Sunday, September 18, 2011
Review: Anthony Wilson at the Westport Coffeehouse
On the same evening many of Kansas City's most prominent citizens donned tuxedos and evening gowns to attend the grand opening of The Kauffman Center, about fifty people in everyday apparel descended a creaky staircase at The Westport Coffeehouse to take in a relatively low-profile but artistically-rewarding jazz gig.
The first forty minutes of the performance made this correspondent forget all about the big hullabaloo thirty blocks away. (Other obligations prevented me from staying longer.) The quartet of guitarist Anthony Wilson, saxophonist Matt Otto, bassist Gerald Spaits and drummer Tim Cambron struck an ideal balance between mainstream and outside jazz.
It was no surprise to find that the Los Angeles-based Wilson merits his reputation as an artistic peer of Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny, but no one warned me that he hums and sings as he plays. Instead of a grating whine in the style of Keith Jarrett, the pleasant noise Wilson emits resembles the singing of Milton Nascimento. Far more jarring was Wilson's tendency to loudly comp over the solos of his band mates. I liked the approach, but that sort of aggressiveness is rarely displayed when Kansas City's jazz musicians get together. Otto and Spaits were, of course, excellent. I rarely see Cambron in a free setting. He excelled in the off-leash environment.
The intense focus of the audience was also refreshing. Alcohol and jazz may be a time-tested combination, but an attentive audience in a dry listening room is vastly preferable to a lubricated and talkative crowd in a bar. And the sound in the somewhat funky basement is excellent.
More like this please.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)