Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Eldar Djangirov is the subject of an excellent new 30-minute video profile produced by the Voice of America.

*Chuck Haddix of KCUR and the Marr Sound Archives was interviewed by The Kansas City Star.

*KCJazzLark provides a comprehensive survey of last Saturday's performances at Jazz Winterlude.

*The Kansas City Star published a review of the James Carter Organ Trio's appearance at the Folly Theater.  Kristin Shafel Omiccioli's review notes that the concert was "woefully under-attended."

*Chris Burnett laments the sheepish promotional approach of many jazz musicians.

*T.J. Martley's "Jazz Piano Lesson #38" is the 108th video uploaded to his YouTube channel. 

*A new segment of 12th Street Jump's Blues In the News sends up current events.

*Tweet o' the Week: RappersIKnow- Stream Dat! Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle — The Freedom of Expression for stream now, for download Friday! (link)

*Comment of the Week: Mike Metheny- Stan has been an important friend and colleague since our student days as trumpeters in the KC Youth Symphony 46 years ago (I look my age, Stan does not). And like I told him recently, he is now at the top of his game and playing better than ever. This is a beautiful CD. (And bravo, Beau.)

*From Michael Pagán: Remember those jazz jam sessions in Kansas City on Saturday afternoons? They're back!  Piropos Piano Bar (in Briarcliff shopping center).  4141 N. Mulberry Dr. KCMO.  Saturdays 2pm-5pm.  Beginning this Sat. Feb. 2nd 2013.  Michael Pagán, piano.  Bob Bowman, bass.  Brian Steever, drums.  Singers, horn players, all instrumentalists are welcome! Full bar and menu.

*From a press release: The lineup for the free JCCC Jazz Series for Spring 2013 has been announced by Johnson County Community College. The performances, which display the talents of some of the best local jazz musicians, will take place at noon Tuesday for six weeks from Feb. 26-April 2. All performances are held in the Recital Hall of the Carlsen Center unless otherwise noted. Here's the lineup: Feb. 26- Greg Meise Trio; March 5-  Danny Embrey, guitar; Jerry Hahn, guitar; March 12- Horacescope; March 19- Bram Wijnands Trio; March 26- Andre Ouellette Trio; April 2- Paul Smith, Bob Bowman and Brian Steever.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: Stan Kessler and Beau Bledsoe's Passport

Passport, the self-titled debut album by the duo of guitarist Beau Bledsoe and trumpeter Stan Kessler, is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful recordings to emanate from Kansas City in recent memory. 

As its name implies, Passport serves as a musical travelogue with destinations including Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.  The tranquil album rewards intent listening but can also serve as splendid background music.  The unadorned arrangements and sensitive playing are exquisite. 

Although Kessler is one of the most prominent jazz musicians in Kansas City and Bledsoe is a core member of the Turkish jazz band Alaturka, Passport is not a jazz album.  Yet anyone who enjoys both Andrés Segovia and Sketches of Spain and will appreciate the gorgeous project.

Plastic Sax interviewed Bledsoe in 2010.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Now's the Time: Brian Haas

Three members of the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey- band founder and keyboardist Brian Haas, saxophonist Mark Southerland and bassist Jeff Harshbarger- perform Saturday at Take Five Coffee + Bar and Sunday at the RecordBar.  I've been led to believe that drummer Brian Steever will play on Saturday and that multi-instrumentalist Mike Stover will contribute to Sunday's gig.  Plastic Sax interviewed Haas in 2009.  The Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey's Race Riot Suite was this site's top album in 2011.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Steve Kraske chatted with Marc Myers and Hermon Mehari on KCUR's Up To Date last week.  The conversations are archived here and here.

*The Kansas City Star offers a review of the first night of the Jazz Winterlude festival.  KCJazzLarkk posted photos of the event.

*A new review of Mapache, the 2012 album by the Jorge Arana Trio, compares the band to John McLaughlin and Naked City.

*The second half of Demencha's interview with Eddie Moore is here.

*The Black House Improvisors' Collective provides an update on its current session.

*Mark Lowrey's music is utilized in "A Pairing of Cocktail & Song".

*The People's Cathedral of Wavelengths is a new EP by Kansas City's The Great Vehicle.  It's recommended to fans of Steve Morse, Guitar Hero and Joe Satriani.

*Tweet o' the Week: KillDevilClubKC- Hey Friends- who would you like to see on the Kill Devil stage this spring? Nothing is off limits! Except for the Barenaked Ladies.

*Comment of the Week: Anonymous- Did anyone go to see and hear Joe Lovano's Us5 when they were here? If not, do yourself a favor and YouTube the Lovano group. Is the KC scene this ignorant or stupid that we collectively think this type of on-going aping is original, innovative or new? Come on, we can do better. There are too many high quality artists here to cover the same players over and over and over. Jingoism. Self-congratulating. Leave your UMKC bubble please and grow!

*From a press release: Classic Hits & Jazz Standards by Bram Wijnands, Piano & Laura Glaeser, Vocals.  Hosted by Tim Whitmer & The Consort Band.  Wednesday, February 6, 2013. Bram Wijnands began playing piano at an early age in Eindhoven, the Netherlands…  In July 1991, Bram made his debut on the KC Jazz scene at the City Light Jazz Club with Kansas City’s own Richard Ross…  A lifelong resident of Kansas City, Laura Glaeser attended the UMKC Conservatory of Music where she studied Vocal Performance for 6 years… her heart belongs to Jazz and she jumps at every chance to perform it.  Spirituality & All That Jazz.  First Wednesday of every month – 7:00 p.m. Unity Temple on the Plaza… Tickets at the door only - $7.00.  Children under 16 free.

(Original image of Alaturka performing at last weekend's Jazz Winterlude by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, January 21, 2013

This Is Not a Review of Matt Otto's Broken Waltz

This is not a review of Matt Otto's 2012 album Broken Waltz.  The album was released six months ago and apparently hasn't garnered a single review.  I'm reluctant to break that unblemished record.

The media blackout is incomprehensible.  Otto is one of Kansas City's most respected players.  He's backed by five West Coast musicians including "name" vocalist Sara Gazarek on the project. The compositions are sterling and the performances are extraordinary.  The album is easily the equal of many acclaimed titles on prominent labels like Blue Note, Concord and Criss Cross.

I was so awestruck by the quality of Broken Waltz when it was released that I planned to add a "me too" addendum to a link of the inevitable rave review in a national publication like Downbeat or The New York Times.  It never happened.   I'll merely suggest that anyone who digs Tim Berne, David Binney or Jimmy Giuffre is likely to appreciate Broken Waltz.

Here's an EPK for the tragically overlooked album. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Now's the Time: Alaturka

Alaturka, Kansas City's foremost Turkish jazz ensemble, will perform twice on Saturday, January 18.  The ensemble plays in the afternoon at the Jazz Winterlude festival and at 10:30 p.m. at Take Five Coffee + Bar.  Southern Johnson County for the win!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCUR's Suzanne Hogan offers an excellent remembrance of the late Eddie Saunders.  Her story reveals that Saunders played on Lloyd Price's hit version of "Stagger Lee."

*The Kansas City Star reports on progress with the rehabbed residential properties properties near the Mutual Musicians Foundation.  KCJazzLark provides additional context.

*Joe Klopus previews the Jazz Winterlude festival.  The schedule is here.

*The first portion of an interview with Eddie Moore is posted at Demencha.

*12th Street Jump presents a new episode of its "Blues In the News" segment.

*Kansas City's Solomon Dorsey is a member of artist-of-the-moment José James' band.  A performance for WNYC streams here.

*YouTube gold: check out a 1959 clip of Joe Williams with the Count Basie Orchestra.

*St. Louis Jazz Notes reminds readers that the Bad Plus will appear at Jazz at the Bistro through Saturday.

*Tweet o' the Week: MilesBonny- See you next Thursday at @KillDevilClubKC .. bring your Records!! Let's share vinyl!!

*Comment of the Week: Anonymous- Maybe Ryan and Brian should take their shirts off too.

*From a press release: The Harlem Quartet, praised for its "panache" by The New York Times, will appear at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10, in Yardley Hall as part of the Performing Arts Series at Johnson County Community College...  A pre-show talk will take place at 6 p.m. and be delivered by Paul Laird, professor of musicology at the School of Music at the University of Kansas.  The four-member ensemble, which often highlights minority composers, strives to advance diversity in classical music. In that effort, the quartet engages young and new audiences through the presentation of varied repertoire, including arrangements of jazz.

*From a press release: Chris Combs will be heading to the Jazzwerkstatt Jazz Festival in Bern, Switzerland this February with JFJO bassist Jeff Harshbarger to premier 50 minutes of new work including two string quintets, a first for the Tulsa-based composer.  The festival's organizers reached out to Combs after hearing his composition, the Race Riot Suite, at Festival Lent in Slovenia during JFJO's 2012 European tour.   Harshbarger and Combs will be joined by 11 Swiss musicians, together comprising the Chris Combs Large Ensemble.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Displacing the Drummers with Parallax

Looks matter.  Unfortunately- even in jazz- it's not all about the music.

I occasionally encounter jazz musicians who act as if they're bored to tears as they perform.  I'm just as turned off when I see guys feigning happiness.  I also know a promoter who's reluctant to book an area jazz act because its members sometimes look as if they just mowed their lawns when they show up for a gig.

Neither attitudes nor apparel were an issue for Parallax at Westport Coffeehouse on Thursday, January 10.  All fifty or so people in the room recognized that the band's music was uniformly excellent.  Parallax honors Kansas City's jazz tradition by adding an intrepid sense of adventure to its solid foundation in mainstream swing.

Trumpeter and flugelhornist Stan Kessler, keyboardist Roger Wilder and bassist (and sousaphonist) Bill McKemy are among Kansas City's most accomplished musicians.  The equally renowned Matt Otto and Clint Ashlock sat in with the band.

Yet Parallax's single most dynamic element was obscured by the setup on the small stage of Westport Coffeehouse.  In young drummers Ryan Lee and Brian Steever, Parallax features two of the most visually compelling musicians in Kansas City.  The tandem's unfiltered facial expressions and kinetic motion are consistently delightful.

Try to spot the drummers in the two photos of Thursday's performance.  Lee and Steever are obscured by the horns and keyboards.  Joe Lovano's Us 5, one of the world's foremost jazz bands, also features dual drummers.  At the ensemble's 2011 appearance at the Gem Theater, the large stage allowed extra spacing so that Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela were fully visible to the audience.  Until Parallax performs on similarly large stages, perhaps it should defy conventional stage plotting by placing Lee and Steever in front. 

Lee and Steever must be seen.  Jazz needs their outward expressions of joyful exuberance. 

(Original images by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Now's the Time: Steve Lambert and the KC Sound Collective

Take Five Coffee + Bar was so crowded for the KC Sound Collective's performance on January 4 that I had to stand in the back hallway near the bathrooms.  The young group- saxophonist Steve Lambert, pianist Andrew Ouellette, bassist Dominique Sanders and drummer Brad Williams in the incarnation featured in the embedded video- play hard bop with fresh energy.  They're heard to good effect in the murky video shot the next night at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.  The members of the collective regularly perform together and separately.  Facebook provides the most effective way to track their gigs.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The ambitious plans of the owner of the Green Lady Lounge are revealed in an enlightening report by David Hudnall of The Pitch.

*Parallax's recent performance at Take Five Coffee + Bar is documented by KCJazzLark.

*Michael Pagán lists eight jazz venues in the Kansas City area.

*Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle's The Freedom of Expression is slated for release this month.

*Chuck Berg reviewed David Basse's recent concert at the Topeka Jazz Workshop.  (Tip via Offstage.)  WIBW provides video of the event.

*Chris Burnett unveils plans to remaster his 1999 debut album.

*Tweet o' the Week: marklowreymusic- Last minute gig addition! Tonight solo piano at the Green Lady Lounge 7-11pm. This is my first time in this new space. Let's kick it.

*Comment of the Week: Lee- Does he have any plans to sell this online? There's an ominous lack of a "recordings" tab on the website you so kindly linked to. I had similar trouble trying to land a copy of "Live at Jardines." After several unanswered emails and Facebook posts, I finally gave up trying to get a copy sent to me in Seattle. And now I'm whinging on your blog like a moron.

*From Joe Athon: Kansas City Youth Jazz organizers in collaboration with Take 5 Coffee Bar have announced a Jazz Vocal Summit to be held January 20th, 2013 at 3pm to 6pm inside Take Five Coffee Bar in Leawood, KS.  The concert will last three hours. Participating in the event will be Angela Hagenbach, Wild Women of Jazz, Eddie Goss, Millie Nottingham, Laura Chalk, Bryan Hicks, Shay Estes and Joe Athon.  This will be a showcase of some of Kansas City's finest vocalists performing solo vignettes, duets and other configurations.  Proceeds will benefit Kansas City Youth Jazz… Tickets can be reserved in advance for $25 by calling 913-991-8225 or by emailing and for $35 at the door the day of the show. Seating is limited and advance purchase is strongly recommended. 

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Review: Mark Lowrey- Tangos For 18th Street

The second track of Tangos For 18th Street serves as yet another example of why Mark Lowrey is one of the elite musicians in Kansas City.  The pianist imbues "Buildings and Mountains"- a minor 2008 hit by the area rock band the Republic Tigers- with a quiet sense of longing.  The sensitive interpretation and inspired song selection reflect Lowrey's seemingly boundless imagination.

Lowrey, Plastic Sax's 2010 Person of the Year, is one of a handful of Kansas City jazz musicians who is embraced by fans of other forms of music.  He covers Radiohead, collaborates with rock bands like Making Movies and has bridged the chasm between two previously unconnected communities with his innovative Mark Lowrey vs. Hip Hop series.

Based on his eclectic track record, some listeners might expect Lowrey's latest recording to be a crossover project in the vein of Robert Glasper or The Bad Plus.  Instead, the tango-themed Tangos For 18th Street showcases Lowrey's meditative side.  Like his 2010 debut recording Live at Jardine's, the new release is a solo piano album.  It's absolutely gorgeous.

Lowrey is a florid pianist.  While the Argentinian accents allow Lowrey to indulge in his romantic inclinations, the album never becomes lugubrious.  The structural ideas Lowrey introduces on Astor Piazzolla's "Taconeando" are worthy of Chick Corea.  He channels Edith Piaf on a lavish reading of the classic "Que Nadie Sepa Mi Sufrir."  The majestic melody of the final track will send listeners scrambling to the album's liner notes.  "Steal Your Mind" isn't a Jimmy Webb or Rufus Wainwright composition.  The line was written by Kansas City-based singer-songwriter and frequent Lowrey collaborator Barclay Martin.

Tangos For 18th Street possesses universal appeal.  The album could be slipped into an octogenarian's multi-disc CD changer between Erroll Garner and Oscar Peterson without distressing the geezer.  Most tracks- particularly the selections that feature deft piano manipulation- would fit seamlessly into a hipster's Soundcloud mix alongside Röyksopp and Leonard Cohen. 

Great players transcend categories.  Tangos For 18th Street offers evidence that Lowrey's burgeoning greatness may eventually place him in the upper echelon of the pantheon of Kansas City jazz.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Shooting the Breeze with Eddie Saunders

The American Jazz Museum reported that saxophonist and vocalist Eddie Saunders died on December 31.  He's captured in the embedded 2004 video on a break between sets by The Scamps at the Blue Room.  He chats about Kansas City's jazz history, Charlie Parker's plastic sax, playing the ponies, his career, hip hop and popular culture.  "The years go by pretty fast here lately," Saunders says near the conclusion of the enlightening footage.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Eddie Saunders, a longtime fixture of Kansas City's jazz scene, has died.  Here's footage of Saunders performing at the Blue Room in 2004.

*KCJazzLark continues his amusing rebuttal to what he perceives as the unwarranted negativity of the author of this blog.

*Kristin Shafel Omiccioli compiled a spring jazz preview.

*Tony Botello raves about Mark Lowrey's new album.

*A writer for The Kansas City Star recounts a remarkable moment he experienced at the Kill Devil Club.

*Chris Burnett posted a "MIDI Mock Up" of a new composition.  He shares his new resolutions here.

*3 Degrees Above Absolute Zero, a jazz fusion album by Jeff Shirley, was released a few months ago.

*Marc Myers posted an appreciation of Frank Wess.

*Here's a special request of the management of the brand new downtown venue that refers to itself as a "Kansas City Jazz Lounge"- please watch this site's Jazz Clubbing video.

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated.

*Tweet o' the Week: Je Sais Que- Hate when people say "ima put KC on the map". It's already on the map been there for a while because of Jazz and BBQ

*Comment o' the Week: Dean Minderman- Though they now live in Michigan, where Reggie teaches at MSU, the Thomases are from St. Louis, and they're both really good.  Unfortunately, as you probably found out while searching, they don't have a lot of video or audio material available online. The clip of "Unchain My Heart" is fine - I've run it on my own site - but it only barely hints at what they can do.  Marty Morrison and Nick Jost are St. Louis guys, too, both very solid & versatile players. Those four could carry a show on their own, but add in Bobby Watson and Will Matthews, too, and you've really got some potential there. Here's hoping a lot of folks turn up to hear them at the Blue Room…

*From JCCC: Jazz Winterlude will make its annual return this month at Johnson County Community College, again showcasing some of the best jazz musicians around Kansas City and beyond. The two-day festival, which will take place in the Carlsen Center on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 18-19, features Julian Lage, a Grammy-nominated guitarist; Deborah Brown, a world-renowned vocalist and Eldar, a New York-based pianist. More than half a dozen area jazz artists and ensembles also will perform, including the David Basse Orchestra and the Megan Birdsall Quartet. "For us, Jazz Winterlude is all about the music," organizer Doreen Maronde said. "We want students to have the opportunity to work with professionals; we want the audience to sample new things as well as hear their favorites.  And we think the strength of the Kansas City musical community gives us a unique opportunity to do this." The 2013 Jazz Winterlude will be free to audience members, thanks to contributions from community supporters. Seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

*From Stan Kessler: Parallax- January 10, 2013. Westport Coffee House. 8-10:30. $5… Stan Kessler-Trp. Roger Wilder-keys. Bill McKemy-Bs., sousaphone. Ryan Lee-Drm.
Brian Steever-Drm. Special Guests Matt Otto & Clint Ashlock.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)