Sunday, May 20, 2018

Album Review: Harold O'Neal- Piano Cinema














A player piano in a Wild West saloon that emits the melodies of contemporary rock songs is a curious detail in HBO’s reboot of “Westworld.”  In much the same way, Harold O’Neal’s new solo album Piano Cinema is an unlikely combination of vintage and progressive sounds. 

Born in Tanzania and raised in Kansas City, O’Neal is the nephew of Pete O’Neal, the controversial exile who once led the Black Panthers in Kansas City. 

Piano Cinema often sounds as if a hologram of Art Tatum is paying tribute to Scott Joplin.  While “Jukebox Motion” echoes the rendition of “In a Sentimental Mood” on the 1963 album Duke Ellington & John Coltrane, much of Piano Cinema evokes the classical impressionism of Claude Debussy.

A curious sound field gives Piano Cinema a unique ambience.  While the music is serene on the surface, the album’s uneasy undercurrent might compel anyone who chooses to unwind to Piano Cinema to meditate with one eye open.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Now's the Time: The Marcus Lewis Big Band


Kansas City is home to at least five big bands.  Only the expansive ensemble led by trombonist Marcus Lewis incorporates hip-hop elements into its mix.  Lewis’ group performs at Westport Coffee House on Thursday, May 17.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar, a comprehensive guide to the area’s scene, lists dozens of additional gigs in the second half of May.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes














*Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner of the American Jazz Museum, vocalist Deborah Brown and the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra are featured in a Polish publication.

*Kansas City drummer Jerry Pollock was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Joe Klopus surveys the week in jazz for The Kansas City Star.

*A television reporter informs viewers of today’s legislative meeting regarding the direction of the beleaguered American Jazz Museum.

*Tweet o’ the Week: American Jazz Museum- OTD in 1953, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach made history by recording the live jazz album, The Quintet-Jazz at Massey Hall, in Toronto. Stop by AJM to pay tribute to Charlie Parker’s Grafton saxophone played on this historic day!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Album Review: Todd Strait- There'll Be Some Changes Made















Todd Strait is one of the Kansas City jazz scene’s most valuable sideman.  The drummer's presence on a date lends instant prestige while his playing guarantees a phenomenal sense of swing.  Yet he’s relatively unknown outside of jazz circles.

There’ll Be Some Changes Made, Strait’s first album as leader, should increase his visibility.  The mainstream recording shows why he was an essential member of the touring bands led by jazz notables Karrin Allyson, Eldar Djangirov and Kevin Mahogany.  (Djangirov is the album’s mixing engineer.)

The 66-minute project features a few guest appearances, but Strait works with pianist Bill Mays and bassist Bob Bowman on almost every track.  Three selections are particularly rewarding.  An interpretation of Beethoven’s “Für Elise” is delightful.  “Kids Are Pretty People” showcases Strait’s impeccable tastefulness. The feisty dialogue between Strait and Bowman on “Tiptoe” provide the best moments of There'll Be Some Changes Made.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, May 11, 2018

Now's the Time: Chris Neville at Black Dolphin


Five of the seven musicians in the embedded video filmed 23 years ago have died.  Only pianist Chris Neville and saxophonist Plas Johnson survive.  The Boston based Neville performs at Black Dolphin on Monday, May 14.  He’ll be accompanied by bassist Jeff Harshbarger and drummer Todd Strait.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar lists 68 gigs between today and Neville’s outing.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes














*Anne Kniggendorf of KCUR interviewed Brad Cox and Jeff Harshbarger in a preview of the People’s Liberation Big Band’s performance on Saturday, May 11.

*Doug Ramsey recommends Todd Strait’s new album There’ll Be Some Changes Made.

*Chuck Haddix considers the woes of the American Jazz Museum.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Phil Schaap- I get asked about the young musicians a lot and it’s possible that I diminish their propers by always pointing out that what’s desperately needed is young listeners  … and lots of them.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Concert Review: The Uriel Herman Quartet at Black Dolphin














A concert by the SFJazz Collective wasn’t the best jazz performance I took in on Friday, April 27.  At Black Dolphin, a relatively unheralded Israeli quartet led by Uriel Herman played with more urgency than the all-star band at the Folly Theater.

Unencumbered from the strictures of America’s jazz tradition, Herman’s group resembled insolent heretics as they performed untoward acts on a form that’s often treated like a fragile antique by their American counterparts.  Pianist Herman, saxophonist and flautist Uriel Weinberger, bassist Avri Borochov and drummer Haim Peskoff exuded correspondingly rebellious swagger.  Even when Borochov wasn’t playing oud, the quartet incorporated Mediterranean elements into their foolhardy sound.

The setlist of the second set included the original compositions “Hour of the Wolf” and “White Night” as well as fresh interpretations of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things”.

A group of about a dozen tipsy men and women literally stumbled into the never-a-cover-charge venue at 10:45 p.m. In thrall of the quartet, a few of the unsuspecting celebrants appeared to fall in love with jazz for the first time.  At least one old hand felt his passion for the form rekindled by the Israeli musicians after the lukewarm outing by the SFJazz Collective had dampened his enthusiasm earlier that evening.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)