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.)


Anonymous said...

Yes! Let's bring this guy to the Blue Room... Gerald Dunn are you reading this???

I couldn't agree more that Cambron, Spaits and Otto played great, but I didn't think AW was comping too loud. At least from where I sat, I could hear everyone just fine. At some points, Wilson would strum loudly, but it wasn't constant. I thought his dynamics were great. Aggressive? Sure, but not obnoxious.

Cory said...

Heard Dan Deluca and Jim Mair at Cafe Augusta in Lenexa Friday night and they had a full house. The jazz scene seems like its thriving.
Deluca is something else!

the unthinking lemming said...

I'm glad Cafe Augusta had a good night. THat is not necessarilly the norm. I go there 2 or 3 times a month to listen and it is rare that the house is full. Some nights only a few tables are occupied, often by family and friends of the musicians. Furthermore, the food is quite good and a fair part of the crowd is their to dine, not to listen. Ask Stan Kessler about that.

Anonymous said...

I showed one night in July at Cafe Augusta and Kessler was a no show. The manager was mystified.

the unthinking lemming said...

I was there the same night. Communication breakdown. I learned later that Stan was playing Jardines on short notice to fill in while MM was indisposed. I was disappointed. Even when SK is constrained by the conundrum that is JOCO Jazz he makes beautiful music.

PattiC said...

Yes, it was an amazing venue, in the basement, with only coffee and maybe a hidden flask or two... massive sound from a guitar that made me wonder if Les Paul had resurrected. I felt soooo fortunate to be there.

Jenna said...

Why didn't I discover this blog before I was in Kansas City? I'm coming back for you, Cafe Augusta!
(oh, and thanks for the link!)

Happy In Bag said...

I just learned that Anthony Wilson is Gerald Wilson's son. Wow!