Who says you can never go home again? After lighting out for the big city (that would be New York), the legendary jazz trumpeter Clark Terry comes home to celebrate his birthday in style at Jazz at the Bistro, December 12 through 14 (8:30 and 10:15 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday, 4 and 6 p.m. shows Sunday; 3536 Washington Avenue; 314-531-1012; $30). Terry is a jubilant player who can raise the roof beams with the sweet sounds of the trumpet and the flugelhorn. This octogenarian brass genius is still firing on all cylinders.
C.T. (as he is sometimes affectionately called) nurtured his talents during the 1940s -- the heyday of the St. Louis jazz scene -- when he was an "idol" to a young Miles Davis. Terry's signature tune, "Mumbles," is in fact a throwback to the bustling "dens of iniquity" that flourished when our fair city was king of the jazz meccas. Terry catapulted to fame with royalty, doing a tour of duty with Count Basie's and Duke Ellington's crews. He went on to work with all the marquee acts: Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington. Eventually he went prime time when Johnny Carson came calling with the Tonight Show Orchestra. There he proceeded to break race barriers as an African-American musician at the seat of broadcasting power, NBC.
A jazz hall-of-famer through and through, Terry can always be counted on for a good sound bite and a good story (check out recent documentaries on Miles Davis, Illinois Jacquet and Quincy Jones). Today's audiences, as those of yore, revel in his flair, his scat, his blues singing and his mighty fine sense of humor. -- Neal Sokol
Sweatin' to the Oldies
Itzhak Perlman is losing electrolytes
When people talk about Itzhak Perlman, they talk about the violinist's feel for the classics and, these days, his position as music advisor to the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. They might just mention his Jewish afro (properly called either a "Jewfro" or an "Isro"), too, or even the crutches he uses as a polio survivor. What almost none of them mention, though, is the sweat.
When Perlman starts sawing away at the fiddle, he sweats likes James Worthy in an NBA Finals game seven. Give him some Paganini to play, and he has to towel off repeatedly to avoid dripping on his Stradivarius.
And if you think Perlman shvitzes when he plays the violin, you won't believe how much bulk he sweats off when he conducts Handel's Messiah at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 13, and 2 p.m. Sunday, December 14, with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra at Powell Hall (718 North Grand Boulevard, 314-534-1700, $15-$60, www.slso.org). -- Byron Kerman
Mother May I?
Agnes of God raises questions
A former convent may not seem to be the ideal venue in which to stage a play, but putting on John Pielmeier's Agnes of God in Saint Louis University's Manresa Center (4012 Washington Avenue) can only add to the play's unsettling, mysterious atmosphere. Agnes (which was adapted into a 1985 Oscar-nominated Jane Fonda film) concerns the eponymous pure, naive nun, who is found unconscious and holding a dead child. Did she kill the child? Who (or what) is the father? These are the questions that Agnes' protective Mother Miriam Ruth and the skeptical psychiatrist Dr. Martha Livingstone must answer. While the play may seem like a murder mystery (or a religion-vs.-science allegory), it is perhaps best described as a detailed portrait of people who have had their faith tested and their beliefs shaken.
The Stray Dog Theatre's Agnes of God runs Thursday, December 11 through Sunday, December 21. Tickets are $12 to $15. For showtimes, call 314-531-5923. -- Niles Baranowski
Fair to Midler
Before Bette Midler's reputation was sullied forever by that damnable "Wind Beneath My Wings," she was known as the Divine Miss M., a voluptuous chanteuse as raunchy as she was talented. Films, hybrid comedy/musical albums and of course, that voice -- Midler had it all and could do it all. Until Beaches. Check out her 1985 album Mud Will Be Flung Tonight to fully appreciate Ms. Midler's actual talents. She'll have to sing that terrible song at Savvis Center (8 p.m., 1401 Clark Avenue, 314-241-1888; tickets are $39.50 to $150), but everything she'll do around it will more than compensate for those seven minutes of soft-soap torture. -- Paul Friswold
Lock up Michael Jackson
Does anything sound more angelic than a boys choir? Before puberty gnarls their voices and makes them think about making a different kind of beautiful music, boys' voices ring with a purity that has been revered from the Middle Ages to Menudo. The Moscow Boys Choir, at more than 30 voices strong, augments the traditional soprano sound of a boys choir with bass and tenor inflections to create what the Choir's press kit calls a "distinct Russian flavor." They perform a holiday program, in English and in their mother tongue, at 8 p.m. at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center (8001 Natural Bridge Road, 314-516-4949). Tickets are $10 to $20. -- Paul Friswold
Correction published 12/24/03: In the original version of "Fair to Midler," we falsely accused Bette Midler of singing "Wind Beneath My Wings" during the final broadcast of The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson; Midler actually serenaded Carson with "One for the Road." The above version reflects the corrected text.