Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Joe Klopus previewed the opening week of this year’s Charlie Parker Celebration for The Kansas City Star.

*The Kansas City Star reviewed the MTH Theater’s jazz-based production of “An Evening With George Gershwin.”

*Shuttlecock and KC Metropolis reported on Herbie Hancock’s concert at Muriel Kauffman Theater.  Hancock was interviewed by KCUR’s Steve Kraske in advance of Saturday’s show.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Dominique Sanders- Soaking up game all day, and eating vegan with the big bro Terrace martin!!! Hype for the Herbie Hancock show tonight!!!!!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

By the Numbers

In the aftermath of Saturday’s reprehensible “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” statement by the President, I’m receiving a bit of deserved backlash for comments I made to a journalist a few weeks ago.  My assertion that “they’re not racist- they’re just afraid” serves as the headline of an editorial in today’s The Kansas City Star.  

While I’m not going to recant my words,  I understand why I’ve been rebuked by a critic who insists that “being afraid of crime when there’s no evidence of crime means that you’re racist.”  Instead, I’ll reiterate two key points.

I’ve never felt threatened or unwelcome during the hundreds of times I’ve visited the Jazz District in the last twenty years,  Once sketchy, the immediate radius of the museum complex is safe.  The Star’s editorial gets that right.  The piece falters, however, in its implied assertion that jazz can still serve as a major attraction.  The successful festivals it cites are headlined by pop, rock and hip-hop acts.

The poor attendance at the American Jazz Museum’s Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival three months ago shouldn’t have come as a surprise.  John Scofield, the jazz headliner on the first night of the event, attracted about 400 fans.  That more or less matches the similarly woeful turnout for the jazz giant’s concert at the Folly Theater in 2014 (my review).

(Original image of Bill Stewart and John Scofield at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Now's the Time: Helen Gillet

Is the New Orleans based Helen Gillet a jazz musician, a classical artist, a French chanteuse or a pop-oriented singer-songwriter?  As she explains in the embedded video, Gillet is all of those things.  She performs Tuesday, August 15, at the 1900 Building.  She’ll appear at the Brick on Wednesday, August 16.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Larry Kopitnick previewed this month’s Charlie Parker-related events for The Pitch.

*Marilyn Maye and Houston Person are among the performers in the 2017-18 season of The Topeka Jazz Workshop.

* The Kansas City Star and KCUR reported on how a $7 million infusion of city money has been spent in the Jazz District.

*The Mutual Musicians Foundation has a new site and promotional video.

*Mark Lowrey leads a group in a intriguing arrangement of Soundgarden’s “Fell On Black Days.”

*Krystle Warren created a 71-second promotional video for her forthcoming album Three the Hard Way.  AllMusic premiered the new song “Red Clay”.

*Downbeat reviewed a series of Pat Metheny outings at a Norway festival.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Ronnie Scott’s- #lastchance to get your tickets to a rare treat! Krystle Warren will perform soon at our club, grab your tickets.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Concert Review: The Harlem Quartet at Polsky Theater

Chris Burnett, the sublime Kansas City jazz musician and relentless social media irritant, insists that the future of live jazz lies in the sort of formal presentations associated with classical music.  His vision seemed particularly prescient during a performance by the Harlem Quartet at Polsky Theater on Wednesday.  The string quartet’s swinging renditions of the jazz standards “Take the ‘A’ Train” and “A Night In Tunisia” enlivened an audience of about 300 that had fidgeted through a dry 20-minute reading of Mozart’s String Quartet #17.  The Harlem Quartet solidified its credentials among Kansas City jazz aficionados in a 2012 collaboration with Gary Burton and Chick Corea at the Gem Theater.  The enthusiastic response of Wednesday’s audience to works by Billy Strayhorn and Dizzy Gillespie indicated that Burnett’s advocacy of jazz listening rooms is entirely warranted.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Now's the Time: Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock performed at the Lied Center in Lawrence in 2011, but the icon will make his first appearance within the city limits of Kansas City in more than ten years at Muriel Kauffman Theatre on Saturday, August 12.  Hancock is joined by Billy Hart, Eddie Henderson, Bennie Maupin, Julian Priester and Buster Williams in the embedded footage from 1972.  Four modern-day heavyweights- Vinnie Colaiuta, James Genus, Lionel Loueke, and Terrace Martin- will perform with Hancock on Saturday.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The schedule for this month’s Charlie Parker Celebration, an initiative that’s billed as “KC’s hottest jazz event of the summer,” has been finalized.

*Jesse Riggins reviewed a performance by Kurt Elling and the Branford Marsalis Quartet at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

*Millie Edwards was featured on KCUR’s weekly Band of the Week segment.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Clint Ashlock- Is there ANY other profession in the WORLD where non-pros come up to pros and assume they can do the job better, than in music?!

*Comment o’ the Week: David Baerwald- Yes, I meant no offense to Kansas City, sorry.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

"Let Jazz Be Gone"

I was reminded of the parable of the blind men and the elephant as I listened to a talk radio segment that’s archived with the appropriately convoluted title “How Do We Bring Back the Life of Jazz Back to KC?”   Each of the on-air personalities and all of the commentators held entirely different conceptions of jazz.

The program’s hosts understand less about the music than I know about Farsi verb conjugations.  Even so, the uninformed commentary of the Glenn Beck wanna-bes was a reality check for members of the isolated Kansas City jazz community.  Inspired by an editorial in the The Kansas City Star that lambasted the American Jazz Museum’s financial travails related to the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival in May, the DJs framed the discussion with a pair of cogent questions: “How important is the American Jazz Museum to Kansas City?” and “Is Kansas City still a jazz town?”

Definitive conclusions weren’t reached, partly because no two contributors shared the same definition of jazz.  A caller admitted that his wife recently complained when he listened to Miles Davis in their home.  A sincere UMKC student referenced her jazz textbooks. Another man incorrectly insisted that “Kansas City artists are playing” the Newport Jazz Festival.  One caller mourned the loss of 106.5 The City, a smooth jazz station that flipped to a country format in 2003.

“This town supports three country radio stations because there’s an audience for it,” a host replied.  “I don’t think the genre is suffering because there’s no radio, I think there’s no radio because there’s no fans.”  She also stumbled into the truth when she wondered why the pop star and actress Brandy was the primary headliner of the festival: “If you have to go outside of jazz to get your headliner, to me there’s a problem with the genre.”  Her partner drove the point home by revealing that he was unfamiliar with Bobby Watson, John Scofield and Chick Corea, the festival’s top jazz bookings.

A crusty caller named Kelly seemed to speak for the hosts and the majority of their listeners: “The day of jazz is over.  We know who Bob Seger is… but who is Duke Ellington?  Let jazz be gone.”

(Original image of Karrin Allyson and Houston Person performing at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Now's the Time: The Floozies

A typical Kansas City jazz booster might be overjoyed to hear that a largely instrumental, rhythm-oriented, locally based band regularly compels more than 1,000 party-minded people in their twenties to pay $20 to attend its concerts.  Rather than performing jazz, however, The Floozies play electro-funk that appeals to the grandchildren of people who listened to Dave Brubeck and Stan Kenton.  The duo headlines a concert at Crossroads KC on Saturday, July 28.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*An editorial published by The Kansas City Star suggested that tthe American Jazz Museum’s financial travails are a “mighty embarrassment.”  The slow drip of bad news is documented by The Kansas City Star and KCUR.

*The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra has announced its 2017-18 season.

*Joe Klopus unveiled the Folly Theater’s forthcoming season in his latest column.

*Eboni Fondren’s contribution to the Fringe Festival was reviewed by Anthony Rodgers.

*Clint Ashlock was featured in an article about full-time musicians.

*Marc Myers unearthed an obscure 1959 album by the Kansas City trombonist Arch Martin.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Bill Brownlee- Bird’s complicated relationship with Kansas City is examined on “The Passion of Charlie Parker.” My album review

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- Thanks to Bobby Watson for a cool listening list. I loved reading his comments about why he liked these artists.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Album Review: The Passion of Charlie Parker

F#ck you, Kansas City.
I paid dues, Kansas City.
I ain’t gonna pay them no more.
Outta here, Kansas City.
I want to let you know that it was wrong, 
How you all treated your son.
Such a penny ante city to be from.

Kansas City’s civic boosters and jazz pollyannas won’t care for “So Long (Exodus to New York City),” a scathing track on The Passion of Charlie Parker.  The fascinating new song cycle includes Jeffrey Wright’s portrayal of a disgusted Parker bidding adieu to his hometown.

Producer Larry Klein has suggested that he and his collaborators “created a musical play that... follows the narrative arc of (Parker’s) life” by adding new lyrics and intriguing arrangements to familiar Parker compositions.  Although he’s best known as an actor, Wright is even more memorable than star vocalists including Kurt Elling, Melody Gardot, Madeleine Peyroux and Gregory Porter on The Passion of Charlie Parker.

The singers’ names appear on the cover of the album, but the real star of the project is saxophonist Donny McCaslin.  As he demonstrated at the Folly Theater in April, McCaslin has an adventurous spirit that evokes Parker’s innovations.  The most compelling selections of The Passion of Charlie Parker recall Blackstar, McCaslin’s celebrated collaboration with David Bowie.

In the guise of Parker, Wright tells unimaginative Kansas Citians that “your expectations fall short of my intentions, motherf#ckers.” He was right. Accordingly, The Passion of Charlie Parker is likely to surpass even the most auspicious assumptions of sympathetic listeners in Kansas City.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Now's the Time: Aaron Hedenstrom

The Green Lady Lounge will provide an opportunity for neglected jazz fans hankering for fresh sounds to snap out of their summer doldrums on Saturday, July 29. The Minnesota based saxophonist Aaron Hedenstrom will perform material from the new album The Living Room Sessions from 10:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Black Dolphin, a space that will serve as an auxiliary wing of the Green Lady Lounge, opened Saturday, July 15, with a performance by the Project H.

*The Green Lady Lounge is ranked #37 on Yelp’s list of the Top 50 Music Venues In The U.S.

*Bobby Watson listed a few of his favorite recordings by “unsung New York masters” for JazzTimes.

*A loquacious lunatic occasionally references Kansas City’s jazz scene in a rambling discussion.

*Tweet o’ the Week: American Jazz Museum- Field trip to Copenhagen, anyone? Why Copenhagen is Becoming the Jazz Capital of the World

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- Thanks for the 411 about the Bix museum! Also, love that you said kerfluffle.

*From a press release: Community Christian Church presents Tim Whitmer’s July Jazz Jam 7: Jump, Jive, ‘n Wail.  Join Tim Whitmer and friends on Sunday, July 30 at 7pm for a sizzling, swinging 90-minute stomp through some of the most fun and upbeat music ever written!  This toe-tapping, finger-snapping concert will feature some of the area’s most dynamic performers and entertainers, including the amazing talents of singers The Wild Women of Kansas City (Millie Edwards, Lori Tucker, & Geneva Price), saxophonist extraordinaire Jim Mair, violinist Marvin Gruenbaum, guitarist Rod Fleeman, pianist Tim Whitmer, and the award-winning JJJ rhythm section of James Albright and Jurgen Welge.

*From KC Jazz Alive: Experience the evolution of jazz from ragtime to bebop as KC Jazz Alive presents Kansas City musicians alongside tenor saxophonist Tivon Pennicott… and pianist Sullivan Fortner... This exciting, new component of the Charlie Parker Celebration will take you on a thrilling journey through the classics you know and love.  “The Jazz Experience: Rhythm Changes,” Saturday, August 28, at the Folly Theater.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 16, 2017


A moment I’d long anticipated transpired last week when I took someone who recently turned 21 to the Green Lady Lounge for the first time.  I knew he’d be impressed by the setting.  Sure enough, the ornate decor, superb service and intimate atmosphere pleased him.  The young man isn’t a jazz fan, but he shares my reverence for music.  He was horrified when heedless patrons talked over the band.  With only a slight tinge of sorrow, I explained that the customer-is-always-right dynamic and the absence of a cover charge has helped make the Green Lady Lounge the preeminent destination for jazz in Kansas City.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Now's the Time: Matt Otto

Ibérica, Matt Otto’s rapturously gorgeous collaboration with Ensemble Ibérica, will almost certainly be the most artistically rewarding album released by a Kansas City based artist in 2017.  Reunion, a new recording Otto made with Andy Ehling, is similarly rewarding.  Otto returns to the Blue Room on Monday, July 17.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Laura Spencer’s examination of the American Jazz Museum’s recent woes for KCUR has instigated hand-wringing throughout the global jazz community.  The Kansas City Star’s Lynn Horsley reported on details of the budgetary shortfall.  Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner of the American Jazz Museum addressed the glitches related to the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival in an informal video interview with The Kansas City Star.  A television report on the kerfuffle offers a different perspective.

*Bobby Watson discussed his latest album with Steve Kraske.

*Blair Bryant was featured on KCUR’s Band of the Week segment.

*Jazz Artistry Now is Chris Burnett’s latest internet endeavor.  He was recently interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Tweet o’ the Week: The Independent- Formerly known as Hope & All That Jazz, join @hopehouse at the inaugural Believe gala on August 5th.

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- "... somewhat stodgy format?" Ah man - I was enjoying your otherwise positive review until you slipped that one in. Why?

*From a press release: The long-planned Bix Beiderbecke Museum and Archive opens to the public on Monday, July 24, 2017, in its new home at the River Music Experience in Bix’s hometown of Davenport, Iowa… Visitors can see original instruments played by Bix, including the only piano Bix owned.  The museum takes the visitor chronologically through the life of Bix Beiderbecke.  His music is featured throughout the museum, along with videos, interactive displays, and photos, many shown for the first time.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Album Review: Steven Lambert- Seven Stories

A Plastic Sax review of a 2011 performance by Steve Lambert suggested that the young Kansas City saxophonist evoked past masters like Johnny Griffin, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and John Coltrane.  Lambert’s new album Seven Stories confirms that early assessment.

Lambert’s aggressive attack, muscular tone and defiantly old-school approach have become more pronounced in the intervening years. Aside from the electric bass on “Mente de Corazon,” few elements of Seven Stories would have sounded out of place on the 1959 recording Bags & Trane.  As with the classic release by Milt Jackson and John Coltrane, the selections on Seven Stories consist of rounds of solos following the statement of a theme.

The energetic playing of Lambert, vibraphonist Peter Schlamb, pianist Andrew Ouellette, bassists Ben Leifer and Dominique Sanders and drummer Brad Williams counteracts the somewhat stodgy format. Lambert’s thrilling soloing on the rousing “Bells of War” would be capable of bringing audiences to their feet at the Green Lady Lounge or the Mutual Musicians Foundation, forums in which the stirring music of Lambert and his cohorts is best experienced.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Now's the Time: DJ Shadow

Josh Davis, the producer and turntablist who works as DJ Shadow, isn’t a jazz artist, but his performance at the Madrid Theatre on Monday, July 10, will be informed by the spirit of the music.  His 2007 show at the VooDoo included a couple explicit references to Kansas City’s jazz heritage.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCUR reported on the American Jazz Museum’s “cash flow issue.”

*Two albums created by or featuring locally based musicians have recently been released: the Kansas-Nebraska Act’s Music for Small Jazz Ensemble and Steve Lambert’s Seven Stories.

*Steve Penn will discuss his book Last Call: The History of Kansas City’s the Coda Jazz Fund, at the Central Library on Wednesday, July 12.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Marcus Lewis- What's going on tonight KC? lol

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Fest Fault Lines

The Kansas City Star chastised the American Jazz Museum for bouncing checks and a fashioning a financial shortfall related to the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival.  The editorial insists that “the size of the city’s bailout is an outrage.”

One locally based musician responded to the piece by suggesting in a social media post that musicians should organize their own festival.  I’m all for the initiative.  That said, I was one of about 25 people who attended the man’s set at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival in May.  While bounced checks are impossible to defend, I commend festival organizers for including dozens of locally based artists on an impressive lineup that featured stars like John Scofield and Chick Corea.

Unfortunately, sets by Kansas City artists confirmed my primary concern about the local jazz scene: a lot of outstanding music goes largely unheard.  While The Pitch’s month-late recap  takes a dig at my accounts of the festival for The Kansas City Star, the paucity of listeners at the three-day event was so glaring that it couldn’t be ignored.  KCUR, the only other outlet to offer an analysis of the festival, also noted the “non-existent crowds” for many Kansas City based artists.

As musicians consider organizing a festival of their own, I hope they also work toward expanding their core base of support.  In the meantime, there’s nothing preventing fans from creating their own self-curated jazz festivals by bar-hopping between the Green Lady Lounge, Black Dolphin, the Blue Room and other Kansas City venues.

(Original image of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra performing at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Now's the Time: Caravan Palace

Swing will resound at one of Kansas City’s busiest mid-sized venues on Tuesday, July 11.  Alas, most members of the Greatest Generation are likely to overlook the concert at the Midland theater.  The ingenious French ensemble Caravan Palace repackages vintage jazz for younger audiences that are partial to electronic dance music.  Caravan Palace updates a standard associated with Billie Holiday in the embedded video.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Oleta Adams will headline the Prairie Village JazzFest on September 9.  The complete lineup: 3:00 p.m.- Shawnee Mission East Blue Knights; 4:00 p.m.- The Project H; 5:20 p.m.- The Bram Wijnands Swingtet; 6:30 p.m.- Sax & Violins; 7:40 p.m.- Eddie Moore & the Outer Circle; 9:00 p.m.- Oleta Adams.

*Chris Hazelton received votes in the “Rising Star–Organ” category of the 65th Annual DownBeat International Critics Poll.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Gaslight Grill- Lynn Zimmer & The Jazz Band, live at the Gaslight Grill Wednesdays through Sundays!

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- My favorite part of your site was the KC Jazz calendar. I'm sure it was a hassle to collect the info and post it, but it was appreciated. Thanks. Would you consider posting a weekly list of (random) suggested gigs? Maybe somewhat off the radar stuff?

*From a press release: The New Red Onion Jazz Babies have been exciting audiences for over 30 years. This Kansas City group is dedicated to the preservation of traditional Jazz, the way the Red Onion Jazz Babies played it in the 1920s. Spirituality & All That Jazz: 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 5, 2017; Unity Temple on the Plaza; $7.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 25, 2017


I met a fellow music obsessive at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival last month.  After he raved about a stellar performance by the drummer Brian Blade, the man from Springfield, Missouri, told me about his infatuation with the Green Lady Lounge.  Although he’d long loved the sound of the instrument, he’d never actually seen a Hammond organ played until he visited the dimly-lit jazz venue at 1809 Grand Boulevard.  Even though I’m not a huge fan of organ jazz- the style that dominates the schedule of the venue’s primary stage- the enthusiasm of my new friend served as another reminder not to take the Green Lady Lounge for granted.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Now's the Time: Joe Jackson

The unexpected musical detours taken by the British pop star Joe Jackson introduced millions of people to the music of Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington and Louis Jordan.  The enthusiastic jazz, swing and jump-blues aficionado performs at the Uptown Theater on Friday, June 23.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Kansas City’s Oleta Adams discussed her new album Third Set with KCUR.

*The members of the Ensemble of Irreproducible Outcomes were
interviewed by a representative of the Johnson County Library.

*The Guardian reviewed the London production of the opera “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird.”

*Tweet o’ the Week: KC Jazz Orchestra- Join KCJO for a USO Style Dance @UnionStationKC Friday, July 7, 2017, 8 - 10 pm. $15 in advance / $20 at the door. (link)

*Comment o’ the Week: Carol Murray- I had out of town guests last weekend who said they would definitely pay a subscription fee to be able to see my daughter's performances in KC. They are 4 hours away and want to stay up on what she's doing. So would her uncles who are out of state. When I record with Facebook live many people from Hays (where she grew up) join in. Finally, people who are in poor health and house-bound would feel connected and could support their favorite musicians during times when they can't be there in person. I think this has the potential to be a great thing. I would expect the quality of the sound and video to be better than my grainy Facebook live videos. It's the quality and convenience you pay for. - Carol Murray

*From a press release: KC Jazz Alive is proud to announce the 4th Annual Charlie Parker Celebration, to be conducted,  Aug. 17-26. This year’s event again explores and recognizes the legacy of Charlie Parker- a Kansas City native and arguably the most influential saxophonist and jazz icon to ever perform. In addition to the Parker tribute, the event serves as an opportunity to promote the musicianship of local Kansas City jazz artists as they perform alongside award-winning Artists-in-Residence Tivon Pennicott (tenor saxophone) and Sullivan Fortner (piano). The CPC is the only jazz event of its kind that pairs KC jazz musicians with internationally renowned jazz musicians from across the country. The celebration harkens back to jazz’s truest tradition of collaboration, which Charlie Parker fostered during his career. As CPC continues to grow locally and gain recognition through the U.S., this year's event will provide a New York City focus. For nine days, the Kansas City musicians and the Artists-in-Residence will further the dialog about Kansas City and Charlie Parker’s indelible impression on jazz with a variety of concerts and educational programming (schedule to be announced in the next two weeks). KC Jazz Alive again has partnered with several Kansas City jazz clubs and leading jazz promotional organizations to enhance jazz in Kansas City, while sustaining a connection to the jazz world and honoring Parker's legacy. This year’s event is again open to the public. Tickets will range from free to modestly priced.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Album Review: Gerald Spaits- Solo Bass

Jokes are often little more than exaggerations of the truth.  The old saw about bass solos acting as excuses to talk is funny because it’s enacted at jazz performances every night.  Gerald Spaits’ 2016 release Solo Bass is a stupendous demonstration of what gabby people are missing.  The sublime artistry the Kansas City bassist exhibits on the 18-minute set shows why he’s a first-call musician for notables including Karrin Allyson and Marilyn Maye.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Now's the Time: François Rabbath

François Rabbath makes an annual trek to Kansas City to participate in the KC Bass Workshop.  The tone of the corresponding showcases by the French theoretician, 86, is conveyed by the embedded video.  This year’s concert will be held at Grace and Holy Trinity Church on Saturday, June 17.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Pat Metheny has been named a NEA Jazz Master.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Michael Shults- Thanks David and Dee! Always a pleasure to hang and play at @GreenLadyLounge . @smartinjazz is pushing boundaries in Kansas City jazz.

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- Jazz has a legacy and tradition . It is important for musicians to both be curators and innovators. This music does neither. No opinion on whether it is pleasant entertainment. It is not JAZZ, thus your comparison to jazz is entirely misinformed

*From Kansas City Jazz Alive: Sullivan Fortner is already making a significant impact on the jazz world, even at his young age!  The Cole Porter Fellow in Jazz of the American Pianist Association is joining us in Kansas City to celebrate our native legend, Charlie "Yardbird" Parker.  August 17 - August 26, 2017, the New Orleans native will be performing at venues around Kansas City with local musicians and with a second Artist in Residence!.

(Original image of Max Groove performing at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Gently Down the Stream

As I sat behind a camera that was transmitting a live internet broadcast of a performance by the Chris Burnett Quintet at Westport CoffeeHouse last week, I contemplated the validity of the bandleader’s assertion that “this technology will create more performance opportunities for artists in an age where live venues and clubs are not capable of booking all of the artists on the scene today.”

The impulse is commendable.  Given the scarcity of jazz venues and the ostensible tyranny of the owners of some establishments, many musicians are undoubtedly eager to circumvent the existing gatekeepers.  Even so, I wondered if Burnett was delusional for requesting that online viewers pay for the privilege of joining the 18 flesh-and-blood members of the audience in the room during the 30 minutes I spent taking in the first set.  He was competing with a vast universe of free live video content, including feeds on the behemoths Facebook Livestream and YouTube’s Live channel.  Remarkably, Burnett reports that 11 people forked over money to watch the concert online.

I hope Burnett continues the initiative.  For the purposes of Plastic Sax, however, I’m more desirous of shareable footage.  The shortage of well-lit, high-quality performance videos of representatives of Kansas City’s jazz community occasionally results in dubious weekly Now’s the Time posts that inspire derisive commentary from Plastic Sax readers.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Now's the Time: No BS! Brass Band

Tired of lethargic performances by sullen jazz musicians?  No BS! Brass Band will set things right.  The exuberant collective from Virginia entertains on Friday, June 16, and Saturday, June 17, at the Boulevardia festival near Kemper Arena.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The 2017-18 season of the Folly Jazz Series has been announced.  The lineup: Lee Ritenour (October 28), Spanish Harlem Orchestra (December 9), Marcus Roberts Trio (January 19), Cyrille Aimee (February 17), Hot Sardines (March 9) and SFJazz Collective (April 27).

*The Green Lady Lounge will host an album release show for Steve Lambert’s new album Seven Stories on Sunday, June 25.  The saxophonist’s recording features contributions from vibraphonist Peter Schlamb, pianist Andrew Ouellette, bassists Ben Leifer and Dominique Sanders and drummer Brad Williams.

*The Passion of Charlie Parker, a concept album featuring contributions from the likes of Gregory Porter, Donny McCaslin and Kurt Elling, will be released on June 16.

*Jazz in the Woods is highlighted by Joe Klopus in a roundup of the week’s jazz calendar.

*KCUR aired a story about a jazz-themed art collection on display at the Garrison School Cultural Center in Liberty.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Sammy- would like for a kind gentleman to take me to the green lady lounge

*Comment o’ the Week: Michael- I always love it when you write about the music vs. the size of the audience :) I share your sentiments about Hermon and Peter, and have to add that Ryan Lee is absolutely smashing on this record!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Album Review: Hermon Mehari- Bleu

What’s the definitive sound of Kansas City in 2017?  Obvious candidates include the chiming of streetcars, Tech N9ne’s speed-raps, Bobby Watson’s soulful saxophone solos and the ecstatic roar of 17,000 people cheering for Garth Brooks at the Sprint Center.  The artistically fruitful collaboration between Hermon Mehari and Peter Schlamb is the sound that best exemplifies the town to me.

The trumpeter- the most prominent young jazz musician Kansas City has produced this millennium aside from the saxophonist Logan Richardson- and the vibraphonist Schlamb have been refining their distinctive approach for several years.  The strongest tracks on Mehari’s debut solo album Bleu are extensions of the sound documented on Schlamb’s stunning 2014 album Tinks.

“Tatras,” “Moment’s Notice” and “We Love” encapsulate the vital artistry of the adventurous duo.  The selections’ scattering rhythms and meticulously distorted sounds capture the sense of youthful exuberance that makes their performances highlights of the Kansas City jazz calendar.

Elsewhere, Mehari evokes the tender side of Freddie Hubbard on “Sunset Park” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.”  The au courant “Awakening,” a Mehari composition that showcases Richardson, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Rick Rosato and drummer Ryan Lee, possesses the immediate presence of a Jon Brion production. The band demonstrates its affinity for mainstream jazz on “Our Journey Revisited.”  “Cold” is a neo-soul jam.  While impressive, Bleu’s variety works better as a head-turning resume then as a cohesive artistic statement.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Now's the Time: Doc Severinsen

During his 30-year tenure as the bandleader of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” Doc Severinsen may have done more to elevate the profile of jazz than anyone else.  The 89-year-old trumpeter performs with the Kansas City Symphony at Helzberg Hall on Thursday, June 8.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*CJ Janovy surveys the ongoing turmoil at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*The Kansas City Star reviewed the first and second days of the three-day Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival.

*Logan Richardson’s set at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival was lauded by CJ Janovy.

*A television station broadcast a report from the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival.

*Krystle Warren was interviewed by NPR’s Audie Cornish.  Warren also shared a track from her forthcoming album Three the Hard Way.

*Joe Klopus reports that Ramsey Lewis will return to the Gem Theater on Saturday, June 3.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Melvin L. Butler- Had a blast performing tonight in my hometown w/ @MahogonyKevin at #KCJazzFest. Look forward to tomorrow's gig w/@BrianBlade Fellowship Band

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, May 29, 2017


Before I assume the role of an imperious Monday morning quarterback, it’s imperative that I explicitly state that I loved the first edition of the American Jazz Museum’s Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Hearing longtime personal favorites Chick Corea, Lalah Hathaway and John Scofield perform consecutive sets on the attractive main grounds of the festival on Friday was a dream come true. Greg Tardy’s intrepid trio thrilled me on Saturday. The Brian Blade Fellowship closed the festival on Sunday with exquisite chamber jazz. Speaking of drummers, providing the opportunity to hear rhythmic geniuses including Blade, Jaimeo Brown, Marcus Gilmore, Victor Lewis and Bill Stewart reflects the festival’s commendable artistic ambition.

I’d gladly buy a $150 pass to a comparable Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2018. And yet…

I’m deeply troubled by the miserable attendance at the jazz portion of the festival. The R&B/pop artists Hathaway, Brandy, Will Downing and Oleta Adams drew nice crowds, but it took just a few seconds to conduct thorough head counts at the jazz showcases. Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, the executive director of the American Jazz Museum, insists that Kansas City is a jazz town. It may have sounded like one over the weekend, but it sure didn’t look like it.

I deserted an audience of about 200 at a performance by Sunday’s jazz headliner Regina Carter (photo above), to join a reported 50,000 people to hear Patti Austin sing with the Kansas City Symphony at the nearby Celebration at the Station concert (photo below).

What explains the staggering contrast? Money, of course, has a lot to do with it. Celebration at the Station is free. Tickets for the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival were $25 for entry to the main stage per day or $50 for access to all five stages per day. Given that the over/under on the number of people in Kansas City willing to pay $25 or more to attend a concert by a small acoustic jazz band is 1,000, jazz is a tough sell in this town.

There are three large-scale jazz festivals with free attendance in the Midwest- the Chicago Jazz Festival (2017 performers include Jon Faddis, Roscoe Mitchell and Lonnie Smith), the Detroit Jazz Festival (2017 performers include Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Bennie Golson) and the Iowa City Jazz Festival (2017 performers include the Cookers, Donny McCaslin and Stacey Kent). A free event in Kansas City may be a preferable model to develop interest in the form and to avoid painfully awkward crowd sizes.

And what about R&B? I’m all for it. Kansas City would clearly support a spinoff of the Essence Festival. The American Jazz Museum’s impressive efforts at the inaugural Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival indicate that the institution may be capable of overseeing that event as well.

(Original images by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Now's the Time: Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band

The drummer Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band perform at the Gem Theater on Sunday, May 28, as part of the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival.  Known by pop fans for his work with artists like Norah Jones and Sarah McLachlan, Blade is also a member of Wayne Shorter’s longstanding group.  The Fellowship Band demonstrate their exquisite approach in the embedded video.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Initial detals about the 2017 edition of the Charlie Parker Celebration are here.

*KC Metropolis offers reviews of recent concerts by Joey Alexander and Eliane Elias.

*Ibérica, the new collaboration between Matt Otto and Ensemble Ibérica, was reviewed by Jazz Weekly.

*George Benson was interviewed by Tim Finn about his concert at Muriel Kauffman Theatre.

*John Scofield chatted with KCUR's Steve Kraske in advance of his performance at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival.

*Joe Dimino’s recent interview subjects include Gerald Clayton and Tim Warfield.

*Tweet o’ the Week: KC Jazz Festival- Friday! The day we bring a huge jazz festival back to 18th & Vine!

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- Nothing wrong with some Norman Brown, but dude... give me Wes anytime!

*From a press release: The Westport Coffeehouse Theater will be the venue location for a live concert performance by the Christopher Burnett Quartet with special guest, Michael Jefry Stevens at 7 p.m. - 9:30 p.m., June 6.  Tickets are $10 at the door for local audiences and $5 to watch the live webcast online from anywhere around the world. The live webcast of the concert will begin at 7 p.m. using the Concert Window platform…

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Album Review: Norman Brown- Let It Go

I was temporarily dumbfounded when Steve Kraske hit me with an unexpected on-air question while I was highlighting Julian Vaughn’s new single on KCUR last week: “Do you like smooth jazz?”

Well, do I?

The brevity of the segment didn’t allow me to tell Kraske that repeated spins of Norman Brown’s new album Let It Go soothed my frayed nerves a few days earlier.  The Kansas City native’s pleasing guitar work on “It Keeps Coming Back” and his sultry duet with the R&B thrush Chanté Moore on “Holding You” acted as enchanting sedatives.

So yeah, smooth jazz definitely has a place in my life.

In response to Kraske’s query, I mumbled something about my occasional appreciation of music that makes no demands on the listener.  I also suggested that smooth jazz was “the people’s music,” awkward code for “more popular than mainstream jazz in the black community.”  To be sure, much of Let It Go sounds more like the output of the neo-soul star Jill Scott than the late jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery.  And that’s precisely why I embrace it.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Now's the Time: Joey Alexander

Kamasi Washington aside, Joey Alexander, 13, has received more mainstream media attention during the past two years than any other jazz instrumentalist.  The Bali native will make his Kansas City area debut at Yardley Hall on Saturday, May 20.  Alexander was accompanied by bassist Dan Chmielinski and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. at a recent concert.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Concerts by Joey Alexander and Eliane Elias capture the attention of Joe Klopus in his latest column for The Kansas City Star.

*Eddie Moore appeared in a promotional television appearance for the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival.

*The author of this site will preview Julian Vaughn's forthcoming concert at the Gem Theater on KCUR at 11:55 a.m. Wednesday, May 17.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Jazz in the Woods- NEW this year - Introducing the BEER Garden! (Must be 21 to enjoy the beverage). Sample up to five beers for $5.00. #JazzInTheWoods

*Comment o’ the Week: Jeremy- Have you stopped doing your Events Calendar? Or did you move it to a new address? I'm sure that it was a lot of work to put that together each month, but you should know that it was appreciated.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Album Review: Bobby Watson- Made in America

The release of a new Bobby Watson album should trigger a civic holiday in Kansas City.  Yet aside from the spring in the steps of the jazz master’s most fervent admirers, April 21 was like any other day in Watson’s hometown.  The three weeks-old  Made in America documents the jubilant swing that (the rapper Tech N9ne’s output aside) is the sound of the town.

Watson’s influence on Kansas City’s music scene is immense.  The acclaim he received following his induction into Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1977 signaled a restoration of Kansas City’s ability to produce top-tier talent.  His more recent work as the director of jazz studies at UMKC has further invigorated the region’s cultural landscape.  Watson is directly responsible for the presence of young luminaries including Hermon Mehari and Eddie Moore.

Made in America, Watson’s first conventional small-group album since 2009’s Everlasting, documents the sort of sprightly melodies, genial interplay and robust sax work that he’s showcased at many of his area performances the past few years.

Each piece is inspired by an iconic black American.  The power of the compositions is correspondingly vital.  Watson, bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Lewis Nash swing with panache.  The work of pianist Stephen Scott provides the project’s most rewarding surprises.  Off the radar for years, Scott adds a lustrous sheen to the wondrously vital Made in America.

(Original album by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Now's the Time: Gerald Clayton

Gerald Clayton returns to the Blue Room on Saturday, May 13. Leading his trio, the estimable New York based pianist is likely to focus on material from his new album Tributary Tales.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

* Hermon Mehari is the subject of feature story in the latest issue of Downbeat magazine.

*Joe Klopus highlights Changing the Tune: The Kansas City Women’s Jazz Festival, 1978-1985 in his weekly column.  A Seattle radio station published a review of the new book.

*Eddie Moore was interviewed by a reporter for UMKC’s student newspaper.

*A pair of new tracks by Arnold Young are available at Bandcamp.

*Jim Mair was honored with a 2017 UMKC Alumni Award.

*The Brian Blade Fellowship has been added to the lineup of the Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival.

*Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, John Medeski and Larry Grenadier will perform material from their new album Hudson at Yardley Hall on October 15.

*Tim Finn examined Sean Mawhirter’s journey from jazz to tango.

*Chelsea Emuakhagbon reviewed UMKC Jazz Night.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Eddie Moore- Lawd some of the most beautiful black women are in Brooklyn!

*From a press release: The KU Jazz Studies Program and its students were awarded top honors in the 40th Annual DownBeat Student Music Awards. The KU Jazz Ensemble I, directed by Dan Gailey, was recognized with the Graduate College Outstanding Performances honor in the category for large jazz ensembles. DownBeat also recognized the work of Brock Chart, a music composition graduate student from Salina. For his composition “Down to the Wire,” Chart was awarded the Graduate College Outstanding Compositions honor in the category for original compositions for large ensembles… Under Gailey’s leadership, the KU Jazz Studies Program has received 25 DownBeat Student Music Awards since 1992.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Album Review: Matt Otto with Ensemble Ibérica- Ibérica

Ibérica, the new album by Matt Otto and Ensemble Ibérica, is so rapturously beautiful that sensitive listeners might be inclined to savor it only on special occasions.  The sublime recording would provide ideal accompaniment to the celebration of an anniversary or the homecoming of a newborn baby.

Limiting play of Iberica to extraordinary life moments would be a shame. Even though it might seem like an extravagant misappropriation of delicate artistry, Ibérica is capable of enlivening and elevating even the most mundane activities.  Otto, one of Kansas City’s most accomplished jazz musicians, and Beau Bledsoe the leader of the Latin-themed chamber group Ensemble Ibérica and the Turkish jazz band Alaturka, are proven creators of transcendent music.

Unlike many so-called third stream albums that seem stuffy or precious, Iberica is a consistently soothing aural balm that is nonetheless imbued with a sad awareness of the bittersweet truths of life.  Iberica echoes the most abstract works of the late jazz masters Jim Hall and Paul Desmond, but a handful of notable Kansas City musicians give the project a local flavor.

Brad Cox contributes keyboards and electronic effects.  Bledsoe, Michael McClintock and Jordan Shipley add a tasteful array of stringed instruments including guitars, oud and cavaquinho.  Cello and gently swinging bass are played by Karl McComas-Reichl.  The ethereal steel guitar work of Mike Stover adds earthy textures to the beguiling album.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Now's the Time: Kurt Elling and Branford Marsalis

Two of the most prominent figures in jazz will collaborate at Helzberg Hall on Thursday, May 11.  Kurt Elling will sing with the accomplished band led by saxophonist Branford Marsalis.  The setlist will likely focus on material from their 2016 album Upward Spiral.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Concert Review: Bill Frisell at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Jack DeJohnette Trio at the Gem Theater

Two titans of improvised music performed in Kansas City on Saturday.

Appearing in the Harriman-Jewell Series, Bill Frisell and three co-conspirators provided live accompaniment for a screening of Bill Morrison’s documentary The Great Flood.  Jack DeJohnette closed the 2016-17 season of the American Jazz Museum’s Jazz at the Gem.

How to choose?  I didn’t.  Along with few dozen other zealots who were among both audiences of about 500,  I attended Frisell’s 5 p.m. show and the 8 p.m. concert in the Jazz District.  The investment was significant.  I acquired the last available Frisell ticket for $35.  Day-of-show admission to DeJohnette was $60.  It was worth it.

Frisell, trumpet player Ron Miles, bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Gerald Cleaver read from sheet music as they gave voice to the degraded newsreel footage displayed on a screen at the back of the stage of Atkins Auditorium.  I found it emotionally exhausting- not to mention distracting- to study the bleak images.  I often closed my eyes to better focus on Frisell’s gorgeous tones.

Unfortunately, Frisell’s score for The Great Flood is aligned with the most circumspect of the many styles he has recorded on his three dozen solo albums.  While undeniably evocative, the pastoral Americana became wearisome.  I waited for a moment of cathartic dissonance that never arrived.

There was plenty of noise at the Gem Theater.  Of the hundreds of exhibitions of improvised music I’ve attended in Kansas City that have attracted more than 100 people, Saturday’s show was the most obtuse and least accessible.  Only a few ticket-holders walked out even though DeJohnette, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and bassist/laptop-ist Matthew Garrison ((yes- that Coltrane, and that Garrison)) kicked up a daringly dense racket.

DeJohnette sounded like himself- that is, nothing like anyone else- as he played martial patterns.  Garrison created the contemporary sonic landscapes associated with Thundercat.  Like almost every other post-bop reed man, Coltrane couldn't avoid referencing his father.

Working primarily from the prickly material on In Movement, the uncompromising trio’s sinister set might have been intended as a murky reflection on our foreboding times.  Only during DeJohnette’s stints at the piano did glimmers of hope flicker inside the Gem Theater.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Now's the Time: Jack DeJohnette

Hearing bassist Matt Garrison and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane reinterpret their fathers’ contributions to “Wise One” in the embedded video is chilling.  Drummer Jack DeJohnette reworks Elvin Jones’ part on a reading of the track from John Coltrane’s 1964 album Crescent.  The lumintous trio will perform at the Gem Theater on Saturday, April 22.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*John Scott of the Green Lady Lounge spoke to Tim Finn of The Kansas City Star about his acquisition of the Tank Room.

*The American Jazz Museum added the Chick Corea Trio and Lalah Hathaway to the lineup of its KC Jazz & Heritage Festival.  C.J. Janovy updated her story about the troubled rollout of the forthcoming event for KCUR.

*Joe Klopus surveyed the week in jazz for The Kansas City Star.

*Four albums by Matt Otto are examined by Bird Is the Worm.

*Steve Kraske interviewed Hermon Mehari for KCUR.

*The live music component of Corvino’s Supper Club & Tasting Room is featured near the conclusion of a video report about the new establishment.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Steve Paul- Worth the road trip to hear @PatMetheny in Wichita w: @mattwilsonjazz, Martin Wind and 2nd set with symphony players from Wich State. (photo)

*From a press release: The Kansas City Aviation Department… is teaming up with the American Jazz Museum with a welcome mat like no other: live Kansas City Jazz music… The American Jazz Museum will provide Blue Room jazz club artists who will play during peak arrival times on Sundays, Mondays and Fridays from 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm. Aviation Department Facilities Maintenance craftsmen built a small stage in Terminal B by the Southwest Airlines baggage claim where Blue Room jazz musicians can play so visitors will be greeted with Kansas City jazz tunes… The upcoming performance schedule is as follows: Friday, April 21st – John Paul Drum; Sunday, April 23rd – Stan Kessler; Monday, April 24th- Everett Freeman; Friday, April 29th – Eddie Moore; Sunday, April 30th – Kenny Glover.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Concert Review: Agora at the Green Lady Lounge

The Green Lady Lounge might consider serving specialty cocktails replete with umbrellas during performances by Agora.  The new group led by guitarist Matt Hopper plays Brazilian-themed retro-lounge tunes.  While decidedly in the louche tradition of space-age bachelor pad music, the output of Hopper, organist Ken Lovern, percussionist Patrick Conway and drummer Todd Strait resembled the sound of Rosinha de Valença more than Walter Wanderley at the venue last week.  Agora returns to the Green Lady Lounge on Tuesday, April 18.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Now's the Time: The Kandinsky Effect

The Kandinsky Effect, a trio with members based in New York and Paris, will perform at the Riot Room on Friday, April 14.  The group suggests that it forges a “sonic journey through 21st century jazz dreamtime.”  Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle and the Xtraordinair$, the production team of Leonard Dstroy & Dominique Sanders, open the show.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Larry Kopitnik reports that John Scott, the owner of the Kansas City jazz venue the Green Lady Lounge, has acquired the nearby Tank Room.

*The text accompanying a photo spread in The Kansas City Star characterizes the Green Lady Lounge as “the epicenter of the city.”

*Pat Metheny is among the marquee acts at this month’s Wichita Jazz Festival.

*Herbie Hancock and an all-star band will perform at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts on August 12.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Jon Batiste- I'm honored to receive the American Jazz Museum Lifetime Achievement Award. It is a privilege to represent our culture. (photo)

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- The McCaslin show was outstanding. Thanks for getting the word out.

*From Chris Burnett: We are pleased to announce that the "Live at the Hollywood Theater" artist selections for the 2017 and 2018 seasons are confirmed as follows: 2017 - May: Queen Bey; 2017 - Nov: Megan Birdsall; 2018 - May: Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle; 2018 - Nov: Chris Hazelton's Boogaloo 7.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Concert Review: Donny McCaslin at the Folly Theater

Donny McCaslin raised the bar at the Folly Theater on Friday.  Receptive members of the audience of about 300 are likely to judge all future jazz performances by the exceedingly high standard set by McCaslin and his three collaborators.

McCaslin, a New York-based tenor saxophonist, keyboardist Jason Lindner, bassist Jonathan Maron and drummer Mark Guiliana, played two sets of electronica-laced post-bop that made the work of many jazz musicians seem hopelessly passé and stiflingly inhibited.

The group (with Maron of Groove Collective filling in for Tim Lefebvre) became a sensation by providing the core sound of David Bowie’s 2016 swan song Blackstar.  A rendition of the album’s “Lazarus” proved that McCaslin’s ensemble could reproduce the sonic attack without studio trickery.  They closed the transcendent show with a frenetic reading of Bowie’s “Look Back in Anger.”

McCaslin used a number of effects to manipulate his bruising playing, but an extended unaccompanied solo during “Memphis Redux” indicated that his unadorned tone is also astonishing.  Linder’s contributions- an unlikely combination of the electronic funk artist Flying Lotus and Rick Wakeman of Yes- indicated that progressive rock can be surprisingly sexy.

While revelatory, I fear that the decisive concert further diminished my already limited tolerance for cautious, commonplace jazz.

Set list: Shake Loose, Glory, untitled new song, Lazarus, Fast Future, untitled new song, Memphis Redux, Look Back in Anger

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)