– Sandoval, UMSL Jazz Ensemble own the night at Touhill at 2014 St. Louis Jazz Festival.
PHOTO: Arturo Sandoval was the opening night headliner for the Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival 2014. Photo courtesy of the Touhill. ©


By Alexander Neupert, Staff Writer for The Current

The Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival 2014 opened on April 25 with the first of two nights of jazz performed at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

The 11th annual Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival has become one of the most noteworthy jazz festivals in the Midwest. The festival helps to enhance the musical education and growth of participating area students, who get to interact with and learn from internationally renowned jazz musicians. These “clinicians,” all music educators in their own right, hold clinics throughout the festival with the students and help them improve their abilities.

While the legendary Count Basie Orchestra would take the stage Saturday night, the headliner for Friday’s performance was nine-time Grammy award winner Arturo Sandoval.

Before the Cuban-born protégé of jazz master Dizzy Gillespie hit the stage though, the audience was treated to a great opening show from our own UMSL Jazz Ensemble led by festival founder and Director of Jazz Studies at UMSL Jim Widner.

The UMSL ensemble’s set was full of energy, hoping to match Sandoval’s, and got the audience pumped for the rest of the night. Several of the clinicians took the stage as guest performers as well. Chip McNeill, a jazz saxophonist and composer, and Rodney Whitaker, jazz bassist and celebrated Mack Avenue recording artist, were among those who lent their talents. They performed solos alongside the UMSL Jazz Ensemble, whose performance culminated with an appearance and solo from Sandoval himself, a teaser for the rest of the night as the show went into intermission.

When the main act finally took the stage with his band, the crowd cheered enthusiastically. Sandoval was quick to show his famous trumpeting skills as he hit the extreme lows and the eardrum-busting highs, which had his band members and the audience alike laughing along. And that was the general tone of the show as Sandoval made the Touhill lively and fun, almost laid-back, but ultimately an atmosphere of good vibes.

The legendary jazz performer’s first few songs were as fast-paced as ever, showcasing his expertise at hitting every note despite the speed. His trumpet dueled with the saxophone from his friend Ed Calle in alternating solos and the dual drummers provided the backbone for the tempo. The crowd was in love as one could hear between songs, with individuals voicing their admiration in brief moments of silence. Sandoval to his credit was incredibly humble and spoke to the crowd like friends or family, cracking jokes and simply being himself.

He proceeded to show his eccentric and eclectic style that has made him famous over the years. Along with his crazy trumpet solos, Sandoval played on his own little set of drums (and cowbell), jammed on a synth, and performed a scat solo for a good five minutes to the cheers of his fans. Eventually, he slowed the show down and sang a touching piece dedicated to his mentor Dizzy Gillespie entitled “Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You)” and after, played the piano himself for another slow song.

Sandoval ended his show on a characteristically energetic note, as he and his band played yet another ode to Gillespie in “A Night in Tunisia”, which was written by his mentor. Yet again the Cuban trumpeter showed his range, making his trumpet literally squeak at its highest point. Armando Manzanero, Sandoval’s pianist, played a solo on the keyboard and the drummers got their own duet midway through the song as well, but his show ultimately ended how it began: with his trumpet blaring loud and strong. With the high level of energy and decent crowd interaction, as well as amazing articulation and music quality, Arturo Sandoval’s jazz performance receives an A-.

© The Current 2014