Monday, June 30, 2008

James DeRigne

As with many jazz fans, Plastic Sax's path to the music was convoluted.

Kansas City, Missouri's free Sunday night jazz concert series made a profound impact on me. But I also came to jazz via a teenage flirtation with progressive rock by the likes of Gong and King Crimson. That led me to Billy Cobham, the ECM stable, Miles and so on.

James DeRigne played a small role in that process. When I'd visit him at the Record Cabinet, his odd little prog-rock speciality shop on Mission Road (or was it Rainbow?), he'd often have jazz playing in the background. I also vaguely recall a prominently displayed autographed Buck Clayton album.

At the time, I thought it strange that a guy would be interested in both weird European rock and traditional jazz. Now, of course, it seems perfectly natural to me.

DeRigne died June 3.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Jazz Rorschach Test

Consider this video a jazz Rorschach test.

Which of the following do you see as you view this area ensemble:

a) Dedicated middle school jazz instructors instilling discipline and art appreciation into youngsters?

b) A bright and rosy future for jazz?

c) Bored teenagers desecrating a Sonny Rollins standard?

d) Confirmation that a stylish hat always looks sharp?

(For the record, I think these kids are pretty good. Additionally, I have no connection to this group. I uncovered this footage by searching for "Doug Talley" at YouTube.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The ballot for the annual Pitch music awards offers an interesting perspective on Kansas City's jazz scene. The category's nominees are John Brewer, Snuff Jazz, the Boulevard Big Band, Megan Birdsall, Ahmad Alaadeen and Kerry Strayer. That's quite a mix.

*Steve Penn analyzes development in the jazz district.

*Even though it fails to capture the essence of her performance, you'll want to view this video montage of Megan Birdsall's turn at last weekend's Jazz In the Woods festival.

*Plastic Sax plans to avoid the auction of the Music Exchange's remaining inventory. Too much baggage and too many ghosts...

*Rhythm & Ribs reviews are trickling in. An Inkc blogger liked the beer. This guy like Louis Hayes. This person didn't care for another fan's antics. Present offers a nice black and white set of photos.

*Prime Pat Metheny from 1982 was just uploaded to YouTube.

*John and Ken Eberhart present From Jazz To Verse July 8 at the downtown library.

*I'm sorry I failed you, loyal Plastic Sax readers. This event at the Central Library happened yesterday. Just like you, I read about it the paper.

*The Kansas City Kansas Street Blues Festival is this weekend.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Uncloudy Day

The Plastic Sax staff managed to drop by Corporate Woods on Saturday and Sunday. We left both days before the headliners appeared. The size of the audience Saturday was at least fifty percent larger than on Sunday.

This is news because Saturday was ostensibly a "jazz" day. The site transformed into a country festival Sunday.

Is this disparity a referendum on jazz versus country? Was Saturday's big crowd only there for the Average White Band, the '70s funk hitmakers? Are Lone Star, the headliners Sunday, no longer able to attract thousands of fans? Or is it just that fewer people go out on Sunday?

I don't know what to make of it.

Megan Birdsall and her band of first-call ringers, by the way, were spectacular.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Now's the Time: Jazz In the Woods

It wasn't that long ago when Kansas City jazz artists like Vince Bilardo and Angela Hagenbach were the featured performers at Jazz In the Woods. Plastic Sax remembers the festival's humble origins in the parking lot that now serves diners at Garozzo's.

Everything changes... And the current setting is very lovely.

Ward Triplett has a nice preview of the 2008 edition of the annual event in today's Star. As with last week's Rhythm & Ribs post, I've linked to a video for each featured artist.

Friday, 5:30
It's no secret that I adore Erin Bode. That's the St. Louis crossover artist's video above. Her 2006 gig at Jazz In the Woods was a stunner.

Friday, 7:15
Greg Adams' EPK (electronics press kit) manages to amuse.

Friday, 9:00
Kim Wilson stills fronts the band, but otherwise the version of the Fabulous Thunderbirds getting dirty on "Tuff Enuff" in this video is not the same one performing Saturday.

Saturday, 5:30
A Kansas City jazz artist is on the bill! And an excellent one at that. Let's hope that Megan Birdsall commands a more attentive audience than the awful crowd in this video.

Saturday, 7:15
The sound is a little thin on this Grady Nichols video, but you get the idea.

Saturday, 9:00
The Average White Band introduced a wee Plastic Sax to James Brown's sound with '70s hits "Cut the Cake" and "Pick Up the Pieces." This video is an accurate depiction of what they'll look and sound like Saturday.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Here's a little history of the St. Joseph Coleman Hawkins Jazz Festival. The 2008 edition takes place this weekend.

*Sometime jazz cat Bill Caldwell made the cover of the Star in a very interesting story about the increasingly prevalent use of prerecorded music at Branson's theaters.

*"Will the 18th & Vine District Survive?" A pretty rough headline is attached to Marissa Cleaver's KSHB piece on Rhythm & Ribs.

*Tim Finn makes the rounds Saturday, including a stop at Rhythm & Ribs.

*A saxophone museum in St. Louis? I don't see any Graftons listed.

*Our friend Lee Ingalls laments the loss of Esbjorn Svensson.

*Alaadeen received a grant.

*The Plastic Sax staff continues to mourn the loss of Ed Fenner. Selfishly, we shed a new tear each time we check to see if the Jazz Ambassador's calendar is still blank.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Jazz Vs. Hip Hop: A KC Encounter

Jazz trio video footage from First Friday

Jazz battled hip hop on First Friday. Hip hop won.

It's no secret that all types of music are appreciated at the Plastic Sax office complex. We like to hear Thelonious Monk sandwiched between Jay-Z and Willie Nelson, just as we enjoy heavy metal concerts no less than jam sessions at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

Even so, the epiphany I experienced June 6 on 18th Street came as quite a shock.

Two live performances were taking place less than fifty yards from one another. The first-rate jazz trio (photograph and video footage above) featured Dave Creighton on organ, Jack Blackett on sax and drummer Steve "Duck" McLane. The skilled musicians are excellent. Furthermore, Blackett and McLane were members of one of the best Kansas City bands of all time.

But the hip hop show by the Soul Providers (photograph and video footage below) down the block was far more dynamic and exciting. A furious MC battle evoked the spirit of the fabled 12th Street cutting contests of Kansas City's jazz era heyday.

The immediate, stark contrast was a revelation. Although my love of the form hasn't wavered, no longer can I pretend that jazz is particularly relevant in today's world.

Soul Providers video footage from First Friday

(Original photographs by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Now's the Time: Rhythm & Ribs

Late-breaking news: Plastic Sax has learned that Patti Austin canceled due to illness. She's being replaced by Jonathan Butler.

Let's get this straight right up front- Rhythm & Ribs is not a jazz festival. As Gregory Carroll indicates in Joe Klopus' preview in today's Star, it's a very eclectic bill. I hope the "something for everyone" gambit pays off.

I've linked to a video of every main stage artist. Check the festival's site for the second stage schedule.

Friday, 5:00
Kansas City favorite Ida McBeth opens the main stage. (By the way, can someone please shoot a decent video of her performance? I'm grateful for what little is up at YouTube, but this clip doesn't capture Ida's essence.)

Friday, 6:30
Fourplay is in vogue with crate diggers searching for hip hop samples. I'm not among them.

Friday, 9:30
As seen here, Angie Stone is a fine soul singer in the tradition of Shirley Brown and Betty Wright.

Saturday, Noon
Alaadeen gets things started Saturday.

Saturday, 1:15
The festival's most intriguing booking is Louis Hayes and his exciting band. Here's a live performance from 2007.

Saturday, 3:30
Oleta Adams' "Get Here" sounds better with each passing year.

Saturday, 5:30
"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"- Robert Cray will be playing under the sun.

Saturday, 7:30
Jonathan Butler is Patti Austin's last-minute replacement. He covers "No Woman, No Cry" in the video above.
Patti Austin describes her approach on the early '80s hit "Baby, Come To Me" in Joe Klopus' feature story on the vocalist. The video is above.

Saturday, 9:30
Get out your "Dukey Stick" for George Duke.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*A Barclay Martin performance and interview from Steve Kraske's June 6 show on KCUR is available for download. Tim Finn pins down Martin. Richard Gintowt does likewise.

*In his notes from Wakarusa, Tim Finn agrees with my assessment about a potential new audience for jazz. Patchchord makes a similar point in a comment at the previous Plastic Sax post.

*Clint Eastwood and Spike Lee are sparring. The feud revolves around the film Bird.

*The Unthinking Lemming continues to do the Lord's work. His images and words detailing last Friday night at the Blue Room are invaluable.

*KCUR provides audio of John Mark Eberhart poems about Pat Metheny, Ornette Coleman and other jazz and blues-related topics.

*The 2008 edition of the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival features Hank Jones, Vanessa Rubin, Robert Glasper and Randy Weston. Alas, the annual August event takes place in New York City.

(Original image of the Inner City All-Stars performing in Kansas City last Friday by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Radio? Srsly!


I can't quite follow the logic behind a recent posting by Star columnist Steve Penn. Both Penn and Gregory Carroll, Executive Director of the American Jazz Museum, seem to be lobbying for a "24-hour jazz radio station" in Kansas City. The item is here.

“I’m putting a call out there right now to potential donors to come to the American Jazz Museum and say what can we do to create a full-jazz radio station?” Carroll is quoted as saying. “We’ll give them the space. We’ll give them the time. We’ll even give them the artist. But we have to get the funding in place. And I believe it’s possible.”

That's just silly.

Sure, I'd love a local jazz station as much as the next Jimmie Lunceford fan. But it's not about us old folks. It's imperative that the needs of the next generation be addressed. And fortunately, it's cheap.

Many people under thirty don't listen to radio, just as they don't read print editions of newspapers. Terrestrial radio is over. New tools, including satellite radio, ubiquitous MP3 players, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, Imeem and Last FM have replaced radio.

I even have buddies who listen to the Plastic Sax Muxtape and the Plastic Sax Pandora station on their cell phones.

Nothing's stopping you from "broadcasting" online immediately. Several free internet radio platforms are available.

If you want to continue to think big, why don't you work toward partnering with NPR? They already have a huge assortment of jazz streams and podcasts available. Until you secure that deal, why don't you follow Present Magazine's model. The online Kansas City publication offers a fine weekly podcast titled Sonic Spectrum.

You want a cost estimate? A new Apple Mac mini goes for $599 (less with an educators discount). If the museum doesn't already own microphones, buy a couple for $50 each. I'll bet you could immediately recoup this $700 investment by selling advertising/underwriting spots. It's a money-maker.

I can't wait to tune in.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Now's the Time: Sam Rivers

Sam Rivers in Topeka, Kansas? Now, that's hip! As this footage from a 1979 concert in Germany reveals, Rivers can honk and wail with the best of the free jazz crowd. Joe Klopus interviewed Rivers in advance of his Saturday appearance at the Coleman Hawkins Legacy Jazz Festival.

Time After Time: Ed Fenner's Life Remembered

We should all be so lucky.

Ed Fenner's memorial service Monday night at the Gem Theater was a warm and moving tribute to a man's life and passions. The eulogies- both spoken and musical- were memorable. Fenner died May 18.

In his gracious opening comments Gregory Carroll, Executive Director of the American Jazz Museum, called the service "a celebration and jazz jam."

"It was all about the jazz with Ed," Carroll noted.

"I call for the Kansas City jazz community to come together," he added.

For one night at least, they did. While there were never more than about 100 people inside the Gem, the guest registry contained a far greater number of names. Many left warm comments about Fenner. The speakers did likewise.

Bill Clause of KKFI spoke of Fenner's "discerning spirit and generous soul."

"He knew jazz in Kansas City wouldn't succeed unless people knew about it," Dr. William Eddy of UMKC's Jazz Friends said. "So he proceeded to let people know about it."

"He was dedicated to bringing the jazz community together, "Roger Atkinson of JAM magazine added. "It was his life."

Members of Fenner's family provided some of the night's most revealing moments. They even sung a rendition of a bawdy saloon song Fenner favored in his youth.

Younger brother Richard Fenner acknowledged that while some found Fenner "refreshingly honest," others considered him "brazenly blunt."

"I was probably the only five-year-old in Malibu, California, who knew how to mix a Manhattan," his daughter joked.

Many of Kansas City's top musicians participated in the service. They included Carroll, Millie Edwards, Greg Mize, Don Van Fleet, Micah Herman, Bobby Watson, Loren Pickford, Everette DeVan, Eboni Fondren, Kevin Cerovich and Ryan Lee.

(Original images by Plastic Sax.)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*Plastic Sax attended the memorable memorial service for Ed Fenner at the Gem Theater Monday night. A proper report is forthcoming.

*I updated the Plastic Sax jazz calendar. Note to clubs and musicians- while I encourage you to contact me directly, your first order of business should be to email your event schedule to the Jazz Ambassador's calendar site. Without Ed Fenner's contribution, you'll need to step up.

*Don't forget about Hawkfest in Topeka this weekend. Candace Evans has the rare and challenging honor of following the great Sam Rivers Saturday. Here's the festival's impressive schedule. And it's free!

*The Pitch investigated the mystery of Jazzbo.

*Makusa was profiled in UMKC's student paper.

*Plastic Sax enjoys scrolling through Downbeat's list of summer jazz festivals. Oh, to be a jetsetter...

*Clark Terry's site reports that the trumpeter returned home after a stint in a Kansas City hospital. (Tip via St. Louis Jazz Notes.)

*Marilyn Maye finally has a web site! Plastic Sax mocked the diva's lack of a web presence several months ago.

*I'm not big on Benedetti. But this scribe claims allegiance to the Charlie Parker solo recordings.

(Original image of Son Venezuela performing at Fiesta KC by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Why Isn't Tech N9ne a Jazz Musician?

Tech N9ne would have probably been a great jazz musician. Born in Kansas City 36 years ago as Aaron Yates, he's carved out a successful career as a hip hop headliner.

David Cook might have made a strong George Benson-style guitarist and vocalist. Instead, the Blue Springs-bred rocker achieved fame via American Idol.

Plastic Sax believes that many of Kansas City's most talented musicians might have made significant contributions to the jazz world had they chosen to work within the genre. Tech N9ne's creativity and intelligence, for instance, seem ideally suited to jazz.

I don't mean to imply that jazz is superior to hip hop or rock; I believe that great music exists in all styles of music. Yet it's disheartening to consider that neither Yates nor Cook had probably given any serious thought to jazz. But even if they're closet jazz freaks, both men knew that deliberately selecting a life in jazz would be a sacrifice in potential upside earning power. It's a luxury few can afford.

The biggest living star in jazz, Wynton Marsalis, was born into the music. The same is true for Bobby Watson, one of Kansas City's leading jazz figures. Perhaps the most exceptional local exception is Eldar Djangirov. And he had to come to Kansas City via Russia to make it happen. The long odds are such that each Harold O'Neal seems like a minor miracle.

Unless it regains a substantial audience, jazz's losses will continue to be country, hip hop and rock's gains.

(Rock image by Plastic Sax.)