Monday, September 17, 2018

Album Review: The Count Basie Orchestra- All About That Basie

All About That Basie is precisely the sort of album the Count Basie Orchestra needed to release in 2018.  By blending a few impressive guest features with tracks that remain true to the institution’s tradition of powerhouse swing, the star-studded album allows the band whose leader died in 1984 to stave off cultural irrelevance.

In harkening back to Frank Sinatra’s popular collaboration with the Count Basie Orchestra, Kurt Elling’s suave vocal makes “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” the album’s standout track.  Stevie Wonder adds his distinctive harmonica to a robust instrumental version of “My Cherie Amour.”  Joey DeFrancesco’s greasy organ on a remake of “April in Paris” is delectable.

The project contains a few misfires. Two tracks are particularly egregious.  The vocal group Take 6 piles thick layers of gooey cheese on “Every Day I Have the Blues.”  And it’s disappointing that no one told the Basie crew that there’s an unofficial moratorium on covers of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” the most played-out song of the new millennium.

Even so, the good on All About That Basie easily outweighs the bad.  And while guitarist Will Matthews is the only member of the band who still resides in Kansas City, the Count Basie Orchestra continues to make Kansas City proud.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Now's the Time: The Sextet

Grab your sunglasses.  The Sextet has a pair of free outdoor daylight gigs lined up.  The youthful collective led by bassist Robert Castillo performs at Big Eleven Lake in Kansas City, Kansas, at 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 15.  The Sextet will entertain on the Ink Live! Stage during the Plaza Art Fair at 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 23.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar is a complete guide to all area performances.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Joe Dimino interviewed Jackie Myers and Nate Nall.

*Joe Dimino created a video montage of the opening acts at last weekend’s Prairie Village Jazz Festival.

*A man was murdered in the heart of the Jazz District last week.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Crunchee- Logan Richardson and his band played an amazing set at the Prairie Village Jazz Festival last night. Too bad 95% of the crowd left when it got loud and never got to see it.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Gently Up the Stream

Let’s play a jazz version of the “would you rather” parlor game. 
Would you rather receive a cumulative 250 spins a week on non-commercial radio stations throughout the country or rack up 10,000 plays a week in the global marketplace with a single song on Spotify?

The former option involves mailing compact discs to dozens of radio stations and (ideally) hiring a publicist to persuade DJs to play it.  The latter gambit requires lobbying a well-placed connection at the music streaming service or simply relying on fortuitous serendipity to obtain placement on popular playlists.

The efforts documented on social media by many locally based musicians suggest that they covet placement on the JazzWeek terrestrial radio chart.  Karrin Allyson, an artist who launched her career in Kansas City, currently holds the #2 spot on the chart with 238 weekly plays of selections from her Some of That Sunshine album at 53 outlets.

“Fake it Till I Make It,” a track from the Kansas City based Marcus Lewis Big Band’s new album Brass & Boujee, achieved a different form of success.  Since being added to Spotify’s State of Jazz playlist a couple weeks ago, it’s been played more than 50,000 times. 

As much as I like working in the terrestrial radio format, I believe that focusing on placement at streaming services is a savvier strategy for most area jazz artists, at least until a song or album gains traction.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Now's the Time: Logan Richardson

Joe Lovano’s bold playing repelled a significant portion of the audience at the Prairie Village Jazz Festival in 2014.  The even more aggressive sound of Logan Richardson could induce mild panic at the event on Saturday, September 8.  Molly Hammer, the Enormous Guitar Project, the Kessler-Embry Conspiracy, Victor & Penny and the Shawnee Mission East Blue Knights round out the bill.  Hundreds of additional gigs are listed at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*David Basse encourages UMKC students to catch jazz performances on the Country Club Plaza.

*The practicality of Vijay Iyer’s headlining appearance at Starlight Theater is among the issues addressed in a discussion of Open Spaces on KCUR’s Up To Date program.

*The Kansas City Star previewed Logan Richardson’s appearance at the Prairie Village Jazz Festival

*Anthony Braxton will perform in St. Louis next month.  (Tip via St. Louis Jazz Notes.)

*Tweet o’ the Week: WBGO Jazz 88.3FM- Hear our sets captured live at Charlie Parker Jazz Festival with Catherine Russell and Keyon Harrold: (link)

*From a press release: Millie Edwards and her band will kick off the fourth season of Kansas City Jazz Vespers on Sunday, September 9, from 6:00 - 8:00 pm, featuring 100 minutes of professional jazz in a concert setting...  Kansas City Jazz Vespers is held at the historic First Baptist Church... 

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated with September’s gigs.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, September 3, 2018

Album Review: The Marcus Lewis Big Band- Brass and Boujee

The most bracing passage of Brass and Boujee, the new album by the Marcus Lewis Big Band, comes in the final moments of the consequential project.  Kemet the Phantom raps that throughout his “whole damn life seems like I been lied to, f-ck the American dream, I’m gonna fight you” on “Ghetto Heaven.”

The incendiary lyric blows the lid off an album that’s otherwise kept at a medium simmer.  Brass and Boujee is a poised dispatch from the intersection of jazz and hip-hop.  Lewis, a Kansas City based trombonist best known for his association with Janelle Monaé, has marshalled many of the region’s top jazz artists into his big band.  His urbane charts leave plenty of room for the wildly disparate rappers Kemet the Phantom and Kadesh Flow.

The latter artist employs an emphatic style so urgent that he sometimes seems as if he’s choking.  Unfortunately, he’s assigned the quixotic task of delivering Kendrick Lamar’s lines on an interpretation of “Alright,” a track that should have been left off the album.  His outburst at the end of the album aside, the nimble Kemet the Phantom applies a lighter touch. 

In spite of the album title’s allusion to Migos’ 2016 hit “Bad and Boujee,” the band’s sound is more closely aligned with ‘70s-era R&B and the pop styles of the ‘80s than with contemporary hip-hop.  A cover of Bruno Mars’ retro-themed hit “24k Magic” reflects its orientation.  Kadesh Flow boasts that “I’m dominating rap battles because of my vocabulary” on the appealingly vulnerable “Boxes.”  In much the same way, the refined audacity of Lewis’ ensemble allows it to surpass many of its peers.

(Original image of the Marcus Lewis Big Band at RecordBar by Plastic Sax.)