Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Sue Vicory's film Kansas City Jazz and Blues: Past, Present & Future will be televised by KCPT on June 30 at 8:30 p.m.

*Black House Improvisors' Collective shares new sounds in an all-around excellent post.

*Sons of Brasil is appreciated by KCJazzLark.

*ARC created its own YouTube channel.

*Heads up- might be the best music-oriented social media site yet. Access is granted through Facebook.

*Tweet o' the Week: Clint Ashlock: New Jazz Order @ Harlings. Tonight. 9-12. If you don't come, @michaelshults will eat your canned beans. He's hungry. #realthreat #kcjazz

*Via Facebook: Original Flavor: July 9 at Crosstown Station: This show will encompass elements of Hip Hop, Jazz and R&B, but it will contain a setlist of original material from the band and its vocal acts... The band will also collaborate with DJ Ataxic for a unique musical cover section. During this portion of the show, the DJ will spin an a cappella from a well known artist. The band will recreate the original musical composition behind the vocals. Participants include Dominique Saunders, Les Izmore, Reach and Diverse.

(Original image of last weekend's Jazz In the Woods festival by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: Diverse at Grant Recital Hall

The potential is being realized.

Diverse was once a promising collective of young Kansas City-based jazz musicians. While the band's initial shows were invariably exciting, enthusiasm and energy were often the most memorable aspects of its formative gigs. That's changing.

After about three years of experience and a few lineup changes, the band that played last Sunday at UMKC's Grant Recital Hall was perhaps the best version of Diverse yet. Drummer Ryan Lee has reined in his wilder side. Hermon Mehari's solos contain new levels of maturity. Bassist Ben Leifer? Well, he's always been impeccable. Parisian pianist Tony Tixier added compelling new ideas and textures.

An audience of about fifty, over half of whom appeared to be UMKC students, attended the free concert. A wobbly amateur cinematographer posted much of it at YouTube.

A Lionel Loueke tune served as a fascinating meditation on time and a new original composition took the concept even further. The show wasn't perfect. Tixier only touched an electric keyboard on the final song, Ryan Lee's "Forever". I wanted more like that. And a few of the solos were a bit long.

Realizing how far Diverse has come in such a short amount of time, however, should have jazz fans with giddy with anticipation for whatever comes next.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Now's the Time: Lisa Engelken

I've spent a lot of time with Lisa Engelken's album Caravan in recent days. It's an exceptionally savvy jazz vocal project. Her reading of the Billy Idol hit "White Wedding" is a case in point. Engelken, a native Kansan currently based in San Francisco, plays Jardine's on Friday, June 24. She'll be backed by Stan Kessler, Roger Wilder, Gerald Spaits and drummer Matt Swindells.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Dysfunctional: Life Journeys of a Second Generation Jazz Musician, the memoirs of the late saxophonist Alaadeen, have been published.

*More news from Victoria Dunfee: Tribute to Alaadeen: Sunday, July 24, 2011; The View Community Center, Grandview. Featuring international Jazz recording artist Najee, legendary Jazz vocalist Luqman Hamza, group 21 and many more. Program includes dinner... Tickets $35/person. Proceeds to benefit the Alaadeen Fine Arts Foundation. Advanced ticket sales only. To purchase tickets contact Sulaiman Salaam, #816.589.1858.

*Bob James introduces Bobby Watson via video in footage from the recent jazz festival in Marshall, Missouri.

*Here's another video for a track from Pat Metheny's new album.

*Mike Metheny is interviewed at Jazz Online.

*New albums by Karrin Allyson, Mille Edwards/Michael Pagan and Mike Metheny are reviewed by KCJazzLark.

*Hearne Christopher chats with Beena Brandsgard about the impact of Marilyn Maye's cancelation.

*Stan Kessler is back with the Black House kids.

*The Guardian notes a pivotal moment in the life of Charlie Parker.

*Here's a partial list of acts booked by: Jazz St. Louis: Take 6, Stanley Jordan's Trio, Jeff Lorber Fusion, John Scofield Jazz Quartet, Kurt Elling, Ramsey Lewis Electric Band, Greg Osby, The Bad Plus, Ravi Coltrane Quartet, Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio, Anat Cohen Quartet, Freddy Cole, Vijay Iyer Trio, Nicholas Payton Trio, Marlena Shaw, Tia Fuller Quartet, Stanley Clarke Trio, Dianne Reeves with Ahmad Jamal, Herbie Hancock, Joshua Redman/Brad Mehldau Duo, Stefon Harris with Sean Jones and the Christian McBride Big Band.

*Tweet o' the Week: KCJazzConnxn: Tonight on KC Jazz Connection: Brad Cox, PLBB, Alaturka, and Diverse... it's KC's best and brightest in jazz 8-10pm 90.7 FM

*From Dan Gailey: There is still plenty of time to register for the 19th Annual KU Jazz Workshop! The camp is open to students entering 9th - graduating 12th grades, and is under the supervision of Dan Gailey, Director of Jazz Studies at KU. The workshop is an exciting week of instruction in all aspects of jazz, with special emphasis placed on small group performance. The workshop faculty includes outstanding performers and teachers from around the United States and includes some of Kansas City's finest jazz musicians, including Wayne Hawkins, Jeff Harshbarger, Brandon Draper and Brian Baggett. Student and faculty concerts and jam sessions offer students at all levels the chance to perform and grow in improvisational, small group, and ensemble playing... For more information, go to or email Dan Gailey at

*From Abel Ramirez: A and W Ballroom, Hanger Dance, June 25th… “The Summer Wind” brings back everything you loved about A&W Ballroom’s previous hangar dances!… We will dance to live music and watch the sun set in southern Johnson County, creating the image Sinatra must have imagined when he sang “two sweethearts, and the summer wind.” 6:00-7:00 Helicopter rides by Johnny Rowlands' KC Copters; 7:00-10:00 Live music by the Abel Ramirez Trio, featuring the vocal talents of Frank “Vig” Vigliaturo… You will enjoy complimentary desserts and beverages, and you are also welcome to bring your own drinks to help set the mood.

*From Dean Minderman: The Mizzou New Music Summer Festival will be held Monday, July 11 through Saturday, July 16 in Columbia, MO. The weeklong series of events will include four public concerts, with the grand finale featuring the world premieres of new works written by the festival’s eight resident composers and performed by the acclaimed new music ensemble Alarm Will Sound. The final concert will take place at 7:00 p.m., Saturday, July 16 at the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts (MTCA), 203 S. Ninth St. in downtown Columbia.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review: Mike Metheny- Old Wine/New Bossa

Old Wine/New Bossa: Selected Tracks EPK

Most compilations are intended to serve as overviews of artists' careers. Old Wine/New Bossa: Selected Tracks, a handpicked selection of Mike Metheny's post-major label works, does something entirely different. The album seems like an attempt to reposition Metheny. It's a set of mood music of the highest order. Strange but entirely compelling, most of the album's dozen tracks are designed for sensual seduction.

The offbeat sensibility isn't limited to Metheny's tendency to use flugelhorn and EVI rather than trumpet. Metheny's version of "How Insensitive" is typical. Although he's backed by four of Kansas City's best straight ahead jazz players- Rod Fleeman, Paul Smith, Gerald Spaits and Tommy Ruskin- the track is more Mantovani than Roy Hargrove. Throughout Old Bossa/New Wine: Selected Tracks Metheny repurposes easy listening music, transforming vacant aural landscapes into sleek, sophisticated works of art.

There are a few exceptions. "Are You Real?" is a conventional jazz number. Tellingly, it's the album's least interesting track. "Manitowoc" represents its polar extreme. It sounds like the work of a lobotomized Valium addict. Even if the composition is Metheny's idea of a joke, it's still really creepy. "Manitowoc" is followed by "Deceptive Resolution," another synthetic tone poem that emphasizes Metheny's weird aesthetic. His jazz chops may be impeccable, but the new collection reveals that he's an intellectual outsider in the tradition of Martin Denny, Donald Fagen and Charlie Haden.

Old Wine/New Bossa: Selected Tracks isn't a proper jazz album- and it's all the better for its deliberate eccentricity.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Now's the Time: A Vibe Called Def

Although my review of the event was less than enthusiastic, I approved of the concept of last January's jazz rendition of A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory at the Blue Room. The same core cast, including jazz act Diverse, will perform Mos Def's 1999 album Black On Both Sides at the Blue Room on Wednesday, June 22. Jazz purists don't approve, but I'll continue to insist that hip hop occupies the same cultural place held by jazz held in the '30s and '40s.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Awful news from Jardine's: We are devastated to have to cancel Marilyn Maye's June 14th through 19th run at Jardine's. Marilyn was hospitalized Monday morning. Our best thoughts are with her and sincere hopes for her speedy recovery. She will reschedule @ Jardine's as soon as possible. In the meantime, with the cooperation of the Kansas City musicians, we have come up with a schedule for the week. Thank you for you understanding. If you had tickets for Marilyn, we encourage you to come up and support these great local musicians. Cover charge for Tuesday and Wednesday will be waived completely if you have dinner with us, and only $3.00 if you come up just for drinks and music. Thank you, Jardine's.

*"Marilyn Maye's legacy captures that moment in time when Kansas City had as much cultural significance as it would ever attain," Tony Botello suggests in an interesting analysis of the vocalist's career.

*Pat does Carly. (What!) Tall and tan. (Seriously?) Pat Metheny's new solo guitar album was released yesterday.

*The New York Times analyzes Pat Metheny's brain.

*The Coleman Hawkins Jazz Festival takes place in Saint Joseph on Friday and Saturday.

*KCJazzLark scolds The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra.

*Mouth's recent collaboration with Quixotic at the Wakarusa festival is available as a free download at the jam/funk/jazz band's site.

*Danny Embrey and Bob Bowman were slated to back Connie Evingson at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis on June 12. Jazz Police previewed the show.

*Call the jazz police.

*A Brooklyn-based music lover from Kansas City began blogging this week. I figure at least a handful of Plastic Sax readers know the identity of this mystery man.

*I promised a couple of the guys I'd do this, so here goes. A top-flight rehearsal big band performs from 6-8 p.m. Mondays at Intentions in downtown Overland Park. There's no cover and happy hour runs from 5-7 p.m. I drank two PBRs and ate a full plate of sushi as musicians including Brian Steever and Roger Wilder played. My pre-tip tab was $6.85.

*Plastic Sax is now smart phone-compatible if you care to live that lifestyle.

*Tweet o' the Week: beauxmuzik: Brad Cox sextet at KC museum right now. Awesome new project. (Photo.)

*From Lucas Homer: Charlotte Street Foundation is currently seeking applications from artists interested in being considered for its Urban Culture Project Studio Residency Program for Visual and Performing Artists, which provides free studio spaces in downtown Kansas City to talented and dedicated area artists in need of space in which to work among a community of peers… Studios are granted to selected artists for one-year terms… Deadline is Monday, July 18th, 2011, for a limited number of studio spaces becoming available September 1st, 2011. Applications are being administered here.

A computer switch caused me to overlook four items slated for last week's Confirmation:

*Jazz pianist Ray Bryant, an occasional accompanist of Charlie Parker, has died. He was 79.

*The Pitch interviewed Stan Kessler.

*Electric England, a new band featuring Mark Lowrey and Brandon Draper, opened for Buckethead.

*Steve Paul surveys the Kauffman Center calendar.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: Deborah Brown at the Gem Theater

Ida McBeth sang the national anthem at the inaugural event of Livestrong Sporting Park last week. Kelley Hunt served as the headliner at the Gladstone BluesFest on Saturday. That's as it should be. Both women have paid decades of dues on the regional jazz and blues scenes.

Meanwhile Deborah Brown, considered by many to be one of the world's greatest jazz vocalists, is a virtual unknown in her hometown of Kansas City. Perhaps the events of last weekend will help raise her profile. After playing Friday and Saturday at the Blue Room, Brown and a Dutch band led by drummer Eric Ineke relocated to the Gem Theater on Sunday. According to Joe Klopus' preview of the concert, a new recording is in the works.

I arrived at the Gem in time to hear the final thirty minutes of a performance by a band fronted by Kevin Johnson. The vocalist fancies himself a ladykiller in the vein of Luther Vandross. He's not. His cloying versions of songs by James Ingram, Marvin Gaye and Kenny Latimore was made bearable by a solid four-piece band that included pianist Phillip Brown.

After Johnson's set concluded, Deborah Brown lauded her brother Phillip's accomplishments. They performed a charming version of "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You" together. The duet allowed Phillip to show off his intriguing approach to piano. A forty-minute break ensued, allowing the approximately 200 people in attendance- most of whom seemed to know one another- to trade compliments about their handsome Sunday wardrobe selections.

"This is one of the best bands in Europe," emcee David Basse professed as he introduced Ineke's ensemble. "They've come to Kansas City to see what we do here."

Led by Ineke, Sjoerd Djikhuizen, tenor saxophone, Fereira Neves, trumpet, Rob van Bavel, piano, and Marius Beets, bass, expertly played straight ahead swing. That suits Brown's sensibilities. She's in thrall of Ella, Sarah and Nancy. Her voice- dare I say it?- is their equal.

"We're doing the music of Duke Ellington," Brown explained. "We had to tweak it to make it sound like the music of today."

If, by "the music of today," Brown meant 1965, her statement was accurate. I'm not complaining. Almost everything they played was exceptional. More importantly, they allowed Brown to showcase her stunning voice. She's one of the very few scat-oriented vocalists that doesn't make me cringe.

An unconventional arrangement of "Mood Indigo" was refreshing. A take on "In My Solitude" was gorgeous. A rendition of "My Old Flame" was sultry. The less familiar "I'm Checkin' Out, Goombye" provided lighthearted counterpoint. The immaculate interplay of Djikhuizen and Neves on the latter selection was remarkable. A man identified as Mayor Sly James joined Brown and the band on stage for a call-and-response version of "Kansas City." I'm not sure it was actually him, however, as he sounded far too good for a politician.

At just over an hour, Brown's performance might seem as if it didn't justify its $25 price tag. Those who were there, however, know that the quality of Brown's effort compensated for its lack of quantity.

(Original blurry image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Now's the Time: Deborah Brown

In his excellent synopsis of the weekend's events, Joe Klopus explains that Deborah Brown will be joined by a European band led by Eric Ineke. The collective will perform Friday and Saturday at the Blue Room and Sunday across the street at the Gem Theater. The embedded video of Brown fronting Ineke's JazzXpress gives the uninitiated a good idea of what they can expect to hear in the jazz district this weekend.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*I "Cherish" the EPK for Pat Metheny's forthcoming album.

*Steve Penn reports on an "ambassador" program at 18th and Vine and provides news from Alaadeen Enterprises.

*KCJazzLark shares stunning photos of a 2000 performance featuring Claude "Fiddler" Williams and Bobby Watson.

*Listen to "Grandfather's Gun," the first single from Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey's forthcoming album and its first with bassist Jeff Harshbarger, here.

*Sonie Joi Thompson-Ruffin mentions Joplin's connection to jazz in an editorial about the tornado-ravaged town.

*Road trip alert- St. Louis Jazz Notes reports that Robert Glasper is among Jazz St. Louis' new show announcements.

*The Black House Improvisors' Collective takes the "A" Train.

*Tweet o' the Week: KCJazzConnxn: First show of the summer! New time slot is 8-10 pm every Tue. only on KJHK 90.7 FM or listen online at and on iTunes

*From Jim Mair: The 10th annual Kansas City Jazz Camp finale concert is Friday, June 10, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at 12th Street Rag at the downtown Marriott. Fifty students will perform.

*From Beau Bledsoe: The Brad Cox, Scotty McBee, Bill McKemy, Hermon Mehari, Matt Otto, Rich Wheeler Sextet will perform a free concert Friday, June 10, 7 p.m., at the Kansas City Museum. And the People's Liberation Big Band's performance on Sunday, June 12, 8 p.m., at the Record Bar will be a "Joplin Disaster Relief Benefit."

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Notes on Saturday's Bach & Jazz Inventions Concert

I paid twenty dollars to hear Jeff Harshbarger and Bobby Watson perform "Donna Lee." Their spectacular duet on the Charlie Parker composition was worth every penny. It was part of the Bach Aria Soloists concert Saturday at White Recital Hall.

While I liked the concert a bit more than Libby Hanssen, I generally concur with her proper review for The Star. She's right to suggest, for instance, that renditions of Guinga material like "Senhorinha" were a bit stiff, but the opportunity to hear Brazilian music in a Kansas City concert hall still represents a rare treat.

My primary criticism concerns a format that gave the concert an oddly disjointed feel. The musicians left the stage between each selection. Apparently mistaking an extended break after the second piece for intermission, several people in the audience of approximately 400 exited the theater. The unnecessarily complicated process killed precious momentum. It's another reason why, as Hanssen noted, the evening felt "more constrained than inventive."

One final note- I need more harpsichord in my life.

(Original image of Jeff Harshbarger and Bobby Watson by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Do You Hear What I Hear?

The majority of my closest friends remain unconvinced of the artistic viability of jazz. Something's obviously getting lost in translation. What's not to love about the embedded performance by the Pat Metheny Group?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The lineup for the second annual Prairie Village Jazz Festival is truly excellent.

*Patrick Neas previewed Bobby Watson's collaboration with Bach Aria Soloists.

*The People's Liberation Big Band is appreciated by KCJazzLark.

*The July Jazz Jam features Tim Whitmer, Everette DeVan, Danny Cox and Monique Danielle.

*The Pitch previewed last week's Mark Lowrey vs. Hip Hop show.

*Listening to jazz makes me want to go practice. It doesn't remind me of any pretty girls and it doesn't make me want to drive around town, smoke cigarettes, and be sad for reasons I can't articulate. How I adore the wacky kids at Black House Improvisors' Collective!

*"Basie was never really commonplace- he was always measures ahead. Bird was the word back when tenors [sic] was heard from Kansas [sic] right up to the Pres," Gil Scott-Heron sang on "Is That Jazz?" The poet, pop musician and jazz man died May 27.

*Via Facebook: Hip Hop… Jazz… “Both Sides” to “Blacken” the Blue Room in June! Like-Minded is a collective of musicians and emcees who are quickly becoming the Soulquarians of the Midwest. Over the last 18 months, Diverse and wordsmiths Les Izmore and Reach have been redefining the landscape of live performance in their respective genres. This time around Diverse and Reach will be joined by veteran of the Kansas City music scene, Vertigone, for a tribute to Brooklynite Mos Def’s 1999 masterpiece Black on Both Sides. This is the 2nd in a series of tributes commissioned by the American Jazz Museum (the original tribute was to A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory – January 2011). The tribute is scheduled for Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)