Sunday, September 23, 2018
Concert Review: James D’s Nouveau Noir at Open Spaces
The first of two free musical performances presented by Open Spaces in Swope Park on the afternoon of Saturday, September 22, was promoted with a jazz hashtag. Even though James D, a.k.a. James Christos, is a Kansas City rapper who once held next-big-thing status, I had no reason to doubt the categorization. Christos is currently associated with the Mutual Musicians Foundation and the hallowed jazz institution’s low-power radio station KOJH.
A few minutes before the Nouveau Noir performance began, a woman at Christos' merch booth told me that if I liked jazz, I’d like the show. I was further encouraged when jazz-oriented musicians including drummer Tyree Johnson took the stage. I was let down.
The program Christo described as a “sound journey” was intended to convey the totality of the black American experience. It included segments of African drumming, poetry, interpretive dance, R&B and an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” Yet it was mostly a vehicle for Christos’ rapping. At one point in the 90-minute performance for an audience of 50, Christos introduced a selection as “a little bit of a jazzy thing.” Nope. He rapped that he was “feeling myself” over a neo-soul groove instead.
Misrepresenting music as “#jazz” is a minor infraction. The inconsistent quality of the show was a more serious misdeed. I’ve heard most members of the band play far more compelling music. I’ve also witnessed Christos rap with stunning ferocity. The overly solicitous Nouveau Noir review catered to the sorts of middle-aged do-gooders who proudly display “Celebrate Diversity” bumper stickers on their hybrid vehicles.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)