Sunday, December 31, 2017

Resolution














Two of the 137 experts participating in the 2017 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll included Bobby Watson’s Made In America in their year-end best-of lists.  No other project by a Kansas City artist who released an album in 2017- a group that includes local luminaries Hermon Mehari, Matt Otto, Molly Hammer, Steve Lambert, Deborah Brown and Julian Vaughn- was among the 470 releases that received at least one vote.

The previous two years weren’t much better.  Shift, Logan Richardson’s debut on Blue Note Records, placed #46 in 2016.  Pat Metheny’s collaboration with Cuong Vu came in at #57.  In 2015, releases by Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle (#296) and Pat Metheny (#453) were acknowledged.

There are three possible reasons for the snubs in the most comprehensive and least arbitrary annual jazz survey: no Kansas City based jazz aficionados contributed to the poll, Kansas City artists don’t effectively promote their releases and/or the jazz scene in Kansas City isn’t nearly as strong as Plastic Sax asserts.

The first point is easily verifiable.  It’s unfortunate that local observers like Joe Klopus, Larry Kopitnik or (heaven forbid) yours truly don’t have a seat at the table of tastemakers.  The second assertion is less demonstrable.  Watson’s album was released by the New York based Smoke Records label, a reputable association that undoubtedly increased the visibility of Made In America enough to place it at #342.  It’s possible that few critics and tastemakers received copies of the other albums by locally based artists.

The final possibility is the most problematic.  Are Kansas City’s jazz artists really not worthy?  It’s not an issue of style.  While critics tend to favor groundbreaking sounds, plenty of mainstream recordings make the cut.  And the strong showings of musicians from Chicago, Denver, Houston and St. Louis indicate that the rebuff of Kansas City’s jazz scene can’t be entirely chalked up to coastal bias.

Civic boosters regularly repeat the talking point about Kansas City being “one of the four pillars of jazz.”  From the perspective of the music’s authorities, however, the city lags far behind New York, Chicago and New Orleans in 2017.  Here’s to correcting that lowly status in the new year.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, December 29, 2017

Now's the Time: Matt Kane


Matt Kane, a drummer with longstanding connections to Kansas City, will lead a band of locally based luminaries at Black Dolphin on Friday, December 29.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar offers details about 20 additional shows on the same evening.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes















*A frank discussion of the problematic Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival and praise for Marcus Lewis’ Bad and Boujee project were included in a ”The Year in Arts” episode of KCUR’s Central Standard program.

*Deborah Brown spoke to Joe Dimino about the passing of Kevin Mahogany.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Californos- Jim Lower Jazz Orchestra featuring David Basse on vocals - tonight at @Californos Saloon for Jazz Nebula every Tuesday 7pm-10pm!

*From a press release: Lori Tucker is a versatile vocalist whose expressive voice crosses the spectrum of Soul, R&B, Jazz, Blues & Gospel and is a member of the legendary vocal group The Wild Women of Kansas City.  Tom DeMasters is one of KC’s premiere guitar players… 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 3, 2018, performing with Tim Whitmer & The Consort Band, Unity Temple on the Plaza, $7.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Kevin Mahogany, 1958-2017














The nights I spent dancing to an R&B band led by Kevin Mahogany at Kansas City clubs like Jimmy’s Jigger in the 1980s were among the most carefree evenings of my life.  Mahogany’s sultry renditions of Al Green and Marvin Gaye hits were just part of the fun.  The magnanimous singer enjoyed befriending his admirers.  He and I bonded over our mutual admiration of the country star Randy Travis.

The sound of Mahogany’s 1993 debut album Double Rainbow came as a surprise.  R&B was supplanted by a straight-ahead jazz setting that highlighted his burnished voice.  He soon became the leading torchbearer of the male vocal tradition associated with Joe Williams, Jimmy Witherspoon and Johnny Hartman, a space currently occupied by Gregory Porter.  Like many people in Kansas City, I was proud that the hometown heroes Mahogany and Karrin Allyson had attained jazz stardom.

The independent label Enja issued Mahogany’s first four albums.  Warner Brothers released his fifth through eighth recordings.  Pride and Joy, a 2002 return to his R&B roots for the Telarc label, is Mahogany’s final notable statement.  Mahogany’s voice weakened considerably.  Label support and fan enthusiasm dissipated.  He displayed a fraction of his former capacities during a distressing appearance at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival in May.  Mahogany died last week.  He was 59.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Now's the Time: Steve Cardenas


Steve Cardenas will perform with Forest Stewart and Brian Steever at the Green Lady Lounge on Wednesday, December 27.  After leaving Kansas City in the 1990s, the adventurous guitarist played in bands led by jazz luminaries including Paul Motian, Charlie Haden and Steve Swallow.  Cardenas has also released four albums as a leader.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes















*The Kansas City Star and KCUR reported on the death of Kevin Mahogany.

*The 2018 edition of the Jazz in the Woods festival has been canceled.  Event organizers blame the setback on “funding restrictions.”

*Stan Kessler was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*The Kansas City Star provides footage of a “Merry Bassmass” event at the Black Dolphin.

*Michael Pagán, the Music Department Chair at Ottawa University, discusses the institution’s “All-Steinway” designation.

*The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s annual holiday concert was previewed in KCUR’s Band of the Week segment.

*Mike Corrigan created a crowd-funding campaign to acquire John Jackson’s saxophone.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Marcus Lewis- Who said Jazz is Dead? #mlbb #brassandboujee

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- Good choice. John Scott has done so much to invigorate the scene... and despite what some cynics will say, it's not all B3!

*From a press release: World-traveled vocalist Deborah Brown will be the Jan. 28 featured artist as part of the Carlsen Center Presents series at Johnson County Community College… Brown has recorded 16 CD’s under her own name...  Performing with her in Polsky Theatre are… Rod Fleeman, guitar; Joe Cartwright, piano; Ben Leifer, bass; and Michael Warren, drums.

(Original image of the Hermon Mehari Quintet performing at Polsky Theatre on Sunday by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

John Scott: The Plastic Sax Person of the Year















John Scott cracked the elusive code.  Operating a profitable jazz club in Kansas City was beginning to seem like an unattainable pipe dream.  Unlike several intrepid entrepreneurs who opened ill-fated jazz-oriented venues in recent years, the man who oversees Green Lady Lounge isn’t merely surviving.  Scott daringly expanded his unlikely jazz empire in 2017.

In addition to presenting jazz performances on two stages at 1809 Grand Boulevard, Scott launched a trio of ambitious new endeavors in 2017.  Most significantly, he opened Black Dolphin, a venue at 1813 Grand Boulevard.  Scott was also instrumental in motivating Plastic Sax to revive the comprehensive Kansas City Jazz Calendar.  Finally, Scott recently unveiled Green Lady Radio, a streaming service dedicated to further promoting locally based jazz artists.

Scott’s initial victory, however, was identifying the formula for sustaining a popular jazz club in Kansas City: no cover charge, superior service, luxurious cocktails, dim lighting and live music that rewards attentive listening but that can also be treated as background music.

Scott ruffled a few feathers along the way.  Some musicians bristle at his mandates.  Not every artist is willing to wear a coat and tie, take short set breaks or adhere to Scott’s musical parameters.  His infamously salty dismissal of adventurous improvisatory music caused a stir in the jazz community 15 months ago.  (My preference for more abrasive jazz performed in listening rooms has never been a secret.)

This commendation is unlikely to meet with Scott’s approval.  He’s certain to suggest that a musician like Chris Hazelton, Stephen Martin or Molly Hammer is more deserving of the recognition.  Perhaps, but those artists honed their crafts on stages operated by Scott.  His audacious determination and visionary gumption have elevated the entirety of Kansas City’s jazz community.

The previous recipients of Plastic Sax's Person of the Year award are Eddie Moore (2016), Larry Kopitnik (2015), Deborah Brown (2014), Stan Kessler (2013), Doug and Lori Chandler (2012), Jeff Harshbarger (2011), Mark Lowrey (2010) and Hermon Mehari (2009).  Bobby Watson was named the Plastic Sax Person of the Decade in 2009.

(Original image of Green Lady Lounge and Black Dolphin by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Now's the Time: Tatsuya Nakatani


The experimental percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani will make a racket at the 1900 building on Sunday, December 17.  The embedded video indicates that he doesn’t require accompaniment, but Shawn Hansen, Mike Stover and Jeff Harshbarger will be on hand should Nakatani need any assistance.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes















*Green Lady Radio, a free streaming service that showcases Kansas City jazz recordings, is now available.

*Stan Kessler’s new album Skywatcher was recently released.

*A La Mode was featured on television station KMCI.

*The December issue of Jazz Ambassador Magazine includes an article about The Kansas City Jazz Calendar, a joint venture of Plastic Sax and the Green Lady Lounge.

*A blogger included albums by Matt Otto and Bobby Watson and a track by Hermon Mehari and Kevin Johnson in his genre-agnostic year-end lists.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Ryan Heinlein- Ah the holidays, when musicians (for some reason) love to promote their private gigs.

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- Thanks for resurrecting the KC Jazz Calendar. It's really helpful when I'm looking for a show to attend. Do you (or any reader of PS) know where one can find a JAM magazine? It's Dec 12 and I can not find one in any of the usual places.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Top Jazz-Related Stories and Trends of 2017













1. Fest Flop
The Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival was intended to signal the prowess of the American Jazz Museum’s new management structure.  The plan backfired.  The institution was belted with a catastrophic blow to its reputation and finances following the May event.  An inaccurate announcement that Janelle Monáe would be the primary headliner was the first in a series of miscues.  Performances by jazz heavyweights such as Chick Corea (photo), John Scofield, Regina Carter, Brian Blade and Houston Person were sparsely attended.  An odd emphasis on appearances by members of the cast of the television series Empire didn’t pay dividends either.

2. Fest Fallout
Following a torrent of bad publicity that included bounced checks and a weak turnout, the American Jazz Museum laid off staff, tabled its annual concert series at the Gem Theater and ceded control to the Parks Department.

3. Dolphin Dance
The expansion of the Green Lady Lounge jazz complex was the most encouraging development of 2017.  The Black Dolphin, a venue directly to the north of the Green Lady Lounge, is the latest edition to the jazz hub in the heart of the Crossroads District.  The Black Dolphin, the Orion Room and the Green Lady Lounge host more than 20 performances every week.

4. It’s Alive
KC Jazz Alive doubled down on its commitment to the area scene in 2017.  The organization’s covenant to honor the legacy of Charlie Parker included bringing pianist Sullivan Fortner and saxophonist Tivon Pennicott to Kansas City for a series of performances with locally based musicians.

5. Grave Offense
Territorial grandstanding dramatically diminished attendance at the annual Charlie Parker graveside memorial service.  Only four saxophonists participated in the “21-sax salute” at Lincoln Cemetery.

6. Cracks in the Foundation
The 100th anniversary of the founding of the Mutual Musicians Foundation should have been a big deal.  Instead, ongoing turmoil at the historic site tarnished the centennial.

7. I Could Write a Book
The publication of Changing the Tune: The Kansas City Women’s Jazz Festival, 1978-1985 served as a reminder that presenting large scale jazz events in Kansas City is extremely difficult.

8. Cultured
Citing Kansas City’s jazz history, UNESCO added the municipality to its Creative Cities Network.

9. Special Edition
While the lineup of the controversial Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival was loaded with formidable talent, the the year’s most thrilling one-two punch occurred on April 22.  Several dozen jazz aficionados managed to take in a performance of Bill Frisell’s score for The Great Flood at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art before racing to the Gem Theater to hear the adventurous trio of Jack Dejohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison.

10. It’s a Date
The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been resurrected.  The comprehensive listing is a community service of Plastic Sax and the Green Lady Lounge.

(Photo of the meager audience for the Chick Corea Trio at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, December 8, 2017

Now's the Time: Hermon Mehari


Hermon Mehari’s sole headlining appearance of 2017 in the Kansas City area will take place at Polsky Theatre on Sunday, December 17.  The trumpeter is likely to focus on material from his debut solo album Bleu.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar offers details about more than 150 additional jazz performances between now and then.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes














*Aarik Danielsen previewed Bobby Watson’s concerts in Columbia for The Columbia Daily Tribune.

*Joe Klopus highlighted an upcoming performance by the Spanish Harlem Orchestra for The Kansas City Star.

*Doug Talley was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Havilah and Triple Play’s Come Rain or Come Shine album was released in October.

*Chris Burnett compiled a list of the “Top Jazz of 2017”.

*The Glenn Miller Orchestra will perform at Muriel Kauffman Theatre on June 14, 2018.

*Marc Myers’ remembrance of the late guitarist Mundell Lowe includes a compelling anecdote about Charlie Parker.

*A track from Bobby Watson’s Made in America was featured on a “Best of 2017” program on radio station 90.9 The Bridge.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Bill BrownleeThe gracious folks at @909thebridge are allowing me to return to the station this evening. I'll play hip-hop, jazz, gospel, blues and R&B tracks from 6-7 p.m. https://bridge909.org/eightonesixty/  #EightOneSixty (link)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Plastic Sax’s Favorite Albums and Performances of 2017
















Favorite Albums by Kansas City Based Artists
1. Matt Otto and Ensemble Ibérica- Ibérica (Plastic Sax review)
2. Bobby Watson- Made in America (Plastic Sax review)
3. Hermon Mehari- Bleu (Plastic Sax review)
4. Dino Massa's Kansas City Quintet- Echoes of Europe (review at KCUR)
5. Julian Vaughn- Bona Fide
6. Matt Otto and Andy Ehling- Reunion (Plastic Sax review)
7. Deborah Brown- Kansas City, Here I Come
8. Steve Lambert- Seven Stories (Plastic Sax review)
9. The Matt Cook Collective- Along Those Lines (Plastic Sax review)
10. The Sextet- Blob Castle (Plastic Sax review)

Favorite Albums By Artists From Elsewhere
1. Miguel Zenón- Típico
2. Aruán Ortiz- Cub(an)ism
3. Yelena Eckemoff- Blooming Tall Phlox
4. Rob Luft- Riser
5. Rudresh Mahanthappa and the Indo-Pak Coalition- Agrima
6. Avishai Cohen- Cross My Palm With Silver
7. Tigran Hamasyan- An Ancient Observer
8. Kamasi Washington- Harmony of Difference
9. Ron Miles- I Am a Man
10. Various- The Passion of Charlie Parker (Plastic Sax review)

Favorite Performances by Kansas City Based Artists
1. Marilyn Maye- Quality Hill Playhouse (Plastic Sax review)
2. Matt Otto Trio with Anthony Wilson and Shay Estes- Blue Room
3. Alaturka- Polsky Theatre (Plastic Sax review)
4. Owen/Cox Dance Group and the People’s Liberation Big Band- Polsky Theatre (Plastic Sax review)
5. Gerald Spaits’ Sax & Violins- Westport Coffeehouse
6. The Project H- Black Dolphin
7. Eddie Moore, Dominique Sanders and Zach Morrow- Plaza Art Fair
8. Nate Nall Sextet- Homer’s Coffee House
9. Blair Bryant- The Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival
10. Stan Kessler Quartet- Black Dolphin

Favorite Performances by Artists From Elsewhere
1. Donny McCaslin- Folly Theater (Plastic Sax review)
2. Brian Blade Fellowship- Gem Theater
3. Danilo Pérez’s “Jazz 100”- Yardley Hall (Plastic Sax review)
4. Thundercat- Granada (Plastic Sax review)
5. Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison- Gem Theater (Plastic Sax review)
6. Ramsey Lewis- Gem Theater (review at The Kansas City Star)
7. Greg Tardy Trio- Blue Room (review at The Kansas City Star)
8. Flying Lotus- Midland (Plastic Sax review)
9. John Scofield- Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival (review at The Kansas City Star)
10. Victor Wooten Trio- Madrid Theatre (Plastic Sax review)

Plastic Sax conducted similar exercises in 2016 (albums and performances), 2015, 2014 (albums and performances), 2013 (albums and performances), 2012, 2011 and 2010.

(Original image of Thundercat at the Granada by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Now's the Time: Michael Shults


How can we miss Michael Shults if he won’t stay away?  Once a leading light in Kansas City’s jazz community, the bright young saxophonist left town to become a music professor at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.  He leads a quartet at the Black Dolphin on Friday, December 1, and plays in an organ trio format at the Green Lady Lounge on Sunday, December 3, during a return to his old stomping grounds.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar lists a multitude of alternate bookings.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes













*Dean Hampton, a prominent booster of Kansas City's jazz scene, has died.  Hampton founded the now-defunct Webjazz site and was a crucial advocate of the annual Charlie Parker gravesite memorial.

*The Kansas City Star reports on plans for Open Spaces 2018: A Kansas City Arts Experience, a 2018 festival intended to “show Kansas City ‘as both the cradle of modern jazz and the present day site of unprecedented technological innovation.’”

*Danny Embrey’s 1988 album Dues Blues has been reissued.

*The Count Basie Orchestra is nominated for a Grammy Award for its contribution to a track on Clint Holmes’ latest album.

*Deborah Brown was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*JazzTimes published a review of Bobby Watson’s Made in America album.

*Matt Otto’s 2016 album Soliloquy was reviewed for All About Jazz.

*Tweet o’ the Week: American Jazz Museum- Each year, we invest in 1,745 musicians, we provide over 40 local businesses opportunities through First Fridays, and have a $1.2million dollar economic impact in the city of @KCMO. Now is YOUR chance to have an impact. Visit https://buff.ly/2n88PwI  today. #GivingTuesday #Jazz

*From a press release: Kansas City’s own Jazz violinist, Marvin Gruenbaum, is known for his diverse musical and technical skills coupled with an electrifying flare for improvisation and captivating musical interaction. A classically trained violinist and violist, he’s been a member of the Kansas City Symphony since 1982. Performing with Tim Whitmer & The Consort Band. 7 p.m. Wednesday, December 6. $7.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Album Review: The Matt Cook Collective- Along Those Lines














The members of the Matt Cook Collective are at the vanguard of an enormously promising generation of young musicians that is revitalizing Kansas City’s jazz scene.  Along Those Lines, the ensemble’s first full-length album, demonstrates that the saxophonist’s band is among the forward-thinking groups that are just as inspired by the likes of Snarky Puppy as by more conventional reference points such as the Jazz Messengers.  Occasionally a bit deliberative, Cook, reed man Joel Gordon, guitarist Matt Clinkenbeard, bassist Nick Brown and drummer Nate McDonald are best when they loosen up on adventurous tracks like “Geuzennaam.”

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Now's the Time: The Spanish Harlem Orchestra


I’m thankful that I caught Eddie Palmieri at the Blue Note in New York a few months ago (brief Instagram video).  Muscular salsa and limber Latin jazz imbue the 80-year-old legend with youthful vigor.  The Spanish Harlem Orchestra will fill the Folly Theater with similarly festive sounds in a “Salsa Navidad” concert on Saturday, December 9.  Consult the comprehensive The Kansas City Jazz Calendar for dozens of area bookings between now and December 9.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes














*Eric Wesson recaps the procedural maneuvering surrounding the American Jazz Museum for The Call.

*Michael McClintock, the leader of Cubanisms, was profiled by CJ Janovy for KCUR.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Clint Ashlock- I never let myself get too far away from certain records. Today it’s Bobby Watson’s “Midwest Shuffle” and @jaleelshaw “Soundtrack of Things to Come.” Time Will Tell & Faith: 2 tunes that constantly change and enrich my life. Thank you, gentlemen. #jazz

*Comment o’ the Week: Rob- Well, it's that time again, when from the far west side of the country, I start to think about my annual jaunt to K.C. for the Xmas holidays to see the family, and I also (embarrassingly) make my annual visit to the Plastic Sax blog. And every year, I give thanks that's it's still here...still up to date, which is nearly unheard of in today's blog world...and still full of great information. So in this time of thanks, I thank you. K.C. needs more of you. I'm a big fan of the more "out" or free-jazz sounds, which I've yet to have any luck finding on my journeys back to K.C., but if you have any suggestions, or bands, locations, etc. that I should keep my eye on for this type of sound, please respond here as I've love to hear about. Thanks again for all you do.

*From a press release: Community Christian Church presents Jazz Carolfest 2017! Join Tim Whitmer on Sunday, December 3 at 4pm for a swinging start to the Christmas season! This toe tapping, finger snapping concert will feature some of the area’s most dynamic performers and entertainers, including the amazing talents of Millie Edwards, Diane “Mama” Ray, Eboni Fondren, Havilah Bruders, Bram Wijnands, Ron Gutierrez, Slim Hanson, Ron Lackey, the 3 Trails West Trio, and the Hot Club Trio along with pianist Tim Whitmer and the award-winning house band (Jurgen Welge, James Albright, Rod Fleeman, Todd Wilkinson, & Stan Kessler)... Tickets are $20 advance, $25 at door.

*From Matt Kane: ...In Kansas City I will be performing two sets of my original music at the Black Dolphin Jazz Club on Friday, 12/29.  The band includes:  Peter Schlamb, vibes.  Matt Villinger, piano.  Nathan Pence, bass and Adam Schlozman, guitar.

*From a press release: Talented young jazz trumpeter Hermon Mehari will return to Kansas City on Sunday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. as part of the Carlsen Center Presents series at Johnson County Community College. Outstanding local jazz performers are featured under the “Winterlude” banner. The Sunday evening concert will be held in the Carlsen Center’s Polsky Theatre… Mehari now calls Paris his home, but returns every couple of months to perform with friends in the Kansas City area… At the Dec. 17 Winterlude concert, his quintet will include Peter Schlamb, vibraphone; Matt Villinger, piano; Karl McComas-Reichl, bass; and John Kizilarmut, drums.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Shape of Jazz (Concerts) to Come: Flying Lotus at the Midland















Steven Ellison, the man who creates visionary music as Flying Lotus, offered an audience of more than 500 a peak into the future of jazz concerts at the Midland theater on Thursday.  His 70-minute show expanded the visual and sonic possibilities of jazz.

As demonstrated by “Never Catch Me”, Ellison’s most popular song, the Los Angeles based producer combines elements of cosmic jazz with hip-hop and funk.  Ellison’s 2015 album “You’re Dead!,” one of the most artful distillations of black American music in the new millennium, is a natural extension of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and his great aunt Alice Coltrane’s Journey in Satchidananda.

With no live instrumentation other than his occasional scat-inclined singing, Thursday’s spectacle resembled an electronic dance music concert for adults with a taste for jazz.  Wearing glasses that were distributed at the door, members of the audience dominated by people born in the 1980s greeted the introduction of each new 3D special effect like enthusiastic spectators at a fireworks display.

Marveling at virtual spaceships, writhing bodies and confetti will never replace the superior flesh-and-blood experience of listening to elite jazz musicians in intimate clubs, but Ellison has raised for the bar for jazz-related presentations in theaters.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Now's the Time: Everett Freeman


Everett Freeman, the versatile keyboardist prominently featured in the slick new video for Paula Saunders’ rendition of “Night and Day,” leads the weekly Monday jam session at the Blue Room on November 20.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar lists 86 additional jazz performances next week.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes














*Joel Castillo and Alex Abramovitz were interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*The Irish Times pulished a revealing interview with Pat Metheny.  Here’s one of the rapturous reviews Metheny’s new quartet recently received in Europe.  (See the press release below for more Metheny-related news.)

*Helen Borgers, a jazz DJ on KKJZ in Long Beach who was born in Kansas City, has died.

*Marc Myers ponders the evolution of Count Basie’s sound.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Casino Guru- Fantastic place, not to mention right next to the American Blues Museum. It is a must see in KC, I also recommend Buck O'Neil's book

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous (presumed bot)- It's a shame you don't have a donate button!...

*From ECM Records: Over the past week we have begun the process of entering the world of streaming, and from November 17th, the full ECM catalogue will be available to subscribers to services including Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify, Deezer, Tidal and Qobuz. This simultaneous launch across the platforms – facilitated by a new digital distribution agreement with Universal Music – invites listeners to explore the wide range of music recorded by our artists in the course of nearly five decades of independent production. Although ECM’s preferred mediums remain the CD and LP, the first priority is that the music should be heard…

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Concert Review: Victor Wooten at the Madrid Theatre













Near the end of his two-hour concert for the approximately 270 men and 30 women who had purchased $30 tickets to hear him at the Madrid Theatre on Tuesday, Victor Wooten pondered the healing power of music: “Who’s working on the bomb that makes people love each other?  We already have it.  I call it a 'cupid bomb.'”

Wooten’s weapons of mass affection came in two forms.  When he locked into James Brown-inspired grooves with saxophonist Bob Franceschini and drummer Dennis Chambers, selflessly jubilant funk permeated the room.  Wooten also indulged fans on hand to witness the many astounding ways in which he’s expanding the possibilities of the electric bass.

During an extended unaccompanied exercise in looping, Wooten evoked the contemplative approach of his fellow bass master Eberhard Weber.  A few additional tricks involved considerably less subtlety, but Wooten’s engaging smile made even his most egregious showboating palatable.  Wooten opened the concert by joking that “my name is Stanley Clarke.”  Although he referenced Clarke’s 1976 hit “School Days” later in the show, Wooten demonstrated that he’s his own man.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Now's the Time: Aldo López-Gavilán


The Cuban pianist Aldo López-Gavilán will join the Harlem Quartet when the ensemble returns to Johnson County Community College on Friday, November 10.  (Plastic Sax reviewed the Harlem Quartet’s appearance on the campus in August.)  López-Gavilán gracefully bridges the divide between jazz and classical music in the embedded video.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes














*Kansas City was one of the 64 cities added to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network on Oct. 31.  A report by KCUR provides additional context. 

*Tim Finn includes jazz acts in his survey of Kansas City’s music scene.

*Tweet o’ the Week: UMKC Conservatory- What a great night at the Black Dolphin! Catch our #jazz combos again next Wednesday, 6pm at Grand Street Cafe! #KCjazz #UMKCCons

*Comment o’ the Week: Chris Burnett- I had the opportunity to spend most of an entire day with Ms. Maye when she received the American Jazz Museum's "Lifetime Achievement Award" a few years ago… Her concert was first-rate then too.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Concert Review: Marilyn Maye at Quality Hill Playhouse















“Oh, that was dirty!”  Marilyn Maye’s apt analysis of her grinding rendition of “Honeysuckle Rose” in the final date of a seven-show run at Quality Hill Playhouse on Sunday affirmed her conviction that age ain’t nothing but a number.

Accompanied by pianist Tedd Firth, bassist Gerald Spaits and drummer Daniel Glass, Maye, 89, was as vital as ever in her 75-minute outing.  The iconic vocalist’s leg kicks are now “only” waist-high, but her voice still soars to the heavens.

In addition to exploring Waller’s best-known compositions, she delivered several Johnny Mercer songs and a spate of less obvious selections including an oddly effective interpretation of the Frankie Valli hit “My Eyes Adored You” and a smoky reading of Barry Manilow’s “Paradise Café.” 

Maye confessed that she didn’t understand why fans demanded that she perform sad songs before she brought down the house with a version of the heartbreaking “Guess Who I Saw Today.”  She followed it with an equally wrenching version of “Fifty Percent,” a song from the 1978 musical “Ballroom.” 

Maye owns James Taylor’s “Secret O’ Life.”  When she intoned the lines “the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time… and since we're only here for a while we might as well show some style,” it’s clear that she knows whereof she sings.  “It’s Today,” a showstopper from “Mame” that Maye described as her mantra, was similarly inspiring.

Near the end of her performance, Maye asked a retired restraunteur in the audience if she had baked her a pie.  The woman replied “I’m too old.”  Wrong answer.  Maye testily snapped “no, you’re not.”  After all, Maye had just spent 75 minutes demonstrating that there’s no such thing as “too old.”

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Now's the Time: Victor Wooten


The jazz fusion heavyweights Victor Wooten, saxophonist Bob Franceschini and drummer Dennis Chambers will almost certainly elicit a warmer reception at the Madrid Theatre on Tuesday, November 7, than they received for the halftime show performance at a New York Knicks game in the embedded video.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes















*Jazz at Lincoln Center created a seven-minute video profile of Marilyn Maye.  The vocalist’s five-day residency at Quality Hill Playhouse begins today.

*Laura Spencer of KCUR reported on the latest chapter of the American Jazz Museum’s travails.

*Pat Metheny was named the top guitarist in Downbeat’s Reader’s Poll.

*Arthur White was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Tweet o’ the Week: ContemporaryJazz.com- Lee Ritenour during Jazz Talk before his performance tonight at @TheFollyTheater in #KansasCity (photo)

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- Thank you for restarting the KC Jazz calendar. It is really helpful!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Book Review: Changing the Tune: The Kansas City Women's Jazz Festival, 1976-1985
















Public indifference. Misunderstandings between musicians and promoters.  Meager audiences.  A lack of institutional support.  Sound like this summer’s ill-fated Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival?  Changing the Tune: The Kansas City Women’s Jazz Festival, 1978-1985, published by the University of North Texas Press in March, demonstrates that the problems that plagued the American Jazz Museum’s festival in May aren’t anything new.

Carolyn Glenn Brewer’s fascinating 308-page account explores a nearly forgotten chapter of Kansas City’s jazz history.  Carol Comer and Dianne Gregg, the primary organizers of the groundbreaking event, valiantly fought an uphill battle to present musicians including Mary Lou Williams, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Nancy Wilson, Carla Bley and Joanne Brackeen.  While never fully embraced by the international jazz community or by the general public in Kansas City, the festival achieved many hard-won successes.

Although Brewer’s text is occasionally impeded with unnecessary details- trivia about tedious topics like the high school band directors should have been relegated to the footnotes- she successfully chronicles the trials and tribulations associated with presenting a jazz festival in Kansas City.  (She also provides thoughtful insights into the prejudices faced by women in jazz.)

Every locally based jazz fan will relish the stories about the salad days of veteran Kansas City musicians like Mike Ning, Arny Young and Paul Smith as well as references to bygone venues including the Signboard.  Accounts of the misbehavior of a handful of stars are also salaciously entertaining.

Changing the Tune: The Kansas City Women’s Jazz Festival, 1978-1985 doesn’t merely affirm that history tends to repeat itself.  The book demonstrates that for a large-scale jazz festival to succeed in Kansas City- even if for just a handful of years- it must be a labor of love for a coterie of smart, wholly-committed true believers.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, October 27, 2017

Now's the Time: Lee Ritenour and Patrice Rushen


According to a note posted at Lee Ritenour’s site, Patrice Rushen will perform with the accomplished guitarist at the Folly Theater on Saturday, Oct. 28.  The keyboardist and one-time R&B hitmaker shines in the embedded video.  Smooth jazz not your thing?  More than three dozen alternatives for the weekend are listed at the Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes
















*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been resurrected.  The new, improved version of the comprehensive calendar is a community service of Plastic Sax and the Green Lady Lounge.  It’s designed to be shared.  Submissions may be made to williamwbrownlee(at)gmail.com.

*The American Jazz Museum’s financial woes spurred new rounds of wrangling in recent days.  The Kansas City Star, KCUR and KSHB reported on a proposed takeover by the Kansas City Parks & Recreation Department.  The Pitch discovered that the institution paid $18,000 to fly Jon Batiste to Kansas City in April. 

*Lee Ritenour’s concert at the Folly Theater was previewed by Joe Klopus.

*Krystle Warren and Chalis O’Neal were interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Chuck Haddix was featured on the radio program “Here and Now.”

*Tweet o’ the Week: Nikki Clark- We need to SUPPORT the museum to keep the doors open. I don't want to see the city taking over all the businesses on 18th Vine.

*From a press release: Tim Whitmer has been the gracious host and resident pianist since the inception of the Spirituality & All That Jazz program in 1994… Joining him in the celebration will be vocalist and trombonist Kathleen Holeman holding court with founding members of The Consort Band, Jurgen Welge & James Albright, and other party guests including Carl Bender. 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 1, 2017, Unity Temple on the Plaza. $7

*From a press release: ARC recording artist Christopher Burnett and his Quartet will be performing at least once per month on a Friday or Saturday at The Black Dolphin in Kansas City beginning in January 2018… The Black Dolphin is the newest, and the third stage to be featured as part of the Green Lady Lounge.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Review: The Owen/Cox Dance Group with the People's Liberation Big Band at Polsky Theatre
















Brad Cox described the sculptures of Linda Lighton as “a little bit provocative” in his opening remarks at the second and final performance of “In the Rompus Room” at Polsky Theatre on Sunday.  A similar sense of provocation infused the daring collaboration between the Owen/Cox Dance Group and the People’s Liberation Big Band.

The first half of the program played to the considerable strengths of both ensembles.  Owen’s choreography for seven athletic dancers echoed the lavish exuberance of a Busby Berkeley musical.  Portions of the extended suite “In the Rompus Room” resembled the love child of an impassioned tryst between George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and the jazz standard “Caravan.”

The People’s Liberation Big Band expanded the possibilities of Kansas City’s big band tradition with “In the Rompus Room,” but Cox’s “Letterbox” was a comparatively delicate art-pop song cycle.  While portions of the composition were worthy of Stephen Sondheim, the storyline was indecipherable.  No matter.

The murkiness of the narrative was offset by inviting elements including the ravishing harmonies of vocalists Calvin Arsenia and Shay Estes and imaginative choreography that effectively conveyed jubilance, melancholy and desire.  Enhanced by suggestive mood lighting and superb sound, the production was a beguiling union of music and dance.

(Original image of a Linda Lighton sculpture by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Now's the Time: Greg Osby


Greg Osby, one of the most prominent jazz artists of the 1990s, will perform with the Ben Markley Quartet at Black Dolphin on Friday, October 20.  Banned in New York and Inner Circle and among the albums the saxophonist recorded for Blue Note Records that are often cited as modern-day classics.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes














*Arnold Young’s Live at Westport Coffee House Theater was released on October 5.

*”007”, a new song by Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle, is available at iTunes.

*Marilyn Maye begins a seven-performance residency at Quality Hill Playhouse on November 1.

*Scott Yanow reviewed Bobby Watson’s Made in America for Chris Burnett’s new site.

*The municipal government of Kansas City created a brief promotional video about the “Legacy Plays On” exhibition at the American Jazz Museum.

*My detractors are encouraged to consider my statement of purpose regarding criticism of locally based artists.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Rick Hellman- Bucking for @HappyInBag Tweet O' the Week; Creighton Organization knocking 'em out @theshipkc (photo)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Concert Review: Hudson at Yardley Hall














Jack DeJohnette and John Scofield sang ragged harmonies on the chorus of a swinging rendition of the Band’s “Up On Cripple Creek” at Yardley Hall on Sunday.  The moment might have the most delightful surprise in a concert filled with unexpected pleasures.

The legendary drummer and iconic guitarist were joined by keyboardist John Medeski, a leading light of the jam-band community, and Larry Grenadier, a first-call bassist for the likes of Pat Metheny.  Scofield explained that the group is named  Hudson because “we all live in the Hudson River Valley” before he added that much of the their repertoire consists of “covers... associated with that region.”

A couple seated near me was among the quarter of the audience of about 500 who bailed before the conclusion of the nearly two-hour concert.  They were repelled by the free jazz dissonance in a profound instrumental interpretation of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”  They probably should have stayed- no two selections on the nine-song set list were alike. 

The eclectic concert also included the sort of old-school organ jazz that wouldn’t have sounded out of place at the Green Lady Lounge, the propulsive funk of Medeski, Martin & Wood’s good-time collaborations with Scofield and groovy renditions of classic rock songs.  The show was enhanced by the most immaculate sound field of any jazz concert in the Kansas City area in recent memory. 

DeJohnette laughed at himself when he dropped a drumstick on the final beat of the encore. It was the only misstep in an otherwise flawless concert.

Set list: Wait Until Tomorrow, Hudson, El Swing, Castles Made of Sand, Up On Cripple Creek, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Dirty Ground, Tony Then Jack (my best guess), Woodstock

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Now's the Time: Hudson


Kansas City's jazz community is well-versed in the concept of feast or famine.  2017 is a time of plenty.  On Sunday, jazz titans Jack DeJohnette and John Scofield will make their second area appearances of the year.  Along with John Medeski and Larry Grenadier, they’ll perform in the quartet Hudson at the Carlsen Center.  DeJohnette’s trio was featured in a Jazz at the Gem concert in April.  (Plastic Sax reviewed the concert).  Scofield was a headliner at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival in May.  (The Kansas City Star reviewed the event.)  Let’s eat.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes















*Joe Klopus previewed Hudson’s concert at the Carlsen Center for The Kansas City Star.

*Marcus Lewis chatted with Glenn North on KCUR’s Central Standard program.

*The Sextet was named KCUR’s Band of the Week.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Marc Horner- Enjoying a wonderful evening at the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra at the Kauffman Center; Helzberg Hall

*From a press release: Owen/Cox Dance Group is delivering on its mission of presenting exciting new music and dance collaborations by presenting In the Rompus Room with The People’s Liberation Big Band, October 21-22.  The Kansas City based dance company Owen/Cox Dance Group and The People’s Liberation Big Band… will once again join forces for two world premiere dance works. In the Rompus Room and Letterbox will feature original choreography by Jennifer Owen to music by Brad Cox, P. Alonzo Conway, Matt Otto, and Nick Howell… The program will also feature vocalists Calvin Arsenia and Shay Estes. October 21, 2017 at 8 PM and October 22, 2017 at 2 PM, The Polsky Theatre, JCCC.

*From a press release: Kansas City-based Arts Professional, Conn-Selmer Saxophone Artist and Clinician, ARC Recording Artist and Educator Christopher Burnett has accepted a position with Leavenworth High School as a teaching assistant. Mr. Burnett joins the staff of Dr. Jared Prost as an assistant band director where he assists the program by teaching woodwinds and jazz band.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Album Review: Molly Hammer- Out of This World














Readers of The Pitch recently named Molly Hammer the “Best Jazz Artist” in Kansas City.  (Mark Lowrey, Alex Abramovitz, Bobby Watson and Logan Richardson placed two through five.)  It’s not a knock on Hammer to suggest that the results are ludicrous, partly because Kansas City is home to the accomplished vocalists Deborah Brown and Marilyn Maye.

Hammer’s debut album Out of This World confirms that she’s at her best working as a torch singer rather than in a jazz setting.  Her thoughtful approach on the cabaret songs “Never Will I Marry,” “Detour Head” and “Listen Here” rivals the work of elite vocalists like Brown and Maye.  Most of the other selections don’t emphasize Hammer’s incisive voice and lyrical sensitivity that are her core strengths.

The fine playing of saxophonist Brad Gregory, pianist Joe Cartwright, bassist Steve Rigazzi and drummer Todd Strait can't redeem the shopworn “Doodlin’” or “At Last.”  Novelties like “TV is the Thing This Year” and “Pig Foot Pete” are cutesy rather than quaint.  Hammer possesses the talent to fashion an exemplary album.  Out of This World isn’t it.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, October 6, 2017

Now's the Time: Angela Hagenbach

Angela Hagenbach will perform at Village Presbyterian Church at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 6. Admission is free. The strength of the vocalist’s appearance at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival and in the embedded video reveal that Hagenbach sounds better than ever in 2017.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes













*Dennis Winslett and Sonie Joi Thompson-Ruffin aired their grievances about recent events at the American Jazz Museum in a Black Art in America podcast.

*A television station reported on the partnership between the Folly Jazz Series and the Kansas City Art Institute.

*The Kansas City jazz enthusiast Tom Wells is the subject of a lengthy interview at All About Jazz.

*Molly Hammer was interviewed for a second time by Joe Dimino.

*The Little Big Band was featured in The Martin City Telegraph.

*The Topeka Capital-Journal previewed the Downtown Jazz & Food Truck Festival.

*From Steve Kraske’s wish list: I’d figure out a way to make people like jazz. Many of you wonder why I like it. I can’t figure out why you don’t.

*Smoke Sessions Records created a new promotional video for Bobby Watson’s Made in America album.

*Tweet o’ the Week: ¡ɜɿoɾɪɹℲ- Pat Metheny on Super Audio Compact Disc direct from a Denon DCD-1500SE through a pair of MDR-7506s at Tower Records. What is life???

*From Marcus Lewis: The Marcus Lewis Big Band is joining forces with Kansas City emcees Kemet The Phantom and Kadesh Flow to combine big band with hip-hop in a show titled Brass & Boujee. Arranger and Trombonist Marcus Lewis will present big band arrangements of Kemet and Kadesh's original material, as well as full jazz band versions of songs such as Kendrick Lamar's "Alright" and Bruno Mars' "24K Magic". Friday, October 6, at Ruins Pub.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Album Review: The Sextet- Blob Castle















“Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?”  The inspired treatment the Kansas City jazz band the Sextet and guest vocalist Calvin Arsenia apply to “Colors of the Wind” reflects their eagerness to use a full musical palette on the energetic new album Blob Castle

Robert Castillo, the bassist and leader of the Sextet, told Plastic Sax that “I get chills with every listen” to the imaginative treatment of the Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz composition.  The remainder of Blob Castle is certain to inspire similarly enthusiastic responses from adventurous listeners. 

Acting as a splendid introduction to lesser known area talents including the trumpeter Teddy Krulewich, trombonist Trevor Turla and the saxophonist Max Levy, the kaleidoscopic album includes conventional post-bop, groove-oriented soul-jazz and splashes of free improvisation.  Unconventional song titles like “#notmypresident” and “Gluten Free Water” are indicative of the Sextet’s inspired approach.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Now's the Time: Mike Dillon


The one-time Kansas City resident Mike Dillon returns to the Brick on Friday, September 29.  Life Is Not a Football, the manic percussionist latest release, overlflows with incendiary brilliance.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes














*Bernice Todd, the widow of Oliver Todd, and author Steve Penn were interviewed by Joel Nichols.

*Molly Hammer was featured on KCUR’s Band of the Week segment.

*A crowdfunding campaign for Everette DeVan is titled “Help Musician with End Stage Renal Failure.”

*The Lawrence based vocalist Vanessa Thomas was interviewed on KCUR’s Central Standard program.

*Tweet o’ the Week: KC Jazz Orchestra- We've got a great concert celebrating the ebullient jump Blues tradition on the 6th!

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- Nothing wrong with people having a good time at a show - I'm all for it. I'm also not concerned about "jazz" having mass appeal - that hasn't been the case since the big band era. The more subtle and sophisticated that improvised music becomes, the smaller the audience. It can take years of listening to prepare your mind/ears to be receptive to certain sounds. As a jazz nerd in my mid 50's, I would enjoy a Vijay Iyer concert way more than a Thundercat Bruner show. When I was in my early 20's, probably the opposite would be true.

*From a press release: Saxophonist/Composer Matt Otto is without peer as a leading academic in the field of jazz… It was not, then, an unusual decision by Beau Bledsoe, guitarist and founder of the Kansas City-based arts organization Ensemble Ibérica, to approach Otto, asking him to compose for and record an album utilizing the diverse influences and instruments found in this ensemble. A collaboration three years in the making, this new recording, Iberica will be performed in its entirety during this concert with additional songs arranged by pianist Brad Cox… Matt Otto - saxophones; Brad Cox - piano/sounds; Karl McComas-Reichl - bass, cello; Beau Bledsoe - guitars; Michael McClintock - guitars; Jordan Shipley - guitars. Friday, October 13th, 7:30pm MTH Theater $25.

*From a press release: Dan Sturdevant is a singer-pianist who is described… as “velvet-voiced, charming and a splendid pianist-accompanist with a fine combination of performance skills”...  His wide repertoire includes a mix of standards, contemporary and originals. With Tim Whitmer and the Consort Band. Unity Temple on the Plaza, 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 4, $7.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Concert Review: Thundercat at the Granada















I witnessed something I wasn’t sure I’d ever see again last Wednesday.  About 1,500 people in their twenties waved their arms in the air and joyously danced for two hours at a jazz concert. 

The musical foundation of Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner’s appearance at the Granada on September 20 differed little from the jazz fusion performed by his fellow electric bassists Victor Wooten and Stanley Clarke at shows I’ve attended in the past year.   The packaging, however, was notably different. 

Wearing red gym shorts and a black t-shirt, the Californian told fans that “I've been drunk every day of this tour so far.”  The confession made sense.  Bruner is touring in support of Drunk, a woozy album that includes a guest appearance by Kendrick Lamar, the hip-hop giant who featured Bruner on his game-changing 2015 manifesto To Pimp a Butterfly.

Abetted by violinist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, keyboardist Dennis Hamm and the ferocious drummer Justin Brown, Bruner recalled the 1970s heyday of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever.  His loopy songs were transformed into extended improvisational jams.  The quartet sounded as if they might strike into a cover of Al Jarreau’s “We’re In This Love Together” during a few pop-oriented moments.

I don’t know how many members of the audience dominated by people born in the 1990s identified the invigorating music as jazz.  I'm not sure that it matters.   The concert was the most heartening jazz event I’ve attended in years.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Now's the Time: Danny Embrey and Rod Fleeman


Guitarists Danny Embrey and Rod Fleeman have elevated countless jazz gigs in Kansas City.  Their sublime styles will be featured in a free midday concert at the Recital Hall at Johnson County Community College on Tuesday, September 26.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes















*The Lied Center and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra are collaborating on a project based on the University of Kansas’ basketball program.

*The Sextet’s Blog Castle will be released on October 7.

*Molly Hammer’s new album Out of This World was released on September 15.

*James Martin suggests that the American Jazz Museum “presents itself as an important organizer and presenter” in the “The Legacy Plays On” exhibition.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Blue Blazes- Overheard in a Kansas City jazz venue tonight -"I know you're a little suicidal right now, but, I've got some gourmet cheese popcorn.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Whiskey Trip: Jimmy Can't Dance in Louisville















My FOMO meter shattered last week.  During my first full day in Louisville, Kentucky, I discovered that Ira Sullivan had performed at a new jazz club the previous night.

Missing the octogenarian didn’t prevent me from visiting Jimmy Can’t Dance that evening.  The basement venue beneath a downtown sandwich shop has a capacity of about 75.  The layout is much like Smalls in New York City and the Green Lady Lounge in Kansas City.

I spoke to Dennie Humphrey, a partner in Jimmy Can’t Dance, during a break in a jam session that featured faculty and students from the University of Louisville.  He has high hopes for the room.  Humphrey believes his connections to prominent area musicians including Jim James of My Morning Jacket will make Jimmy Can’t Dance a fashionable late-night destination for young revelers.

Jimmy Can’t Dance didn’t need any outside help last Wednesday.  The room was packed with tourists, young professionals and members of the service industry unwinding after work.  Representatives of each group were eager to sip bourbon and bask in the inviting atmosphere of Louisville’s only jazz club.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Now's the Time: Tauk


Rather than blowing the dust off neglected albums by the likes of Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express and Brand X, graying funkateers and nostalgic fans of fusion are advised to join youthful jam-oriented enthusiasts at the Riot Room on Friday, September 29.  The New York based quartet Tauk plays a similarly muscular style of improvised music.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes















*Molly Hammer discussed her life and new album with Monique Gabrielle Salazar.

*The Project H was named KCUR’s Band of the Week.

*Tweet o’ the Week: SME Lancer Bands- The SME Blue Knights Jazz Ensemble kicks off the @PrairieVillage Jazz Festival today! 3:30pm, Harmon Park

*From a press release: Bassist/vocalist Katie Thiroux follows her debut CD with the masterful Off Beat (Aug. 18 Capri Records), a recording that showcases her crackerjack instrumental work, expressive and swinging vocals, and impressive artistic command. She’ll present a CD release concert on Wednesday, October 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Californos… Tickets $20. Joining Thiroux will be pianist Steven Feifke and drummer Matt Witek… Thiroux was artist-in-residence from June through early September 2017 at Quincy Jones's new club Q's Bar and Lounge at the Palazzo Versace in Dubai.

*From a press release: Jazz luminaries Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, John Medeski and Larry Grenadier will kick off the 2017-18 Winterlude series at Johnson County Community College at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15, in the Carlsen Center’s Yardley Hall. Touring under the name “Hudson,” reflecting the New York Hudson River Valley home for the musicians, DeJohnette (drums), Scofield (guitar), Medeski (keyboards) and Grenadier (bass) are individually winners of numerous awards, top-notch improvisers and leaders of their own groups.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)