Sunday, May 19, 2019

Ghosts in the Machine


Kansas City’s jazz scene isn’t merely haunted by its illustrious history.  The formidable legacy of past masters often seems to suffocate the musicians of today.  That’s one of the takeaways from an exercise I conducted at my nondenominational music blog There Stands the Glass.

The examination of Spotify’s monthly listeners metric for artists associated with Kansas City offers intriguing insights into the consumption of jazz recordings.  Half of the artists in the top ten and 24 of the top 100 are jazz musicians.  Pat Metheny, Karrin Allyson, the jazz-adjacent Oleta Adams and the smooth jazz stars Norman Brown and Julian Vaughn are the only living jazz artists in the top 50.  And the gulf between the iconic Charlie Parker (#10, 495,000 monthly listeners) and his present-day successor Logan Richardson (#99, 1,000 monthly listeners) is astounding. 

The absence of many of the artists regularly documented at Plastic Sax is glaring.   I note at the original post that “many ostensible hometown heroes are streamed by only a few hundred users each month.”  Streaming isn’t a zero-sum game- just because someone streams Charlie Parker doesn’t mean they’re not also streaming Logan Richardson- but the extreme imbalance between old and new is frightening.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, May 17, 2019

Now's the Time: Christian Swan


Christian Swan will perform at the Blue Room on Friday, May 17, and at Westport Coffeehouse on Sunday, May 19.  The keyboardist recently announced that he’s moving from Kansas City to Chicago.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*Nothing in Steve Paul’s thoughtful assessment of the health of Kansas City’s jazz scene for KC Studio will come as a surprise to devoted readers of Plastic Sax.

*As noted by KCUR, Soirée Steak & Oyster House recently opened in the Jazz District.  The venue features performances by jazz musicians every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

*A writer for Jazz Journal analyzes Pete Kelly’s Blues, the 1955 movie starring Jack Webb that’s set in Kansas City.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Dreamgirl Stephanie Ashlyn- I let my kitty Easter pick a Pat Metheny cd. Now playing: Secret Story.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Concert Review: Havilah Bruders and Paul Shinn at Black Dolphin


Even though I’d heard Havilah Bruders perform several times with the roots-rock band Cadillac Flambé and I’d listened to her 2017 jazz album Come Rain or Shine, I didn’t grasp the depth of her talent until I heard her sing at a Sunday morning service at my church two months ago.  The Kansas City vocalist’s interpretation of “Love Rescue Me”- a song co-written by U2 and Bob Dylan that had previously failed to resonate with me- delivered a genuinely religious experience.

Bruders’ duet with pianist Paul Shinn in a Friday matinee performance at Black Dolphin on May 10 validated my newfound enthusiasm.  The husky growl, thunderous voice and outsize personality of Bruders remind me of the country star Wynonna Judd.  (Just in case you’re wondering, that’s a compliment.)  I’m extremely skeptical of the clichéd rock-singer-shifts-to-jazz transformation, but Bruders makes the grade.

Shinn recently returned to Kansas City following a stint in New York City.  (His first, second and third albums were reviewed at Plastic Sax.)  Playing as well as ever, Shinn adapted his approach for each selection, seamlessly deviating between barrelhouse piano, cocktail lounge tinkling and elegant swing.  He played the role of Ralph Sharon to Bruders’ Tony Bennett and the Tedd Firth to her Marilyn Maye in the winning cabaret-style outing that merited more than an audience of ten. 

A stale repertoire is the duo’s sole flaw.  I’ll need fewer warhorses like “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” and more left-field selections like “Love Rescue Me” if there's to be any chance of experiencing another spiritual epiphany the next time I catch the tandem.

Partial first set setlist (I missed the initial selections): Corcovada (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars); Why Don’t You Do Right?; Crazy; Route 66; Dream a Little Dream of Me; Georgia on My Mind; It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing); The Very Thought of You

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Now's the Time: Der lange Schatten


Pianist Håvard Wiik, clarinetist Michael Thieke and bassist Antonio Borghini will perform at the Blue Room on Monday, May 20, as Der lange Schatten.  The appearance of the Berlin based trio is sponsored by Goethe Pop Up.  The organization brought the Chicago Plan to the Blue Room last month.  (Plastic Sax review.)  Wiik plays a solo piece in the embedded video.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*Since the founding of Plastic Sax in 2007, I’ve made a point of staying out of the business of The Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors.  With apologies to the Plastic Sax readers who have encouraged me to comment on the ongoing behind-the-scenes drama at the organization, I’m not about to start now.

*Justin Binek and John Stafford discussed Kansas City Kansas Community College’s jazz program on a morning television program.

*Jefferson City’s News Tribune published an article about Mike Ning.

*Milt Abel, Jr. recalls his father in a profile at The Daily Beast.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Drew Williams- How wild is it that in New York, there are entire jazz scenes that think music made after 1940 is way too hip??? Like, if your pants don’t go up to your nipples, what are you even doing?

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Grading the 2019-20 Season of the Folly Jazz Series


The Folly Jazz Series is a reassuring beacon of consistency on a jazz scene in which other longstanding institutions seem to be crumbling.  Unveiled last month, the strong 2019-20 bookings should provide Kansas City’s devotees of mainstream jazz with solace.  Season subscribers can purchase tickets on July 26.  Tickets to individual shows will be available August 16.

Branford Marsalis
October 4, 2019               
Saxophonist and bandleader Branford Marsalis is the most consistently interesting member of the first family of American music.  Marsalis will presumably appear with his quartet, one of the finest longstanding groups in jazz.
Grade: A-

Stefon Harris & Blackout
October 26, 2019                 
The vibraphonist and bandleader Stefon Harris is a self-described “thought leader.”  One of his best ideas is an insistence on surrounding himself with stellar young musicians.  In a 2008 appearance at the Folly, Harris’ band included the soon-to-be stars Logan Richardson and Marc Cary.  Here’s hoping this version of Blackout is equally auspicious.
Grade: B+

Pedrito Martinez
December 13, 2019           
Pedrito Martinez was named percussionist of the year by the Jazz Journalists Association last week.  The recent Tiny Desk Concert performance by the native of Cuba also showcases his engaging singing.
Grade: B+

Stacey Kent
February 22 , 2020               
While she’s since ceded the titled to Cécile McLorin Salvant, Stacey Kent was hailed as the most exciting new vocalist in jazz a few years ago.  The feathery touch of the American who rose to fame in England remains delightful.
Grade: A-

Luciana Souza
March 7, 2020
The Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza is married to the noted producer Larry Klein, an association that partly explains her exceptionally refined adult pop sound.  Souza should thrill Karrin Allyson’s many fans in Kansas City.
Grade: B

John Pizzarelli
April 24, 2020                     
John Pizzarelli is a crowd-pleasing traditionalist.  The most recent album by the guitarist and vocalist is a tribute to Nat King Cole.
Grade: B-

Plastic Sax conducted the same exercise in 2018, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)