Sunday, March 5, 2017

Just Another Night

Inspired after updating The Kansas City Jazz Calendar, I went club-hopping along the 18th Street corridor last Thursday.

The outing began at the Blue Room, where the visiting guitarist Anthony Wilson was sitting in with a group led by saxophonist Matt Otto.  Although there was no cover charge, only about 20 people heard Wilson do things with his instrument that may never have been done before. 

My admiration for Otto’s art is well documented, including a rave review for his latest album a few weeks ago.  Vocalist Shay Estes’ impressive delivery of “Old Devil Moon” evoked Marilyn Maye. 

While it was tempting to stick around for the second set, I was eager to check out the scene at Madrigall, the Oak Street venue that’s weathered various incarnations in recent years.  Kurt Wheeler’s band played for about 15 people in the first half of a double bill topped by Robert Castillo’s group.  Wheeler’s quintet sounded like a hard-bop ensemble that had been binging on dusty albums by fusion groups like Spyro Gyra. 

I took a seat in a low slung chair that might have been described as “mod” in 1973.  The orderly rows of throwback furniture caused Madrigall to resemble the world’s most fashionable bus station.

The doorman was flummoxed by my quick exit.   I’d paid $7 to hear only 20 minutes of Wheeler’s band.  I didn’t tell him that I was headed to the nearby Green Lady Lounge, the upscale jazz emporium that never charges a cover.

Danny Embrey, a guitarist capable of putting a scare into Wilson, was in the midst of fearsome solo as I entered.  Powered by drummer Todd Strait, Embrey, second guitarist Brian Baggett and organist Ken Lovern provided a rambunctious soundtrack to the revelry of a few dozen patrons.

My energizing 90-minute outing further verified Kansas City’s reputation as a stronghold of immensely talented but woefully under-appreciated jazz musicians.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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