Sunday, July 21, 2019

Concert Review: Ehud Ettun and Henrique Eisenmann at the 1900 Building

The Brazilian pianist Henrique Eisenmann told an audience of 60 at the 1900 Building on Saturday, July 13, that he and the Israeli bassist Ehud Ettun were acting as “musical archeologists.”  A $26 charge at the door funded the sonic dig.

True to Eisenmann’s word, the duo unearthed music from around the globe.  They breathed new life into Russian folk, Kansas City bebop, Bulgarian chant, Brazilian samba and a Ghanese children’s song.  A cover of Green Day’s “Basket Case” was the least esoteric selection of the 80-minute outing.  After applying a Thelonious Monk-style adaptation to the 1994 pop-punk hit, Eisenmann tossed up devil horns.

Eisenberg dedicated the performance to the concept of “dialogue” and insisted that “music helps us learn to listen.”  When improvised music is as full of surprises and artistic mastery as Sunday’s riveting showcase, attentive listening is as rewarding as it is edifying.

Plastic Sax also reviewed the duo’s 2018 concert at the same venue.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Now's the Time: The Project H


The Project H performs at The Ship on Thursday, July 18.  Links to Plastic Sax reviews of three of the Kansas City band’s albums are here.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*According to event organizer Lori Chandler, the Musicians for Molly benefit at Mod Gallery on Sunday, July 14, raised more than $20,000.

*Matt Otto is profiled by an in-house publication of the University of Kansas.

*The offerings of the 2019 edition of the Charlie Parker Celebration organized by KC Jazz Alive include a concert featuring locally based musicians at Liberty Performing Arts Theatre on August 23. 

*Tweet o’ the Week: Jazzy 88 WFSK- Tune-in on Thusdays to hear WFSK'S Artist of the Week! This week's Artist of the Week is Bassists Julian Vaughn, his new release is entitled "Supreme"! Although the bass is often associated with funk, Vaughn likes to play with more of a finesse style as well as some funk.

*From a press release: Join the American Jazz Museum for an entire month of programming celebrating Charlie “Bird” Parker… Charlie Parker’s plastic Grafton Saxophone, played in the now famous 1953 Jazz at Massey Hall concert, is on display in the Museum’s permanent exhibit. This August, the American Jazz Museum presents four free unique public programs, exhibits, and performances honoring Parker’s legacy.  Charlie Parker: Ready, Set, Bird! - Friday, Aug. 2nd; Charlie Parker: Bird’s The Word - Friday, Aug. 16th; Charlie Parker: Expectations of Bird - Saturday, Aug. 24th; Charlie Parker: Bird’s Fixings - Thursday, August 29th. Details are here.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Concert Review: Ryan Keberle & Catharsis at the National World War I Museum and Memorial

At the conclusion of the free concert by Ryan Keberle & Catharsis at the J.C. Nichols Auditorium at the National World War I Museum and Memorial on Monday, July 8, an exasperated man seated near me griped that the performance was “out there.”  I beg to differ. 

Perhaps recognizing that a significant portion of the audience of about 100 were museum loyalists rather than jazz fans, the critically acclaimed touring musicians- positive notices by Will Layman and Giovanni Russonello were published in the days following Monday’s concert- played far more conservatively that at their recent appearances at Mod Gallery (Plastic Sax review) and Black Dolphin (Plastic Sax review).

The concert was billed as a tribute to James Reese Europe.  Yet the five musicians played only one selection associated with the lamentably unheralded bandleader.  Trombonist and electronics manipulator Keberle, saxophonist and trumpeter (and recent addition to the band) Scott Robinson, guitarist and vocalist Camila Meza, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Eric Doob offered a straightforward interpretation of W.C. Handy’s “Memphis Blues.”

A reading of Duke Ellington’s “I Like the Sunrise” featuring a gorgeous vocal turn from Meza was similarly conventional.  The final half of the show was devoted to a Langston Hughes-inspired suite from Catharsis’ new album The Hope I Hold.  Hughes’ poetry sometimes made for cumbersome lyrics, but the instrumental segments featuring astounding statements from Robinson and Meza thrilled jazz hounds even as they baffled some of the history buffs in the audience.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Now's the Time: Ehud Ettun


Israeli bassist Ehud Ettun performs the title track of his new trio album Deep in the Mountains in the embedded video.  Ettun and the Brazilian pianist Henrique Eisenmann return to the 1900 Building on Saturday, July 13.  Plastic Sax raved about the duo’s 2018 concert in Mission Woods, Kansas.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Yoko Takemura recounts the backstory of the release of Jay McShann’s new Live in Tokyo album for Jazz Tokyo.

*Selections by Karrin Allyson, Peter Schlamb and Bobby Watson and were highlighted in an episode of the weekly radio program Eight One Sixty titled “Best Albums of the Decade.”

*Julian Vaughn’s Supreme debuted at #6 on Billboard’s jazz albums chart.

*A quartet led by vocalist Kelly Gant performed on Star Sessions.  Gant is among the artists on the bill at a fundraiser for Molly Hammer at Mod Gallery on Sunday, July 14.

*Chris Burnett is featured on page 130 of the latest issue of KC Studio magazine.

*Brad Allen and Herschel McWilliams were interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*An essayist proposes that Robert Altman’s “films are a true reflection of the Kansas style Jazz that he grew up with in his hometown.”

*Tweet o’ the Week: Sabrina Moella- 10. But back to the show, the whole band was excellent. Kristopher Funn on bass, Lawrence Fields on piano, Corey Fonville on drums, Chief aTunde Adjuah himself on trompet, Logan Richardson on the sax & Weedie Braimah on djembe. Chile. That's a jazz band dream team right there.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Album Review: Julian Vaughn- Supreme

The gentle rumble of Julian Vaughn’s bass during the initial moments of “On Notice,” one of the curative tracks on his new album Supreme, feels as refreshing as air conditioning on a sweltering summer day.  As with temperature control, the smooth jazz crafted by the Kansas City musician is intended to enhance life rather than serve as its primary focus.  Not only are the eleven selections on Supreme designed to make pleasant moments even more gratifying, they’re capable of dispersing worry.  Even Vaughn’s strong pop orientation on an arrangement of After 7’s 1990 slow jam “Ready or Not” hums unobtrusively in the background like an efficient central air system.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Now's the Time: Moon Hooch


Moon Hooch may not be a jazz ensemble, but it’s clear that the two saxophonists and drummer in the band have spent quality time listening to the likes of Albert Ayler.  The men fuse Ayler’s aggressive honking with contemporary groove-oriented music.  The former street buskers perform at the Encore Room on Wednesday, July 10.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The story behind the release of a new Jay McShann album is documented in an audio feature for KCUR.

*The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra announced its 2019-20 concert season.

*Joe Dimino conducted interviews with Kelley Gant and B.J. Jansen.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Clint Ashlock- Hey @UMKansasCity thanks for booting my car for no permit when I parked for 10 minutes - you just lost thousands of dollars in alumni donations! I’ll never donate to one of your causes again! @UMKCCons

*From a Take Five Productions press release: Musicians For Molly - a Fundraiser. Molly Hammer is a beloved member of our stellar Kansas City jazz community. A stunning vocalist who has continued performing throughout her battle with breast cancer, Molly's fierce determination has inspired us all. Our goal is to raise $10,000 by the end of the night… Featuring nine bands, a jam session and a silent auction... Some of KC's best have volunteered their time for the cause - Boogaloo 7, Sons of Brasil, Brad Gregory Sextet featuring Kelley Gant, Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, Alyssa Murray, Project H and the Deshtet featuring Kadesh Flow - and the event will be headlined at 8pm by Texas' own For Now featuring another outstanding female vocalist, Isabel Crespo. Suggested minimum donation of $10 at the door (more is always welcome). This event is all ages. 4 p..m.-midnight Sunday, July 14, at Mod Gallery.

*From a press release: A series of jazz performances titled The Spine Showcases  is kicking off the second half of its 2019 series with a Kickstarter fundraising campaign. Organized by musicians, the series spotlights Kansas City’s emerging jazz composers.  The Spine Showcases launched January 24th, 2019… Performances are scheduled once a month on Thursday nights throughout 2019, beginning at 8:00 pm and concluding by 10:30 pm. The Spine Showcases are not ticketed; cash donations are accepted at the door… Producer and creator Kelley Gant states that “Kansas City is undoubtedly a jazz town. Our current jazz venues are a great place for musicians and audiences, but new and developing music is often too daring and loud or intricate and delicate to work in those rooms. Our series, The Spine Showcases,  is different. The emphasis is on the performance, and our audience comes to engage. We’re trying to build a missing rung on the ladder of opportunity in Kansas City. Where do musicians go to perform when their material is too adventurous to play in a corner of a restaurant, but it’s not polished enough to book at the GEM? Series like The Spine Showcases can fill that gap.”

(Original image of a Jay McShann artifact in an exhibit at the Blue Room by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Concert Review: Aaron Parks' Little Big at the Blue Room

The 2018 release by Aaron Park’s Little Big on the Ropeadope label may or may not be last year’s best album, but it’s almost certainly one of the most brilliantly produced jazz recordings in recent memory.  “Kid” is among the tracks with a sonic immediacy that’s uncommon in the realm of improvised music.  The New York based quartet replicated the album’s massive sound field at the Blue Room on Monday, June 24.  An audience of about 75- about half of whom were musicians- paid the $10 cover to hear keyboardist Parks, guitarist Greg Tuohey, bassist David Ginyard and drummer Tommy Crane play head-bobbing jams that felt just as vital as the latest work of Flying Lotus, Madlib and Thom Yorke.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Now's the Time: Vine Street Rumble


The history-minded big band Vine Street Rumble will accompany the folk-oriented singer-songwriter Danny Cox at the Kansas City Kansas Street Blues Festival on Saturday, June 29.  The unlikely pairing is briefly featured in the embedded video.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The lineup of The Prairie Village Jazz Festival was revealed last week: 4 p.m. Shawnee Mission East Blue Knights; 5 p.m. Matt Otto Quartet; 6:20 p.m. Vine Street Rumble; 7:30 p.m. Marcus Lewis Big Band; 8:45 p.m. Dan Thomas & the KC All-Star Big Band, featuring Lisa Henry.  The concert is Saturday, September 7, at 77th Street and Mission Road.

*Tony’s Kansas City considers a notable job opening at the American Jazz Museum.

*A man was shot to death at 18th & Vine last weekend.

*The duo of Ehud Ettun and Henrique Eisenmann returns to the 1900 Building on July 13.

*No artists from Kansas City were awarded first place in Downbeat’s 2019 Critics Poll.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Grace Prtichett- A logical next step is Green Lady Lounge before our pre-dinner break.

*From Chris Burnett: I am honored to announce that I have been asked to administrate and serve as the director of the 2019 Charlie Parker Student Music Boot Camp on Saturday, August 17 at the historic Gem Theater.  I have already confirmed the clinicians who will work with the campers: Bill Crain, saxophone; Stanton Kessler, trumpet; Jason Goudeau, trombone; Roger Wilder, piano; Charles Gatschet, guitar; Bill McKemy, bass; Clarence Smith, drums; Greg Carroll, vibes; and, Queen Bey, vocalist/ historic interview.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 23, 2019

These Little Town Blues


What does Elkhart, Indiana, have that Kansas City doesn’t?  The small town hosted a full-scale jazz festival featuring national touring acts this weekend.  The ostensible jazz mecca Kansas City?  Not so much.  The Prairie Village Jazz Festival, the sole jazz festival in the Kansas City area, will present a handful of locally based acts on September 7. 

Gregory Porter- a bona fide jazz star who has never performed in Kansas City- topped the 39-act lineup of the three-day Elkhart Jazz Festival.  New York City’s hot jazz revivalists the Hot Sardines, the adventurous Philadelphia duo Trap Rabbit, a Nashville based fusion band led by drummer Sophia Goodman and the smooth jazz saxophonist Kris Brownlee were among the other noteworthy performers.

The Elkhart Truth reports that Elkhart’s mayor rightfully trumpeted his town’s achievement: “I have it on good authority that some of America’s great jazz cities that include New Orleans, Memphis, Kansas City and Chicago have all declared that this weekend, Elkhart is the Jazz Capital of the U.S.”  I can’t vouch for New Orleans, Memphis or Chicago, but I can confirm that the jazz scene in Elkhart resoundingly trounced the offerings in Kansas City during the past 72 hours.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Now's the Time: Julian Vaughn


Julian Vaughn, a graduate of Shawnee Mission North High School, celebrates the release of his new album Supreme with a concert at iWerx on Saturday, June 29. Tickets are available here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Jazziz takes notice of Ernest Melton.

*Dan Gailey and his students at the University of Kansas discuss  a recent collaboration with Renee Rosnes in a brief video.

*Ryan Keberle & Catharsis return to Kansas City on July 8.

*Bret Primack created a video clip in which Sonny Rollins  considers Charlie Parker’s demeanor.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Dave D’Marko- Smooth jazz still playing and it’s pretty quiet in here as 92 percent of Kansas City ballots are in and Quinton Lucas has nearly a 2 to 1 lead over Jolie Justus. Closer to 60-40 counting surrounding counties that also have parts of city. #ElectionResults2019

*From a press release: The American Jazz Museum’s Kansas City Jazz Academy has secured a performance residency at KCMO’s City Hall extending over the next 12 weeks.  Beginning June 20th, every Thursday from 1:30pm – 2:00pm (prior to each week’s City Council meeting), students from the Academy’s combo classes will showcase their talents in the main rotunda of City Hall.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Concert Review: Snarky Puppy at Muriel Kauffman Theatre

With a box office gross of about $75,000, Snarky Puppy’s appearance at Muriel Kauffman Theater on Tuesday, June 11, was the most financially auspicious instrumental jazz concert of 2019 in Kansas City.  The $35 I paid for the worst seat in the house afforded me a panoramic view of the audience of more than 1,500.

The palpable enthusiasm of the uncommon mix of fans of freak-rock acts like Primus, refined pop enthusiasts of artists such as Sting and committed jazz aficionados added a sense of occasion to the band’s long overdue Kansas City debut.  Founded by Michael League in 2004 when he was a student at the University of North Texas, Snarky Puppy is a leading light in the progressive jazz scene and a coveted festival headliner.

Even so, I never warmed to Snarky Puppy’s update of the jazz fusion associated with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report and the Brecker Brothers.  The group’s output always struck me as the overly busy and bombastic work of prodigious studio geeks.  (Tuesday’s lineup consisted of violinist Zach Brock, saxophonist and flautist Chris Bullock, bassist Michael League, guitarist Mark Lettieri, trumpeter Mike Maher, saxophonist Bob Reynolds, keyboardist Bobby Sparks, keyboardist and trumpeter Justin Stanton, drummer Jason Thomas and percussionist Marcelo Woloski.)

I made a conscious decision to drop my guard on Tuesday.  By allowing the ten musicians to barrage me with their ostentatious solos and fussy arrangements without interference from my usual critical defenses, I gained a new appreciation for the collective.  The live presentation is vastly superior to dry studio albums like the 2019 release Immigrance.  I thrilled to each solo (the obligatory dual drummer bludgeoning excepted), admired the light show and was left wanting more at the conclusion of the 100-minute set.  I showed up merely to witness the Snarky Puppy phenomenon.  I left the Kauffman Center as a hard-won fan.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Now's the Time: Aaron Parks' Little Big


Some jazz enthusiasts in Kansas City may know of Aaron Parks only through his association with trumpeter Hermon Mehari.  Yet the 35-year-old keyboardist is one of the most formidable young figures in jazz.  Parks will appear with his electric group Little Big at the Blue Room on Monday, June 24.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*The Kansas City Star follows up on Evan Kappelman’s participation in Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra program.

*A blogger took in Trombone Shorty’s return to Crossroads KC last week.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Maarten Kolsloot- Charlie Parker, geen honkballer, wel een held in Kansas City en ver daarbuiten. American Jazz Museum, Kansas City. (photo)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Album Review: Mike Dillon, Earl Harvin and Arnold Young- Universal Pulse

I’d rather escort a gaggle of screaming children to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s than listen to a 71-minute recording of three percussionists improvising.  Yet my aversion to the concept dissipates when the musicians in question are Mike Dillon, Earl Harvin and Arnold YoungUniversal Pulse, a 2004 session professionally recorded in Kansas City and released by the netlabel Muteant Sounds last month, is nothing like a self-indulgent drum circle.  The elite percussionists wield a variety of instruments and reference rhythms from several cultures, but Universal Pulse isn’t a dreaded world music project.  Some of the best bits sound like a mob of preternaturally funky children banging on pots and pans.  Chuck E. Cheese’s is going to have to wait.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 7, 2019

Now's the Time: Frederick Hodges and Richard Dowling


The piano duo of Frederick Hodges and Richard Dowling entertain at a house concert in Leawood on Sunday, June 9.  The presentation organized by Kansas City Ragtime Revelry serves as a model for how decidedly unpopular forms of jazz can be presented in hospitable environments.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*The Kansas City Star reports on the closing of Californos, a sprawling restaurant complex that once hosted about a dozen jazz performances each month.

*Lawrence Leathers, a drummer with connections to Kansas City, has died.

*Thirty-eight minutes of raw footage documenting last weekend’s American Jazz Walk of Fame induction ceremony streams at YouTube.

*Tweet o’ the Week: McGill University- At yesterday’s #McGillGrad ceremony for Music, a Doctor of Music, honoris causa was conferred on Pat Metheny, an accomplished musician and pioneer in the realm of modern improvised music.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Album Review: Ralph Peterson & The Messenger Legacy- Legacy Alive, Volume 6 at the Side Door

The drought in new recordings by jazz musicians based in Kansas City is disquieting.  Yet Bobby Watson continues to make noise.  The hometown hero features prominently on Legacy Alive, Volume 6 at the Side Door, an incendiary 105-minute live album by Ralph Peterson & The Messenger Legacy.  Watson rose to fame as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the 1970s.  He joins Blakey alumni Bill Pierce (saxophone), trumpeter Brian Lynch (trumpet), Geoffrey Keezer (piano) and Essiet Essiet (bass) in a band led by drummer Peterson.  The new collection includes invigorating interpretations of Watson’s modern-day standards “In Case You Missed It” and “Wheel Within a Wheel”.  The selections are every bit as vital as readings of older Jazz Messenger staples like “Blues March” and “Along Came Betty.”  Hard bop often sounds formulaic at this late date, but there’s nothing tedious about Legacy Alive, Volume 6 at the Side Door.  An enormous talent accustomed to the cyclical nature of musical climates, Watson flourishes in drought conditions.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Now's the Time: Snarky Puppy


Snarky Puppy is well on its way to accomplishing something few other jazz or jazz-adjacent acts have achieved in recent years: selling 1,800 premium-priced concert tickets in Kansas City.  The group’s Kansas City debut at Muriel Kauffman Theatre on Tuesday, June 11, is almost sold out.  The Kansas City Star named the show one of the top ten concerts of the summer.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*Julie Denesha created a feature about ragtime’s legacy in Sedalia for KCUR.

*Mike Dillon recalls his time in Kansas City in an extensive intereview at Relix.

*E.E. Pointer of River Cow Orchestra chatted with Joe Dimino.

*The Kansas City Star previewed Saturday’s somewhat incongruous American Jazz Walk of Fame concert.

*The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Squirrel Nut Zippers will perform at Muriel Kauffman Theatre on February 1, 2020.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Magic 107.3- This is #IndigoHour at the @americanjazzmuseum Blue Room (video)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Concert Review: Der Lange Schatten at the Blue Room


It takes a lot of planning to be spontaneous. That’s the paradoxical takeaway of a performance by Der Lange Schatten at the Blue Room on Monday, May 20.  More than three dozen people heard the German trio’s carefully orchestrated form of experimental chamber jazz at the free show presented by Goethe Pop Up Kansas City.  Der Lange Schatten’s avant-garde explorations were moored by written arrangements.  Even during the wildest moments, reedman Michael Thieke, pianist Håvard Wiik and bassist Antonio Borghini scrutinized sheet music.  I documented a frenetic solo by Thieke and an example of Wiik’s unconventional approach at Instagram.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Now's the Time: Charles Williams


The elegant pianist Charles Williams accompanies Eboni Fondren at the Phoenix on Thursday, May 23.  Williams will lead a trio at Eddie V's on the second, third and fourth Sundays in June.  Plastic Sax reviewed Williams' fine 2018 album Flavors of Jazz.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*KCUR shares a notification from The Kansas City Business Journal that Ralph Caro has been named as the new interim director of the American Jazz Museum.  Elizabeth Orosco interviewed Caro for Northeast News.

*KC Studio reports that a play about the late Myra Taylor will have “a possible late fall premiere” in Kansas City.

*Tweet o’ the Week: AstroGirlBunny- At Blue Room jazz night club in Kansas City Missouri listening to a jazz band they flew in from Berlin Germany. Fantastic! #jazz #music #KansasCity #berlin #Germany

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Ghosts in the Machine


Kansas City’s jazz scene isn’t merely haunted by its illustrious history.  The formidable legacy of past masters often seems to suffocate the musicians of today.  That’s one of the takeaways from an exercise I conducted at my nondenominational music blog There Stands the Glass.

The examination of Spotify’s monthly listeners metric for artists associated with Kansas City offers intriguing insights into the consumption of jazz recordings.  Half of the artists in the top ten and 24 of the top 100 are jazz musicians.  Pat Metheny, Karrin Allyson, the jazz-adjacent Oleta Adams and the smooth jazz stars Norman Brown and Julian Vaughn are the only living jazz artists in the top 50.  And the gulf between the iconic Charlie Parker (#10, 495,000 monthly listeners) and his present-day successor Logan Richardson (#99, 1,000 monthly listeners) is astounding. 

The absence of many of the artists regularly documented at Plastic Sax is glaring.   I note at the original post that “many ostensible hometown heroes are streamed by only a few hundred users each month.”  Streaming isn’t a zero-sum game- just because someone streams Charlie Parker doesn’t mean they’re not also streaming Logan Richardson- but the extreme imbalance between old and new is frightening.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, May 17, 2019

Now's the Time: Christian Swan


Christian Swan will perform at the Blue Room on Friday, May 17, and at Westport Coffeehouse on Sunday, May 19.  The keyboardist recently announced that he’s moving from Kansas City to Chicago.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*Nothing in Steve Paul’s thoughtful assessment of the health of Kansas City’s jazz scene for KC Studio will come as a surprise to devoted readers of Plastic Sax.

*As noted by KCUR, Soirée Steak & Oyster House recently opened in the Jazz District.  The venue features performances by jazz musicians every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

*A writer for Jazz Journal analyzes Pete Kelly’s Blues, the 1955 movie starring Jack Webb that’s set in Kansas City.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Dreamgirl Stephanie Ashlyn- I let my kitty Easter pick a Pat Metheny cd. Now playing: Secret Story.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Concert Review: Havilah Bruders and Paul Shinn at Black Dolphin


Even though I’d heard Havilah Bruders perform several times with the roots-rock band Cadillac Flambé and I’d listened to her 2017 jazz album Come Rain or Shine, I didn’t grasp the depth of her talent until I heard her sing at a Sunday morning service at my church two months ago.  The Kansas City vocalist’s interpretation of “Love Rescue Me”- a song co-written by U2 and Bob Dylan that had previously failed to resonate with me- delivered a genuinely religious experience.

Bruders’ duet with pianist Paul Shinn in a Friday matinee performance at Black Dolphin on May 10 validated my newfound enthusiasm.  The husky growl, thunderous voice and outsize personality of Bruders remind me of the country star Wynonna Judd.  (Just in case you’re wondering, that’s a compliment.)  I’m extremely skeptical of the clichéd rock-singer-shifts-to-jazz transformation, but Bruders makes the grade.

Shinn recently returned to Kansas City following a stint in New York City.  (His first, second and third albums were reviewed at Plastic Sax.)  Playing as well as ever, Shinn adapted his approach for each selection, seamlessly deviating between barrelhouse piano, cocktail lounge tinkling and elegant swing.  He played the role of Ralph Sharon to Bruders’ Tony Bennett and the Tedd Firth to her Marilyn Maye in the winning cabaret-style outing that merited more than an audience of ten. 

A stale repertoire is the duo’s sole flaw.  I’ll need fewer warhorses like “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” and more left-field selections like “Love Rescue Me” if there's to be any chance of experiencing another spiritual epiphany the next time I catch the tandem.

Partial first set setlist (I missed the initial selections): Corcovada (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars); Why Don’t You Do Right?; Crazy; Route 66; Dream a Little Dream of Me; Georgia on My Mind; It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing); The Very Thought of You

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Now's the Time: Der lange Schatten


Pianist Håvard Wiik, clarinetist Michael Thieke and bassist Antonio Borghini will perform at the Blue Room on Monday, May 20, as Der lange Schatten.  The appearance of the Berlin based trio is sponsored by Goethe Pop Up.  The organization brought the Chicago Plan to the Blue Room last month.  (Plastic Sax review.)  Wiik plays a solo piece in the embedded video.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*Since the founding of Plastic Sax in 2007, I’ve made a point of staying out of the business of The Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors.  With apologies to the Plastic Sax readers who have encouraged me to comment on the ongoing behind-the-scenes drama at the organization, I’m not about to start now.

*Justin Binek and John Stafford discussed Kansas City Kansas Community College’s jazz program on a morning television program.

*Jefferson City’s News Tribune published an article about Mike Ning.

*Milt Abel, Jr. recalls his father in a profile at The Daily Beast.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Drew Williams- How wild is it that in New York, there are entire jazz scenes that think music made after 1940 is way too hip??? Like, if your pants don’t go up to your nipples, what are you even doing?

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Grading the 2019-20 Season of the Folly Jazz Series


The Folly Jazz Series is a reassuring beacon of consistency on a jazz scene in which other longstanding institutions seem to be crumbling.  Unveiled last month, the strong 2019-20 bookings should provide Kansas City’s devotees of mainstream jazz with solace.  Season subscribers can purchase tickets on July 26.  Tickets to individual shows will be available August 16.

Branford Marsalis
October 4, 2019               
Saxophonist and bandleader Branford Marsalis is the most consistently interesting member of the first family of American music.  Marsalis will presumably appear with his quartet, one of the finest longstanding groups in jazz.
Grade: A-

Stefon Harris & Blackout
October 26, 2019                 
The vibraphonist and bandleader Stefon Harris is a self-described “thought leader.”  One of his best ideas is an insistence on surrounding himself with stellar young musicians.  In a 2008 appearance at the Folly, Harris’ band included the soon-to-be stars Logan Richardson and Marc Cary.  Here’s hoping this version of Blackout is equally auspicious.
Grade: B+

Pedrito Martinez
December 13, 2019           
Pedrito Martinez was named percussionist of the year by the Jazz Journalists Association last week.  The recent Tiny Desk Concert performance by the native of Cuba also showcases his engaging singing.
Grade: B+

Stacey Kent
February 22 , 2020               
While she’s since ceded the titled to Cécile McLorin Salvant, Stacey Kent was hailed as the most exciting new vocalist in jazz a few years ago.  The feathery touch of the American who rose to fame in England remains delightful.
Grade: A-

Luciana Souza
March 7, 2020
The Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza is married to the noted producer Larry Klein, an association that partly explains her exceptionally refined adult pop sound.  Souza should thrill Karrin Allyson’s many fans in Kansas City.
Grade: B

John Pizzarelli
April 24, 2020                     
John Pizzarelli is a crowd-pleasing traditionalist.  The most recent album by the guitarist and vocalist is a tribute to Nat King Cole.
Grade: B-

Plastic Sax conducted the same exercise in 2018, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, May 3, 2019

Now's the Time: The Heartland Trio

The Iowa based Heartland Trio is touring in support of its 2018 debut album Year One.  The ensemble led by bassist Hannah Marks will combine deep grooves with delicate folk textures at Mod Gallery on Thursday, May 9.  Details are available here.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes



*An album review in the June issue of Downbeat suggests that Hazel, the new release by Drew Williams’ Wing Walker Orchestra, is “concurrently vibrant, accessible and subtly sophisticated.”

*Footage of Arturo Sandoval’s concert at the Folly Theater is shared by Joe Dimino.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Kansas City Fed- Today is #InternationalJazzDay! For a fun, educational activity, read "Concert Tours are Where the Real Money Is" with your child and discuss how music artists combine live tours with recorded music to earn their living. (link: https://abcn.ws/2UM8YoW) abcn.ws/2UM8YoW

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Concert Review: The Chicago Plan at the Blue Room


The American Jazz Museum described the sound of the Chicago Plan as “loose and cool" in a social media post promoting the avant-garde ensemble’s April 26 appearance at the Blue Room.  Those aren’t the words anyone in the audience of about 100 for the ensemble’s first set would have used.  The pairing of the adjectives “agitated and incendiary” or “chaotic and combustible” better represent the ensemble’s attack.

The extremely rare booking of free jazz stalwarts in Kansas City was made possible by the well-financed Goethe Pop Up.  A billboard in the Crossroads District advertised the concert.  The gambit may not have worked.  Aside from affiliates of the Goethe group and the locally based musicians Bill McKemy, Adam Schlozman, Brian Steever and Rich Wheeler who alternated sets with the Chicago Plan, I may have been the sole enthusiast of Fred Lonberg-Holm, Steve Swell, Gebhard Ullmann and Michael Zerang to pay the $10 cover charge.

With collective recording credits that include sessions with Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, El-P, Ken Vandermark, Wilco and John Zorn, the members of the Chicago Plan are all-stars in the new music community.  They validated their reputations as elite noise-makers.  Lonberg-Holm, a self-described “anti-cellist,” provided the biggest surprises.  He contributed ominous electronic enhancements, made his instrument sound like a rusty door hinge and summoned the ghost of the MC5 guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith.

Steve Swell served as a maniacal master of ceremonies.  His snarky attempts to engage the dozens of high school choir students from Iowa who filled the back half of the club fell flat, but nearly everything else he and his colleagues attempted was explosive.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Now's the Time: Arturo Sandoval


Arturo Sandoval regularly rubs shoulders with other legends.  The trumpeter collaborated with icons including Plácido Domingo and Ariana Grande on his 2018 album Ultimate Duets.  He works with the pop star Prince Royce in the embedded video.  Sandoval will focus on Latin jazz at the Folly Theater on Saturday, April 27.  Every area gig is listed on The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*Rod Fleeman, Gerald Spaits and Todd Strait are praised in a letter to the editor published by The Kansas City Star.

*Joe Dimino shares footage of a performance by the River Cow Orchestra.

*The Bad Plus, Danilo Perez, Chris Potter and Craig Taborn are among the musicians performing at the Iowa City Jazz Festival in July.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Melissa Bower- Great music this weekend at the @424Lounge - quickly becoming an African-American-owned, veteran-owned #BlackBusiness icon in #leavenworth #kansas - check out their website for a schedule of musicians. #kcjazz #KCMO http://424lounge.com

*From a press release: The teen Olathe saxophonist Evan Kappelman “has earned the honor of being selected as one of 22 of the brightest young jazz musicians from across the U.S. for the 2019 roster of Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Jazz Orchestra... this summer he’ll be training with world-class jazz musicians and performing at Carnegie Hall before embarking on NYO Jazz’s debut tour to Asia.

*From a press release: KU Jazz Ensemble I, under the direction of Dan Gailey, was named the best graduate college large jazz ensemble in the country in the 42 Annual Downbeat Student Music Awards. DownBeat also recognized Alex Annan, a master’s student in jazz composition from Omaha, Nebraska… Under Gailey’s leadership, the KU Jazz Studies Program has received 27 DownBeat Student Music Awards since 1992.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, April 22, 2019

Concert Review: The Joshua Redman Quartet at the Folly Theater


Joshua Redman is one of the elite jazz musicians of his generation partly because of his versatility and range.  He showcased the conventional side of his talent at the Folly Theater on Thursday, April 11.  The celebrated saxophonist, 50, and his longtime touring band of pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, played more than 90 minutes of mainstream jazz for an audience of more than 600.  Five of the nine songs on the setlist were drawn from the group’s strait-laced new album Come What May.  Rather than offering the thrill of the new, the quartet demonstrated that mainstream jazz needn’t sound routine.  Even at his dullest, Redman is one of the most exciting men in jazz.

Setlist: Circle of Life, How We Do, Come What May, Shed, I’ll Go Mine, Bloomdido, Stardust, DGAF, Yesterdays

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Now's the Time: The Chicago Plan


Trombonist Steve Swell and saxophonist Gebhard Ullmann will perform at the Blue Room on Friday, April 26, under the auspices of The Chicago Plan.  The extremely rare avant-garde booking at the Blue Room is part of the ongoing Goethe Pop Up festival in Kansas City.  Swell and Ullman will be joined by cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer Michael Zerang.  Every area gig is listed at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*The editorial board of The Kansas City Star chastises the city for spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on last year’s Open Spaces festival.  A recap of the artistically audacious but woefully attended festival is included in Plastic Sax’s end-of-the year survey of Kansas City’s jazz scene.

*Not a single Kansas City musician or institution is among the dozens of nominees in the Jazz Journalists Association’s JJA Jazz Awards 2019.

*Logan Richardson’s return to the Blue Room is previewed by The Kansas City Star.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Charlie Parker- Charlie Parker with Strings: Alternate Takes comes 70 years since the initial recordings & the Record Store Day LP set comes in a blue vinyl matching the updated original David Stone Martin cover. Exclusively available 4/13 at participating record stores. http://RecordStoreDay.com

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Concert Review: Assif Tsahar and Tatsuya Nakatani at the 1900 Building


An Israeli saxophonist and a Japanese percussionist walk into an office building in Kansas…  It’s not the opening line of an offensive joke.  Instead, the unlikely scenario resulted in a bracing avant-garde recital at the 1900 Building on Wednesday, April 10.  Longtime friends and collaborators Assif Tsahar and Tatsuya Nakatani played two brief but incendiary sets.  I paid $21 to join three dozen people at the improvisatory freakout. 

Tsahar wailed like a free jazz superhero on tenor saxophone as Nakatani banged on drums, sawed on gongs and did untoward things to cymbals.  I’ll admit to later goofing on Nakatani’s manic style with pots, pans and utensils in my kitchen, but I can’t come close to replicating his expert form of mayhem.  Even when pieces of Nakatani’s kit accidentally fell to the floor, the timing of each crash was perfect.

I understand why skeptics doubt the sanity of audiences who intentionally subject themselves to free jazz.  “Is it even music?”  Yet the question answers itself.  I may not encounter more vital music in 2019 than the cacophonous commotion created by Tasahar and Nakatani in Mission Woods, Kansas.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Now's the Time: Logan Richardson

Logan Richardson is one of a handful of musicians from the Kansas City area who have been featured on an episode of NPR’s illustrious Tiny Desk Concert series.  The saxophonist’s 2018 contribution to the showcase is embedded here.  Richardson performs at Blue Room on Thursday, April 18.  The concert is one of the day’s 18 gigs listed on The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*Ernest Melton is featured in a brief video profile created by Google.

*Joe Dimino captured footage of Johnson County Community College Night at Black Dolphin.

*Sue Vicory recently uploaded her hour-long documentary Kansas City Jazz & Blues; Past, Present & Future to YouTube.

*The Kansas City Star includes an upcoming performance by the Joshua Redman Quartet among its weekly concert previews.

*Moon Hooch will perform at the Encore Room on July 10.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Uptown Arts Bar- Tonight and every Thursday 7pm-1am All That Jazz Karaoke at @UptownArtsBar

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Matt Otto, Danny Embrey, Sam Copeland and Brian Steever at Black Dolphin


The ticket I buy at the box office of the Folly Theater on Thursday for a concert by the Joshua Redman Quartet will almost surely be money well spent.  The saxophonist deserves his status as one of the biggest stars in mainstream jazz.

I wasn’t required to open my wallet to catch a similarly refined quartet on Wednesday.  Performances at Black Dolphin are always free.  Saxophonist Matt Otto,  guitarist Danny Embrey, bassist Sam Copeland and drummer Brian Steever were staggeringly good. 

Otto immediately became one of Kansas City’s finest musicians upon moving to the area in 2009.  Embrey has a chameleon-like tendency to play at the level of his collaborators, a trait that resulted in a magnificent effort on Wednesday. 

A $40 seat in the center of the second row is currently available for Redman’s concert.  I hope to snag it Thursday.  While I know that Redman’s showmanship will be enormously entertaining, I’m less confident that the star will equal the musical standard set by Otto last week.

Otto’s quartet returns to on Black Dolphin on Wednesday, April 10, Wednesday, April 17, and Wednesday, April 24.  I shared a portion of an Otto solo at Instagram.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Now's the Time: Joshua Redman


The modern-day jazz giant Joshua Redman last performed in Kansas City with the Bad Plus in 2016.  (I reviewed the concert for The Kansas City Star.)  The saxophonist was in equally fine form as a headliner of the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in New York in 2017.  (I reviewed the event at Plastic Sax.)   Redman will be joined by pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson at the Folly Theater on Thursday, April 11.  The concert is one of more than 20 of the evening’s performances listed at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes



*A critic for a British newspaper praises Hermon Mehari in a concert review that suggests “our side of the pond is where jazz is at in 2019.”

*Marilyn Maye’s new show in New York is titled “I Wish I Were 90 Again!”.

* Drew Williams and Ben Leifer chatted with Joe Dimino.

*Jazz St. Louis is presenting April and May performances by the Branford Marsalis Quartet, Marcus Strickland with Ron Miles and Matt Wilson, the Brad Mehldau Trio, the Pedrito Martinez Group, Arturo O’Farrill, Jazzmeia Horn and the John Pizzarelli Trio with Catherine Russell.  Not one of these stars is slated to appear in Kansas City.

*Tweet o’ the Week: UMKC MNL- Are you around campus this week? Check out one (or all) of our exhibits! Floor G: Focusing on Faces, A Life in a Year Part 3 Floor 3: Jay McShann's Kansas City Floor 4: Poetics of Invention, a traveling exhibit from OU

*April’s gig listings are posted at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Ears in Arrears


A Kansas City musician posted a derisive comment in response to a video clip I shared on Instagram documenting a dissonant performance at the Big Ears Festival.  His rejection of boundary-pushing music reflects the conservatism that often makes Kansas City’s jazz scene seem like the land that time forgot.

I recently joined 18,000 people at the Big Ears Festival because the festival was loaded with prominent jazz artists who haven’t played Kansas City in the past ten years, or in many cases, have never set foot inside the city limits.  The long list of luminaries at the 2019 edition of the festival included the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Nik Bärtsch, Tim Berne, Mathias Eick, Mary Halvorson, Shabaka Hutchings, Nicole Mitchell, Evan Parker, Ned Rothenberg, Leo Wadada Smith, Craig Taborn, David Torn, Ralph Towner and Nate Wooley.  If these cutting-edge musicians aren’t going to come to Kansas City, I’m going to go to them.  (My capsule reviews of the 30 concerts I caught at Big Ears are here.

Club owners and concert presenters aren’t to blame.  If there was a hearty appetite for forward-thinking jazz, they wouldn’t hesitate to dish it up.  Yet as proven time after time after time, there’s simply not much of an audience for the sound of the moment in Kansas City. 

It’s a civic embarrassment that the profoundly influential stars Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah and Robert Glasper haven’t appeared in town in the past ten years.  Even the Lee’s Summit native Pat Metheny avoids his hometown.  Kansas City’s dogged adherence to convention compelled revolutionary artists ranging from Charlie Parker to Logan Richardson to establish their reputations elsewhere.

Much of the jazz performed in Kansas City today wouldn’t have sounded out of place sixty years ago.  And to be fair, that’s not an entirely bad thing.  Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, Jimmy Smith’s The Sermon! and Count Basie and Billy Eckstine’s Basie/Eckstine Incorporated were released in 1959.  If you’re going to get stuck in the past, it doesn’t get much better than that.  But a full immersion in the sound of 2019 requires traveling to cities like Knoxville, London, Chicago and New York.

(Original image of David Torn, Craig Taborn, Vijay Iyer, Nik Bärtsch, Steve Lake and Nate Chinen by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Now's the Time: Renee Rosnes


Renee Rosnes, one of the most accomplished mainstream pianists of the last 30 years, will perform with Dan Gailey’s KU Jazz Ensemble I at the Lied Center on Thursday, April 4.  Rosnes leads an all-star band in the embedded clip.  Thursday’s concert is one of hundreds of gigs listed at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar in April.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*Bobby Watson reveals that “I plan on retiring from academia and going back to touring full-time and writing and composing and living my life like I used to” in a video feature created by The Kansas City Star.

*Charles Williams’ Flavors of Jazz album was reviewed by a critic for The Toledo Blade.

*Logan Richardson makes an appearance on Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s new album Ancestral Recall.

*The Kansas City Star previewed a concert by the Manhattan Transfer and Take 6.

*The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s 4th Annual Jazz & Jackie Celebration includes performances by Alex Bugnon and Eric Darius on April 13.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Corey O- If you’re downtown, check out green lady lounge for jazz and manifesto for cocktails in a speakeasy

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Album Review: Dave Scott- In Search of Hipness


The great sage Willie Dixon insisted that “you can’t judge a book by looking at the cover.”  If I hadn’t already seen the former Kansas City area resident Dave Scott perform several times, the lamentable title and uninspired album art of In Search of Hipness would have compelled me to take a hard pass on his new release.

My shallowness would have caused me to missed out on of the new year’s most intriguing albums.  The packaging may not be hip, but trumpeter's off-kilter New York City chamber jazz is extremely stylish.  Even as the recording echoes the past masters Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Andrew Hill, it’s entirely au currant.  Violinist Sarah Bernstein, guitarist Nate Radley, pianist Jacob Sacks, bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Mark Ferber help Scott create up-to-the-minute soundscapes. 

Dixon also proclaimed that “you can’t judge right by looking at the wrong.”  Adventurous jazz fans shouldn’t allow the surface imperfections of In Search of Hipness to dissuade them from appreciating Scott’s extraordinarily beautiful work.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Now's the Time: The Jim Lower Big Band


The weekly Jim Lower Big Band session recently migrated from Parker & Vine to Black Dolphin.  The ensemble performs at the latter club on Tuesdays.  Every area gig is listed on The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*That’s My Jazz, a short documentary in which “Milt Abel II, a world-renowned pastry chef, reflects on his relationship with his deceased father Milton Abel Sr., famed Kansas City jazz musician,” will be screened at a film festival in New York City next month.

*The Pitch reports that John Scott, the man behind the jazz venues Green Lady Lounge and Black Dolphin, has assumed control of operations at the midtown space formerly occupied by Uptown Arts Bar.

*KC Studio published a profile of Marcus Lewis.

*Alex Abramovitz chatted with Joe Dimino.

*The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis is returning to the Midland theatre to play a Christmas-themed concert on December 5.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Tony’s Kansas City- The Uptown Arts Bar Was Always Sketchy But Recently Denizens Of The Establishment Had Failed To Inspire Creativity And Now More Sober Management Hopes For A Turnaround. More Backhanded Hints About Why This Biz FAILED As Broadway Corridor Struggles

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The 411 on 424 Lounge


A swank jazz club opened in January.  It’s not in downtown Kansas City, nor is it situated in an affluent suburban development.  424 Lounge is in Leavenworth, a town closely associated with a famous penitentiary and a large military installation.  424 Lounge may alter that perception. 

On Saturday, March 9, I paid a $8 cover charge to hear a sublime performance by trombonist Jason Goudeau, keyboardist Eddie Moore, bassist Seth Lee and bassist Mike Warren.  Similarly auspicious artists perform every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the handsome, old-school venue.

The room isn’t merely stylish by local standards.  424 Lounge would be one of the nicer jazz venues in New York City.  The friendliness of somewhat uneven service and the fine acoustics are commendable.  Situated 30 miles from downtown Kansas City, 424 Lounge doesn’t lend itself to spontaneous visits, but it’s well worth the trek.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, March 15, 2019

Now's the Time: Adam Nussbaum's Lead Belly Project


Jazz renditions of songs associated with the blues icon Lead Belly doesn’t seem like a promising proposition.  Yet Adam Nussbaum validates the unusual concept with his Lead Belly Project.  The drummer will be joined by guitarist Steve Cardenas (his third Kansas City appearance in four months!), guitarist Nate Radley and saxophonist Ohad Talmor in the intimate Gospel Lounge at Knuckleheads on Thursday, March 21.  The performance is one of the date’s 19 shows listed on The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*The story behind a 1953 photograph of Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and Roy Haynes is told by Peter Facini of The New York Times.

*Joe Dimino documented a performance by Kerry Politzer at Black Dolphin.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Ben Putano- I'm not hating… but I think if someone came to KC for a Jazz-related vacation they'd leave disappointed. And that's a shame.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Concert Review: Ryan Keberle & Catharsis at Mod Gallery


Camila Meza sang “the order is rapidly fading” in a ravishingly melancholy rendition of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” at Mod Gallery on Sunday, March 3.  How I wish it were so!

While the celebrated Chilean musician and her bandmates- trombonist Ryan Keberle, saxophonist John Ellis, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Eric Doob- were playing what Keberle characterized as political “protest music”- I couldn’t help but apply the sentiment to the group’s progressive musical approach.

Kansas City remains largely impervious to the charms of forward-thinking improvised music, an aversion reflected by the show’s attendance.  Less than 20 people braved frigid conditions to pay the $15 cover charge.  That’s even fewer than at the group’s free performance at Black Dolphin in 2018.

As Downbeat’s review of the band’s performance two days earlier in St. Louis and a 2014 appearance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert indicate, Catharsis is one of the most notable jazz-based touring groups of recent years.

With its surfeit of star power, emphasis on imaginative arrangements and commitment to banishing standard practices, the group resembles a modern-day Weather Report.  The abundance of talent occasionally led to frustration.  Individual expression was repressed in favor of a commitment to ensemble work.  (I posted one of Meza's brief solo statements to Instagram.)

Ellis didn’t let loose until the last set was almost over.  The saxophonist’s solo on “Fooled and Pushed Apart,” a composition inspired by Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America Again,” was as gloriously poignant as Ray Charles’ singing on “America the Beautiful.”  It was the sort of inspiring statement that everyone in Kansas City deserves to hear.  Yet for the time being, the times are a-changin’ elsewhere.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)