed by some bluesy harmonica. It's all about going back to the Big Easy where the girls all get freaky. When the brass instruments and piano join in, it's as if all the swamp people have come out to jam for the evening.
BEST ROCK BAND
Magic City is a perfected cocktail of twang, rock, decades of experience and guttural, Nick Cave-esque vocals. The quintet has been performing all around St. Louis since January 2009 and has been busy in 2011: The group has gone on two tours of the South already this year, and its new album is scheduled for release on vinyl soon. (CW)
11:30 p.m., The Dubliner (Upstairs)
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