Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*The Pitch discloses the terms of a "new deal" for development at 18th & Vine. Follow-up notes are here.

*"The Dennis Kucinich of jazz"? That's what Pat Metheny calls himself in this profile in a Rochester paper.

*Metheny has a new trio album scheduled for a January release. (News gleaned from Contemporary Jazz.)

*Acclaimed music blog Soul Sides recently posted an MP3 by the Pete Eye Trio.

*The opening reception for If Jazz Was a Color is Friday at the American Jazz Museum.

(Image discovered and appropriated via the internets.)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Joshua Redman At the Folly

Of the many pleasures afforded by the Folly Theater's venerable jazz series, one of the most consistently satisfying is each concert's "Jazz Talk." An hour prior to show time, the headliner chats with Folly executive director Doug Tatum on the historic stage. Depending on the artist, these discussions can be vastly entertaining or painfully awkward. They're almost always insightful.

Curious jazz fans discovered Friday night that saxophonist Joshua Redman is remarkably gracious, humble and engaging. He clearly relished talking about his craft. Here are a few choice quotes from Redman's discussion with Tatum.

*On the idea of inheriting a gift for music from his father Dewey Redman: "The majority of musicians I work with have more natural talent than I do."

*On his progress as a musician: "A lot of holes have developed in my playing and I'm in the process of filling them"

*On his years at Harvard: "I was basically a nerd. Not basically- I was a nerd."

*On his mother's music collection: "A Love Supreme and Sgt. Pepper's are the first albums I remember being albums." He noted that he was particularly impressed by Coltrane's album cover.

*On Sonny Rollins: "When I heard Sonny Rollins I understood what jazz improvisation could be."

*On Rollins' solos on Way Out West: "They had beginnings, middles and ends. They had an organic structure"

*On the trio format he presented Friday: "It's pretty terrifying. It's very difficult... You have to embrace the economy and sparsity of this context."

*On the development of his writing skills: "Composition is something that's come slower for me... I would write for the sake of improvisation... The more I compose I see it as the process in and of itself."

*On improvisation: "What I strive for is to be completely spontaneous at all times... (but) realistically, it's impossible." Redman added that he attempts to "systematically excise" routine and obvious licks and quotes from his playing.

*About a good performance: "There's a sense of being an agent. The music is playing you as much as you're playing the music."

Unfortunately, Redman's performance was less successful than his jazz talk.

Joined only by bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland, the trio's two sets were technically flawless. The rhythm section was superlative, while Redman's tone on tenor and soprano was impeccable. The shaved heads sported by all three men symbolized their musical unity.

Yet much of the show seemed like an academic exercise, as if Redman had consciously limited himself to lurking in the towering twin shadows of Rollins and Coltrane.

One of the evening's few emotionally engaging moments was Redman's unaccompanied introduction to "Zarafah." His soprano conveyed a fierce debate with dialogue worthy of David Mamet. Each of Redman's "characters" pleaded, screamed and attacked until the fight was settled by the entrance of Rogers and Harland.

Too often, Redman's extended solos became tedious, so that it sometimes felt as if Harland had waited a couple minutes too long before bailing Redman out with a percussive explosion.

The trio format is a dangerous tight rope walk. Stumbles and even a few nasty spills are inevitable. When the three risk takers left the stage two and half hours later after they began their venture, they had earned their standing ovation.

Two final comments: I missed the first portion of the second set due to an impromptu meeting with a man regularly mentioned on this site. Secondly, it was discouraging to see hundreds of empty seats. I hope that when Bill Charlap's sublime piano work graces the Folly on November 16, more than the 450 people on hand to witness Redman show up.

(Original images by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Now's the Time: Joshua Redman

Even though this video doesn't feature the band accompanying Joshua Redman to Kansas City for his performance at the Folly Theater tonight, it's notable for two reasons. The footage serves as further proof that young artists are bringing fresh energy and enthusiasm to a music in desperate need of such vitality. Secondly, the fact that a straightforward clip of a traditional jazz artist can garner 144,000 YouTube views indicates that a successful generational transfer might actually be taking place.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*The Pitch's music blog notes that the shuttered Phoenix jazz club may become a donut shop.

*The Star paints a gloomy picture of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. It's the comparatively popular companion of the American Jazz Museum. The museums' neighborhood is disparaged by a few Kansas Citians here.

*How can we miss Lee Ingalls if he won't go away? He interviewed Charles Gatschet for KCUR. The Kansas City jazz guitarist talks about Antonio Carlos Jobim, his fondness for melody and the color of Cindy Sheehan's hair. What?

*Joe Klopus provides an appreciation of the ongoing career of Michael Carvin.

*According to the internet, Marilyn Maye hardly exists. The Star makes reference to Maye's supposed 76 appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. So how is it possible that not a single clip is posted at YouTube? I demand a recount. The Kansas City favorite began an extended run at Quality Hill Playhouse yesterday.

*How dare a jazz blogger mock Pat Metheny's hair!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Ten Best Kansas City Jazz Recordings

Nine of the ten discs I've selected as the best Kansas City jazz recordings have one thing in common- they exude a sense of joyful celebration. The melding of blues and jazz that characterizes the Kansas City sound is intended as the soundtrack to a party. Even Frizzell and Metheny, the two artists on my list who veer farthest away from the city's traditional sound, radiate positive vibrations. The revolutionary work of Charlie Parker, manic and confrontational, makes him the odd man out. But he never fit in. In chronological order:

1. Bennie Moten- Band Box Shuffle (recorded 1929-32, Hep Records compilation released 2000)
Kansas City jazz didn't begin with Moten, but he was the first significant area bandleader to be extensively recorded. This set contains two-and-a-half hours of intoxicatingly vibrant music featuring the likes of Count Basie, Harlan Leonard, Hot Lips Page and Jimmy Rushing.

2. Count Basie- The Best of Early Basie (recorded 1937-39, Decca compilation released 1996)
The mother lode. Just the names of the participants- Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Claude Williams, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Jo Jones- inspire awe. When someone in Tokyo or Paris thinks of Kansas City, they have "Jumpin' At the Woodside" or "Doggin' Around" in mind. This set also includes Jimmy Rushing's reading of "Blues In the Dark," which may be my favorite recording of the twentieth century.

3. Jay McShann- Blues From Kansas City (recorded 1941-43, Decca compilation released 1992)
Impossibly hip titles like "Say Forward, I'll March" and "Hootie's Ignorant Oil" hint at the good times provided by these classic sides. And yes, the young Charlie Parker's first recorded honks are here.

4. Julia Lee- Kansas City's First Lady of the Blues, (recorded 1944-47, JSP compilation released 2001)
A full sixty years later, many of Lee's raunchy songs are fully capable of inducing blushes. Local legends like Sam "Baby" Lovett play alongside stars including Benny Carter and Red Norvo on these wild and wooly sessions.

5. Charlie Parker- Complete Dial Sessions (recorded 1946-47, Stash compilation released 1993)
As with his personal life, Parker's discography is complicated and somewhat messy. This selection comes down to personal preference; I really dig the mind-bendingly creative Dial sessions, which emphasize Parker's compositional skills.

6. Dwight Frizzell & Anal Magic- Beyond the Black Crack (recorded and self-released in 1976; reissued on Paradigm in 1998)
Does this obscure title by Kansas City's favorite oddball actually exist? Does it matter? The Sun Ra-obsessed Frizzell went on to make many experimental recordings with BCR, which for years was arguably the best band in Kansas City, jazz or otherwise.

7. Pat Metheny- American Garage (recorded and released in 1979, ECM)
As with Aaron Copeland's most popular works, the majestic compositions of American Garage evoke the generous vistas of the American plains. Metheny's incorporation of folk and country elements paved the way for explorations by both fellow guitarist Bill Frisell and new-grass acts including Bela Fleck and Nickel Creek.

8. Count Basie- Kansas City Shout (recorded and released in 1980, Pablo)
This late-career summit of Basie, Joe Turner and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson reminds me of great late-night sessions at the Mutual Musicians Foudation, except there's nothing casual about the sophisticated big bands charts on "Blues For Joe Turner." Swinging came as easily to the old veterans as breathing.

9. City Light Orchestra- Raised Spirits (recorded and released in 1984, City Light Entertainment)
The sound captured by swinging traditionalists Dave Basse, Tim Whitmer, Ahmad Alaadeen, Jano and Laverne Barker continues to dominate Kansas City's jazz scene twenty-three years after this perfectly-titled set's release.

10. Myra Taylor- My Night To Dream (recorded in 2000, released in 2001, APO Records)
Even at ninety-years-old, Taylor shows more energy and spunk than almost every other entertainer in town. With Sonny Kenner's guitar and Eddie Saunders' tenor sax, this crisp recording unites Kansas City's jazz and blues legacies.

Disagree with my selections? I should hope so. Please add your list and thoughts to the comments section.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Sound of Kansas City, 1929

Although this session was recorded in Chicago on October 23, 1929, it captures the wild sound that provided the soundtrack to Kansas City's renaissance. As the fine notes for the video indicate, the band was in a transitional phase, evolving from a formulaic sound to a more cosmopolitan style that would rival the bands of Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson.

Even so, it's still exhilarating almost eighty years later.

Several members of the band played more than one instrument, but my best guess is that the personnel on this track are Ed Lewis and Booker Washington on trumpet; Thamon Hayes on trombone; Eddie Durham on guitar; Harlen Leonard, Vernon Page, Jack Washington and Woody Walder on saxophones and clarinets; Count Basie on piano; Leroy Berry on banjo and Willie McWashington on drums. Having ceded the piano chair to Basie, Moten directs.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*It's taken every ounce of my willpower to repress the impulse to comment extensively on Dave Helling's damning story about the financial aftermath of the American Jazz Museum's tenth anniversary celebration. Plastic Sax readers know that I'm anything but a cheerleader. Yet it seems unfair to pile on, especially given how much I enjoyed the museum's street festival. I'll just say that Helling's piece is mandatory reading. The author of this letter points out just one of many problems the institution must overcome. And the consensus of the general public is reflected by these bitter perspectives.

*It's deeply discouraging that empty seats outnumbered live bodies for Dee Dee Bridgewater's revelatory performance Saturday at the Gem. In spite of tremendous advance notices and heavy advertising, only 250 people showed up. And almost as troubling was audience's median age of about fifty.

*Present Magazine offers a fine profile of Candace Evans.

*The paperback edition of Chasin' the Bird: The Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker was published in April. It's reviewed favorably at All About Jazz.

*The Pitch catches up with Megan Birdsall. The benefit performance for her forthcoming medical procedure is at Jardine's tonight.

*Lincoln Center is the site of a discussion titled "Charlie Parker: The Myth vs. the Reality" on November 8.

(Art by Sanford Biggers. His work is on display at Grand Arts.)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Farewell, Lee. Adieu, Jazz.

This broad-shouldered intellectual is Lee Ingalls. Public radio listeners are familiar with his mellifluous voice in his capacity as KCUR's morning anchor, reporter and jazz critic.

It's telling that I first met Ingalls at a UMKC jazz jam at Mike's Tavern. In addition to being an absurdly nice person, he's a knowledgeable and deeply passionate fan of jazz.

So it's with great sadness that I report that Ingalls is moving to Chicago at the end of this week.

Although I hope I'm wrong, Ingalls' departure represents the end of jazz on KCUR. Ingalls hosted the station's Just Jazz program after long-time personalities Ginny Coleman and Ruth Rhoden's retired. Since that show's demise, the station has broadcast Ingalls' profiles of local jazz events and artists. He has also made regular appearances on Steve Kraske's Up To Date to review recent jazz releases.

Can anyone at KCUR fill Ingalls' shoes?

While he's a leading jazz authority, Chuck Haddix's excellent weekend Fish Fry is dedicated to "blues, soul, rhythm & blues, jumpin' jive and zydeco." Back when KCUR featured jazz programming nightly, I recall that Haddix would end his shift with Bill Evans' "Peace Piece."

I admire reporter and producer Sylvia Maria Gross' off-the-chart smarts and engaging personality, but I hold her responsible for the recent controversy at the Mutual Musicians Foundation. As I learned when I mentioned it to her, Gross was oblivious of the unwritten rule among jazz fans and drinkers to never speak publicly of the Foundation's late-night liquor situation. Her broadcast led to the government crackdown.

I'm not demanding that KCUR drop its news or classical programming to focus on jazz. The internet and satellite radio have rendered conventional music broadcasting obsolete. I do feel, however, that KCUR has an obligation to regularly cover the local jazz scene. Just up the dial, KKFI offers some fine jazz programming, but the community station lacks both KCUR's reach and resources. Area jazz musicians desperately need and merit KCUR's support.

You're going to be missed, Lee.

(Original photo by Plastic Sax.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*She's big in France. Dee Dee Bridgewater, who goes all Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf in this video, will perform with a ten-piece band October 13 at the Gem Theater.

*Lee Ingalls interviews Eldar here. Lee also recorded a compelling conversation with Alaadeen about the saxophonist's new album.

*UMKC's student newspaper dared to highlight the school's jazz program. (Link via Tony's Kansas City)

*Joe Klopus' interview with Greg Abate is here.

*The American Jazz Museum's Dennis Winslett and Greg Carroll get a little ink for their efforts in jazz education here.

*Reminder: The City Light Orchestra reunites for a jazz brunch Sunday, October 14, at the Athenaeum.

*An advertisement for "Johnson County's Premier Jazz Event" recently began appearing in the Star. It states that Joe Cartwright and Roger Wilder will appear Sunday afternoon at the Overland Park Marriott. I've asked the contact person for further details and I'll provide an update when I receive a response.

Update- Russell Simmons, the event's organizer, responded to Plastic Sax with the following information about Sunday's 4 p.m. concert:
*Seating capacity is limited to 300. It's table seating in the hotel's ballroom.
*Smoking is not allowed. Two cash bars are available.
*Tickets are $20, and can be obtained at the Marriott or directly from Simmons (913/226-8401). Simmons recommends the latter option.
*"I see this as an opportunity to present the best KC jazz to Johnson County," Simmons said via email.  "I believe there is substantial interest in live jazz music in Jo Co.  However, people can't/won't always go downtown. We'll determine what we do regarding future events based upon the response we get to our offer."

Monday, October 8, 2007

Dan Jaffe's Farewell To Arch Martin

Dan Jaffe is a Kansas City-based poet and composer. He shares his impressions of Arch Martin's September 8 farewell concert with Plastic Sax.

After a musical conversation of more than half a century with Kansas City, Arch Martin said goodbye as a great jazzman must, in concert.  He was with players able to scorch the room, old friends who had played together many times.  They all showed soul enough to play the blues with joy.

For four hours, except for the briefest intermissions, Arch, Paul Smith, Bob Bowman, Tommy Ruskin and Mike Metheny reminded the audience how jazz can surprise, in old ways, in new times.

I remember first hearing Arch in 1962 with George Salisbury, Milt Abel and Vince Bilardo, an outing I have never forgotten.  How would this "older" Arch Martin fade out I wondered.  He wouldn't.  The 2007 Arch kept the audience's full attention, reinspired the Blue Room's reputation as a "listening" room.  No, they didn't chatter, they didn't leave, and they repeatedly expressed love and enthusiasm.

What mattered most was the feeling that filled the room and informed the music.  It was powerful yet complicated, subtle yet clear.  This was clearly celebratory, a hallelujah for great playing and years of devotion to jazz.

The final standing ovation was extended and spontaneous, nothing ritual or forced about it, the natural response of those deeply moved and appreciative.

But this was also an evening full of sorrow.  Arch was leaving for Los Angeles and there was no way to relive all those glorious Kansas City moments, the rhythms, the humor, the great phrases from Arch's trombone and the great answers he evoked.

-Dan Jaffe

(Image nicked from an instrument dealer.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*John Hilderbrand has relaunched Kansas City-based It's linked in the right column.

*Joe Klopus considers the success of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra's concert series.

*Here's the Star's review of Friday's performance by Eldar and the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra.

*Miguel De Leon is the unlikely subject of an editorial in a Georgia newspaper.

*Doug Ramsey reviews a recent performance by Karrin Allyson and Bill McGlaughlin.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Street Festival Wrap Up

I posted a set of photos from the American Jazz Museum's tenth anniversary "street festival" celebration here. Although traditional jazz wasn't the attraction for the most of the people in attendance, the Blue Room was full most of the day and big bands led by Leon Brady, Bobby Watson and Louis Neal performed outdoors.