Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Top Jazz-Related Stories and Trends of 2017

1. Fest Flop
The Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival was intended to signal the prowess of the American Jazz Museum’s new management structure.  The plan backfired.  The institution was belted with a catastrophic blow to its reputation and finances following the May event.  An inaccurate announcement that Janelle Monáe would be the primary headliner was the first in a series of miscues.  Performances by jazz heavyweights such as Chick Corea (photo), John Scofield, Regina Carter, Brian Blade and Houston Person were sparsely attended.  An odd emphasis on appearances by members of the cast of the television series Empire didn’t pay dividends either.

2. Fest Fallout
Following a torrent of bad publicity that included bounced checks and a weak turnout, the American Jazz Museum laid off staff, tabled its annual concert series at the Gem Theater and ceded control to the Parks Department.

3. Dolphin Dance
The expansion of the Green Lady Lounge jazz complex was the most encouraging development of 2017.  The Black Dolphin, a venue directly to the north of the Green Lady Lounge, is the latest edition to the jazz hub in the heart of the Crossroads District.  The Black Dolphin, the Orion Room and the Green Lady Lounge host more than 20 performances every week.

4. It’s Alive
KC Jazz Alive doubled down on its commitment to the area scene in 2017.  The organization’s covenant to honor the legacy of Charlie Parker included bringing pianist Sullivan Fortner and saxophonist Tivon Pennicott to Kansas City for a series of performances with locally based musicians.

5. Grave Offense
Territorial grandstanding dramatically diminished attendance at the annual Charlie Parker graveside memorial service.  Only four saxophonists participated in the “21-sax salute” at Lincoln Cemetery.

6. Cracks in the Foundation
The 100th anniversary of the founding of the Mutual Musicians Foundation should have been a big deal.  Instead, ongoing turmoil at the historic site tarnished the centennial.

7. I Could Write a Book
The publication of Changing the Tune: The Kansas City Women’s Jazz Festival, 1978-1985 served as a reminder that presenting large scale jazz events in Kansas City is extremely difficult.

8. Cultured
Citing Kansas City’s jazz history, UNESCO added the municipality to its Creative Cities Network.

9. Special Edition
While the lineup of the controversial Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival was loaded with formidable talent, the the year’s most thrilling one-two punch occurred on April 22.  Several dozen jazz aficionados managed to take in a performance of Bill Frisell’s score for The Great Flood at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art before racing to the Gem Theater to hear the adventurous trio of Jack Dejohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison.

10. It’s a Date
The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been resurrected.  The comprehensive listing is a community service of Plastic Sax and the Green Lady Lounge.

(Photo of the meager audience for the Chick Corea Trio at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, December 8, 2017

Now's the Time: Hermon Mehari

Hermon Mehari’s sole headlining appearance of 2017 in the Kansas City area will take place at Polsky Theatre on Sunday, December 17.  The trumpeter is likely to focus on material from his debut solo album Bleu.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar offers details about more than 150 additional jazz performances between now and then.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Aarik Danielsen previewed Bobby Watson’s concerts in Columbia for The Columbia Daily Tribune.

*Joe Klopus highlighted an upcoming performance by the Spanish Harlem Orchestra for The Kansas City Star.

*Doug Talley was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Havilah and Triple Play’s Come Rain or Come Shine album was released in October.

*Chris Burnett compiled a list of the “Top Jazz of 2017”.

*The Glenn Miller Orchestra will perform at Muriel Kauffman Theatre on June 14, 2018.

*Marc Myers’ remembrance of the late guitarist Mundell Lowe includes a compelling anecdote about Charlie Parker.

*A track from Bobby Watson’s Made in America was featured on a “Best of 2017” program on radio station 90.9 The Bridge.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Bill BrownleeThe gracious folks at @909thebridge are allowing me to return to the station this evening. I'll play hip-hop, jazz, gospel, blues and R&B tracks from 6-7 p.m.  #EightOneSixty (link)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Plastic Sax’s Favorite Albums and Performances of 2017

Favorite Albums by Kansas City Based Artists
1. Matt Otto and Ensemble Ibérica- Ibérica (Plastic Sax review)
2. Bobby Watson- Made in America (Plastic Sax review)
3. Hermon Mehari- Bleu (Plastic Sax review)
4. Dino Massa's Kansas City Quintet- Echoes of Europe (review at KCUR)
5. Julian Vaughn- Bona Fide
6. Matt Otto and Andy Ehling- Reunion (Plastic Sax review)
7. Deborah Brown- Kansas City, Here I Come
8. Steve Lambert- Seven Stories (Plastic Sax review)
9. The Matt Cook Collective- Along Those Lines (Plastic Sax review)
10. The Sextet- Blob Castle (Plastic Sax review)

Favorite Albums By Artists From Elsewhere
1. Miguel Zenón- Típico
2. Aruán Ortiz- Cub(an)ism
3. Yelena Eckemoff- Blooming Tall Phlox
4. Rob Luft- Riser
5. Rudresh Mahanthappa and the Indo-Pak Coalition- Agrima
6. Avishai Cohen- Cross My Palm With Silver
7. Tigran Hamasyan- An Ancient Observer
8. Kamasi Washington- Harmony of Difference
9. Ron Miles- I Am a Man
10. Various- The Passion of Charlie Parker (Plastic Sax review)

Favorite Performances by Kansas City Based Artists
1. Marilyn Maye- Quality Hill Playhouse (Plastic Sax review)
2. Matt Otto Trio with Anthony Wilson and Shay Estes- Blue Room
3. Alaturka- Polsky Theatre (Plastic Sax review)
4. Owen/Cox Dance Group and the People’s Liberation Big Band- Polsky Theatre (Plastic Sax review)
5. Gerald Spaits’ Sax & Violins- Westport Coffeehouse
6. The Project H- Black Dolphin
7. Eddie Moore, Dominique Sanders and Zach Morrow- Plaza Art Fair
8. Nate Nall Sextet- Homer’s Coffee House
9. Blair Bryant- The Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival
10. Stan Kessler Quartet- Black Dolphin

Favorite Performances by Artists From Elsewhere
1. Donny McCaslin- Folly Theater (Plastic Sax review)
2. Brian Blade Fellowship- Gem Theater
3. Danilo Pérez’s “Jazz 100”- Yardley Hall (Plastic Sax review)
4. Thundercat- Granada (Plastic Sax review)
5. Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison- Gem Theater (Plastic Sax review)
6. Ramsey Lewis- Gem Theater (review at The Kansas City Star)
7. Greg Tardy Trio- Blue Room (review at The Kansas City Star)
8. Flying Lotus- Midland (Plastic Sax review)
9. John Scofield- Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival (review at The Kansas City Star)
10. Victor Wooten Trio- Madrid Theatre (Plastic Sax review)

Plastic Sax conducted similar exercises in 2016 (albums and performances), 2015, 2014 (albums and performances), 2013 (albums and performances), 2012, 2011 and 2010.

(Original image of Thundercat at the Granada by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Now's the Time: Michael Shults

How can we miss Michael Shults if he won’t stay away?  Once a leading light in Kansas City’s jazz community, the bright young saxophonist left town to become a music professor at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.  He leads a quartet at the Black Dolphin on Friday, December 1, and plays in an organ trio format at the Green Lady Lounge on Sunday, December 3, during a return to his old stomping grounds.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar lists a multitude of alternate bookings.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Dean Hampton, a prominent booster of Kansas City's jazz scene, has died.  Hampton founded the now-defunct Webjazz site and was a crucial advocate of the annual Charlie Parker gravesite memorial.

*The Kansas City Star reports on plans for Open Spaces 2018: A Kansas City Arts Experience, a 2018 festival intended to “show Kansas City ‘as both the cradle of modern jazz and the present day site of unprecedented technological innovation.’”

*Danny Embrey’s 1988 album Dues Blues has been reissued.

*The Count Basie Orchestra is nominated for a Grammy Award for its contribution to a track on Clint Holmes’ latest album.

*Deborah Brown was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*JazzTimes published a review of Bobby Watson’s Made in America album.

*Matt Otto’s 2016 album Soliloquy was reviewed for All About Jazz.

*Tweet o’ the Week: American Jazz Museum- Each year, we invest in 1,745 musicians, we provide over 40 local businesses opportunities through First Fridays, and have a $1.2million dollar economic impact in the city of @KCMO. Now is YOUR chance to have an impact. Visit  today. #GivingTuesday #Jazz

*From a press release: Kansas City’s own Jazz violinist, Marvin Gruenbaum, is known for his diverse musical and technical skills coupled with an electrifying flare for improvisation and captivating musical interaction. A classically trained violinist and violist, he’s been a member of the Kansas City Symphony since 1982. Performing with Tim Whitmer & The Consort Band. 7 p.m. Wednesday, December 6. $7.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Album Review: The Matt Cook Collective- Along Those Lines

The members of the Matt Cook Collective are at the vanguard of an enormously promising generation of young musicians that is revitalizing Kansas City’s jazz scene.  Along Those Lines, the ensemble’s first full-length album, demonstrates that the saxophonist’s band is among the forward-thinking groups that are just as inspired by the likes of Snarky Puppy as by more conventional reference points such as the Jazz Messengers.  Occasionally a bit deliberative, Cook, reed man Joel Gordon, guitarist Matt Clinkenbeard, bassist Nick Brown and drummer Nate McDonald are best when they loosen up on adventurous tracks like “Geuzennaam.”

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)