Sunday, September 24, 2017

Concert Review: Thundercat at the Granada















I witnessed something I wasn’t sure I’d ever see again last Wednesday.  About 1,500 people in their twenties waved their arms in the air and joyously danced for two hours at a jazz concert. 

The musical foundation of Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner’s appearance at the Granada on September 20 differed little from the jazz fusion performed by his fellow electric bassists Victor Wooten and Stanley Clarke at shows I’ve attended in the past year.   The packaging, however, was notably different. 

Wearing red gym shorts and a black t-shirt, the Californian told fans that “I've been drunk every day of this tour so far.”  The confession made sense.  Bruner is touring in support of Drunk, a woozy album that includes a guest appearance by Kendrick Lamar, the hip-hop giant who featured Bruner on his game-changing 2015 manifesto To Pimp a Butterfly.

Abetted by violinist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, keyboardist Dennis Hamm and the ferocious drummer Justin Brown, Bruner recalled the 1970s heyday of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever.  His loopy songs were transformed into extended improvisational jams.  The quartet sounded as if they might strike into a cover of Al Jarreau’s “We’re In This Love Together” during a few pop-oriented moments.

I don’t know how many members of the audience dominated by people born in the 1990s identified the invigorating music as jazz.  I'm not sure that it matters.   The concert was the most heartening jazz event I’ve attended in years.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Now's the Time: Danny Embrey and Rod Fleeman


Guitarists Danny Embrey and Rod Fleeman have elevated countless jazz gigs in Kansas City.  Their sublime styles will be featured in a free midday concert at the Recital Hall at Johnson County Community College on Tuesday, September 26.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes















*The Lied Center and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra are collaborating on a project based on the University of Kansas’ basketball program.

*The Sextet’s Blog Castle will be released on October 7.

*Molly Hammer’s new album Out of This World was released on September 15.

*James Martin suggests that the American Jazz Museum “presents itself as an important organizer and presenter” in the “The Legacy Plays On” exhibition.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Blue Blazes- Overheard in a Kansas City jazz venue tonight -"I know you're a little suicidal right now, but, I've got some gourmet cheese popcorn.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Whiskey Trip: Jimmy Can't Dance in Louisville















My FOMO meter shattered last week.  During my first full day in Louisville, Kentucky, I discovered that Ira Sullivan had performed at a new jazz club the previous night.

Missing the octogenarian didn’t prevent me from visiting Jimmy Can’t Dance that evening.  The basement venue beneath a downtown sandwich shop has a capacity of about 75.  The layout is much like Smalls in New York City and the Green Lady Lounge in Kansas City.

I spoke to Dennie Humphrey, a partner in Jimmy Can’t Dance, during a break in a jam session that featured faculty and students from the University of Louisville.  He has high hopes for the room.  Humphrey believes his connections to prominent area musicians including Jim James of My Morning Jacket will make Jimmy Can’t Dance a fashionable late-night destination for young revelers.

Jimmy Can’t Dance didn’t need any outside help last Wednesday.  The room was packed with tourists, young professionals and members of the service industry unwinding after work.  Representatives of each group were eager to sip bourbon and bask in the inviting atmosphere of Louisville’s only jazz club.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Now's the Time: Tauk


Rather than blowing the dust off neglected albums by the likes of Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express and Brand X, graying funkateers and nostalgic fans of fusion are advised to join youthful jam-oriented enthusiasts at the Riot Room on Friday, September 29.  The New York based quartet Tauk plays a similarly muscular style of improvised music.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes















*Molly Hammer discussed her life and new album with Monique Gabrielle Salazar.

*The Project H was named KCUR’s Band of the Week.

*Tweet o’ the Week: SME Lancer Bands- The SME Blue Knights Jazz Ensemble kicks off the @PrairieVillage Jazz Festival today! 3:30pm, Harmon Park

*From a press release: Bassist/vocalist Katie Thiroux follows her debut CD with the masterful Off Beat (Aug. 18 Capri Records), a recording that showcases her crackerjack instrumental work, expressive and swinging vocals, and impressive artistic command. She’ll present a CD release concert on Wednesday, October 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Californos… Tickets $20. Joining Thiroux will be pianist Steven Feifke and drummer Matt Witek… Thiroux was artist-in-residence from June through early September 2017 at Quincy Jones's new club Q's Bar and Lounge at the Palazzo Versace in Dubai.

*From a press release: Jazz luminaries Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, John Medeski and Larry Grenadier will kick off the 2017-18 Winterlude series at Johnson County Community College at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15, in the Carlsen Center’s Yardley Hall. Touring under the name “Hudson,” reflecting the New York Hudson River Valley home for the musicians, DeJohnette (drums), Scofield (guitar), Medeski (keyboards) and Grenadier (bass) are individually winners of numerous awards, top-notch improvisers and leaders of their own groups.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

In the Tank for the Black Dolphin

















I was an ersatz doorman last night.  Each time I exited the Black Dolphin represented an opportunity to shill for the new venue as I club-hopped in the Crossroads District.

When I opened the door during a set by the blues/soul/funk band the MGDs, the sudden burst of party music caught the attention of curious passerby on Grand Boulevard.  My spontaneous cry of “Come in! No cover! Live music!” succeeded in attracting a handful of well-heeled couples who were convinced to enter after I explained that the Black Dolphin is the sister venue of the Green Lady Lounge.

The Black Dolphin opened seven weeks ago, but my first-hand experiences and the commentary I continue to encounter on social media indicate that word hasn’t spread.  A few steps to the south of the Green Lady, the Black Dolphin is a minimalist space with bare walls, a high ceiling and a gold curtain framing the stage.  Patrons receive the superb service they associate with the Green Lady.

A handful of stumblebums on their way to the Green Lady were perplexed by the scene when the glorious jazz-based sound of the Project H hit them as I left Black Dolphin late in the evening.  “The Green Lady is over there, but the sound is coming from here” a befuddled guy slurred to his pals.  I declined to help them out.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)