Sunday, February 17, 2019

Album Review: Karrin Allyson- Some of That Sunshine


Even by the standards of an admirably restless artist, Karrin Allyson’s 2014 concert at the Folly Theater was a startling surprise.  She traded swing-based jazz and interpretations of Brazilian standards for straightforward adult pop.  (I reviewed the concert for The Kansas City Star.)  Allyson returned to a jazz orientation the subsequent times she’s performed in her former hometown of Kansas City.  I was beginning to think I’d fabricated the tone of the 2014 concert out of whole cloth.  Her latest album Some of That Sunshine indicates I’m not crazy.  Released six months ago, the project documents Allyson’s intriguing foray into the sophisticated realm of sophisticated singer-songwriters like Judy Collins, Shawn Colvin and James Taylor.  Her 13 original compositions sound as if they belong on the impeccably curated playlist of an urbane coffee shop. 

(Original image of Karrin Allyson and Houston Person performing at the Gem Theater in 2015 by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Now's the Time: Sammy Miller and the Congregation


Jazz musicians who embrace zany showmanship tend to be older men and women.  Young artists are likely to dismiss clowning as passé.  Sammy Miller and the Congregation defy the trend.  The members of the New York based band insist that “we play joyful jazz- music that feels good.”  The group will entertain at Knuckleheads on Saturday, February 16.  The show is one of the innumerable gigs listed at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*Zach Albetta interviewed Sam Wisman for his Working Drummer podcast.

*Bobby McFerrin and Pablo Ziegler and among the bookings in the 2018-19 season of Carlsen Center Presents at Johnson County Community College.

*The owner of a new jazz club in Omaha suggests that “(from) Kansas City all the way down to Tulsa, there's a Midwest run right now.”

*A few days after being lauded at Plastic Sax, Drew Williams’ Wing Walker Orchestra received an enthusiastic notice in The New York Times.

*The KU Jazz Festival is slated for Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Liam Hogan- woke up this morning & checked all the texts i sent out last night, realized i mixed up the name of green lady & black dolphin, & had been telling friends to meet me at “the black ladies lounge” all night

(Original image of a page from a Kansas City-themed puzzle book published in 2002 by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Roommate Wanted


Only a churlish ingrate would complain about the offerings on the Kansas City jazz scene.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar indicates that more than two dozen performances transpired last night.  Still, I crave even more variety. 

I’m demoralized every time adventurous notables ranging from the jazz giant Dave Holland to the brash upstart Jamie Branch play St. Louis without bothering to venture across the state.  Yet who can blame them?  All but a few dozen attendees fled during Logan Richardson’s closing set at the Prairie Village Jazz Festival last September.  A concert by the Vijay Iyer Sextet, the heavily promoted headlining act at the Open Spaces festival, drew less than 100 people a month later.  Au courant jazz is a tough sell in Kansas City. 

That’s why I’m traveling to Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Big Ears Festival next month.  The opportunity to spend four days immersed in sounds created by the likes of Nik Bärtsch, Mary Halvorson, Craig Taborn, Nicole Mitchell, Makaya McCraven and Shabaka Hutchings- none of whom have performed in Kansas City- is irresistible. 

I hope to defray a portion of the considerable expense of the trip by finding a like-minded roommate- churlishness optional- to enable me to afford a room in a downtown hotel within walking distance of the festival.  My only regret: as I take in an outing by Mathias Eick in Knoxville on March 21, I’ll miss Adam Nussbaum’s performance at the intimate Gospel Lounge at Knuckleheads in Kansas City.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Now's the Time: Kandace Springs


Kandace Springs will perform in Kansas City for the second time in seven months when she appears as the Folly Jazz Series’ “spotlight artist” on Friday, February 15.  While the embedded track is only tangentially related to jazz, Springs will likely emphasize her swing orientation at the Folly Theater.  Her performance is one of almost 500 gigs listed on the The Kansas City Jazz Calendar in February.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Star and WDAF-TV report on the shooting death of a man in the Jazz District on Saturday night.

*Laura Spencer of KCUR relays details about the lawsuit that’s rocked the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*Bukeka Blakemore chatted with Joe Dimino.  Dimino also documented a performance by Lonnie McFadden at Black Dolphin.

*Pedrito Martinez spoke to Aarik Danielsen of the Columbia Daily Tribune in advance of his concert with Alfredo Rodriquez at Stephens College on February 7.

*Pat Metheny was voted top guitarist in JazzTimes2018 readers poll.

*Comedian Negin Farsad enjoyed jazz at the Green Lady Lounge and the Majestic during a visit to Kansas City.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Pat Metheny- Pat Metheny is launching a new playing environment called “Side Eye” for this upcoming season. The first edition of Side Eye will feature James Francies and Nate Smith. Tickets to the 2019 US Tour are available now.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, February 4, 2019

Album Review: Drew Williams' Wing Walker Orchestra- Hazel


The New York based Drew Williams recently informed Plastic Sax that “I didn’t really start playing jazz music seriously until college so I didn’t play that much in KC while living there, except for the odd Blue Room jam session.”  Williams made up for lost time.  Created with his Wing Walker Orchestra, Williams’ new album Hazel announces the irrefutably significant arrival of an auspicious talent.

Produced by trombonist Alan Ferber, Hazel compares favorably to the output of Snarky Puppy and Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society at the vanguard of improvisational large ensembles.  As with those groups, Wing Walker Orchestra is susceptible to accusations of intellectual fussiness.  Yet Hazel isn’t merely the sort of clinical exercise associated with the academic products of music schools.  (Williams honed his craft at Truman State  University and New York University.)

A riotous arrangement of Tune-Yards' "Look Around" reflects the inclusive intent of Hazel.  “High” sounds as if Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood is sitting in with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra at the Village Vanguard.  A portion of “Lying (or the Will)” reflects the influence of the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson.  The most accessible moments are balanced by wooly solos that will resonate with aficionados of the Vijay Iyer Sextet.  (Here's the album trailer.)

Williams grew up in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, the town that produced the jazz giant Pat Metheny.  While Hazel isn’t likely to catapult Williams to Metheny’s level of acclaim, it’s a consequential step in that direction.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)