Friday, May 30, 2008

Now's the Time: The Winard Harper Sextet

The camera is static, the sound mix is a little iffy and the bandleader is hidden behind a piano. But the muscularity of the Winard Harper Sextet's hard bop still comes through in this video. The New Jersey-based drummer's band plays tonight and tomorrow at the Blue Room. Harper offers a couple downloadable tracks at his MySpace account.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ed Fenner Memorial Events

Here's a bulletin I received Wednesday from Andrew Zender of the American Jazz Museum regarding special memorial events for Ed Fenner:

I got the word today that there is a two-part memorial planned for Ed Fenner next week. This event was planned by Ed’s family along with a couple of his associates with the Jazz Ambassadors and UMKC, and the Museum is playing a part by providing its venues/spaces for some of the events.

By the way, there is a scholarship set up in Ed’s name through UMKC. Folks can send a donation to:

UMKC Conservatory of Music
Ed Fenner Memorial Scholarship Fund
5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110

Monday, June 2 – Tribute/Jazz Jam, 6:00pm
This will take place at the Gem Theater. There will be a light reception from 6:00pm to 7:00pm, with the tribute “program” beginning directly afterwards. There will be a few brief speakers who will share their memories of Ed as well as an image slideshow put together by Dean Hampton. The rest of the event will be a jam session, although I haven’t heard who is ‘hosting’ the jam. This will run until 9:30-10:00pm. If there any musicians that wish to keep playing, they’ll move the jam over to The Blue Room since it’s a regular Blue Monday Jam session. Former KC bassist Craig Akin will be back in town from NYC with his band Topshelf Toons hosting the jam. Event(s) free and open to the public.

Tuesday, June 3 – Ed Fenner Pub Crawl, 7:00pm
From what I understand, there is a fee of either $30 or $35 to participate in the jazz pub crawl – transportation is arranged. All proceeds directly to the scholarship that is set up in Ed’s name. The night begins at the Mutual Musicians Foundation around 7:00pm, then it’s off to CafĂ© Trio, Jardine’s, and back to The Blue Room to end the night. The group will probably stay at each venue for 45 minutes to an hour. Since The Blue Room normally isn’t operating on Tuesday nights, there will be a special guest group booked there for the evening.

Folks interested in going to the Pub Crawl can contact Phyllis Sargeon, a close friend of Ed’s, at I just got off the phone with her and she said they’re already near capacity on the pub crawl, but there are still 3-5 spots left.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*Earl Robinson, a founding member of the Scamps, died May 19. He was 85. Robinson and his excellent band were probably my favorite roots-oriented act in the 1980s, although they'd already been entertaining Kansas Citians for decades. Here's how fun they were- I'd often opt for a night with the Scamps over local competitors BCR, the Blue Riddim Band, the City Light Orchestra, Little Hatch, Kevin Mahogany, the Morells, Ida McBeth, Horace Washington and Claude "Fiddler" Williams.

*Here's a bit of good news amidst the gloom. The Metheny Music Foundation awarded eleven students cash scholarships for summer band camp. Details are posted at the Foundation's site.

*Ed Fenner's obituary ran in Sunday's Star, What an remarkable life!

*My friend Jason remembers Ed Fenner.

*Discussions about funding the city's museums- the American Jazz Museum included- are quite taxing.

*My friend Richard profiles Shay Estes and Mark Lowrey.

*The Star published an elaborate feature on Brad Cox in its Sunday magazine.

*KCUR offers an insightful interview with Kevin Cerovich.

*Steve Penn follows up on an item Plastic Sax published April 9. His column provides background about D.J. Sweeney's quest to salvage jazz programming on KKFI. More disaffected grumbling is here.

*Anyone want to provide historic context for today's news report about the bandstand pavilion at Swope Park? It's "in danger of collapse."

*Hey! There's a "new" Charlie Parker recording!

*A Los Angeles man submitted an impassioned defense of the American Jazz Museum to the Star.

(Incredible image by this photographer. Plastic Sax tipsters BGO and Lee assisted with this post.)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Where's My Black Dress?

I had intended to dedicate an hour listening to authors at the Kansas City Literary Festival last weekend. Instead, the siren song of the Wild Women of Kansas City drew me to the courtyard outside the nearby Eddie Bauer store. I see this ensemble so frequently that their repertoire and most of Myra Taylor's gags should be old hat. Squeeze me into a black dress and I could easily sing along with the ladies. Yet for all that, the act has yet to become stale. I'll say it again- no act working today better represents Kansas City's musical legacy than the Wild Women of Kansas City.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Mr. Five By Five

Watching this newly posted performance by Jimmy Rushing I was initially struck by his stylistic similarity to fellow native Oklahoman Jay McShann. The uncanny resemblance had never occurred to me. The smoldering piece serves as yet another reminder that Kansas City's musical legacy is deeply rooted in the blues. Need more? Try this joy-inducing video. "I'm kind of plump that's true..."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*The more I ponder Ed Fenner's passing, the more concerned I become for Kansas City's traditional jazz establishment. Fenner had been carrying a disproportionate amount of the workload on his back. Might this be the end of an era? Each of the comments to my previous post is thoughtful, but take special note of Carrie Brockman's bulletin that Jardine's is hosting a memorial jam this Sunday. And don't miss Present magazine's tribute to Fenner.

*Last week's Ink featured a cover story about Kansas City's jazz scene.

*Steve Penn joined Plastic Sax in bemoaning recent programming changes at KKFI.

*The full schedule for June's Rhythm & Ribs festival has been set.

*Bobby Watson is performing next month at the Glasgow International Jazz Festival.

*The New Yorker published a remarkable profile of Charlie Parker obsessive Phil Schaap.

*The Unthinking Lemming continues to step up.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ed Fenner

Self-styled "jazz activist" Ed Fenner reportedly died yesterday.

Fenner was a tireless promoter of jazz in Kansas City. He was responsible for compiling the Jazz Ambassador's jazz calendar. As I've previously noted, it's the single most valuable resource for local jazz fans. He also sold advertising for JAM magazine. And he had hoped to launch KC Jazz Voice this year.

Fenner and I didn't hear or experience jazz the same way. I'd be the first to admit that I have only a fraction of his energetic passion for the art form. I spotted him at nearly every traditional jazz show I attended at the Folly and Jardine's in the past few years.

Fenner's passing isn't just a terrible loss for his family and friends. It's a devastating blow to Kansas City's jazz community.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Now's the Time: Mike Dillon

Mike Dillon falls squarely in the tradition of versatile musicians who willingly embrace sound alternatives even though they probably would prefer to play jazz for a living. He's an accomplished player in metal, funk and jam band settings. A couple years ago I saw him add immeasurable depth and texture to a show by folkie Ani DiFranco. Dillon's jazz is better for this diverse background. He and his political funk-based jazz-pop band, Go-Go Jungle, perform tonight at Davey's Uptown. Two other Dillon-affiliated projects-Hairy Apes BMX and Malachy Papers- are also on the bill.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*I happened to spot an online advertisement for a benefit concert by Eldar. It's May 15 at Country Club Christian Church. I realize that Plastic Sax isn't Downbeat magazine. But gee whiz, even Downbeat isn't Downbeat any more. Please jazz promoters, publicists and artists- just send me a note and I'll gladly publicize your event or news. Gratis.

*Steve Penn's May 10 column covers Sons of a Hoofer, the American Jazz Museum's neglected film collection and construction at 18th and Vine.

*Plastic Sax pal Unthinking Lemming covers Karrin Allyson in New York and Killer Strayhorn at Jardine's. Don't miss his Muxtape, either. UL's postings are cause for celebration at Plastic Sax's offices.

*The Pitch offers an editorial about the 18th & Vine signage by John Kreibergs.

*Here's more hand-wringing about the IAJE's downfall. This is a woefully under-reported national story.

*St. Louis Jazz Notes (link to the right) turned me on to the existence of the Ozark Jazz Society.

(Original image of Eldar at his 2007 Jazz In the Woods concert by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Funny Money

A variation of an old joke makes light of the often fleeting relationship between jazz and money. As previously noted in this space, $823,000 is being spent on development projects near 18th & Vine. A portion of that money is dedicated to erecting a giant sign.

Much to the chagrin of a few of Plastic Sax's associates, I happen to think the new signage is a brilliant idea. It will serve as a constant reminder that the district is just a few blocks east of downtown. The sign should make the area more attractive to new business development in addition to aiding the district's handful of existing entities.

Just for fun, let's pretend that the jazz community came into another $823,000. While prudent voices would probably suggest that the money go into museum staffing, maintenance and the like, let's hypothetically suppose that the money would need to be immediately spent on non-essential items.

Here are a few new ideas:

An ambitious recording project
Using the Blue Room as a recording studio, pay area jazz musicians for the privilege of documenting their art. The oldest musicians would be the top priority. Sadly, there'd be almost no commercial market for these recordings. Therefore, I suggest they be made immediately available for free download. It'd increase awareness and interest in the careers of the participating musicians. The sessions would also serve as invaluable resources for fans and musicologists in the future.

Jazz Inn
Convert one the area's vacant buildings or existing apartment complexes into a modest ten-room hotel. Tourists from Japan and Europe, touring musicians, and local day-trippers would make it viable.

Bring back the music
Fund a free weekly summertime jazz concert series at 18th & Vine. Plastic Sax fondly remembers the era when Kansas City, MO, paid national acts to play free concerts in city parks. In this case, all shows would be on 18th Street. The museums would be open during these events.

New museum installations
While I appreciate everything in the American Jazz Museum, a fresh new exhibit or two would be most welcome.

With that said, don't think I've forgotten my infamous tract from August 2007. Several additional ideas are listed in that shrill screed.

Your thoughts are most welcome.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Now's the Time: Monty Alexander

There's every reason to believe that Monty Alexander will be spectacular in a trio format Saturday night at the Folly Theater. He's an incredibly agile pianist. Still, it's his reggae-oriented work that has most excited me in recent years. Check out the way Alexander breaks it down at the 2:20 mark in this live video. Amazing. And how about the audience's response? Tito Puente was the only artist I've witnessed capable of eliciting a similar reaction from the traditionally staid Folly jazz series crowd. Don't miss Joe Klopus' typically great feature on Alexander.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*Saint Joseph is erecting a statue of Coleman Hawkins during their jazz festival in June. It's the work of the Coleman Hawkins Jazz Society.

*Kansas City's Fox affiliate broadcast a nice segment on Sons of a Hoofer.

*Did you see that Louis Hayes has been added to the Rhythm & Ribs lineup?

*Poor health prevented Clark Terry from appearing at a concert at Unity Temple Sunday night. KCUR aired a feature before the bad news hit.

*Hearne Christopher Jr. reports that Marilyn Maye is returning to Jardine's.

*Details have emerged about the new signage going up in the Jazz District.

*A one-man play about Charlie Parker was produced in Massachusetts.

*One-time Kansas City resident Ronnell Bright is extensively interviewed here.

*Frank Wess was recently featured in both the New York Sun and in the New York Times.

*Bebopified raves about a recent Karrin Allyson show.

*Leawood? Ask David Basse.

(Original image of Chicago by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Killer Strayhorn- Long Story Short

If the staff of Plastic Sax didn't know better, we'd assume that the unusual moniker and almost complete lack of web presence were clues that Killer Strayhorn was actually the pseudonymous product of a mysterious jazz supergroup.

Although the performance captured on Long Story Short is on par with jazz's elite, the reality isn't quite so exciting. Killer Strayhorn is a new group consisting of Kansas City jazz journeymen.

"Black Narcissus" and "Stolen Moments," the disc's first two songs, demonstrate that Killer Strayhorn is remarkably adept at interpreting jazz standards. The tone and execution are similar to the classic Blue Note sound. Even if Long Story Short fails to make anyone forget about Speak No Evil and Maiden Voyage, its evocation of a lesser Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers album sill represents a notable accomplishment.

The quintet of Bob Harvey, James Isaac, Chris Lewis, Dave Luvin and Todd Crookston host a CD release party Wednesday, May 7, at Jardine's.

(Note to musicians, labels and publicists: Plastic Sax reviews all Kansas City-related jazz discs it receives.)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Now's the Time: Clark Terry

I trust that the fine educators at the Kansas City Youth Jazz project have made certain that their students have witnessed this vintage Clark Terry video. Now a vigorous 87-years-old, the trumpeter is the very definition of an elder statesman. Still, the kids need to be reminded that the legend they'll perform with Sunday was once a prank-loving young man. Terry's solo begins at 2:20.