The All-Star Jazz Festival returns for the second year with even more musicians from St. Louis | The mixer

The All-Star Jazz Festival is back with more singers and musicians — and it’s moving indoors.

The inaugural festival took place last year as part of the outdoor concert series in a tent outside the Grandel. For its return on June 25, the event takes place at Grandel.

The All-Star Jazz Festival is hosted by saxophonist and educator Kendrick Smith and features unique groups of artists performing together for the first time. The objective is to take artists out of their own groups and place them in new settings for a new dynamic.

“The only reason I wanted to do this is that some people say there’s this stigma where you can’t get a band of musicians together — usually you play with your own clique,” Smith explains. “Now it’s a mix of different people.”

Besides Smith, participating musicians include Denise Thimes, Anita Jackson, Jason Swagler, Eric Slaughter, Erika Johnson, Demarius Hicks, Ptah Williams, Bob Deboo, Robert Nelson, David Nacho Gomez and Ryan Marquez.

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A prominent St. Louis jazz artist will receive a lifetime achievement award at the event. Darrell Mixon was honored last year.

Smith — who recently founded Build a Yes, which helps local jazz artists with promotion, preservation and more — talks about the All-Star Jazz Festival.

Q • What does the festival have in store for us this year?

A • More musicians. They were about 25 the first year. This year there are over 30. Part of that is because of the success we had last year. We wanted to offer it to musicians who didn’t have the opportunity last year. We got more funding, which also allowed us to have more musicians.

Q • Is there a singer in each band this year?

A • He’s a singer in every band. We didn’t have that last year. I was talking to (singer) Erika Johnson, who is helping me, and since she’s a singer, she helped get my attention. We have a lot of young singers coming in, and it gave me the opportunity to really enlighten them.






Kendrick Smith performs January 24, 2022 at Montez Coleman St. Louis All-Star Memorial at Grandel.


Photo by Jon Gitchoff


Q • Which band are you most passionate about?

A • To be honest – this is going to sound like a cliche – all of them. I have never seen these particular sets come together. Each group will have a unique sound.

The first group (Darrell Mixon, Robert Nelson, John Covelli, Antonio Foster and Freddy Spencer), I never heard them play together.

But the real answer, I’m glad to hear Denise Thimes’ band (featuring Phil Graves, Jason Swagler, Bernard Terry and Demarius Hicks) because last year we didn’t have them on the festival. His group will have so much fire. They could all go to a concert by themselves. So that they all play on the same set, I can’t wait to be there.

Q • What can you say about this year’s winner?

A • The honor this year will go to someone who has been in the music scene for a very long time. The person has a unique voice, within the first five seconds, to know who they are. They are a vital part of the scene and will be for years to come.

Q • How was the first year of the All-Star Jazz Festival?

A • It was amazing – an amazing success. I didn’t expect it to go as well as it did or to have as much community support as it did. I had to turn people away. We did it in the tent last year and space was limited. People had just come off the street or had heard of it, and it was full.

What Star Jazz Festival • When 12 p.m.-6 p.m. June 25 • Where Le Grandel, 3610 Place Grandel • How much $40 • More information metrotix.com

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Willie J. Johnson