Friday, October 11, 2019

Now's the Time: Benny Golson

It’s astounding that the saxophonist playing alongside Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, Jymie Merritt and Art Blakey in the embedded video from 1958 continues to spread his swinging message in appearances around the world.  Benny Golson, 90, was the hippest, smartest and funniest person in the room during a master class session at Johnson County Community College yesterday afternoon.  He performs with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra at Helzberg Hall on Friday, October 11.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The relevant results of the The Pitch’s annual readers poll follow without comment.  Best Jazz Venue: Green Lady Lounge; Best Blues Venue: Green Lady Lounge; Best Nightclub: Green Lady Lounge; Best Jazz Artist: Lonnie McFadden; Best Jazz Band: A La Mode; Best Jazz Event: Jazzoo; Best Vocalist: Molly Hammer.

*The Kansas City Star recommends the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s  forthcoming concert with Benny Golson.

*In an introduction to an interview with Blair Bryant, the Crazeology podcast suggests that “many people who live here can’t remember the last time they’ve actually listened to the music. Some have never even gone to a performance, even though several clubs have live jazz every night of the week.”

*Tweet o’ the Week: American Jazz Museum- Looking for the perfect space to host your holiday party? Email for more information. The season is filling up quickly!

*From an event’s ticket solicitation: Join us at Greenwood Social Hall for a unique international jazz celebration on Thursday October 10th at 7 pm, presented by Hannover Committee, Sister Cities Association of Kansas City.  The band will swing some classic Kansas City sounds from the songbook of Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton. Special guest Lothar Krist will bring his friends from Hannover Germany and Ghent Belgium to play with Greg Carroll and the crew from Kansas City.  A second performance takes place at SoirĂ©e Steak & Oyster House on Saturday, October 12.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Book Review: Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges by Con Chapman

“The birth of one style in an art form generally means the death of another,” Con Chapman declares in his illuminating new biography Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges.  The author is referring to Charlie Parker’s displacement of Hodges as jazz’s preeminent saxophonist.  Parker is revered in his hometown of Kansas City and throughout the world.  Yet his innovations were almost as disruptive to the musical landscape as the Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Chapman laments “the depths of obscurity to which the man who was once one of the most famous saxophonists in the world had fallen.”  His biography is a noble attempt to restore Hodges’ place of importance.  Rabbit’s Blues makes a strong case for Hodges as an essential link between Sidney Bechet and John Coltrane and is a convincing defence of the sensuous swing that Parker rendered unfashionable.

The unapologetically romantic Hodges was rarely cloying.  When considering Hodges’ unlikely album with the “white square” Lawrence Welk, Chapman suggests “one need only compare a latter-day sentimentalist on the soprano sax such as Kenny G to Hodges to detect the difference between emotion used in the service of melody and emotional technique used as superficial decoration, like gingerbread trim on a Victorian house.”

In addition to faithfully documenting the decades Hodges spent as one of the most celebrated members of the orchestras led by Duke Ellington, Chapman paints a vivid portrait of a complicated man who successfully overcame the racial discrimination, music industry misdeeds and substance abuse pandemic associated with his times.

Chapman documents Hodges’ recording sessions in fastidious detail.  Much of Hodges’ most essential work was released under the banner of the Ellington band or with collaborators like Wild Bill Davis.  Tracking down his individual tracks and complete albums on streaming services or music retailers isn’t always easy.  The failure to include a discography in Rabbit’s Blues, consequently, is frustrating.  Yet Chapman’s persuasive case for Hodges’ art is entirely successful.  Bingeing on Rabbit’s timeless recordings caused this appreciative reader to begin to lament Bird’s bop revolution.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Now's the Time: The Branford Marsalis Quartet

It’s possible that the Branford Marsalis Quartet is the best mainstream jazz group in the world.  The embedded video and the ensemble’s latest album The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul demonstrate that the saxophonist, pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner possess spectacular chemistry.  The group performs at the Folly Theater on Friday, October 4.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Sextet uploaded a brief recap of its recent album release show and its Star Sessions appearance (here’s one of four segments) to YouTube.

*The Kansas City Star recommended a concert by the Branford Marsalis Quartet.

*“That’s My Jazz”, the 13-minute documentary about Milt Abel Jr. and his father first mentioned at this site in March, now streams online.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Johnson County Community College- We have your Thursday night plans! Brighten your mood with memorable melodies and toe-tapping jazz and blues from the Midnight Express Jazz Band and Faculty Quintet.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Grand Larson-y

The arrival of Adam Larson on Kansas City’s jazz scene is one of the most momentous developments of 2019.   Am I exaggerating?  Listen With Your Eyes, Larson’s new album on Ropeadope Records, is one of the year’s most exciting mainstream jazz albums. 

Consequently, I was only partly mistaken when I recently asserted that not a single album released in 2019 by a jazz musician based in Kansas City has been reviewed anywhere but Plastic Sax.  Larson and his accomplished New York based cohorts including keyboardist Fabian Almazan, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Jimmy Macbride presumably recorded Listen With Your Eyes in Brooklyn before Larson moved to Kansas City.  Yet I’m now willing to claim it as a Kansas City album.

Something Else raved that Listen With Your Eyes is “stellar” while Stereogum called it “a fierce, stabbing blend of hard bop, funk, and weirdness.”  I concur.  I’m less willing to cosign an All About Jazz review that insists that Larson’s album contains “celebratory music for active intellectuals.”  I’m proof that even a sluggish dullard is capable of relishing Listen With Your Eyes.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 27, 2019

Now's the Time: Pablo Masis

The Brooklyn based trumpeter Pablo Masis is touring with guitarist Dave Juarez and bassist Jeff Koch.  The trio will be joined by saxophonist Adam Larson and drummer John Kizilarmut at Westport Coffee House on Monday, Sept. 30.