Sunday, March 17, 2019

The 411 on 424 Lounge


A swank jazz club opened in January.  It’s not in downtown Kansas City, nor is it situated in an affluent suburban development.  424 Lounge is in Leavenworth, a town closely associated with a famous penitentiary and a large military installation.  424 Lounge may alter that perception. 

On Saturday, March 9, I paid a $8 cover charge to hear a sublime performance by trombonist Jason Goudeau, keyboardist Eddie Moore, bassist Seth Lee and bassist Mike Warren.  Similarly auspicious artists perform every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the handsome, old-school venue.

The room isn’t merely stylish by local standards.  424 Lounge would be one of the nicer jazz venues in New York City.  The friendliness of somewhat uneven service and the fine acoustics are commendable.  Situated 30 miles from downtown Kansas City, 424 Lounge doesn’t lend itself to spontaneous visits, but it’s well worth the trek.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, March 15, 2019

Now's the Time: Adam Nussbaum's Lead Belly Project


Jazz renditions of songs associated with the blues icon Lead Belly doesn’t seem like a promising proposition.  Yet Adam Nussbaum validates the unusual concept with his Lead Belly Project.  The drummer will be joined by guitarist Steve Cardenas (his third Kansas City appearance in four months!), guitarist Nate Radley and saxophonist Ohad Talmor in the intimate Gospel Lounge at Knuckleheads on Thursday, March 21.  The performance is one of the date’s 19 shows listed on The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*The story behind a 1953 photograph of Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and Roy Haynes is told by Peter Facini of The New York Times.

*Joe Dimino documented a performance by Kerry Politzer at Black Dolphin.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Ben Putano- I'm not hating… but I think if someone came to KC for a Jazz-related vacation they'd leave disappointed. And that's a shame.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Concert Review: Ryan Keberle & Catharsis at Mod Gallery


Camila Meza sang “the order is rapidly fading” in a ravishingly melancholy rendition of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” at Mod Gallery on Sunday, March 3.  How I wish it were so!

While the celebrated Chilean musician and her bandmates- trombonist Ryan Keberle, saxophonist John Ellis, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Eric Doob- were playing what Keberle characterized as political “protest music”- I couldn’t help but apply the sentiment to the group’s progressive musical approach.

Kansas City remains largely impervious to the charms of forward-thinking improvised music, an aversion reflected by the show’s attendance.  Less than 20 people braved frigid conditions to pay the $15 cover charge.  That’s even fewer than at the group’s free performance at Black Dolphin in 2018.

As Downbeat’s review of the band’s performance two days earlier in St. Louis and a 2014 appearance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert indicate, Catharsis is one of the most notable jazz-based touring groups of recent years.

With its surfeit of star power, emphasis on imaginative arrangements and commitment to banishing standard practices, the group resembles a modern-day Weather Report.  The abundance of talent occasionally led to frustration.  Individual expression was repressed in favor of a commitment to ensemble work.  (I posted one of Meza's brief solo statements to Instagram.)

Ellis didn’t let loose until the last set was almost over.  The saxophonist’s solo on “Fooled and Pushed Apart,” a composition inspired by Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America Again,” was as gloriously poignant as Ray Charles’ singing on “America the Beautiful.”  It was the sort of inspiring statement that everyone in Kansas City deserves to hear.  Yet for the time being, the times are a-changin’ elsewhere.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Now's the Time: Kurt Elling


I gushed about Kurt Elling in a preview of his Saturday, March 9, concert at the Folly Theater for The Kansas City Star, so there’s no need to embarrass myself a second time in this spotlight.  The vocalist will be joined by guitarist John McLean, pianist John Beasley, bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Adonis Rose.  The show is one of 27 of Saturday’s engagements listed at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*Chris Tickner, the man responsible for the jazz bookings at Johnnie’s Jazz Bar & Grille and B&B Theatres Liberty 12 Cinema, pitches his business on a television news program.

*Tim Finn conducted a question-and-answer session with Shay Estes.

*Rick Hellman objects to The Kansas City Star’s editorial about stasis at the American Jazz Museum in a letter to the newspaper.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Wing Walker Music- YESSS. I'm so excited that Hazel is listed along with all of these incredible artists as one of the Best Jazz releases on @Bandcamp for February 2019. Thanks to Dave Sumner!(@BirdIsTheWorm)

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar lists all of March’s bookings.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Album Review: Norman Brown- The Highest Act of Love


I tried on a posh fur coat in a bid to amuse my family and friends at a holiday party in December,  While I got plenty of laughs for modeling something I would never otherwise consider wearing, the joke was on me.  I discovered that donning the pelts of dozens of dead animals feels really good.  While I’ve been conditioned to think less of people who wear fur, I suddenly comprehended the appeal.

Smooth jazz carries a similar stigma.  Condescending detractors deride the form as an intellectually barren music intended for dimwitted sensualists.  Whatever.

Anyone who willingly hits play on Norman Brown’s eleventh solo album The Highest Act of Love will quickly become too blissed out to worry about such trivial matters.  The guitarist from Kansas City expertly establishes an impeccably relaxing vibe.  What’s wrong with that?

While The Highest Act of Love employs contemporary production techniques, it’s really just an extension of the sultry albums George Benson recorded for the CTI label in the early 1970s.  Brown emphasizes mood rather than technique.  Even so, selections including the title track make it clear that he’s capable of playing with as much finesse as Benson, Lee Ritenour and his Kansas City contemporary Will Matthews.

I’ll understand if you tag me with spray paint should you catch me luxuriating in a fur coat next winter.  I only ask that you don’t damage my headphones.  I might be basking in the comforting warmth of The Highest Act of Love.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)