Sunday, May 29, 2011

On the Corner: Notes on Thursday's Tribute to Miles Davis at Crosstown Station

Outlandish ideas involuntarily bum rushed their way into my oversized noggin during last week's tribute to Miles Davis.

After I plopped myself down in the first row of folding chairs at Crosstown Station (about 125 people sat or stood behind me), I became completely immersed in what looked like a theatrical production. As a variation of the Kansas City Sound Collective (I reviewed its May 12 performance here) reverently performed familiar material associated with Miles Davis, I composed dialogue for nonexistent actors to recite between each selection.

With the addition of an acting component, I could easily see these excellent musicians performing the same material in a traveling theatrical production about the life and music of Miles Davis. It was that good. The only downside? Intermission didn't come until 11:30 p.m. I couldn't stick around for the electric set.

(Image of Matt Chalk, Andrew McGhie and Hermon Mehari courtesy of Michael Byars.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Now's the Time: Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae isn't a jazz musician. And she had to leave her native Kansas City, Kansas, to find fame. Even so, she's the biggest star to come from the area in years. I also happen to adore her. Monae will perform at the Independence Events Center on Saturday, May 28.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*How'd you like to live immediately next door to the Mutual Musicians Foundation? It may soon be possible. Steve Penn reports on the looming restoration of the Rochester Hotel.

*Hearne Christopher highlights recent decor and menu upgrades at Jardine's.

*I just discovered this Kansas City promotional video. I'm pretty sure David Basse is its narrator. Count Basie, Charlie Parker and Janelle Monae are the three Kansas City-related musicians referenced by name. And yes, the namesake of this site appears at the 3:21 mark.

*KCJazzLark's insider story of life on the Kansas City's Jazz Commission reaches its conclusion.

*Here's a video preview of the tribute to Miles Davis taking place at Crosstown Station, Thursday, May 26. Here's footage of a related rehearsal. The Pitch previewed the show.

*Hermon Mehari is the subject of a brief interview conducted on behalf of America: Now and Here, Kansas City.

*"Thanks to a fresh sound from innovators such as Hermon Mehari and Les Izmore," Elke Mermis writes in her final column as music editor of The Pitch. "Kansas City's jazz legacy lives in a new generation."

*The Black House Improvisors' Collective has announced its new summer lineup.

*Tony's Kansas City offers a "power ranking" of Kansas City's jazz institutions.

*More new sounds are made available by Sir Threadius Mongus.

*Tweet o' the Week: americanjazzkc: Great writeup of Saturday's Jonathan Butler show from @KCStar: Jonathan Butler infuses jazz show at the Gem with gospel. (Sorry for the self-referential selection, but you guys need to step it up.)

*From Jim Mair: The 10th Annual KCKCC/Kansas City Jazz Orchestra Jazz Camp, June 6-10, 2011. Returning again this year! Kansas City High School All-Star Jazz Ensemble. By audition only. Scholarships available. Meets 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day after camp.

(Original image of today's storm by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

An Immodest Proposal

I've written extensively about the vast disparity between the size of the audience for "new" jazz and the quality of the music being performed in Kansas City. Too many times the musicians on stage outnumber the members of the audience. That's not right. And I wish someone would do something about it. In spite of the following exercise in futility, that person isn't me.

Here's my dead-on-arrival idea. I propose a three-day multi-venue "new jazz" festival featuring left-of-center jazz by (mostly) Kansas City-based musicians. I've given the ambitious event the working title of Curtis Got Slapped. Are you with me so far?

It's not entirely outside the realm of possibility. Just last month thousands of music fans purchased tickets to the inaugural Middle of the Map festival in Kansas City. The accomplishment was all the more remarkable because the rock-based event lacked any big stars. (Of course, it's all relative. Appearances by festival headliners Cursive, for instance, attract a few hundred people. That's not much in the rock world, but it'd be a huge for a jazz act.)

It's precisely fans of indie rock acts like Cursive that I'd like this festival to reach. The music featured at CGS will be more appealing to fans of TV On the Radio than to fans of Stan Getz. Perhaps by presenting these alternative jazz acts in a semi-coherent fashion, Pitchfork-obsessed hipsters will realize that they've been missing out on a compelling scene.

Here's my proposed schedule for CGS. (Rather than drag unsuspecting venues into this theoretical discussion, I changed the names of the clubs.)

Midtown Depot, downstairs stage
800 Mr. Marco's V7
1000 NewEar
1200 Quixotic featuring Brandon Draper (conceptual jazz-oriented collabo)

800 Snuff Jazz
1000 BCR
1200 Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey

800 Logan Richardson
1000 Bobby Watson's 29th Street Saxophone Quartet (reunited for GGS!)
1200 The People's Liberation Big Band

Midtown Depot, upstairs stage
800 Andrew McGhie Quartet
1000 Loren Pickford (triumphant return)
1200 Mark Lowrey with Drums

800 Harold O'Neal
1000 CrossCurrent
1200 Alaturka

800 Popes of Dope
1000 Mike Metheny
1200 Battle of the Big Bands: Clint Ashlock's New Jazz Order vs. Dirty Force Brass Band (The concept: Ashlock's band, seated, and DFBB, marching, alternate selections in a vicious cage match.)

Gardens on the Plaza
800 Shay Estes and Mark Lowrey
1000 Matt Otto Quartet
1200 Sir Threadius Mongus

800 Charles Gatschet
1000 Jerry Hahn
1200 Black House Improvisors Collective

800 Chris Burnett
1000 Roger Wilder Quartet
1200 Diverse

Vinyl Pub
800 BeardKCrazy
1000 Hearts of Darkness
1200 The Dead Kenny G's

800 This Is My Condition
100 Phonologotron
1200 Mouth

800 Miles Bonny
1000 Mark Lowrey vs Hip Hop
1200 Garage a Trois

Just look at all that talent! And I left out a lot of excellent artists. KC, as my rapper friends like to say, is the town. Tickets prices, artist compensation and promotional efforts will have to be worked out by a much better person than me. Good luck with that.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Snooky Young: It's the Way That You Do It

Snooky Young died May 11. Longtime observers of Kansas City's scene remember the trumpeter's association with Count Basie. Classic rock fans might recall Young from his role in Martin Scorsese's film The Last Waltz. (That's him behind Levon Helm at the 2:17 mark.) The rest of the world knew Young through his long association with The Tonight Show band. His performance in the embedded clip demonstrates that Young didn't forsake the Kansas City sound for television.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Trumpeter Snooky Young, veteran of the bands of Jimmie Lunceford and Count Basie, has died. He was 92.

*Filmmaker Bruce Ricker has died. Here's Steve Paul's personal tribute to the man behind The Last of the Blue Devils.

*Return to Forever and Zappa Plays Zappa will perform at the Midland Theater on August 26. (I'm not gonna lie- I'm all about this.)

*Steve Paul notes the charms of the Folly Theater and encourages patrons not to forget about Kansas City's many fine venues when the Kauffman Center opens later this year.

*The MarchFourth Big Band plays a free show at Crossroads on June 14.

*The fourth installment of KCJazzLark's saga about his experiences as a member of the Kansas City Jazz Commission is now on the record.

*Kevin Collison offers an intriguing proposal for "establishing a world-class jazz festival coupled with a huge barbecue bash."

*Here's raw footage of a performance by BeardKCrazy. The new band sounds like a mash-up of King Sunny Ade's Syncro System and Miles Davis' On the Corner.

*Another Verse uncovers the Kansas City angle on the Library of Congress' new "national jukebox."

*Phonologotron, Plastic Sax's infamously incendiary commenter, explains himself.

*Tweet o' the Week: D.J. Sweeney People talk too much when they should be listening. As for the man that shouted out, "play some rock," F-you! Jazz is cerebral, you moron!

*Big Joe Turner was born 100 years ago today. "Jump for joy."

*The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra has a new business manager. And yes, it's me, the man behind Plastic Sax.

*From Alaadeen Enterprises: Alaadeen Enterprises, Inc. is pleased to announce a collaboration with The Duke Ellington Family on a pilot outreach program to aid the veterans of the United States Military. Scheduled to be implemented this Memorial Day in honor of our Veterans of War, the project will demonstrate the healing power of music by providing drum pads and drum sticks to the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Victoria Dunfee, President of Alaadeen Enterprises states that, "Our partnership with the Duke Ellington Family on this project is a superb fit as our founder Ahmad Alaadeen was a member of the U.S. 4th Army Band, Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. He saw first hand the healing powers of music." Alaadeen is now buried in Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.

*From Sue Vicory: (T)he film will air on PBS June 28th at 9PM.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review: The Kansas City Sound Collective at Jardine's

Although it was billed as the band's debut, Thursday's gig at Jardine's wasn't the first time The Kansas City Sound Collective played together in public. The group of young jazz musicians has met up several times for informal jam sessions at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

The 45 minutes of the first set I caught Thursday didn't offer many surprises, but everything I heard was smart, sophisticated and expertly played. The band's approach was not unlike a mid-'60s date for Blue Note, with saxophonist Steve Lambert assuming the role of Wayne Shorter and trumpeter Hermon Mehari playing the part of Lee Morgan.

A number of notable jazz musicians were among audience of about 50. I sat near drummer Ryan Lee and couldn't help noticing his intent study of the significantly less rambunctious style of his counterpart Brad Williams. Pianist Andrew Ouellette and bassist Dominique Sanders rounded out the group. The five guys on stage had a cumulative age of not much more than 100.

The Kansas City Sound Collective operates under an awkward moniker and its approach is unapologetically conservative. Everything else about the band, however, is positively sublime.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Now's the Time: Reptet

Wonderful or just plain wacky? I intend to decide for myself when I catch Reptet at the Record Bar on Monday. The Seattle-based band filters the exuberance of New Orleans brass bands through the playfully adventurous canons of Henry Threadgill and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Aside from its irritating vocals, I enjoy Reptet's 2011 album At the Cabin. Here's Joe Klopus' preview of the show. Reptet's set will be followed by a performance by Beard Crazy, a band featuring Hermon Mehari and Les Izmore.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Pat Metheny's new solo acoustic guitar album, What's It All About, will be released June 14. From the artist's site: "What's It All About" features classic tunes from songwriters like Paul Simon, Lennon & McCartney, Burt Bacharach, and Henry Mancini. Pat describes it like this: "I wanted to record some of the music that was on my radar before I ever wrote a note of my own, or in a few cases, even before I played an instrument.

*Tim Finn wrote a lengthy profile of drummer Brandon Draper.

*Mark Southerland is one of the curators of America Now and Here, Kansas City. A number of area jazz musicians are participating in the prestigious project. Alaturka, the People's Liberation Big Band and Bobby Watson are among the artists selected.

*Plastic Sax receives a shout-out as Hermon Mehari and Miles Bonny discuss Kansas City's jazz scene.

*Tales of jazz intrigue just keep on coming from KCJazzLark.

*A proposed restoration of the Boone Theater on 18th Street is questioned in an editorial in The Star.

*Tweet o' the Week: 12THSTREETPETE: Saturday was fantastic! Gotta thank Karrin Allyson for stopping by. We're live on 1st Saturdays for a few months, then back to weekly. L8r!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Folly Theater's Jazz Series: An Appreciation

As Karrin Allyson found an entirely new way to deliver "Sophisticated Lady" Saturday, I wondered how many versions of the otherwise tired standard I'd heard at the Folly Theater.

Abbey Lincoln might have sung it. Maybe Tito Puente covered it. I've attended more concerts in the Folly's venerable jazz series than I can recall. A significant portion of my jazz education, in fact, has taken place inside the former burlesque house on 12th Street. And I'm still learning. Joe Lovano and his band gave me a tutorial in keeping the tradition fresh a few weeks ago. Last year Esperanza Spalding taught me that hope for the music's future is always just around the corner.

Not everything in the series appeals to me, but my experiences at the Folly Theater played a substantial role in helping me to develop my tastes. As Allyson's concert and the Folly's 2010-11 jazz season concluded last night, I felt the same bittersweet sense of loss familiar to sports fans after a championship game is played.

Without the Folly Theater's jazz series, I'd be an inferior jazz fan and Kansas City would be a lesser metropolis.

(Here's The Star's review of Allyson's concert.)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Bird Songs at Lincoln Cemetery

Bird songs filled the air during my visit to Charlie Parker's grave at Lincoln Cemetery early Wednesday morning. This brief clip doesn't capture the occasional rhythmic counterpoint that woodpeckers had been providing, but the musicality of the moment is striking nonetheless.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Plastic Sax has learned that Leon Brady will step down from his role as Musical Director of Kansas City Youth Jazz. Clarence Smith will fill that position as Brady remains active in the organization. Additionally, the highly-respected institution is relocating from Kansas City, Kansas, to Penn Valley Community College across the state line. Here's a clip of Brady at work.

*Karrin Allyson's 'Round Midnight album was released May 3.

*What's with the wacky embedded photo? Hearne Christopher elaborates on a recent makeover at Jardine's Gentlemen's Club Restaurant and Jazz Club.

*Herbie Hancock will perform a solo piano recital at the Lied Center on October 30. The venue's new season also includes an appearance by the SFJazz Collective on March 14, 2012.

*Krystle Warren! Brad Cox is among the familiar faces in the video. (Video tip via Sam Wisman.)

*KCJazzLark documents a jazz education program at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*KCPT features 12th Street Jump on "The Local Show."

*The Bob James Festival is May 21 is Marshall, Missouri.

*The Abel Ramirez Big Band's weekly gigs are in a new location. The band now appears at Finnigan's Hall (the location that once housed the legendary Gold Buffet.)

*A television station covered a stamp-related event at the American Jazz Museum. The Star also offers a story.

*T.K. Blue discusses his "Latin Bird" project in a video feature.

*Les Izmore and Hermon Mehari collaborate in a compelling video.

*The Star reviewed Friday's performance of Gary Foster with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra.

“Bobby (Watson) made his band his family and friends. That’s what you have to do if you want to get on the bandstand and play some real music with these cats. I learned a lot about leading a band from Bobby,” Orrin Evans tells Jazz Times.

*The Los Angeles Times reports that the late actress Yvette Vickers "was born Yvette Vedder on Aug. 26, 1928, in Kansas City, Mo., to jazz musicians Charles and Iola Vedder."

*Sir Threadius Mongus posted another new video.

*Here's a solicitation from the Black House Improvisors' Collective.

*Tweet o' the Week: clintashlock: How are there 7 trombone players at Harlings but we can't find a tenor player anywhere? #tpcomn

*Before someone calls me out on it, I'll acknowledge now that a relevant announcement about a new addition to my bag of tricks will be disclosed in this space after the contracts are signed.

(Original image of the remodeled stairs at Jardine's by Plastic Sax.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Jazz Is Up to Date

"The impact that someone like John Coltrane had on the music... has jazz had anyone one like that in the last decade or even fifteen years, because I'm thinking, 'Not really.'"

Steve Kraske, my favorite radio talk show personality, posed that question on his KCUR program last week. (Download a podcast of the April 29 show here.) Although Kraske's query wasn't directed at me, I'm compelled to respond.

Jazz's diminished popularity means that it's simply no longer possible for a jazz artist to have the impact Coltrane had in the '60s. That doesn't mean, however, that quiet revolutions aren't occurring at this very moment. Two contemporary trends, I believe, qualify.

The first is the exciting wave of classically-influenced jazz that's presented and recorded with a rock sensibility. Key figures in this movement are the Esbjorn Svensson Trio, The Bad Plus, James Farm, and Brad Mehldau. Kansas City's Brad Cox is part of this scene.

The second "new thing" is the ongoing integration of hip hop and jazz. Robert Glasper and Nicholas Payton are obvious examples. Ryan Lee, Ben Leifer and Hermon Mehari of the locally-based Diverse are also in this camp. Kansas City's Mark Lowrey does a bit of both.

I'm certainly not the first to identify these developments but I probably qualify as one of the most enthusiastic advocates of both new schools. That said, my favorite jazz album of 2011 is Joe Lovano's Bird Songs. It has nothing to do with either trend.

(Original image of Ambrose Akinmusire sign by Plastic Sax.)