Sunday, September 23, 2018

Concert Review: James D’s Nouveau Noir at Open Spaces














The first of two free musical performances presented by Open Spaces in Swope Park on the afternoon of Saturday, September 22, was promoted with a jazz hashtag.  Even though James D, a.k.a. James Christos, is a Kansas City rapper who once held next-big-thing status, I had no reason to doubt the categorization.  Christos is currently associated with the Mutual Musicians Foundation and the hallowed jazz institution’s low-power radio station KOJH.

A few minutes before the Nouveau Noir performance began, a woman at Christos' merch booth told me that if I liked jazz, I’d like the show.  I was further encouraged when jazz-oriented musicians including drummer Tyree Johnson took the stage.  I was let down.

The program Christo described as a “sound journey” was intended to convey the totality of the black American experience.  It included segments of African drumming, poetry, interpretive dance, R&B and an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.”  Yet it was mostly a vehicle for Christos’ rapping.  At one point in the 90-minute performance for an audience of 50, Christos introduced a selection as “a little bit of a jazzy thing.”  Nope.  He rapped that he was “feeling myself” over a neo-soul groove instead.

Misrepresenting music as “#jazz” is a minor infraction.  The inconsistent quality of the show was a more serious misdeed.  I’ve heard most members of the band play far more compelling music.  I’ve also witnessed Christos rap with stunning ferocity.  The overly solicitous Nouveau Noir review catered to the sorts of middle-aged do-gooders who proudly display “Celebrate Diversity” bumper stickers on their hybrid vehicles.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 21, 2018

Now's the Time: Ramsey Lewis


The embedded video documents an unbearably cringey television appearance by a band led by Ramsey Lewis.  An appallingly disrespectful and absurdly incongruous dance troupe shimmies through renditions of the crossover hits “The ‘In’ Crowd” and “Hang On Sloopy.”  Lewis and his Urban Knights ensemble perform at the Folly Theater on Thursday, Sept. 27.  The show is one of the evening’s 16 gigs listed at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes














*David Basse extols Stan Kessler in the University News.

*Millie Edwards was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Max Bennett, a jazz-oriented musician with ties to Kansas City, has died.

*Erykah Badu, an R&B star who channels Billie Holiday, headlines what’s billed as the Fountain City Blues & Jazz Festival at the Sprint Center on October 19.

*Tweet o’ the Week: FOX4 News- Family, friends hold vigil for young father killed last Friday night near 18th and Highland in Kansas City’s Jazz District (link)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Album Review: The Count Basie Orchestra- All About That Basie














All About That Basie is precisely the sort of album the Count Basie Orchestra needed to release in 2018.  By blending a few impressive guest features with tracks that remain true to the institution’s tradition of powerhouse swing, the star-studded album allows the band whose leader died in 1984 to stave off cultural irrelevance.

In harkening back to Frank Sinatra’s popular collaboration with the Count Basie Orchestra, Kurt Elling’s suave vocal makes “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” the album’s standout track.  Stevie Wonder adds his distinctive harmonica to a robust instrumental version of “My Cherie Amour.”  Joey DeFrancesco’s greasy organ on a remake of “April in Paris” is delectable.

The project contains a few misfires. Two tracks are particularly egregious.  The vocal group Take 6 piles thick layers of gooey cheese on “Every Day I Have the Blues.”  And it’s disappointing that no one told the Basie crew that there’s an unofficial moratorium on covers of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” the most played-out song of the new millennium.

Even so, the good on All About That Basie easily outweighs the bad.  And while guitarist Will Matthews is the only member of the band who still resides in Kansas City, the Count Basie Orchestra continues to make Kansas City proud.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Now's the Time: The Sextet


Grab your sunglasses.  The Sextet has a pair of free outdoor daylight gigs lined up.  The youthful collective led by bassist Robert Castillo performs at Big Eleven Lake in Kansas City, Kansas, at 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 15.  The Sextet will entertain on the Ink Live! Stage during the Plaza Art Fair at 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 23.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar is a complete guide to all area performances.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes












*Joe Dimino interviewed Jackie Myers and Nate Nall.

*Joe Dimino created a video montage of the opening acts at last weekend’s Prairie Village Jazz Festival.

*A man was murdered in the heart of the Jazz District last week.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Crunchee- Logan Richardson and his band played an amazing set at the Prairie Village Jazz Festival last night. Too bad 95% of the crowd left when it got loud and never got to see it.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Gently Up the Stream














Let’s play a jazz version of the “would you rather” parlor game. 
Would you rather receive a cumulative 250 spins a week on non-commercial radio stations throughout the country or rack up 10,000 plays a week in the global marketplace with a single song on Spotify?

The former option involves mailing compact discs to dozens of radio stations and (ideally) hiring a publicist to persuade DJs to play it.  The latter gambit requires lobbying a well-placed connection at the music streaming service or simply relying on fortuitous serendipity to obtain placement on popular playlists.

The efforts documented on social media by many locally based musicians suggest that they covet placement on the JazzWeek terrestrial radio chart.  Karrin Allyson, an artist who launched her career in Kansas City, currently holds the #2 spot on the chart with 238 weekly plays of selections from her Some of That Sunshine album at 53 outlets.

“Fake it Till I Make It,” a track from the Kansas City based Marcus Lewis Big Band’s new album Brass & Boujee, achieved a different form of success.  Since being added to Spotify’s State of Jazz playlist a couple weeks ago, it’s been played more than 50,000 times. 

As much as I like working in the terrestrial radio format, I believe that focusing on placement at streaming services is a savvier strategy for most area jazz artists, at least until a song or album gains traction.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)