Friday, July 31, 2009

Jazz (and more) at The Phoenix

I'm quite fond of The Phoenix. I was genuinely pained by its closing in 2007 and delighted by its resurrection in 2008. That doesn't mean it's a great room for jazz. Rather, it's a great room to catch up with friends as jazz musicians provide ambiance. Perhaps because it focuses only on tight shots of vocalist D.J. Sweeney, pianist Roger Wilder and bassist Tim Brewer as a roomful of unseen people chatter in the background, this video is unintentionally painful.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Star featured a Mutual Musicians Foundation-affilliated jazz camp. Here's some accompanying photography.

*A commenter to a recent post suggests that an unwillingness or inability to pay BMI was a factor in the shuttering of the Majestic.

*Joe Klopus announces the partial forthcoming concert schedules of the Gem and the Folly. The American Jazz Museum subsequently announced a couple additional shows. They're listed at the museum's site.

*Mark Edelman enthusiastically endorses Karrin Allyson's new compilation. He also hypes the jazz scene here and here.

*Punkyjunk references Plastic Sax's insistence that a commercially viable future for jazz lies within the jam band community in his review of a Kurt Rosenwinkel download.

*Former Kansas City resident Carol Duboc is releasing an album of Burt Bacharach songs in August.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Barack Obama Suite

A very nice set of UMKC Conservatory student performances was uploaded to YouTube this week. "The Time For Rhythm Changes Is Now," the fourth movement of The Barack Obama Suite, has a breezy Vince Guaraldi vibe. It features Will Sanders on tenor sax, Hermon Mehari on trumpet, Andrew Oeullette on piano, Zach Beeson on bass and Brian Steever on drums.
The first, second and third movements are similarly compelling.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Loren Pickford blames BMI for the loss of his gig at the Golden Ox according to a report by Tess Koppelman. (Tip via Tony's Kansas City.) Pickford plays Thursday, July 23, at the Blue Room.

*Will Matthews' new album, Count Out Swingin', streets August 3. The recording features saxophonist Bobby Watson, organist Mel Rhyne and drummer Kenny Phelps.

*KCUR profiled jazz and electronica musician John Brewer.

*Tony's Kansas City continues to rave about Dave Stephens. The popular blogger also seems to approve of the previous Plastic Sax post.

*If I didn't know better, I'd suggest that A Blog Supreme has been monitoring Plastic Sax. A new essay suggesting that the jam band scene is an appropriate model for jazz musicians is strikingly familiar. (Here's just one example.)

*Apropos of nothing, the Guardian published a fine essay on Charlie Parker.

*435 South magazine featured David Basse. (Tip via AZ.)

*As Andrew Zender reported in a comment to the previous Plastic Sax post, Jazz Times magazine is "back in action".

*As I suggested a couple days ago, Kansas City's rock scene is thriving. A new documentary about the scene screened here last week. Requisite jazz content? The accompanying free download includes a track by Sal Retta that's sure to please fans of Madeleine Peyroux.

*"Jazz Is Dead." That's apparently the title of a song by new Kansas City indie rock band Thee Water Moccasins.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Modal Money

The economy stinks.

It's a fact. Still, I get tired of hearing prominent members of the jazz community use today's weak economy as an excuse for flagging support. It's not necessarily true.

I see quite a bit of live music. So do thousands of other people in the Kansas City area. Here's a recap of my last four nights out.

Last night I stood amid 8,000 people for Incubus' rock show at City Market. Tickets were $35. I witnessed a standing-room-only performance by a couple of Kansas City-based roots-rock acts Saturday afternoon at The Record Bar. About 125 people paid $6 each to attend. On Friday afternoon, approximately 600 people saw reggae artist Matisyahu perform at Crossroads. Tickets were $35. The previous day I caught Chris Isaak at the VooDoo. He hasn't had a hit in over a decade, but close to a 1,000 people paid $70 to sit or $55 to stand at his vintage rock show.

That's a lot of discretionary income being spent on four distinct flavors of music. And that's just my experience in 96 hours.

Here's an another example that hits close to home. Parking has been at a premium at a certain jazz club since a new upscale bar and restaurant opened up the block. I continually marvel at the throngs of people cavorting on the outdoor deck.

I wish I knew where all this money was coming from (and I wish more of it was mine.) It's deeply troubling, of course, that more of these funds aren't being spent on jazz.

(Original image of a Friday afternoon reggae performance by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jimmy and Buck: Ain't Nobody's Business

I can't overstate how much I love this clip of Jimmy Witherspoon singing with Buck Clayton's band. It's sexy, tough and cool. The moment around the 1:15 mark in which Kansas native Clayton chimes in after 'Spoon's meaningful moan is the epitome of everything I adore most about Kansas City's unique confluence of jazz and blues.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Hearne Christopher checks in with Mark Edelman about 12 O'Clock Jump. Don't forget that the weekly radio broadcasts are available as free, downloadable podcasts.

*John Hilderbrand, the Kansas City-area founder of, remembers his introduction to the music he loves.

*Steve Penn catches up with David Basse and Dennis Winslett.

*Follow Alaadeen on Twitter.

*I stumbled across a nice cache of videos at Vimeo featuring Bukeka Shoals and Ken Lovern's OJT performing at The Blue Room.

*Katharine Wright of UMKC's Institute For Urban Education issued a press release about an August 6 "Sunset Sounds" program for young musicians.

*I succeeded in inspiring several notable comments in response to the previous Plastic Sax post. I acknowledge that I have a peculiar way of showing it, but I'm quite appreciative of all my readers. Thank you.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Plastic Sax's Crystal Ball

I don't particularly care for the music made by the likes of Mouth. The Kansas City band has more in common with Phish and Allan Holdsworth than with Charlie Parker and Joe Lovano.

A contentious debate at the Plastic Sax compound about whether or not to include Mouth in Plastic Sax's jazz listings has inspired a great deal of thought about the future of jazz.

Here are a few predictions about major changes that will transform the jazz community over the next ten years.

Definitions. In 2019 it will no longer seem odd to categorize bands like Mouth as "jazz." The word will have lost much of its current connotation. Prog rock, jam bands and ambitious roots-based music? Call it jazz. Need a headliner for a big jazz festival? Book Ben Harper, John Mayer or Wilco. They may not meet the outdated definition of jazz, but they sell tickets to fans who own a copy of Kind of Blue.

Support. Traditional jazz musicians will increasingly rely on support from government agencies and charitable foundations. Organizations like the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra will thrive and multiply. Privately-financed operations like Jardine's will be forced to continue their gradual drift away from mainstream jazz.

Education. The jazz establishment will finally lose their firm grip on music education. The new model will be programs along the lines of Paul Green's School of Rock and Columbia College's music production training.

Underground. A subversive alternative scene will blossom. A rebellious form of jazz- much of it noisy and and anarchic- will become the chosen music of anti-establishment hipsters. Imagine loft jazz redux.

Thanks, Mouth, for inspiring these musings. But I won't be listening to jams like "Gnarly" as I attempt to defend this post. Instead, I'll be hiding behind my enormous collection of Jay McShann memorabilia as abuse is hurled in my direction.

(Original image of Mouth by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Now's the Time: Wycliffe Gordon

Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon performs at The Blue Room on Saturday. As Joe Klopus' preview of the show suggests, much of Gordon's career is dedicated to education. Accordingly, I've chosen to feature this intriguing instructional video. No toilet jokes, please!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*"Kansas City's Top Jazz Club Jardine's Goes Heavy Metal." That's the headline attached to Hearne Christopher's report on Jardine's attempt to make money on Monday nights. As reflected on the Kansas City Jazz Calendar, Jardine's no longer features jazz on Mondays. It's a hit to Kansas City's reputation as a jazz town, but if rock'n'roll can finance the remaining jazz schedule at Jardine's, the Plastic Sax staff enthusiastically supports the move. And thankfully, the Blue Room still offers a stellar Monday-night jazz lineup.

*The self-titled debut album by Diverse will be released by Origin Records on July 21. The group is composed of Hermon Mehari (trumpet), William Sanders (tenor), John Brewer (keyboards), Ben Leifer (bass) and Ryan Lee on drums. The recording was produced by Bobby Watson, who appears on one track.

*KCUR's Up To Date will broadcast "a conversation with area jazz group the Sons of Brasil with guest host Bill Anderson" Thursday at 11am. As always, the show will be available as a free downloadable podcast.

*A concert by Bobby Watson, Jaleel Shaw and the UMKC Concert Jazz Band is posted at Vimeo. (Tip via Michael Shults.)

*Steve Penn sticks up for the American Jazz Museum.

*A combination book signing and birthday party is being held for Alaadeen on July 28 at the Mutual Musicians Foundation. The 75-year-old is promoting The Rest of the Story: Jazz Improvisation and History.

*An NPR employee originally from Kansas City reminisces about bassist Ray Brown.

*Jason Harper laments the announcement that Shawnee's Needmore Discs will close in August.

*Mark Edelman talks to Joe Klopus about 12 O'Clock Jump.

*A blogger shares her appreciation of Jardine's.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Trio All at Jardine's

Zach Albetta bashed his drums. Bassist Ben Leifer played melodically. And pianist Mark Lowrey pulled it all together with compelling tact.

Such was the scene witnessed by about 25 people when the music began last Wednesday at Jardine's. Lowrey noted that it was Trio All's second official gig.

Their foundation lies with the influential work of Bill Evans' trios, but the group is very much aware that it's 2009. (Read Steve Paul's profile of Trio All for a proper appreciation of the group. It's posted at Albetta's blog at MySpace.)

There were discordant moments but the traditional Jardine's patron need not be alarmed. Even when Trio All ventures outside, they never leave the yard.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Now's the Time: Jerry Hahn

With the exception of Erin Bode, the concept of cute has never played a role at Plastic Sax. Yet I like the way Goldie Hahn the "jazz cat" sets the tone in this informal video of the great guitarist Jerry Hahn. David Basse mentioned on his weekly KANU jazz show that Hahn recently moved from Wichita to the Kansas City area. That makes his show at Jardine's on Sunday, July 5, a housewarming party of sorts for Hahn.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*I'd been unable to confirm dates for Loren Pickford's appearances at the Golden Ox. I now know why. In his column last week, Joe Klopus confirmed that the longstanding gig has ended. Klopus also reported that the stately tree near Charlie Parker's grave has been cut down.

*Present offers a gallery of jazz photography by Corky Carroll. His subjects include Smooth Groove, Pearl Thurston Brown and Erin Bode.

*This item solved my dilemma of trying to figure out how to work Michael Jackson into today's post. A candlelight vigil was held for the pop star Friday at Robert Graham's sculpture of Charlie Parker.

*A blogger is unimpressed by The American Jazz Museum.

*I appeared on KCUR's Up To Date on June 25. A podcast version is available at the station's audio archives. If you'd rather not listen to my sputtering and stammering about the state of jazz in Kansas City, Andrew Zender offers a helpful synopsis of the points he found most interesting.

*Nonesuch has reissued a Pat Metheny album on vinyl.

*Robert Folsom previewed the Next Generation Jazz Summit for the Pitch.

*St. Louis Jazz Notes reports that the St. Louis Cardinals and Sheldon Hall have teamed up to teach that city's young baseball players about jazz. It seems that a similar program would be a natural fit for Kansas City.

*Unverifiable rumor: There's talk that the former location of Cafe Trio might become a jazz club.

*Jimmy Cobb's tribute to Kind of Blue comes to the Gem Theater on October 17. The eighty-year-old drummer will have a fine band in tow. (Tip via Joel Francis.)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)