Friday, November 28, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
*Here's some compelling video documentation of a youth jazz program at Johnson County Community College. (Tip via a faithful Plastic Sax reader.)
*"Quick: how many living jazz artists can you name? Wynton Marsalis? OK, who else?" A concert preview for Jacky Terrasson in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggests attempting this alarming exercise on civilians.
*Saxophonist Steve Wilson is working on a project titled “Charlie Parker – Looking Forward and Backward."
*Plastic Sax's magic elves failed to find Steve Paul's review of Eldar at Jardine's. Paul mentioned it to me when I bumped into him at Saturday's Stefon Harris show.
*Pat Metheny made NPR's "Best CDs of 2008" list.
*Here's a report on an Oklahoma-style tribute to Marilyn Maye.
*Last week I expressed excitement that a new Johnson County restaurant would be featuring live jazz. It turns out that the Gaslight Grill has opened with a house band led by Lynn Zimmer. He lacks a website but I get the impression Zimmer plays Dixieland.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)
Sunday, November 23, 2008
"Music is just a science of organizing sound into emotion," Stefon Harris said before he performed for an audience of about 300 Saturday night at the Folly Theater.
The concert was so affecting that a prize committee might wonder if Harris should be recognized for outstanding achievement in the category of music, science or psychology.
As Harris acknowledged in a fascinating pre-show "Jazz Talk" with Doug Tatum, his work with Blackout renders musical boundaries irrelevant.
"We're the hip hop generation," Harris said. "It would be a shame not to include that."
He freely admitted to admiring Rihanna, Radiohead, Coldplay and Kanye West. The contemporary awareness showed. The evening's highlights could have be mistaken for instrumental tracks from a classic Stevie Wonder session.
Keyboardist Marc Cary was responsible for much of the group's most intriguing sonic textures. Drummer Terreon Gully acted as a ridiculously efficient groove machine; young bassist Earl Travis was compelled to merely tag along.
Harris' athletic work on marimba and vibraphone- "it's just a bunch of metal and wood" he noted- was always in the service of the ensemble.
"It's not my sound," Harris said before the show. "It's our sound."
Maybe so, but the show's surprise standout was tough tenor Logan Richardson. The former Kansas Citian was subbing on the gig.
"It's extremely honest and open with emotion," Harris said of Richardson's approach. "It's riddled with all the conflict and grit that he has."
Based on his memorable performance Saturday, Richardson deserves a spot among Kansas City's saxophonist elite.
(Original photo of Stefon Harris and Doug Tatum by Plastic Sax.)
Friday, November 21, 2008
Vibraphonist Stefon Harris leads Blackout Saturday night at the Folly Theater. The group shares my eclectic sensibilities; I intend to buy a discount $15 balcony seat in the last two rows. (Note: Harris is not backed by Blackout in this fine video.)
Thursday, November 20, 2008
*"The day jazz died can be pinpointed with great accuracy: It was the day Charlie Parker put his alto sax to his lips and started sounding like Woody Woodpecker on speed." That's the opening line of an analysis of modern art in the Weekly Standard. The piece wonders why contemporary art has thrived while jazz "died a well-deserved death." Are you going to take that lying down, Kansas City?
*Joe Klopus chats with Stefon Harris. Klopus also previews the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra's Christmas concerts.
*The Grand Rapids Press interviewed Karrin Allyson.
*Hearne Christopher, Jr., catches up with Beena Rajalekshimi.
*I spotted a classified ad in the Star that read: "If you enjoy interacting with others, jazz music, and working in an upbeat, positive environment, come join our team. The Gaslight Grill is a dinner only restaurant with the exception of brunch on Sundays. We will be featuring... a live jazz band playing every Wednesday through Sunday." The address is 5020 W. 137th St., Leawood, KS, 66224.
*An elementary school teacher blogs about a field trip to the American Jazz Museum.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I've repeatedly chided Kansas City's jazz musicians for failing to adequately promote their careers. Only a few take advantage of all of the free promotional tools available. The absence of a handful of high-profile local artists on MySpace has been one of my particularly irksome pet peeves.
I decided to test my theory on Saturday, November 15. I checked that day's play statistics for approximately 200 artists between 5-6 p.m. The results were incredibly discouraging.
Only 13 Kansas City jazz artists had over ten play counts for the day. And I'm using a very liberal definition of both "Kansas City" and "jazz."
(Disclaimer: It's possible that I overlooked two or three artists while compiling this data.)
Kansas City jazz artists with 10-50 plays:
Chris Burnett- 18
Grand Marquis- 17
Jake Blanton- 13
D.J. Sweeney- 12
Mark Lowrey- 11
Brandon Draper- 10
Kansas City jazz artists with 50-100 plays:
Karrin Allyson- 76
Miles Bonny- 54
Kansas City jazz artists with over 100 plays:
Pat Metheny: 907
Krystle Warren- 481
Norman Brown- 275
Oleta Adams- 267
How do those numbers compare to those of top jazz stars?
National jazz artists:
Norah Jones: 7,723
Diana Krall- 1,981
Herbie Hancock- 1,488
Esperanza Spaulding: 1,119
Chris Botti: 1,019
Madeleine Peyroux- 645
Dave Brubeck- 637
Kirk Whalum- 323
Aaron Parks- 307
Joshua Redman- 156
Roy Hargrove- 137
Erin Bode- 57
Branford Marsalis- 31
Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra- 25
I wondered if MySpace is just a forum for kids. With that in mind, I checked the play counts for artists appealing to an older demographic.
National artists with older audiences:
Michael Buble- 29,750
Sheryl Crow- 10,164
Barry Manilow- 3,955
Neil Diamond- 3,421
Michael Bolton- 2,441
Tony Bennett- 1,070
Rod Stewart- 394
I wondered if all of Kansas City's musicians- regardless of genre- suffered from a lack of interest. I took a random sampling.
Kansas City rock, hip hop and bluegrass artists:
Tech N9ne- 68,315
David Cook- 45,316
Jannelle Monae- 6,193
Get Up Kids- 3,740
Mac Lethal- 1,973
The American Life- 1,684
Skatterman & Snug Brim- 697
Rich the Factor- 564
Trampled Under Foot- 208
Beautiful Bodies- 183
D Will- 96
Shooting Star- 78
The Architects- 75
The Wilders- 49
Steddy P- 41
The Rainmakers- 11
MySpace play counts are probably slightly lower on weekends, but that didn't prevent a few of the music industry's top stars from racking up impressive numbers.
Lil Wayne- 858,920
Taylor Swift- 523,397
Britney Spears- 485,920
Katy Perry- 399,768
Kid Rock- 74,068
What conclusions can be drawn from this exercise? Sadly, it's that jazz is just not that popular. Kansas City jazz is even more marginalized.
And I admit it- I was wrong. Based on the results of this study, it's understandable why some Kansas City jazz artists make so little effort. It must seem like no one's listening.
So why do I dedicate a couple hours a week to Plastic Sax? Well, I love the music. I also think it's important. Kansas City's jazz scene deserves lively and objective documentation.
(Original image by Plastic Sax. I'm a popular guy.)
Friday, November 14, 2008
There's a great deal of internal bickering at the Plastic Sax office complex about whether this site should focus on the past or the present. We take pride in staying on top of recent developments. Nothing makes us happier than promoting a promising young artist who might possess the talent and drive to push Kansas City jazz forward. That's why we lament the paucity of contemporary videos. In this era of $150 camcorders, why does it remain vastly easier to find old jazz footage than new material? That said, the Count Basie Five featured here is sublime. And how about Cleveland Eaton!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
*A recent Plastic Sax commenter suggested that the Phoenix would soon reopen. And sure enough, a notice in the Star confirms it. The last line in the piece references live music. Hurrah!
*Joe Klopus previews Eldar's five-day run at Jardine's.
*Hearne Christopher, Jr., catches up with Carol Duboc.
*Kelley Hunt, an artist largely associated with blues and roots-rock, has a "Back to Kansas City"-themed gig Saturday at the Blue Room.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I have good news for Kansas City-area jazz musicians- your music is not posted on file-sharing services.
Don't get too happy. The fact that the world's most passionate music fans are not actively listening to you is also bad news.
In April I introduced the Plastic Sax Muxtape. Copyright concerns forced Muxtape's closing. And 364 days ago, I initiated Plastic Sax radio at Pandora. That site has faced legal battles, but it's still fully operational.
An even better concept, Blip.fm, recently hit the scene. It pulls music files from across the internet and adds a social networking component to the mix. It's the musical equivalent of sliced bread. I seeded the Plastic Sax Blip with ten songs from artists associated with Kansas City.
The problem is that so few contemporary Kansas City jazz musicians have music available on the world's servers. Oh, there's plenty of Count Basie, Charlie Parker and Julia Lee. I tried to feature the likes of Alaadeen, Basse, Hagenbach, Pickford and Winslett. Nada.
I'll regularly add songs to the Plastic Sax Blip. I also encourage Plastic Sax readers to create their own accounts. It's ridiculously fun, easy and addictive. And local musicians- it's your call, but I implore you to consider sharing at least a portion of your music with the world. Like or not, it's the way it works in 2008.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Organist Joey DeFrancesco returns to the Blue Room tonight. While it seems like he's been around forever, DeFrancesco is only 37. He's never been shy about acknowledging his Italian heritage; this amusing reading of "Volare" is typical. Joe Klopus provides a nice career summary of the big man.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
*A potentially incredible event is scheduled to begin at midnight Saturday (Sunday morning) at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.
12 O'Clock Jump is billed as a "free one hour live show... featuring the music of celebrated alto sax player Phil Woods and is presented by Theater League." Hosted by weatherman Bryan Busby, the event will include David Basse, Joe Cartwright, Tyrone Clark and Mike Warren. Two comedians and a "cutting contest" are also part of the bill.
A press release offered few details, but Plastic Sax conducted a brief email interview with a Theater League spokesperson. I learned that Phil Woods will not be appearing in person; "Bobby Watson is our guest artist, performing numbers by and associated with Phil"; the Theater League is funding the program; and that they "hope to go weekly" with 12 O'Clock Jump "by next July."
*It's tempting to read too much into a Star reader's recollection of his failed bid to create a giant saxophone in 1980s Kansas City. It's almost impossible to imagine a similarly ambitious jazz-related idea receiving any serious consideration a quarter century later.
*Jardine's warns that reservations are "a must" for Eldar's stint at the club November 16-20.
*Bebopified defends Eldar's new direction in a review of a recent show. It sounds as if staunch traditionalists will be challenged by the former Kansas Citian's new approach.
*Back To Rockville asked the author of 1,000 Records To Hear Before You Die to provide a list of "the five most essential recording artists from Kansas City." He named Charlie Parker, Bennie Moten, Jimmy Rushing, Lester Young and Big Joe Turner.
(Photo provided by the Theater League. And a loyal Plastic Sax reader merits special thanks for the tip on 12 O'Clock Jump.)
Monday, November 3, 2008
NPR is offering an excellent fifty-minute audio documentary of Jay McShann as a free podcast. Plastic Sax suggests you grab it before it's pulled down. Few sounds make me happier than hearing McShann's Oklahoma twang. And his music? It just doesn't get any better. Man, I miss him.
(I took this photo at McShann's poorly attended 2006 memorial service at the Gem Theater.)