Sunday, June 24, 2018

Pagin' the Devil: The L.A. Swing Barons and Vine Street Rumble at Californos















I feared that my decision to attend an indoor recital on a glorious Saturday afternoon to hear two bands that specialize in vintage Kansas City jazz was a mistake.  My reservations were immediately dispelled when I entered the ballroom at Californos for a free concert by the L.A. Swing Barons and Vine Street Rumble

Rather than the creaky revivalism I dreaded, the show was a lively celebration.  By the time I left Californos. I wondered why I bother listening to any other form of music.

The room was packed with about 100 rapt listeners and athletic dancers for the event billed as a battle-of-the-bands.  The remarkably youthful L.A. Swing Barons added fresh energy to renditions of material by Kansas City legends including Bill Basie, Jay McShann and Mary Lou Williams.  The more seasoned members of Kansas City’s Vine Street Rumble approached a similar repertoire with less impetuousness than the brash Californians. 

Who came out on top?  The clear winners were the extraordinarily talented dancers who demonstrated that the Kansas City sound of the Pendergast Era remains sexy, thrilling and entirely vital.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Now's the Time: The L.A. Swing Barons


One of the most dedicated purveyors of vintage Kansas City jazz is based in Los Angeles.  The L.A. Swing Barons even titled their 2017 album Kansas City Stride.  The 14-piece ensemble performs at the Chesterfield on Friday, June 22, and takes on Vine Street Rumble in a battle of the bands at Californos on Saturday, June 23.  Details are available at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes












*In a column about efforts to revive the Jazz District, Dan Calderon asks “if it’s so important to our cultural and historical identity, why are residents so apathetic about the gradual decay of the very place where that chapter in history occurred?"

*Diana Krall’s concert at Muriel Kauffman Theatre was reviewed by Jessie Riggins.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Frank Morris- African American culture defines Kansas City. Without Jazz and Barbecue we’d be Des Moines.

*From a press release: Community Christian Church presents Tim Whitmer's July Jazz Jam 8: "Main Street Melody."  Join Tim Whitmer and friends on Sunday, July 29 at 4pm for a sizzling, swinging 90-minute stomp through some of the most fun and upbeat music ever written!  This toe-tapping, finger-snapping concert will feature some of the area’s most dynamic performers and entertainers, including the amazing talents of singers Molly Hammer, Havilah Bruders, Maggie Pruitt, Danny Cox, guitarist Rod Fleeman, pianist Tim Whitmer, saxophonist Jim Mair, and the award-winning JJJ rhythm section of James Albright and Jurgen Welge.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Album Review: Ryan Marquez Trio- Moving Forward in Time

It’s difficult to reconcile the conventional new piano trio album Moving Forward in Time with the neo-soul and new-school jazz that’s featured on the self help-themed Conscious Listening podcast.  Yet Ryan Marquez, a St. Louis based artist who was born and raised in the Kansas City area, is responsible for both projects.

Marquez left Kansas City after graduating from high school in 2005.  He plays a homecoming concert with his trio at Corbin Theater on Saturday, July 21.

Marquez favors groove-oriented, plugged-in artists like Thundercat on his Conscious Listening show.  The comparatively buttoned-down jazz the pianist makes with bassist Ben Wheeler and drummer Steve Davis doesn’t fit the format.  It may not be progressive, but Moving Forward in Time isn’t square.

A reworking of “Moment’s Notice” titled “Notice Moments” is particularly hip.  Interpretations of hits by Bill Withers and Michael Jackson serve as inviting points of entry.  Original material like “Peace March,” a composition inspired by the 2017 Women’s March in St. Louis, possesses a sense of defiant optimism.  Marquez, Wheeler and Davis discuss the album  in a two-minute promotional video.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Now's the Time: Diana Krall


Diana Krall may be responsible for inspiring more inferior jazz than any other living musician.  The sway she holds over substantially less talented copycats shouldn’t be held against her.  Krall performs at Muriel Kauffman Theatre on Saturday, June 16.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar lists two dozen additional jazz gigs on Saturday.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes














*Jeff Harshbarger’s presentation for GuildIT streams at YouTube.

*The headline of a KCUR feature- “How Robert Altman's 'Kansas City' Helped Revive The Jazz District”- is provocative.

*Brandon Draper was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Rudy Harper- AT SIX: A portion of the old Mardi Gras building in KC’s Jazz District collapsed while renovations were underway. I’ll have a live report on @KCTV5

*From a press release: The Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University–Newark recently acquired the full collection of late great jazz icon, William J. “Count” Basie Jr… The collection, which features nearly 1,000 artifacts, including Count Basie’s pianos, Hammond organ, photos, correspondence, concert programs, business records and press clippings, will become available to the public in the near future.

*From a press release: After focusing on his vocals for the past decade, David Basse has returned to the drums, his first and primary instrument. David has teamed up with multi-instrumentalist and producer Greg Richter and bassist Joe Straws to create The David Basse Trio… This past Thanksgiving the trio picked up a Nebraska Music Hall of Fame award.

*From a press release: Founded as a premier student jazz opportunity for students in grades 9-12, the philosophy of the KC Area Youth Jazz organization is to develop selected jazz repertoire for refined performance opportunities… The organization has strategically teamed with BRC Audio Productions and its owner, Bill Crain.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Concert Review: The Marcus Lewis Big Band at RecordBar













I’m still marveling at a few of the solos played during the first set of the Marcus Lewis Big Band’s appearance at RecordBar on Sunday, June 3.  A good-natured saxophone battle between Mike Herrera and Stephen Martin was thrilling.  Clint Ashlock unleashed a trumpet solo that was as murderous as anything I’ve heard him play as the artistic director and conductor of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra.  Additional prominent musicians including drummer Ryan Lee, keyboardist Eddie Moore and trombonist Jason Goudeau made similarly memorable statements.

It was a shame that less than two dozen people paid the $5 cover to hear the 18-piece big band.  A more robust audience would have undoubtedly propelled the ensemble to even greater heights.  I didn’t stick around to hear rapper Kemet the Phantom join the group in the second set, but the band’s new single “Fake It Til I Make It” gives me a good idea of what I missed. 

As he mentioned the forthcoming Brass & Boujee album, Lewis suggested that “it’s the first time ever that I know of that an 18-piece big band has played with two rappers fronting it… we’re combining jazz and hip-hop.”  While the first set didn’t feature any rapping, the big band’s stylish sound was entirely up to date.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)