Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*I've intentionally let KCJazzLark's Twitter posts on the matter pass without comment, but now that the author has blogged about his plans, I'll share the news here: I’m working now to open a new jazz club in KC. I don’t know if I’ll be successful (lately I’ve faced more discouragement than encouragement). Read the entire post for context. The blogger also plays NPR's "five recent jazz albums" game.

*According to a painfully convoluted press release promoting an October 11 event in Washington D.C.: The concert will also feature the winner of the Thelonious Monk International Composers Award, sponsored by BMI. This year's winner is Joseph Johnson of Kansas City, Mo., who will perform his winning composition, “Shepherd's Song." The Composers Award, which carries a prize of $10,000, is presented to a composer who best demonstrates originality, creativity and excellence in jazz composition.

*Joe Klopus offers a history of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra.

*UMKC's public relations department issued a press release and an accompanying video touting the institution's jazz program.

*Ben Ruth of Grand Marquis is interviewed by the Pitch.

*Here's the site for October 3's Excelsior Springs Jazz & Wine Festival. And details concerning UMKC's Jazz & BBQ benefit on October 4 are here.

*Mark Edelman surveys the week in live jazz.

*The Wayward Blog found a video I'd missed. Here's the scene in Leon Brady's Saturday morning classroom.

*From a press release: NYC-based jazz violinist Christian Howes will offer a pair of events in the Kansas City area October 4th and 5th. On Sunday... Howes will present a clinic from 2-4 p.m. ...(at K.C. Strings). On Monday... Howes will perform a concert from 6-10 p.m. with a jazz quartet (at Jardine's)... “I thought this tour would be the perfect excuse to visit Kansas City and present not only a concert for the community, but offer a clinic for locally-based musicians whom have perhaps rarely had the opportunity to be exposed to jazz strings.”

*Contemporary cabaret act Alacartoona will host a DVD release party October 17 at Screenland Theater.

*Steve Penn supports Rep. Emanuel Cleaver's actions on behalf of the American Jazz Museum.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Angry Epicurean

I was forced to swallow a bitter cocktail consisting of two parts nostalgia and one part disappointment last Sunday afternoon.

Eager to get the Chiefs' painful loss to the Raiders off my mind, I scanned MySpace's live music calendar. Lo and behold, contemporary jazz band AfterGroove was playing a matinee show at the Epicurean.

The Epicurean! I hadn't been to the club at 75th and Troost in years. I was a regular when it served as one of Kansas City's many jazz-oriented venues in the '80s and early '90s. Claude "Fiddler" Williams played to attentive audiences in the space. I also recall that the funky sound of organ jazz combos would often pack its dance floor.

Not counting the two women busily preparing for a birthday party, four lonely patrons took in AfterGroove's fine first set Sunday.

It saddened me to witness such a desultory scene on the site of so many past glories. Besides, AfterGroove is really good at what they do. While their David Sanborn-based sound isn't exactly to my taste, AfterGroove surprised me by playing selections from two of my longtime favorite albums, Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage and Wayne Shorter's Native Dancer. This video captures their approach.

The poor attendance shouldn't have surprised me. The Epicurean doesn't advertise. They don't use Twitter. They don't even have a web site. Furthermore, while musicians are under no obligation to submit their dates to me for inclusion in the Kansas City Jazz Calendar, it's discouraging when they fail to do so. At least AfterGroove listed their gig at MySpace. It managed, after all, to get me to their show.

Nonetheless, the bad taste in my mouth remains.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Now's the Time: Tortoise

Question: Why do some people dismiss the assertion that Tortoise is a jazz band? Answer: Because Tortoise is popular.

The Chicago-based instrumental act may not swing in the conventional sense, but for better or worse, their complex approach represents the sound that may likely be most closely associated with the word "jazz" 25 years from now.

Doubters in the Kansas City area can start getting used to the concept Wednesday when the group performs at the Beaumont Club. Prefuse 73 is also on the bill.

Welcome to the future.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*An examination of the life of John Baker in the Columbus Dispatch is essential reading for anyone interested in the man behind the new film exhibit at the American Jazz Museum.

*DoKC posted a video interview with the American Jazz Musuem's Greg Carroll. Nicely done!

*Road rage may have been responsible for the recent murder in the jazz district. (Tip via TKC.)

*An editorial lambasting the jazz district is rather unsettling. And what's with its title?

*Tony's Kansas City documents the Sunday night scene at Jardine's with Dave Stephens. Hearne Christopher reports on additional Stephens-related shenanigans.

*Need a laugh? Jazz pianist Michael Martin cold-calls wildly inappropriate forums in a wacky attempt to secure a gig. His effort is most amusing.

*Hermon Mehari of Diverse was interviewed by two radio stations.

*I recently downloaded a February performance at the Record Bar by Brandon Draper. It's available at the Live Music Archive here.

*Sonny Rollins performed Saturday in St. Louis. Here's a review. (Link found via St. Louis Jazz.)

*Plastic Sax ranks #72 on an list of 102 jazz blogs. Fail! (Link via AZ.)

(Original image of wilted "Bird Lives" wreath by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Plastic Sax Plays Nice

I could hardly believe the words were coming out of my mouth.

"As the man in charge," I told Gregory Carroll as I looked him in the eye Friday night, "You deserve credit for making this happen."

I meant it.

Perhaps no one has been more publicly critical of the American Jazz Museum's struggles than Plastic Sax. I began badgering Carroll with constructive criticism when he was hired as the museum's CEO two years ago.

I had a temporary change of heart while attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the grand opening of the John Baker Film Collection.

Blame the Louis Neal Big Band's lovely charts of hits by Al Green and Stevie Wonder. Or maybe it was the free macaroni and cheese from the Peachtree. Perhaps I was swayed by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver's passionate defense of his use of earmarks to secure funding for the museum and for the Mutual Musicians Foundation. He asserted that there's not a single museum in the United States that can support itself solely by income generated by visitors.

Whatever the cause, I'm giving Carroll and the museum a break. After all, it's not Carroll's fault that interest in jazz is at an all-time low. It's not Carroll's fault that no corporations stepped in to help fund the restoration of the John Baker Film Collection. (I'm assuming, for instance, that AMC Entertainment was given the hard sell on a sponsorship opportunity. If not, I rescind all my kind words.)

The fact remains that a quarter-century after the collection was acquired by the city for $200,000, a portion of the films are finally on permanent display in Kansas City. No one, not even the museum's harshest critics, can take this significant accomplishment away from Carroll.

(Original images of Friday's festivities by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

John Baker Film Collection Ribbon Cutting

This vibrant footage of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm just might be the greatest thing ever. It's one of the films that will captivate people attending tonight's free grand opening of the John Baker Film Collection Exhibit at the American Jazz Museum.

From a press release: The newly constructed John Baker Film Collection Exhibit – the first new renovation to the Museum’s permanent exhibit – will open to the public Friday, September 18th, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., during a special event featuring a ribbon cutting ceremony, exhibit tours, live jazz concert – featuring the Louis Neal Big Band, hors d’oeuvres, keynote speaker Pearl Bowser and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver. Admission is free and open to the public.

Valuable context is provided by Joe Klopus. Steve Kraske spoke to museum president Gregory Carroll and exhibit consultant Rodney Thompson on KCUR's Up To Date. Download the show here. The jazz segment begins at the 25:25 mark.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*NPR's A Blog Supreme has initiated a meme: name five albums you would recommend to somebody looking to get into modern jazz -- within the last 10 or so years, with an emphasis on the present moment (considered broadly). What's some music that's uncompromisingly musical, but also perfect for those open-eared listeners who aren't hopeless jazz nerds?

Naturally, I couldn't resist playing along. In keeping with the regional focus of Plastic Sax, I limit my selections to artists with Kansas City connections. Even so, I'll proudly place my list against anyone's. I've also added a "Recommended If You Like" component to my suggestions.

1. Karrin Allyson- Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane- Lush. For fans of Zee Avi, Van Morrison and Willie Nelson.

2. Diverse- Diverse (2009)- Kansas City's young lions find a groove. For fans of Erykah Badu, Maxwell and Sade.

3. Eldar- Virtue- (2009) Aggressive and of-the-moment. For fans of Daft Punk, Neutral Milk Hotel and Radiohead.

4. Kevin Mahogany- Pride & Joy (2002)- This fine set of Motown covers is an ideal choice for this exercise. For fans of Anthony Hamilton, Michael Jackson and the Temptations.

5. Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau- Quartet (2006)- Just plain pretty. For fans of Allison Krauss, James Taylor and Yo-Yo Ma.


*Hermon Mehari, trumpeter for Diverse, explains his decision to attend UMKC in a promotional spot for the university.

*The new season of the Topeka Jazz Workshop is underway. They've secured several of the top names in traditional swing music, including Banu Gibson, Scott Hamilton and Tierney Sutton. The booking that most intrigues me is an October 25 date showcasing Ingrid Jensen, Jon Wikan, Roger Wilder and Jeff Harshbarger.

*An interesting Los Angeles Times review of a Marilyn Maye performance addressed the hotly contested "age issue." (Tip via Lee Ingalls.)

*"Look for the R Bar to have live blues and jazz music on Fridays, Saturdays - and if things go as well as hoped - Thursdays," Hearne Christopher notes in a preview of the R Bar.

*A student jazz band affiliated with the Kansas City Missouri school district apparently lives another day.

*"Releasing Jazz From Aspic" is the title of a typically thoughtful essay from local music writer Joel Francis.

*Hearne Christopher asks Mark Lowrey to play Radiohead's "Creep."

*A Monique Danielle album is reviewed by Mark Edelman.

*Chris Burnett is the latest artist to join the fan-funded recording process.

*Steve Penn explains the delay behind the jazz district's new signage.

*KCJazzLark shares more jazz war stories.

*From his new home in Washington, Andrew Zender offers an insider tip for a September 19 show at the Blue Room. He also has a NPR meme list.

*Mouth is releasing their first album this month. Mixed Method is releasing their debut EP. The bands perform October 10 at Jardine's and October 23 at the Jazzhaus. The bands want Plastic Sax readers to know that "the first 25 guests at each show will receive a free CD from each band."

*A man was shot Saturday night at 18th & Vine.

*Steve Penn previews the new film exhibit at the American Jazz Museum. And a television reporter errs when she asserts that it "showcases never-before-seen clips of legendary jazz performers." As I've repeatedly suggested in this space, most if not all of the material is also available elsewhere.

*A Plastic Sax tipster informed me that the former location of Cafe Trio will soon reopen as The Rhythm Bar. Jazz will be part of the concept.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Review: David Basse at Ironwoods Park

While it couldn't possible compare to the scene's heyday, the Kansas City jazz community was still vital twenty-five years ago.

Even as the fresh faces of Karrin Allyson, Kevin Mahogany and Bobby Watson were the toast of the town, world-renowned veterans like Priscilla Bowman, Ronnell Bright, Claude "Fiddler" Williams and the original Scamps were among the acts entertaining vibrant audiences in over a dozen jazz venues. And unlike today's typically staid audiences, jazz fans in the mid-eighties smoked, drank and hooked up with reckless abandon.

The soundtrack to the good times was provided by jazz acts that knew how to entertain a crowd. David Basse remembers that era- he was in the thick of it as an integral member of the City Light Orchestra.

It's no surprise, consequently, that in 2009 Basse still knows precisely how to excel in a variety of settings. He serenaded a tranquil audience of about 500 at Ironwoods Park in south Leawood on Labor Day weekend. Ably assisted by OJT and Kim Park, the setlist included tactful jazz versions of "Sixteen Tons," "Pink Champagne," "Route 66" and "Billie Jean."

Given the bucolic setting, Basse's discreet party music was perfect.

(Disclaimer- I've long considered Basse a friend. Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Loren Pickford Heads Out

Many people in the area only know Loren Pickford as the jazz musician who settled in Kansas City in the wake of Katrina. While it's a compelling soundbite, there's so much more to the former Louisianan. His solid resume hints at what's on display on this shaky video filmed at the Blue Room in July. The world music themes and spiritual explorations heard here evoke John and Alice Coltrane. It's wondrous music of the highest order.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The grand opening of the John H. Baker Jazz Film Collection Exhibit is September 18 at the American Jazz Museum. The collection was purchased in 1984. Baker publicly screened portions of the collection to a Kansas City audience in 1985. A quarter century later, we're told that approximately one percent of the collection has been digitized and that "one half of one percent" is available for viewing at the exhibit. It's unclear how much of the material is unique to the collection. It includes, for instance, this famous live footage of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, but that clip has been widely available for years. And much is made of Bessie Smith's performance of "St. Louis Blues," but anyone can watch it right here. As I asserted last month at Plastic Sax, this wondrous footage contains some of the greatest art of the last century, yet most of it already seems to be available to anyone with an internet connection. At the very least, however, American Jazz Museum visitors might be inspired to explore additional treasures online.

*Drummer Brandon Draper's interesting back-story is detailed by Joe Klopus.

*Aaron Barnhart examines KCUR's 12 O'Clock Jump.

*KCTV reports that a jazz program in the Kansas City Missouri school district has been suspended.

*In an editorial in which he fondly recalls several memorable performances, KCJazzLark writes: Jazz is poised to surge in Kansas City. The talent here, young, mid and old, is too collectively overwhelming to not be noticed, to not be heard, to not overtake jazz apathy.

*Here's the money line of an outrageous (and devastatingly funny) roast of the Kansas City Chiefs at Oh, I know KC has barbecue and jazz. Well, I f**king hate jazz. Jazz is scat singing with horns. The only reason people listen to jazz is because they like the idea of being someone who listens to jazz.

*I'm afraid to ask how much it costs to get into the Symphony Ball. The September 19 event stars Karrin Allyson.

*Steve Penn spoke to Myra Taylor, Ronnie McFadden, Betty Crow and Mike White at the recent photo shoot at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*I dare you to listen to a KKFI DJ's interview with Ben Leifer and Hermon Mehari of Diverse without cringing. It streams here at Diverse's site.

*The fall jazz season is previewed by Michael Pettenngell.

*Present magazine interviewed Leon Brady.

*I overlooked the August 24 street date of Eldar's Virtue.

*Mary Lou Williams, the pianist who made her name in Kansas City, would have turned 100 in 2010. Jazz at Lincoln Center is searching for "the next Mary Lou Williams". (Found via Peter Hum's Jazzblog.)

*Want to look at a zillion photos of Miles Bonny in Berlin? You're in luck.

*An editorial by Louis Diuguid supports new financial initiatives at 18th & Vine.

*Allen Toussaint will perform at the Folly Theater on January 8. The event is listed at the amazingly comprehensive Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

*"Our Town's Got the Beat" insists Mark Edelman.

*Jazz musicians, you're clearly ignoring my incessant ranting about your shamefully weak online efforts. Maybe you'll listen to this guy instead.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, September 7, 2009

August 29 at 18th & Vine

Two festivals took place simultaneously in Kansas City's jazz district on August 29. Exciting, right? Not exactly.

Neither event had any online presence, but much of the coverage of they received are compiled in the September 1 post at Plastic Sax. Here are my impressions.

About 200 people attended the modest Bird Lives Festival on Highland Avenue outside the Mutual Musicians Foundation. The street fair vibe felt like an outdoor extension of the genial, relaxed atmosphere associated with the Foundation's late-night jam sessions. Good times. (Photo above.)

Just a couple hundred yards away, an unrelated event behind the American Jazz Museum had an entirely different tone. Less than 25 jazz fans fruitlessly waited for something interesting to happen at the desultory First Annual Kansas City Yardbird Jazz & Film Festival. Bad times. (Photo below.)

(Original images by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Now's the Time: Lynn Zimmer

When I finally made it out to Leawood's Gaslight Grill a couple days ago, I told the host of the sprawling restaurant that I hadn't come to dine. I just wanted to hear Lynn Zimmer and his band. He managed to suppress his skepticism long enough to lead me to the "Back Room." As there's no bar in the formal dining section, a table was cleared for me. A small dance floor is situated next to the band, but it was obvious that no one was going be dancing. Aside from a patron's grandchildren, I was the youngest person in the room. It's not that the music was bad. As seen here, Zimmer is an outstanding clarinetist. His traditional, Dixieland-based sound is a little dry, but I truly enjoyed it. Zimmer's band plays at the Gaslight Grill Wednesday through Sunday.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*As this voluminous entry indicates, it's been a noteworthy week on the Kansas City jazz scene. Here's video footage captured at Saturday's group photo of jazz and blues musicians. The event was covered by the Star.

*Jason Harper characterizes the situation Saturday in the Jazz District as "Bird Flu". He also attended Sunday's graveside function. (It's entirely possible that I was seeing ghosts. My head count is double his. I'm planning to offer my report Monday.)

*Steve Paul posted his photographs of the weekend's events.

*Ben Ratliffe of the New York Times reviewed last weekend's Charlie Parker Festival. (No, not Kansas City's version(s)- don't be silly!) A blogger provides excellent pictures of Frank Wess and Gary Bartz performing at New York's event. Another New York blogger seems more interested in writing about a camera phone than the festival, but he does offer nice crowd shots and an interesting image of one of Parker's former residences. He also suggests that "Kansas City has no claim on Charlie Parker."

*The traditionalists in Kansas City's jazz community aren't going to like this development one bit. The music streaming at Megan Birdsall's new site represents a complete stylistic change. She once evoked Blossom Dearie and Anita O'Day. She's refashioned herself as a progressive folk artist in the vein of Nickel Creek and Jolie Holland. She's even changed her moniker to MBird. (For the record, I love it- and I hope she tours with M. Ward.)

*Kansas City native Chris Connor has died. Here's Steve Paul's obituary. And here's the New York Times's version. The jazz singer was 81.

*"UMKC Libraries Receives McShann Collection" reads the Pitch's self-explanatory headline.

*Bobby Watson and Diverse were guests on KCUR's Up To Date. Download the show here. And it's strange but true- Kenny Loggins sat in with the band Friday at the Blue Room Here's a TwitPic from Loggins. UMKC's student newspaper featured Diverse. Incidentally, every act in Kansas City- jazz or otherwise- could pick up a few tricks at Diverse's excellent new site. It offers regularly updated news, a free download and videos. That's how it's done.

*Back To Rockville gets the scoop on Mark Lowrey's tribute to Radiohead.

*Plastic Sax favorite Steve Coleman provided a detailed analysis of Charlie Parker's music. (Found via Peter Hum's JazzBlog.)

*Even though we don't see things the same way, I'm really enjoying the work of new Kansas City jazz blogger KCJazzLark. He appreciates Diverse here and offers jazz clubs a bit of constructive criticism.

*Here's some additional unsolicited advice, this time from yours truly: The managements of the area's jazz clubs should add their establishments to Wikipedia's list of jazz clubs. They're not listed.

*Jardine's now blogs.

*Gerald Albright will perform at the forthcoming Gospel Jazz Family Fun Festival.

*Andrew Zender's departure from the American Jazz Museum is noted by Steve Penn.

*KCUR interviewed Krystle Warren, the jazz-folk-pop artist now living in Paris.

*Alice Thorson admires the “Jazzin’, Jammin’ & Jivin’: The History of Jazz on Film” exhibit at the American Jazz Museum. So do I. Unlike Thorson, however, I was disappointed by the scant annotations for the intriguing posters.

*A satirical touring band blogs about their visit to the American Jazz Museum.

* offered a free download of a rambunctious track from Eldar's next album last Saturday.

*Former Kansas Citian Terry Teachout was interviewed about his controversial "Can Jazz Be Saved?" editorial. Download it here. Excellent pianist Vijay Iyer is part of the discussion.

*NPR ran a feature about Lester Young. And here's Kevin Whitehead's take on Prez. Both segments are downloadable. (Tip via LK.)

*Harvey Pekar includes Count Basie, Lester Young and Charlie Parker on a top ten list of jazz innovators.

*An interesting, marginally jazz-relented event takes place September 11. Here are details from Ryan Nilson of Mixed Method: "Bringing together a multitude of styles the New Directions in Jazz, Experimental, and Improvised Music show held at The Foundation event space in the west bottoms is a chance to come out and catch some of KC more adventurous musicians."

*The new Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey release is out today. Get a taste with a free download of one track at their site. They'll be joined by Mark Southerland when they return to Jardine's on October 31.

*I've spruced up the Kansas City Jazz Calendar. While it's still ugly, it represents the most comprehensive listings for Kansas City's live jazz scene. I've also consciously excluded non-jazz acts. I really like Alacartoona, Dan Doran and the Barclay Martin Ensemble, for instance, but they specialize in cabaret, blues and folk-rock respectively. I'd estimate that a quarter of the acts booked at Kansas City's three primary jazz clubs don't play jazz.

(Original image captured at the intersection of 18th & Highland by Plastic Sax.)