Thursday, January 29, 2009

Now's the Time: John Scofield

John Scofield brings the funk. And because of the guitarist's strong predilection for deep grooves, I expect to encounter a full house when the Folly's jazz series continues Saturday. Rockers, jam band advocates and fusion freaks comprise Scofield's constituency. This video features Scofield in the trio setting he'll employ in Kansas City. The drummer, Bill Stewart, is the same, but Steve Swallow will be replaced by bassist Matt Penman. Joe Klopus previewed the show.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout blogs about a visit to Kansas City. It's a remarkable essay, both nostalgic and slightly dismissive. Here's his take on the American Jazz Museum: "No doubt it is a good thing that Kansas City is home to such an institution, but it is so self-evidently out of place that I found it impossible to warm to--especially since the surrounding neighborhood shows no visible signs of having been renewed by its presence."

*The Scamps have a MySpace account!

*Mosaic's Basie-Young box set is put into context by Steve Paul.

*Joel Francis revisits the legacy of the Coon-Sanders Night Hawk Orchestra.

*A Dubuque newspaper catches up with Oleta Adams.

*The aspirations behind "12 O'Clock Jump" were detailed by Joe Klopus.

*A documentary about Anita O'Day is showing at Screenland.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Phoenix Rising

It's an extremely limited sample size, but I'm very pleased to report that every time I've visited The Phoenix I've encountered a very lively environment. The jazz bar's seemingly successful second life is a great thing for the jazz scene, downtown's denizens and for Kansas City as a whole. And it's so reassuring to see a reconstituted version of The Scamps back on the club's calendar. Oh, happy day! The only potential sore spot, at least for purists, is that the venue seems to be more oriented to socializing than to serious listening. But then again, it's always been that way at the Phoenix. And if forced to choose, I'd rather see a packed jazz club filled with people who are ignoring the band than a nearly empty jazz club populated by a handful of intent listeners.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Nuit du Jazz at Jardine's

Did you miss the Nuit du Jazz show at Jardine's earlier this week? Fear not- a representative sampling is already on YouTube. While no video can capture the essence of the live experience, the murky footage makes it quite clear that the trio of Bram Wijnands, Jurgen Welge and Rod Fleeman was vastly entertaining. Critics of Plastic Sax would be right to suggest that videos of Bram Wijnands are disproportionately represented at this site. Here's why- someone actually bothers to film and post his shows. Allow me to remind Kansas City's jazz community of a little secret.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Both Jardine's and the Blue Room made Downbeat's new list of the world's 100 Best Jazz Clubs. A link? Don't be silly. Why would the magazine want people poking around at their site?

*The American Jazz Museum may face a decrease in city funding according to a KCUR report. Their story includes a link to the official documents.

*The staff of Plastic Sax is extraordinarily excited about the "Blue Note Records Listening Party" at the Blue Room on February 10. From the American Jazz Museum: Hosted by renowned saxophonist Bobby Watson and local Blue Note Records aficionado Elmer Jackson, the session is free and open to the public. Attendees will discuss the impact of the many eras of the legendary Blue Note record label while listening to local DJ and jazz enthusiast Miles Bonny spin music from 5:00PM to 7:00PM. Bonny provides a slightly different set of details at his site.

*Joel Francis offers his thoughtful analysis of the state of jazz in 2009.

*The second vlog by Miles Bonny is up.

*Jeff Harsharger is profiled by Joe Klopus.

*Via the ARC label group: It is with pleasure that we pass along this message from the Kansas City Youth Jazz, Inc. (KCYJ) organization. An Evening to Establish the Leon Brady Scholarship. This is our chance to... support and thank Leon Brady for 50 years of teaching and promoting music education, helping our kids make the right choices (and) keeping Kansas City's Jazz heritage alive. Time: 7:00 to 9:00 PM. Date: Thursday, February 12, 2009. Place: YWCA of Greater Kansas City/1017 North Sixth Street/Kansas City, KS. Program: Performances by KCYJ students. Please respond by January 30 to 913-424-9903 or |

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Meet the New Jam

Where was the noise?

I darkened the door of Jardine's last Saturday afternoon fully prepared to soak in some free jazz.

What I heard wasn't at all what I had expected.

I reckoned that the young band assembled by Jeff Harshbarger would produce a sound more akin to John Coltrane's Ascension than to Mel Torme's Swingin' On the Moon. I was wrong.

It's a good thing, too. Many longtime participants of the previous jam session led by the impeccable Tommy Ruskin were on hand. They require a backing band fluent in standards. Harshbarger and his crew were ready for them.

According to the calendar at Jardine's site, the session continues every Saturday with the exception of Valentine's Day.

I look forward to returning. Next time I'll have "My Funny Valentine" and not "Pursuance" on my mind.

(Original and entirely inadequate image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

The State of Jazz? Go Ask Brian Wilson

I'd be lying if I claimed that I didn't read Ben Ratliff's de facto state-of-jazz commentary with great interest earlier this week. "What's your take, Mr. Fancy Pants Plastic Sax?" a couple guys have asked me. I'll let this video of The People's Liberation Big Band performing a Beach Boys song at the Record Bar serve as my succinct response.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*I'm a bad person- I've never purchased anything from the gift shop at the American Jazz Museum. The news that the jazz gift shop at Lincoln Center has been shuttered makes me feel even worse.

*Alacartoona and the People's Liberation Big Band received grant money. Here's the Pitch's take.

*Plastic Sax! A white Grafton is being restored in England.

*Joe Klopus spoke with Orbert Davis.

*Local label ARC is getting busy at their Blip account. Miles Bonny also utilizes the tool to great effect. Anyone else?

*Harold O'Neal secured a prestigious gig in Philadelphia.

*Mosaic, a new album by the Blue Note Records all-star group that will perform February 20 at the Gem Theater, was released this week. Doug Ramsey reviewed the second show of the collective's tour.

*Jason Harper takes umbrage at the debut edition of "The Miles Bonny Show".

*The Plastic Sax staff is atwitter about the new look of the Saturday afternoon jam session at Jardine's. The core group consists of Jeff Harshbarger, Roger Wilder, Rich Wheeler and Mike Warren. The fun starts at 2 p.m. January 17.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

You Say Happy I Say Birthday

My regular Monday night buddies weren't having it. Neither were most of my regular associates. One person even told me, "Well, I'll go as long as I don't have to listen to any jazz."

I had my usual difficulties convincing others to accompany me to a jazz-oriented event. In spite of the regular resistance, I made it down to the Jay McShann birthday party detailed in the previous Plastic Sax post.

So did a lot of other jazz fans. The upstairs room at the Mutual Musicians Foundation was packed. Smiles and good cheer filled the historic venue.

Still, I couldn't help feeling a little blue. Only a handful of the hundred or so people at the event were younger than me. Half were over the age of sixty.

The great Ahmad Alaadeen was trudging through the bitter cold toward the Foundation as I hurried to my car. I'm sure his contribution was greeted with appreciative cheers. It's a shame that almost none of them would come from anyone without gray hair.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Celebrating Jay McShann's Birthday

Had he not died twenty-five months ago, Jay McShann would have turned 92 on Monday. An event acknowledging the date will take place at the Mutual Musicians Foundation. Details are below.

The occasion serves as a great excuse to post an excerpt of Gary Giddins' American Masters documentary about Charlie Parker. Jay McShann stars in this segment.

From a slightly reconstructed press release:

Rolling With the Keys: Celebrating Jay McShann's Birthday Kansas City Style at the Mutual Musicians Foundation. Monday, January 12, 2009 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm. Free admission.

Come get your fingers greasy and enjoy some great music.

Featuring Ahmad Alaadeen, Pearl Thuston Brown, Chris Clarke, Tyrone Clark, Everett DeVan, Gerald Dunn, Luqman Hamza, Al Pearson, Ray Reed, Greg Richter, Tommy Ruskin, Gerald Spaits, Mike Warren, Bobby Watson, Charles Williams, Bram Wijnands and Dennis Winslett.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Joe Klopus acknowledges the flagging support for Kansas City's jazz scene.

*Steve Paul spotlights ten forthcoming jazz shows. (And don't forget the Plastic Sax Event Calendar.)

*A free MP3 by Dojo is available for download at All About Jazz.

*Jardine's' donor appreciation party for prospective and actual members of the "Society For Charter Members of the New Piano" is scheduled for January 11.

*The Pitch took great pictures of Sunday's gig by the People's Liberation Big Band.

*Pianist Paul Smith, unquestionably one of Kansas City's finest jazz musicians, now has a MySpace page. I won't name names, but it sure would be wonderful if a handful of our town's other notable veterans followed suit.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

The People's Liberation Big Band


John Cage's infamous composition is not the type of work one expects to hear performed on a Sunday night inside a Kansas City rock venue.

Yet there it was. The sound of silence from the bandstand competed with the shrill shushes of po-faced patrons, an indifferent bar staffer yammering on his cell phone and my bemused cackle. I couldn't believe it was actually happening.

I would have paid the Record Bar's five dollar cover charge for that experience alone. Yet The People's Liberation Big Band offered a lot more than five minutes of serious silence.

Two compositions by P. (Pat) Alonzo Conway provided the best moments of the first set. The profane funk of "Scat Rut" and the loose improvised feel of "Seven" showed the twelve-or-so piece ensemble at the peak of their power. The set's weakest moments resembled a failed rebellion by high school band nerds.

The second set opened with a rousing one-two punch. A relaxed Sun Ra composition was followed by a burly rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." That's precisely the free-wheeling aesthetic that the audience of approximately sixty expected.

It ain't your dad's Stan Kenton show. In fact, last night's performance represents the most exciting, engaging and surprising effort by Kansas City-based musicians I've heard in several months.

Last night represented the thirteenth installment of the "Jeff Harshbarger Presents" series. The next event is January 18.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Andy Kirk- Blue Clarinet Stomp

This is the sound of Kansas City eighty years ago. The Andy Kirk session was recorded at WDAF's studios at the Kansas City Star. According to Frank Driggs' and Charles Haddix's Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop- a History, that's Claude "Fiddler" Williams on fiddle, John Harrington on clarinet, John Williams on baritone saxophone, Bill Dirvin on guitar, Kirk on tuba and Ed "Crackshot" McNeil on drums. Harry "Big Jim" Lawson scats.