Sunday, November 17, 2019

Album Review: The Myers Swingset- The State of This City

The provocative title of The State of This City, the new album by the Myers Swingset, demands a forthright reckoning.  Pianist and bandleader Jackie Myers, saxophonist Mike Herrera, bassist Sam Copeland and drummer Jim Lower provide a high-definition aural snapshot of the music most commonly performed in Kansas City jazz clubs.

Myers’ 2018 album The Instrumental One is an uncommonly hazy document, but the Texas transplant and the three stalwarts of Kansas City’s scene offer a buttoned-down form of jazz on The State of This City.  The album may be unapologetically mainstream, but strong melodies and unfailingly swinging arrangements deter tedium.

Myers is the least assertive member of quartet.  Her largess allows Herrera to sound like one of Cannonball Adderley’s worthiest disciples.  His contribution to the funky “Song for Lydia” is particularly rewarding.  Copeland’s heartfelt bowed solo on “Ice Elation” is a thing of beauty.  Lower is unleashed on “Modal Logic.”  And Myers earns bonus points for the ingenious title of “Ernestly Melting”.

The audience at the live recording is the most troubling aspect of The State of This City.  The lackluster response of what seems to be a couple dozen people at the Green Lady Lounge sounds as if hostages are being forced to applaud at gunpoint.  Their timidity belies the setting.  Local audiences demand expertly performed straight-ahead jazz.

The State of This City doesn’t contain a single surprise or unexpected turn.  Uniform consistency is also precisely what’s prized at Kansas City’s ballyhooed barbecue restaurants.  It’s indicative of the conservative nature of the region.  The jazz scene looks and sounds much different elsewhere, but adherence to convention and dedication to decorum continue to define the state of this city.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Now's the Time: Jason Marsalis


Jason Marsalis, the younger brother of Branford, Wynton and Delfeayo, performs at the Blue Room on Saturday, Nov 16.  The vibraphonist evokes Milt Jackson in the embedded clip.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Adam Galdblum was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*The State of This City, a new album by the Myers Swingset, was released last week.

*Vewiser Dixon shares his plans for the Jazz District with The Kansas City Star.

*Tweet o’ the Week: 20sJazz- Bennie Moten was born today in Kansas City, Missouri in 1894. Considered the creator of the Kansas City sound, the pianist and bandleader began his recording career playing a regional interpretation of New Orleans jazz with a stomping beat.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Album Review: Matt Villinger- All Day

I still recall the intense look of concentration on the face of Matt Villinger at a 2017 concert by Thundercat.  I reckoned he was simply enjoying the bassist’s groundbreaking combination of jazz, funk and electronic music.  The release of All Day reveals that the Kansas City based musician was plotting an uprising.  Villinger’s second solo album equals- and may even surpass- the quality of Thundercat’s acclaimed 2017 release Drunk.  Joined by vibraphonist Peter Schlamb, trumpeter Hermon Mehari, bassist Nick Jost and drummer Zach Morrow, the keyboardist and vocalist doubles down on the brash sound of his 2015 album All Night.  The hyper-aggressive form of fusion foments a restorative sense of contentedness.  The counterintuitive effect should make All Day the feel-good hit of the winter for everyone fortunate enough to encounter its invigorating grooves.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Now's the Time: Jeanette Harris and Althea René


The inclusive appeal of smooth jazz is immediately apparent in the feel-good music video for “We Are One,” a lively new single by Althea René and Jeanette Harris.  The artists appear at a benefit for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum at the Gem Theater on Saturday, November 9.  Their performance is among The Kansas City Star’s weekly concert recommendations.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The creator of Plastic Sax appeared on Marcus Lewis’ Ask a Jazz Dude show.

*June’s Jazz Club opened at the location of the former Uptown Arts Bar.

*Matt Hopper was interviewed on the Trading Fours podcast.  This sketchy link is apparently the only way to listen.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Beth Tofurky- The constant use of "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas into commercials during @Chiefs broadcasts proves that 1. People still don't know Kansas City is in Missouri 2. The @NFL needs to research the history of jazz. #nfl #Chiefs #18thandvine

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Ask a Jazz Blogger

I’m not entirely sure what’s on the agenda for my appearance on the 58th episode of the Ask a Jazz Dude show.  (12:10 p.m. CST Monday, November 4).  Left to my own devices, I’ll repeat my claim that strictly in artistic terms, jazz is thriving.  The miniscule size of the audience for the music doesn’t diminish its magnificence.

The ambiguity that accompanies obscurity makes defining terms essential when discussing jazz in 2019.  Jazz enthusiasts often unwittingly talk past one another because they have entirely different conceptions of the term.  Perhaps because I’m deeply engaged with all types of music, the jazz I’m most passionate about tends to reflect the tenor of the times.

The following list of my 25 favorite jazz albums released in October is intended to clarify my enthusiasm while demonstrating the abundance of the dynamic improvised music being made today.  Ordered by my personal preference, most of these vital sounds are shunned by pitifully conservative jazz radio programmers and are rarely performed on stages in Kansas City. 

Not only are none of these innovative albums by Kansas City musicians, not a single jazz-based album of any stripe was released by a locally based artist in October.  I hope to address this deficiency on the Ask a Jazz Dude session.

1. Kris Davis- Diatom Ribbons (Oct. 4)
The elevation of Cecil Taylor’s unit structures.

2. Robert Glasper- Fuck Yo Feelings (Oct. 3)
You don’t think this is jazz?  You know what to do with your feelings.

3. Jamie Branch- Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise (Oct. 11)
Jazz musicians with punk attitudes are inestimable.

4. Matana Roberts- Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis (Oct. 18)
Conceptual art-jazz.

5. Roberto Fonseca- Yesun (Oct. 18)
Simultaneously slick and earthy.

6. Bill Frisell- Harmony (Oct. 4)
Pastoral folk-jazz.

7. Mary Halvorson and John Dieterich- A Tangle of Stars (Oct. 25)
Exhilarating guitar skronk.

8. Joshua Redman with Brooklyn Rider- Sun On Sand (Oct. 4)
Third stream thrills.

9. Noah Preminger- Zigsaw: Music of Steve Lampert (Oct. 4)
A bonkers electro-jazz odyssey.

10. Petter Eldh- Koma Saxo (Oct. 4)
European free jazz given a dub treatment.

11. Portico Quartet- Memory Stream (Oct. 4)
Electrifying ambient jazz.

12. Kit Downes- Dreamlife of Debris (Oct. 25)
Contemplative church organ jazz.

13. Esbjörn Svensson Trio- Live in Gothenburg (Oct. 25)
A previously unreleased 2001 concert by the ill-fated group.

14. The Bad Plus- Activate Infinity (Oct. 25)
The trio’s second album with pianist Orrin Evans.

15. Chris Lightcap- SuperBigMouth (Oct. 4)
A double quartet with prog-rock inclinations.

16. GoGo Penguin- Ocean In A Drop (Oct. 4)
Acoustic techno-jazz.

17. Nicholas Payton- Relaxin’ with Nick (Oct. 25)
A (relatively) straight-ahead live set.

18. Tamika Reid Quartet- Old New (Oct. 4)
Bristling ingenuity.

19. Rez Abbasi- A Throw of Dice (Oct. 18)
Beyond time, place and form.

20. Yazz Ahmed- Polyhymnia (Oct. 11)
A British big band tackles unconventional arrangements.

21. Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain and Chris Potter- Good Hope (Oct. 11)
Seamless assimilation.

22. Jan Garbarek and Hilliard Ensemble- Remember Me, My Dear (Oct. 18)
Quintessential ECM Records.

23. Marquis Hill-  Love Tape (Oct. 11)
A smoldering concept album.

24. Gebhard Ullmann- Mikropuls (Oct. 18)
The German free jazz saxophonist performed at the Blue Room in April.

25. Made to Break- F4 Fake (Oct. 18)
An urgent missive from Ken Vandermark.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)