Friday, October 30, 2009

Killer Strayhorn Goes To Luckenbach Texas

Killer Strayhorn has discovered my weak spot. I'm a lifelong fan of the late Waylon Jennings. The Kansas City jazz act's interpretation of "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)" is clever, but it can't compare to the master's version. Killer Strayhorn's debut album was reviewed at Plastic Sax last year. Here's hoping they record "Bob Wills Is Still the King" for their next project.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*"Extraordinary... stunning...the real deal," The Guardian raves about the latest release by Plastic Sax lightning rod Krystle Warren. The new album by the former Kansas Citian is not yet available in North America.

*Tony's Kansas City provides a thorough review of Dave Stephens' lastest Jazz Circus performance at Jardine's.

*Diverse creates chaos at Amoeba Records.

*KCJazzLark describes the good time he had catching Megan Birdsall at the Drum Room last weekend.

*Jazz Times reports on the wacky new project by Pat Metheny. And at Metheny's site, five fascinating podcasts were recently posted.

*AfterGroove is making noise on's radio charts and on internet station CitySoundsRadio. The band was also recently featured on KUDL's weekly smooth jazz show.

*Monster Miles Davis headphones have hit the market. A pair can be yours for several hundred dollars. To the best of my knowledge, the Charlie Parker estate hasn't made any similar licensing deals. I'd be interested in knowing if they haven't cashed in out of respect for the legacy of the jazz giant or if those opportunities simply haven't been presented to Parker's heirs.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Every Day I Have the Blues

"Every Day I Have the Blues".

The death of Anne Winter is devastating to hundreds, if not thousands, of members of Kansas City's music community.

More than her efforts as proprietor of Dirt Cheap and Recycled Sounds and her many other endeavors, it's Anne's innately warm and generous spirit that will be most sorely missed.

Anne and I occasionally discussed the business of jazz on vinyl. She lamented that more people didn't contact her about unloading their jazz collections. While she might have done brisk business trading in indie rock, Anne knew that rare jazz material commands top dollar.

Although it's normally anathema to me, during difficult days like these I take solace in reminiscing. Please indulge me.

My love affair with jazz was cemented at Milton's. As a teenager, I'd sip whiskey at the bar and dizzily watch the turntable spin jazz albums. That experience contributed far more to my juvenile delinquency than did all the time I spent sitting in my bedroom listening to Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley and the Sex Pistols.

I began buying jazz recordings in earnest in the early '80s. My primary source was Penny Lane Records on Broadway (now the TWEC-owned Streetside). I took advantage of their three-for-$10 "Nice Price" sales to discover music by the likes of Miles Davis and Weather Report. As a bonus, manic clerk Dwight Frizzell would insist that I buy self-released Sun Ra albums.

I also frequented Classical Westport (now the Thai Place). In keeping with their refined aesthetic, they stocked the ECM catalog. I'd also stop at the late James DeRigne's place. I still find it amusing that he'd play prog rock as Buck Clayton's happy visage looked on from a prominently displayed signed album cover. (Before any readers object, I also shopped at Caper's Corner and the little shop that was located near the present location of Jardine's, but I don't recall that I bought any jazz at those stores.)

The mother lode, of course, was Ron Rooks' Music Exchange. There are countless stories to be told about that eccentric institution- oh, how I miss Dan Conn!- but I'll save those for another time.

I love living in an era when savvy musicians like Matt Otto make their music available as free downloads and most everything is just a click or two away. No amount of downloading, however, can ever replace the time I spent with Anne, Dan, James and Ron.

(Original image of a Scamps LP by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Now's the Time: Lonnie McFadden

Only locals will fully appreciate this informal footage of Lonnie McFadden. It was filmed by one of the most unlikely Kansas Citians imaginable. Jason Nivens, the radio personality best known for his work on 98.9 The Rock, captured a bit of an afternoon session at The Phoenix six months ago. The seasonal sunshine casts an unsettling light on the jazz audience. Organist Everette DeVan watches as pianist Mark Lowrey accompanies McFadden. Outsiders should know that the raucous spirit captured in this footage is pure Kansas City. The versatile entertainer's busy schedule, including his weekly Friday afternoon gig at the Phoenix, is listed here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*NPR's A Blog Supreme offers this report from the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition: The concert also showcased Kansas City, Mo. bassist and composer Joe Johnson's "Shepherd's Song," the winning work of the Monk Institute's 2009 International Composers Award. Johnson performed the piece accompanied by Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Joe Lovano (tenor sax), Geoff Keezer (piano) and Carl Allen (drums).

*Joel Francis interviewed Buck O'Neil in 1998 about the Kansas City jazz scene. Here's the transcription.

*Kansas City's most popular blogger remains a fan of Dave Stephen's Jazz Circus. He continues his "countdown" to Friday's show at Jardine's here.

*A San Diego newspaper makes the claim that California is Eldar's true home.

*Here's an interesting report on Washburn's jazz program.

*Bird lives! A London blog continues to obsess over the giant.

*Hearne Christopher notes that a Lonnie McFadden gig at Jardine's last week was based in R&B rather than jazz.

*Hey! Lionel Loueke will be at the Blue Room next month. It's listed on the Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

*Fresh news and videos have been posted at Diverse's compelling site.

* The Star, The Pitch and Joel Francis reviewed Jimmy Cobb's Kind of Blue tribute concert at the Gem Theater.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Review: Black House Improvisors' Collective at City Center Square

That's more like it.

The obtuse but playful sounds that reverberated through the gutted fifth floor of an office building Friday night represented precisely what's been lacking on the Kansas City jazz scene. Inspired amateurs and seasoned professionals came together under the auspices of the Black House Improvisors' Collective to make glorious, jazz-based noise.

A hipster-heavy audience of about 75 attended the ensemble's free debut public performance. Everything they heard was anchored by the exceptional rhythm section of bassist Ben Leifer and drummer Sam Wisman. The presence of trumpeter Stan Kessler added artistic gravitas to the proceedings.

The lighthearted fun wasn't always brilliant but even the failed experiments were delightfully refreshing.

More, please.

Additional details about the ensemble are available in a KCUR feature and at Plastic Sax posts from August 19 and October 6.

(Original images by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Now's the Time: Jimmy Cobb

I considered posting videos from the Wee Trio (Sunday at Jardine's) or Kurt Rosenwinkel (Monday at the Blue Room) today, but another legitimate excuse to feature Kind of Blue-era Miles Davis at Plastic Sax may never come around again. So here's Jimmy Cobb drumming for Davis in 1959. The eighty-year-old leads an all-star band Saturday at the Gem Theater.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Joe Klopus interviewed Eldar. On a related note, don't miss the contentious discussion at the previous Plastic Sax post.

*Based on the thirty-second clips streaming at Amazon, Angela Hagenbach's new album The Way They Make Me Feel is amazing. The Resonance Records title was released yesterday.

*An outstanding track from Alaadeen's Blues For RC and Josephine is available for free download here. (Tip via the New Low Down.)

*Ink published a profile of the Rhythm Lounge, a "new jazz club on Broadway." Loren Pickford's endorsement aside, it doesn't really look like a jazz club based on their Facebook account.

*UMKC's student newspaper previews Jimmy Cobb's Kind of Blue tribute show. As of Wednesday afternoon, tickets remain for Saturday's show at the Gem. It's rather shocking that the Gem's 500 seats aren't already spoken for.

*Plastic saxophones are in vogue in London.

*Here's fan footage of the fabulous Mariyln Maye in action last week.

*It's great for Jardine's that a Tori Amos-style artist, Julia Othmer, recently filled the club for several shows. If I was a jazz artist, however, I might start worrying about the implications of that success...

*Here's Mark Edelman's weekly list of live jazz events.

*Nebraska's Beatrice Daily Sun covered a jazz-backed poetry reading by Dan Jaffe.

*From Tim Whitmer: On Saturday, October 17th, Tim Whitmer will return to perform at the Phoenix Jazz Club... This is the First Time that Whitmer has played at the Phoenix for nearly 5 years! Tim and his band the KC Express were the house band from 1990-2006, a 16 year run that included Tim being part owner from 1998-2004.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Height of Folly

As a complete nitwit mentioned in his otherwise worthless review of the event, only about 350 people attended Eldar's concert Saturday at the Folly Theater. Empty seats outnumbered occupied chairs by a ratio of almost two to one.

And that sad number doesn't tell the whole story. Eldar, 22, might have been the youngest person in the building. Less than fifty audience members were under the age of thirty. And it's people without gray hair, in theory, who would have been most receptive to Eldar's sound. The pianist, bassist Armando Gola and drummer Ludwig Afonso are spiritual, if not musical, brethren of progressive acts like Radiohead and Tortoise.

Where were the young jazz fans? Do they even exist?

The "it's-the-bad-economy" explanation doesn't fly with me. Sure, things are tough all over but last week alone I attended two sold-out rock concerts in Kansas City, one at the Uptown Theater (1,800 capacity) and the other at Crossroads (3,000 capacity). Tickets for those general admission events were $30, the same as the most expensive ticket to Eldar's show at the gorgeous Folly Theater.

It doesn't help that neither Eldar nor the Folly employ social media and both have a tired web presence. Intentionally neglecting the tools with which today's most active music fans consume music is foolhardy.

Still, it's the music that matters, and the inaugural performance of the Folly's new jazz season offered many great moments. The next event, Edward Simon and Gretchen Parlato, also holds tremendous artistic promise. (Here's my August 17 survey of the Folly's current season.)

But if a hometown hero sells a mere 350 tickets, how will Venezuelan-born Simon and up-and-coming vocalist Parlato fare on Halloween? October 31 might be a very frightful evening for the Kansas City jazz scene.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Now's the Time: Megan Birdsall

One of my best friends loathes jazz. He prefers female singer-songwriters. We finally have common ground in the form of Megan Birdsall's new alter ego MBird. Birdsall explains her dramatic stylistic transformation in this charmingly homey video. Birdsall plays Ophelia's on Friday and Saturday, October 9-10.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Good news! A "Jazz Winterlude" will be held at Johnson County Community College in January. Artists participating in the three-day festival include the Luqman Hamza Trio, the New Red Onion Jazz Babies, Danny Embrey/Rod Fleeman, the Greg Carroll Quartet, the Rich Hill/Charles Perkins Quartet, 9 Plus 1, the James Ward Trio, the Doug Talley Quintet, Sherry Jones/Mike Ning, Sons of Brasil, the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra and the Dan DeLuca Trio. Tickets are available here. (Tip via a generous reader.)

*A stellar quartet featuring David Basse, Kim Park, Jerry Hahn and Bob Bowman play the R Bar four consecutive Thursdays starting October 15. The new venue is at 1617 Gennessee in the West Bottoms.

*Hearne Christopher makes an unflattering insinuation concerning David Basse. He also notes the passing of John Albertson.

*Joe Klopus' most recent column reminded me of Johnson County Community College's lunch hour jazz series. I've added the remaining dates to the Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

*Friend o' blog Lee Ingalls has unleashed the second New Low Down podcast. It features a new Sons of Brazil track as well as audio from the sorely missed Rhythm & Ribs festival. Download it here. Well done, Lee!

*Here's the week in jazz according to Mark Edelman.

*I was surprised but encouraged to spot one of Kansas City's brightest jazz musicians among the capacity crowd of 3,000 at last night's Wilco concert.

*Gary Sexton of AfterGroove informed me that Chris Botti and his band relaxed after their September 25 concert at the Midland by catching AfterGroove's set at the Drum Room. Botti's guitarist even sat in with the band.

*From Jeremy of Mouth: To promote our CD release party at Jardine's on October 10th, we're making available a three-song sample of our upcoming release. You can download it here.

*From Allen Myers: I have composed a suite which draws inspiration from the famous Coleman Hawkins recording of Body and Soul. The suite will be apart of the Northwinds Jazz Band concert to be held on October 11th at 3:00 p.m. The performance will take place at the outdoor amphitheater in Oak Grove Park in Gladstone, MO. (Tip via a Myers fan.)

*From a press release: The first session of the Black House Improvisors' Collective will conclude with a performance of new music as part of the Charlotte Street Foundation's Urban Culture Project third friday event... All music to be performed at the concluding performance has been newly composed by members of the collective. The participants are: Stan Kessler, Derek Worthington, Peter Lawless, Russell Thorpe, Hunter Long, Patrick Ketter, Brad Baumgardner, Blake Rayfield, Alex King and Sam Wisman. The free event takes place October 16 from 8-9:00pm in City Center Square at 1100 Main.

(This is the first non-original image I've posted at Plastic Sax since 2007. As everything about it fills me with mirth, I just couldn't resist sharing it. Image via J.P.)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Discovering the Heart(s) of Darkness

Members of the horn section engage in fiery battles. Controlled substances are openly consumed as dozens of dancers- most of them in their twenties- gyrate wildly to the 17-piece big band. A charismatic front man leads the charge like a modern day Cab Calloway. It's a raucous scene straight out of Pendergast-era Kansas City.

Yet the most exciting big band in Kansas City isn't exactly a jazz act. The Hearts of Darkness play Afrobeat. Rather than attempting to recreate jazz charts, the loose grooves associated with Fela serve as the ensemble's point of departure. This rather antiseptic video barely begins to reflect the celebratory atmosphere of a typical show.

Far from a musty academic exercise, the Hearts of Darkness convey the spirit, if not the sound, of Kansas City's heyday. The Hearts of Darkness deserve recognition from the jazz audience because their visceral big band power is the soundtrack to the same exuberant scenes that undoubtedly accompanied the bands of Benny Moten, Harlan Leonard and Count Basie.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Now's the Time: Angela Hagenbach

Is it possible for a person to be too attractive?

It's not a question I've ever needed to direct at myself, but I wonder if Angela Hagenbach's remarkable beauty has actually hampered her career in music. Her looks may be a distraction. The vocalist has been a fixture on Kansas City's jazz scene for well over a decade.

Three fine Hagenbach performances were recently uploaded to YouTube. She's backed by Jake Blanton on guitar, Roger Wilder on piano and Steve Rigazzi on bass. I'm unable to identify the drummer and percussionist.

Hagenbach plays Jardine's Friday, October 2, and Saturday, October 10.