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Jazz St. Louis To Get $10 Million Makeover

Jazz St. Louis in Grand Center has announced a new expansion that it hopes will make it one of the top five jazz hubs in the world.

The $10 million planincludes the purchase its building at 3536 Washington Ave. and another next door, a renovated performance space, an education center and a jazz lounge.

The overall facility will be called the Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz, after a major donor. The Stewards and other donors – including Ken and Nancy Kranzberg – contributed $5.8 million. The rest is expected to come from a capital campaign.

Credit Nancy Fowler
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay at Jazz St. Louis news conference

In a morning news conference, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay lauded the project and noted that the jazz club, also called Jazz at the Bistro, has long been an important cultural gathering place.

“Its audience consistently draws one of the most diverse crowds of any cultural institution in the region,” Slay said.

Making ‘St. Louis synonymous with jazz’

The new Jazz Center is expected to debut this October with a performance by Wynton Marsalis. Seating at the jazz club will expand from 150 to 220.

Contractors include the local Lawrence Group, Jamieson Design and BSI Constructors. The acoustics for the performance space are designed by Sam Berkow, who is also responsible for the sound capabilities at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City and SFJazz Center in San Francisco.

A jazz lounge will feature video screens showing live performances in the adjacent club. Performances will be also be streamed for national enjoyment.

Credit Nancy Fowler
Jazz St. Louis executive director Gene Dobbs Bradford

Jazz St. Louis executive director Gene Dobbs Bradford noted that the renovated Jazz Center will offer expanded opportunities for collaboration with other local arts organizations.

“You might see an event on jazz and fashion here,” Bradford said. “There could be a fashion show and an art exhibit about the history of jazz and how it influenced fashion,” Bradford said.

Bradford says the project will eliminate a perception issue that he personally experienced when he moved to St. Louis.

“A lot of people had said, ‘St. Louis is a great jazz town’ and then they come in and they really find it hard to find the scene,” Bradford said. “This is going to make St. Louis synonymous with jazz.”

Hear Keyon Harrold at Jazz St. Louis.

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.