Sunday, July 24, 2016

Album Review: Victor & Penny- Electricity

Erin McGrane was one of the most engaging performers in Kansas City as a member of Alacartoona during the previous decade.  Equal parts Cyd Charisse and Eartha Kitt, McGrane played the role of a riveting femme fatale. 

She's assumed an entirely different persona as half of the “antique pop” duo Victor & Penny.  The recent release Electricity is by far and away the duo’s best release.

As I suggested in a review of the 2015 album Live at the Living Room Theatre, the bygone premise of Victor & Penny would be intolerably precious if not for the outstanding musicianship of the ensemble. 

Jeff Freling, the other half of the duo, plays guitar like Eddie Van Halen on a Django Reinhardt bender.  The supporting Loose Change Orchestra- James Isaac, Rick Willoughby and Kyle Dahlquist- adds complementary spice.

Electricity indicates that Victor & Penny can hold its own with like-minded acts that have achieved international renown including the Hot Sardines and the Hot Club of Cowtown.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Now's the Time: Kyle Turner

Kyle Turner is precisely the sort of declamatory saxophonist in the soul-jazz tradition that resonates particularly well with celebratory audiences on a hot summer night.  The Houston native performs at the Blue Room on Saturday, July 23.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCUR published a detailed examination of a new collection of 58 previously unreleased Charlie Parker recordings. 

*The Kansas City Business Journal and The Kansas City Star report on the $7 million compromise on additional funding for the Jazz District.

*The late Bob Brookmeyer, Pat Metheny, the Count Basie Orchestra, Logan Richardson, Bobby Watson, the late Kerry Strayer, Kevin Mahogany, Karrin Allyson and blues artist Danielle Nicole are among the Kansas City musicians nominated in the current Reader's Poll conducted by Downbeat magazine.

*Brandon Draper has released a live session from 2010 that features saxophonist Rich Wheeler, trombonist Kevin Cerovich, vibraphonist Peter Schlamb and basist Craig Akin.

*The Pitch recommends Kyle Turner’s appearance at the Blue Room.

*Marc Myers of JazzWax uncovers compelling Charlie Parker ephemera.

*Kansas City area resident and jazz enthusiast Teddy Dibble maintains the excellent music appreciation video channel eat.sleep.vinyl.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Legacy Recordings- MILES AHEAD, directed by & starring @DonCheadle, is out today on Blu-Ray, DVD, & digital!

*From a press release: David Basse and a seven piece band headed by pianist Joe Cartwright will perform at the one and only Blue Room in the Jazz District. Celebrate Kansas City’s legendary jazz and blues heritage and the release of Live at Pilgrim Chapel, the group's latest release. The band includes saxophonist Stephen Martin, trumpeter Nate Nall, trombonist Jason Goudeau, Seth Lee on bass, and drummer Taylor Babb. 8:30 p.m. Friday, August 5.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Album Review: Mike Dillon- Functioning Broke

Mike Dillon is associated with big beats and monstrous grooves.  The late singer-songwriter Elliott Smith is remembered in part for his heartbreaking lyrics.  That’s why Functioning Broke, Dillon’s instrumental album that includes arrangements of six Smith compositions, initially seems like an absurd proposition.

Yet the latest release by Dillon, a one-time member of Kansas City area ensembles including Malachy Papers, is a resounding success. Employing vibraphone, tubular bells and other empyreal instrumentation, Dillon evokes classical composer Steve Reich more than vibe pioneer Gary Burton on the meditative project.

Artists including Madeleine Peyroux have already demonstrated that Smith’s alcoholic lullaby “Between the Bars” translates well to jazz settings.  Dillon’s reading is haunting.  His interpretation of Smith’s “Independence Day” resembles the score of a Oscar-winning art film.

The sonic distortion that runs through Functioning Broke will understandably repel many listeners.  Whether by accident or design, the contorted sound adds an abrasive edge to even the most tranquil selections on the startling album.

Dillon performs at the Brick on Thursday, July 28.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Now's the Time: The July Jazz Jam at Community Christian Church

The embedded promotional video for the July Jazz Jam at Community Christian Church on Sunday, July 31, may be cringe-worthy, but the benefit concerts organized by Tim Whitmer at the house of worship at 4601 Main are proven crowd-pleasers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*C.J. Janovy reports on how the Mutual Musicians Foundation honored members of black musicians’ unions from around the country.

*Jermaine Reed states his case for additional funding for the Jazz District on KCPT’s RuckusThe Kansas City Star provides an update on the situation.  KCUR’s Steve Bell adds further insights.

*Details about the 2016 edition of the Charlie Parker Historical Tour (and an uncredited photo by Plastic Sax) are here.

*Tweet o’ the Week: American Jazz Museum- Vinyl on the Vine starts tonight at 5 pm. Groovy Grant of @kkfi901fm spins jazz in the Blue Room in a new series.

*Comment o’ the Week: Chris Hazelton- With both Cecile McLorin Salvant and Aaron Diehl on the Folly series, I'm hoping for a double-dose of my man and former Kansas City drummer Lawrence Leathers!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Concert Review: Matt Otto Septet at the Blue Room

A friend suggested that Kansas City’s jazz scene is in the midst of the summer doldrums during the set break of Matt Otto’s album release show for Soliloquy at the Blue Room last Thursday.  While I didn’t disagree with him, I should have countered that the magnificent performance by Otto’s septet should satiate the members of the audience of about 50 for a few weeks.

My detailed review and audio commentary about Soliloquy are posted here.  Rather than repeat my lavish praise, I’ll share a few additional insights gleaned during the gig that featured the contributions of Gerald Dunn, Shay Estes, Jeff Stocks, T.J. Martley, Jeff Harshbarger and Mike Warren.

*The performance affirmed the strength of Soliloquy’s compositions and arrangements.

*Estes’ wordless vocals and Dunn’s alto sax tone were occasionally indistinguishable from each other.  It’s a nifty trick.

*Relegated to a supporting role on the album, guitarist Stocks’ more prominent playing on Thursday was welcome.

*Otto brings out the best in Dunn.

*The undervalued pianist Martley and drummer Warren make a formidable tandem.

*One of my kids sampled this festival in Vienna last week, but the superlative quality of Thursday’s free show partly validates my decision to remain in Kansas City.

(Original images by Plastic Sax.)