Thursday, February 28, 2008

Now's the Time: Terell Stafford

Fine trumpeter Terell Stafford performs at the Folly Theater tonight. Read Joe Klopus' preview here. With the exception of the engaging saxophonist Tim Warfield, this is not Stafford's working band. Watch Matt Wilson demonstrate why he's the drummer du jour. And one can't be reminded too often that Mulgrew Miller is one of our greatest pianists.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*Although the Star's wonderful magazine feature Sunday focused on the gospel legacy of Western University, it's essential reading for anyone who hopes to fully understand the breadth of Kansas City's musical contributions. Inspired by the piece, I visited Quindaro earlier this week. I tell the story in words and pictures here.

*KCUR pleasantly surprised me with two local jazz-related features this week. A downloadable profile on drummer Brandon Draper is here. And a lengthy piece by Sylvia Maria Gross on Luz D'Sol can be accessed here.

*The Pitch profiled Myra Taylor.

*Jazz producer Teo Macero died last week. Count Basie was among the many jazz giants with whom he collaborated.

*Acclaimed trumpeter Terell Stafford plays the Folly on Friday,

(Image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Why Jazz? YJ's

I don't really fit in at YJ's Snack Bar. It isn't my age; it's my attitude. I realize that this might come as a bit of a shock to Plastic Sax readers, but I'm kind of a high-strung control freak. That doesn't fly in the laidback Crossroads establishment.

Still, there's no better place for a Kansas City jazz fan to pass a Sunday night than at YJ's. I heard a set of sublime Charlie Byrd-inspired bossa nova on a recent Sunday evening.

It's my understanding that fine bassist Micah Herman leads the session every week, but he hasn't updated his gig listings recently. And I'd link to YJ's, but their MySpace account is down and they don't seem to have their own site.


(Photo by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Kansas City's Dutchman

Consider this- Bram Wijnands so loved Kansas City's music that he moved here to perform it. The Dutchman has dedicated his career to reviving the roaring sounds of vintage Count Basie, Jay McShann and Bennie Moten. He may be the music's single most convincing recreationist.

A good Samaritan filmed several performances by Wijnands' Majestic Seven at Jardine's last week. Additional selections can be viewed here, here and here.

The band plays the club the second Wednesday of every month. Wijnands also works in a trio format every Friday and Saturday at the Majestic.

Here's one final tip- over a dozen excellent Wijnands recordings are available for download at his site.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*A monumental shift in the Kansas City jazz scene is scheduled to take place this Saturday night. Jardine's, long associated with its solid but conservative booking policy, features Snuff Jazz from 11:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. The collective's leader, Mark Southerland, is the most visible representative of Kansas City's underground experimental jazz scene. An editorial in the club's weekly newsletter addresses the adventurous booking. "Come out and hear something new," they implore. "You may hate it, or you may have a really really good time." The times they are a-changin'. Plastic Sax is very pleased.

*Sunday's Star offered the exciting news that a ballet featuring vintage Kansas City jazz is in the works. Here are the details.

*Steve Penn writes that Friday marks the 100th anniversary of Claude "Fiddler" Williams' birth. A celebration will be held at the Mutual Musicians Foundation. I sure do miss Claude.

*It's official- KKFI now offers only ten hours of dedicated jazz programming a week. Look for the thin strip of pink (of all the nerve!) on the station's color-coded programming guide.

*Plastic Sax's counterpart in St. Louis previews concerts by Michael Wolff and Terrell Stafford, both of whom are also on their way to Kansas City.

*A tourist from Michigan blogs about his impressions of the American Jazz Museum and other Kansas City institutions.

*Wichita's smooth jazz advocate goes nuts over a New York radio station's format change.

*Don't forget to be Plastic Sax's MySpace friend. My shameless marketing campaign at the social networking site, incidentally, has been effective. More than three people now visit this site daily.

(I omitted the Majestic from my virtual jazz tour, but it's a memorable destination in downtown Kansas City. Photo by Plastic Sax.)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Putting Kansas City Jazz On the Map

The Mutual Musicans Foundation

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Now that Kansas City has been added to Google's Street View system I'm able to take Plastic Sax readers on a virtual tour of Kansas City's past and present jazz spots. The most famous jazz landmark in Kansas City still standing is this union hall at 1823 Highland Avenue. I love the picturesque side street. And the sturdy tree to the right of the Foundation holds an inexplicable allure for me.

The American Jazz Museum

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Right around the corner are the relatively new American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The restored Gem Theatre is directly across the street. The Blue Room, Kansas City's premier jazz venue, is the space with the blue awning several yards to the west.

Charlie Parker's Grave

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Charlie Parker's grave is approximately a hundred yards beyond this ridge at the entrance to Lincoln Cemetary in Blue Springs, MO.


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Jardine's is the only club in Kansas City offering live jazz seven nights a week. The Main Street venue is right off the Plaza.

Plaza III

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The Plaza III, a Country Club Plaza steakhouse, features a subterranean jazz club.

The Golden Ox

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While the Golden Ox isn't a renowned jazz venue, Loren Pickford has taken up a Friday and Saturday night residency. Besides, I wanted to give my European and Japanese friends a glimpse of Kansas City's old stockyards.

YJ's Snack Bar

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The cool kids converge on YJ's Snack Bar on Sundays for a fresh-faced take on jazz. The cafe is in the recently renovated Crossroads district.

12th & Vine

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Our tour concludes at the spot that was once the world-renowned intersection of 12th Street and Vine. It was the center of the jazz universe at one time; it's now a lovely green space. Too bad, huh?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fat Tuesday at the Foundation

A nice man at the Mutual Musicians Foundation is constantly filming the musicians and the audience. Sometimes brief samples are screened during breaks in the music. The guy must have well over a thousand hours of documentation. I want to ask him what he intends to do with his work but he's always busy filming. Incredibly, only eight videos with the tag "Mutual Musicans Foundation" are posted at YouTube. And five of them are from last week's Fat Tuesday party. While this disorienting clip makes me feel as if I need to call a cab, it benefits from featuring the great drummer Steve "Duck" McLane and by offering a brief glimpse of the saintly Betty Crow.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*The Star reports that $500,000 is being spent to create a "gateway" to the northeast corner of 18th & Paseo. A "monumental, colorful marquee" visible from downtown is in the works. That's a great idea. I'm not sure everyone realizes that the jazz district is just a few blocks from the Sprint Center. But the new landscaping component strikes me as useless. The area is already pretty and inviting. The story also references a "stagelike platform." Yet at least two such areas already exist directly behind the museums.

*I've come to the conclusion that the single best thing that can realistically happen at 18th & Vine in the next few months is that the blues club Steve Penn recently alluded open its doors. Kansas City's active, motivated blues community would love to spend their time and money in the district.

*The rumor reported in this space last week is true. It looks like KKFI's weekday jazz programming is being reduced to two hours a day. And in a related note, it's disappointing that jazz is woefully underrepresented in the station's band auction. I purchased the services of a top-tier rock band last year. It's too bad I can't bid on a local jazz act of similar stature.

*Did you catch Eldar on the Grammys? And isn't it nice that Herbie Hancock won the big award?

*A Tennessee newspaper profiled Kevin Mahogany.

*Road trip! Friends University brings in Cyrus Chestnut for their jazz festival later this month.

*The Sun offered a nice feature about Shawnee Mission Northwest student and jazz musician Sean Giddings.

*Pianist Chris Anderson, who played with Charlie Parker, died February 4. He was 81.

*The BBC is streaming a story related to the "Jazz Baroness".

*YouTube user "VandoJam," a Kansas City-related entity, posted a few new videos.

*An inspiring column by Steve Penn brought readers up to date on Eddie Saunders.

*The Star ran a brilliant review of last week's concert by Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra. It's pure poetry!

*I'm delighted to discover that Plastic Sax has a fan. Elsewhere, Patchchord riffs on my notes about jazz education.

(Photo of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra captured Friday at the Folly Theater by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Loren Pickford Trio At the Golden Ox

The staff of Plastic Sax is ashamed that they neglected to catch Loren Pickford's trio at the Golden Ox until last weekend.

The saxophonist, Micah Herman and Charles Gatschet serve up some of the most imaginative jazz in Kansas City inside the profoundly masculine steak house lounge.

Pickford has seemingly done it all and played with everyone. Although he's ostensibly working in a cocktail setting, Pickford can't restrain himself from occasionally wailing like this. He also covers Tom Waits' skid row saga "The One That Got Away" with weary authority.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Now's the Time: Norman Brown

I no longer have access to industry sales figures, but it's a safe bet that Norman Brown is Kansas City's best-selling living jazz export. Consider these facts: The guitarist hosted last month's Smooth Music Cruise. His song "Let's Take a Ride" was 2007's biggest smooth jazz hit. This video has 54,000 views. And the Kansas City, KS, native is the headliner at the Uptown Theater Saturday night.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*I hereby proclaim myself the biggest champion of Kansas City jazz collective Smooth Groove. Don't let their unfortunate name fool you- they're the real deal.

While the pianist occasionally breaks out an electronic keyboard and the band is not above playing "Down Home Blues," Smooth Groove is essentially a traditional Kansas City jazz group. The versatile old-timers- the youngest member is in his fifties- remind me of the '80s version of the Scamps.

Smooth Groove lacked any internet presence until now. My photographer friend Corky joined me at the Mutual Musicians Foundation Friday. He posted the stunning results of his efforts here. Sitting in with Smooth Groove that night were saxophonist Bobby Bryant and vocalist Stephanie Wilson.

*Corky is on a roll. Present Magazine recently published his stunning photographs of the Wild Women of Kansas City.

*Regional jazz promoter Butch Berman died last week. Here's his last newsletter. His brave farewell is deeply moving. (Tip via Lee.)

*Kansas City's library system was awarded a $2,500 grant to create a "Jazz Marquee Collection".

*Last week I contemplated blues' dominance of Kansas City's roots music scene. I was more prescient than I imagined. Local trio Trampled Under Foot just won the prestigious Blues Foundation's annual band competition in Memphis.

*Randy Brecker spoke to Joe Klopus. The most crucial line from Joe's fine piece is this Brecker confession: "Now the biggest part of the jazz community is in colleges."

*A tourist offers an unbiased account of his visit to 18th & Vine.

*I won't pretend to hide my enthusiasm for Brass n' Grass, a Kansas-based New Orleans-style brass band I recently discovered online. Look out, Loose Cannon and Dirty Force!

*There's something slightly odd about the young European trad jazz band singing about Kansas City in this video.


*Craig Akin has interesting indie rock and jazz posted at his Virb account.

*Here's a television segment about Plastic Sax favorite Erin Bode. The St. Louis chanteuse's career has moved in an unlikely direction. (Tip via Lee.)

(Photo by Plastic Sax.)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Do You Suppose Tom Digs Lester Young?

I'll admit it. I'm desperate.

Increasingly weary of churning out sharp content for fifty people a week, I created a MySpace account for Plastic Sax last Thursday night. I refuse to accept that my ridiculous personal blog should be immensely more popular than this site.

Unfortunately, I'm as untalented a web designer as I am a pianist. And I was so afraid that MySpace's default "friend" Tom would be my sole internet companion that I began reaching out to area jazz musicians. It's no accident that my the majority of my first "friends" have last names ending in A, B, C and D.

Of course, my goal isn't to have a popular MySpace page; I simply want to boost awareness of this site. So if you were here already- thanks. And if you want to be my MySpace pal, I promise I won't use quotations when I call you my friend.

(Photo by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Now's the Time: Wynton Marsalis

Some call Barack Obama a "rock star" candidate. A reveler tries to "party like a rock star."

Somewhere along the way jazz music dropped out of the popular lexicon. As much as I'd like Ornette Coleman or Cecil Taylor to take the honors, the closest thing jazz has to a "rock star" is Wynton Marsalis. He and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra return to the Folly Theater February 8 for a sold out concert.

Marsalis is a polarizing figure. I happen to adore him. While I disagree with about half of his officious pronouncements, I'm delighted that a jazz trumpeter still manages to scandalize so many people in 2008.