Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCUR aired an audio feature about Robert Castillo and the Sextet.  The Sextet also performed on The Star Sessions.

*Eddie Moore made an appearance on the weekly Thursdays with Timothy Finn radio show.

*Pat Metheny’s relationship with the Montreal International Jazz Festival is considered by NPR’s Jazz Night in America.  A cranky Australian journalist gets the scoop on Metheny’s next album.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Jewell Omaha- One of Kansas City's best jazz acts brings its sound to the stage at The Jewell Friday, Sept. 27th. Bob Bowman & Bowdog featuring Bob Bowman, Hermon Mehari, Ben Markley, Peter Schlamb, and Brian Steever. A show for true jazz lovers.

(Original image of the Sextet’s album release show at RecordBar by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, September 16, 2019

Freed by Free Jazz: The 2019 Chicago Jazz Festival, Part Two

One of the most prominent figures on Kansas City’s jazz scene insists that his town is home to “the best jazz musicians in the world.”  It’s a lovely thought, but even the staunchest advocates of hometown pride would have been disabused of that notion had they joined me at the Chicago Jazz Festival on Labor Day weekend.  Twenty-two of the 30 jazz acts I heard during my 72 hours in Chicago were locally based.  All but a handful were at least as auspicious as their counterparts in Kansas City.

It’s also worth noting that Camila Meza is the only one of the approximately 500 musicians featured at the festival who have made an appearance in Kansas City this year.  The scarcity of concerts by the world’s most important jazz musicians is a galling reflection of the low demand for their talents in Kansas City.  The following assessments of every set I caught at the Chicago Jazz Festival are ordered by my personal preference.

Friday, August 30

1. The Art Ensemble of Chicago
After catching the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s incendiary outing at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville in March, I was eager to verify my sense that the legendary group led by Roscoe Mitchell truly managed to reassert itself as one of the most essential groups on the planet by expanding its size, sound and repertoire.  Brilliance confirmed!

2. The Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet
The trumpeter- a contender for my favorite musician of the decade- dedicated his set to the late Roy Hargrove.  The simmering playing of Akinmusire, pianist Sam Harris, bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Justin Brown exuded indignant rage.  The sirens of nearby emergency vehicles heightened the sense of urgency.

3. The Juju Exchange
The young Chicago group led by Nico Segal, a.k.a. Donnie Trumpet of Chance the Rapper fame, didn’t play by the rules.  No two selections sounded alike.  In the oddest- and by extension the most exciting moment- guest artist Jamila Woods contributed to an exuberant interpretation of Chris Tomlin’s Contemporary Christian Music standard “How Great Is Our God”.

4. Joel Ross
I’m still dizzy.  The young vibraphonist is so disconcertingly quick that my Instagram clip appears to be in fast motion.  Far more than a showcase of accelerated chops, Ross and his band married the sophisticated elegance of the Modern Jazz Quartet with the 21st century beats of J Dilla.

5. George Freeman and Billy Branch
The venerable Chicago blues harpist Billy Branch’s recollection that he first encountered the blues when he heard Willie Dixon at the Chicago Blues Festival in 1969 was the sole moment in the set in which he was paired with the 92-year-old guitarist George Freeman that wasn’t entirely bonkers.  The men were joined by an interpretive dancer and a woman who exhorted the audience to chant “George the bomb.”  I happily obliged.

6. After Dark
Although it’s billed as a Von Freeman tribute band, the Chicago group After Dark played a set of prime Kansas City jazz that included jumping readings of Lester Young’s “Every Tub,” Charlie Parker’s “Quasimodo” and Mary Lou Williams’ “Mary’s Waltz.”

7. The Metropolitan Jazz Octet featuring Dee Alexander
While the Chicago fixture Dee Alexander has a fine voice and a vibrant personality, I was floored by the ingenious in-house charts played by the Metropolitan Jazz Octet.

8. The Miguel de la Cerna Trio
The Chicago pianist works in the elegant vein of Oscar Peterson.

Saturday, August 31

1. Jeremy Cunningham’s The Weather Up There
I’ve long admired the undefinable Chicago band Tortoise.  Drummer Jeremy Cunningham’s Chicago band featuring Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker flaunted similarly futuristic sounds.

2. Christian McBride's New Jawn
As if watching the transcendently powerful Nasheet Waits in action wasn’t enough, bassist McBride, saxophonist Marcus Strickland and trumpeter John Evans matched the genius of my favorite drummer.

3. Cécile McLorin Salvant
The profoundly imaginative vocalist makes most of her peers seem like dullards.

4. The AACM’s Great Black Music Ensemble
I left the festival grounds to catch the AACM’s Great Black Music Ensemble at Fred Anderson Park two miles south of Millennium Park.  The ramshackle (an unidentified but remarkable young keyboardist excepted) group of venerable elders and unconversant understudies were conducted by a furiously demonstrative bandleader.  Although the troupe resembled a minor league version of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, their sincerity was deeply moving.

5. Ryan Cohan's Originations
The Chicago based Ryan Cohan explained that he was “born of an Arab and a Jew” as he presented his Originations suite.  The masterful Third Stream outing by the ten-piece ensemble was slightly sinister.

6. Ben Wendel's Seasons
I expected the outing by saxophonist Ben Wendel, guitarist Gilad Hekselman, pianist Sullivan Fortner, bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Kendrick Scott to be my favorite set of the festival.  Yet after I was struck by Wendel’s passing resemblance to a young David Sanborn and his similar form of studied showmanship, I couldn’t get past the notion that Wendel, like Sanborn, is able to recognize and exploit the leading edge of the current sonic landscape.  I felt as if I’d been duped.

7. The Andy Brown Quartet
Imagine John Pizzarelli without the showbiz razzle-dazzle.  That’s the impeccably tasteful Chicago guitarist Andy Brown.

8. The Chris Madsen Quartet
The Chicago saxophonist sounds exactly like a buttoned-down member of a prestigious university’s jazz faculty.

9. Carolyn Fitzhugh
Brunch music.

10. The ChiArts Honors Jazz Combo

Sunday September 1

1. The Eddie Palmieri Sextet
Frail and understandably blue, Eddie Palmieri was grieving the death of his wife when I caught him at the Blue Note in 2017.  Palmieri was clearly in the mood to party in Chicago.  He moaned with the primal passion of a young lover and grunted with the don’t-give-a-damn indifference of an authoritative star.

2. Ben LaMar Gay
A skeptical announcer dismissively introduced the experimental Chicago artist Ben LaMar Gay as a performer of “real, real artistic music.”  As if in response to the hater, Gay suggested that he and his band intended to “make a sound and be curious together.”  Gay is one of the transgressive Chicago musicians who is breathing new life into jazz.  He recalled that his brothers bullied him at the Chicago Jazz Festival when he was seven.   “The songs that you’re hearing are the songs my brothers sung to me about getting the last piece of chicken,” Gay said.  “If they sound kind of weird, they should be.”  His best songs combined Chicago footwork with Mardi Gras Indian chants.

3. The Russ Johnson Quartet
Knowing only that Russ Johnson is the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, I had low expectations for the trumpeter.  I was astonished.  Abetted by the stellar saxophonist Greg Ward, bassist Clark Summers and drummer Dana Hall, Johnson’s imaginative subversion of swing resulted in one of the most dexterously adventurous sets of the festival.

4. Rempis/Flaten/Ra + Baker Quartet
I didn't fall in love with the Chicago Jazz Festival until a deliberately provocative free jazz quartet made a dissonant racket on the main stage.  Thousands of people were forced to either flee the churlish assault of saxophonist Dave Rempis, keyboardist and electronic manipulator Jim Baker, substitute bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Avreeayl Ra and risk losing their seats or withstand the attack and hold their ground.  I cheered when Ra’s violent pummeling buckled a cymbal stand and Håker Flaten brutalized his instrument as if it owed him money.

5. Latino-America Unida
The estimable jazz critics Howard Reich and Howard Mandel hailed the supergroup’s first public performance in their respective reviews for The Chicago Tribune and Downbeat, but the quintet's highly-anticipated debut struck me as a massive disappointment.  The aggregation of saxophonists Melissa Aldana and Miguel Zenón, pianist David Virelles, bassist Ricky Rodriguez and drummer Antonio Sánchez was definitely less than the sum of its parts.  I would have preferred to hear any one of the stars lead his or her own band.

6. Camila Meza and the Nectar Orchestra
Camila Meza knocked me out each of the three times I’ve heard her perform with the road warriors in the Ryan Keberle-led band Catharsis.  Yet I don’t care for the fussy chamber-jazz on her new album Ámbar.  Acknowledging the presence of a string quartet, Meza said “with this album I made my dream come true.”  I was nonplussed until her ensemble interpreted the David Bowie, Lyle Mays and Pat Metheny composition “This Is Not America.”  The sweeping Jimi Hendrix-inspired cover salvaged Meza’s set.

7. Sharel Cassity Quartet
Sharel Cassity could only come from Chicago.  The exciting young saxophonist is my happiest discovery.

8. The Joan Collaso Sextet
I didn’t attend church on Sunday morning, but a gospel-infused reading of “Love’s in Need of Love Today” reduced me to faith-based tears of gratitude.  The stirring vocals of Joan Collaso and her superlative backing vocalists on the tragically topical Stevie Wonder song compelled me to shout “amen.”  Collaso doesn’t shy away from the secular.  She joked about her devotion to one of her primary influences: “I really did try to marry Al Jarreau.”

9. The Dakarai Barclay Sextet
It’s terribly unfair to burden young musicians with next-big-thing tags, but this young trumpeter and his bandmates were extremely impressive.  Bonus: the ensemble covered Carmell Jones’ “Beepdurple.”

10. Juli Wood's Big Bari Band
A hard-swinging de facto Gerry Mulligan tribute.

11. Paulinho Garcia
In a frustrating anomaly, the demure set by the Brazilian guitarist was spoiled by loud chatter throughout the tent housing the Jazz & Heritage Pavilion stage.

12. Zach Rosenstiehl Nacht Group
The tentative young men played as if they were auditioning for their first professional gig.

Part one of this three-part analysis of the Chicago Jazz Festival is here.

(Original image of the Art Ensemble of Chicago by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Now's the Time: Marilyn Maye

At 91, Marilyn Maye remains a wondrously energizing entertainer.  Her five-night stand at Quality Hill Playhouse runs through Sunday, Sept. 15.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Robert Castillo and Forrest Fowler of the Sextet were guests on KTGB’s weekly Eight One Sextet program.

*Bobby Watson’s concert at Legacy Park Amphitheater was documented by Joe Dimino.

*Ralph Caro, the interim director of the American Jazz Museum discusses his background and his goals for the institution in a 23-minute video.

*David Valdez was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Dan Thomas performed on a television talk show to promote the Prairie Village Jazz Festival.

*Downbeat reports on Jon Poses’ We Always Swing series in Columbia, Missouri, and reveals the lineup of the 2019-20 season.

*NPR published a lengthy essay about Mary Lou Williams.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Doug Maltby- Pat Metheny and Side Eye live at the Dakota tonight...amazing. The woman front and center came from Costa Rica for the show!

*From a press release: The Italian jazz piano maestro and composer Dino Massa returns to Kansas City to perform and record original music with his long-time friend, saxophonist/composer Christopher Burnett and an all-star ensemble of KC-based jazz musicians.  Burnett and Massa have written original music to perform in concert at Westport Coffeehouse on Wednesday (March 11, 2020) and to record at BRC Audio Productions in sessions on Thursday and Friday (March 12-13, 2020).  The new album will be released on the ARC label.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Freed by Free Jazz: The 2019 Chicago Jazz Festival, Part One

The Chicago Jazz Festival radicalized me.  Never before have I attended a jazz-centric, multi-day festival showcasing the full spectrum of the form.  After taking in the audaciously uncompromising jazz festival over Labor Day weekend, I’m more intolerant than ever of inferior knockoffs.   

Mark Kelly, the Commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, explained the novel concept from the stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

“Because it’s a free festival we’re not pandering to the audience,” Kelly said.  “We’re giving you the best.”

The stellar lineup merited Kelly’s gloating.  I’ll critique individual performances by the likes of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Christian McBride and Cécile McLorin Salvant next week.  I’ll also examine Kansas City’s inability to host anything remotely resembling the Chicago Jazz Festival in a future post.

Rather than offering a vague endorsement of the Chicago Jazz Festival, I'll list a few of the reasons my experience was galvanizing.  I’d like to think that the weather wasn't a factor in my wholehearted embrace of the outdoor festival, but the dry conditions and moderate temperature couldn’t have been better.  The festival staff and volunteers were just as nice.  And the convenient setting in Millennium Park is stunning.  Even so, I didn’t have much time to admire the beautiful foliage or the imposing skyline.  The set changes between each of the stellar acts were amazingly quick.

The festival gets most things right, but it isn’t quite a jazz utopia.  The subterranean public bathrooms at Jay Pritzker Pavilion are atrocious.  Long lines and the absence of soap matched the outdated plumbing.  I was also dismayed by the indifference of the food and beverage vendors that contemptuously played prerecorded music that drowned out live music for everyone in line or seated nearby.  Sound bleed is the bane of outdoor festivals.  The music at Rooftop Jazz stage regularly interfered with the performances at the Jazz & Heritage Pavilion stage.  And the soundchecks at Jay Pritzker Pavilion were audible at all of the other stages.

Yet those are minor irritants.  Let the (jazz festival) revolution begin, and let it begin with me.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Now's the Time: The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra at Muriel Kauffman Theatre

As hundreds of thousands of people in the Kansas City area watch the second half of the Kansas City Chiefs’ season opener on television, hundreds of old-school big band enthusiasts will take in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra’s “Tribute to Frank Sinatra” at Muriel Kauffman Theatre on Sunday, September 8.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*A television station’s report about the American Jazz Museum amplifies the talking points of the institution’s interim director Ralph Caro and Mayor Quinton Lucas.

*The Prairie Village Jazz Festival and Al Di Meola's concert at VooDoo are among the The Kansas City Star’s weekly concert recommendations.

*Downbeat reviewed performances by Lakecia Benjamin, Fred Hersch, George Coleman and Carl Allen at New York City’s Charlie Parker Jazz Festival.

*Details about Karrin Allyson’s new project Shoulder to Shoulder: Centennial Tribute to Women’s Suffrage are revealed by Melinda Newman in Billboard magazine.

*Merrliee Trost has died.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Cat Reid- This is the new board for the museum. Chair acknowledges there are “mountains left to climb.” They’re in the process of selecting a new permanent exec director #jazz #kansascity #18thandvine

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Plastic Fantastic

If someone absolutely had to appropriate the name of my Kansas City jazz blog, I’m glad the culprit is Ted Nash.  Beginning with his 2012 album The Creep, the outstanding saxophonist has issued recordings on his in-house record label label Plastic Sax.  (This site was founded in 2007.)  The new Plastic Sax album Somewhere Else is a trio recording featuring Nash, the Kansas City guitarist Steve Cardenas and bassist Ben Allison.  It features sublime interpretations of eleven selections from “West Side Story.”  The name of Nash’s record label may be borrowed, but the ideas explored on Somewhere Else are admirably original.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Now's the Time: Al Di Meola

The embedded clip captures Al Di Meola performing “The Romantic Warrior” with Return to Forever in 1976.  Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White won’t accompany the guitarist at the VooDoo on Friday, September 6, but Di Meola’s concert will still serve as a reunion of old-school fusion fanatics.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Joe Dimino chatted with Greg Carroll about Charlie Parker prior to sharing footage of the Bringing Legends to Life concert in Liberty.

*A trad-jazz enthusiast praises the performance of the New Red Onion Jazz Babies at the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Becca Jane- @Harry_Styles if you like Jazz, you should come to Kansas City’s @GreenLadyLounge

*From the American Jazz Museum: As one of only two Smithsonian Affiliates in the Kansas City metro area, the American Jazz Museum will open its doors free of charge to all Museum Day ticket holders on Saturday September 21, 2019…  Museum Day tickets will be available for download at beginning August 15.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Concert Review: The Brian Scarborough Quintet at RecordBar

Brian Scarborough has arrived.  Once a precocious boy wonder brimming with potential, the trombonist, composer and bandleader proved that he’s joined the ranks of Kansas City’s elite jazz musicians at RecordBar on Sunday, August 18. 

Scarborough possessed the assurance and advanced conception of a musician twice his age as he led a stellar quintet consisting of saxophonist Matt Otto, guitarist Adam Schlozman, bassist Jeff Harshbarger and drummer Brian Steever in a performance of original material.

I wasn’t surprised when he told the dozen people who paid the $5 cover to catch the first set that he’d been listening to Albert Mangelsdorff.  While decidedly thornier than his previous playing, Scarborough’s slightly left-of-center attack wouldn’t have caused conservative devotees of Bob Brookmeyer or J.J. Johnson to squirm.

Focusing solely on Scarborough would be imprudent.  Otto remains the best soloist in town not named Bobby Watson.  And the group’s sophisticated comping was frequently as intriguing as the individual solos.  Scarborough’s rapid evolution suggests that I’m likely to encounter a much different musician the next time I catch him.  I can hardly wait.

(Original image of Adam Scholzman, Brian Scarborough, Matt Otto and Brian Steever by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Now's the Time: New Jazz Order

Before becoming the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, Clint Ashlock led New Jazz Order.  Ashlock and the less formal big band return to the Blue Room on Monday, August 26.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*CityScene KC reports that street busker Marvin Hollinshed has died.

*A television station filed a confusing report about the status of Club Mardi Gras in the Jazz District.

*Dan Thomas promoted KC Jazz Alive’s annual Charlie Parker initiative on a morning television program.

*Ben LaMar Gay, Fred Frith and Matthew Shipp- elite improvisors who have never appeared in Kansas City- are performing in the 2019-20 season of St. Louis’ New Music Circle.   (Via St. Louis Jazz Notes.)

*Tweet o’ the Week: Alexis- Trying to request city of stars @ green lady lounge

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Before I Let Go

I feel like a jerk every time I attend a panel discussion about music.  Why bother hearing people talk when I could be listening to music?  Yet I couldn’t resist the star power represented by Bobby Watson, Tia Fuller and Eddie Moore at a forum titled Jazz, Millennials, and the Music and Legacy of Charlie Parker at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. 

More than 100 people- a handful of whom were actual millennials- attended the presentation in Atkins Auditorium organized by KC Jazz Alive.  Following Greg Carroll’s protracted opening remarks and introductions by the loquacious moderator Mitch Butler, the eminently quotable Watson dropped several nuggets.
*On Bird’s imposing legacy: “If I knew about Charlie Parker when I was younger, I probably wouldn’t have started playing.”
*When asked if he’s famous, he responds “I’m bass fisherman famous,” and when he’s told that he’s a household name, he counters “they keep me under the sink.”
*On Parker’s lasting influence: “He created this universe we all live in.”
Fuller spoke about her stint in Beyoncé’s band.
*In an acknowledgement of the age of most members of the audience, she asked “Do you all know who Beyoncé is?” 
*Recalling that she presented the diva with albums by Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald on her birthday, Fuller said she felt her mission was “to impart jazz on Beyoncé.”
I spotted Fuller with a saxophone prior to the talk, so I assume a musical demonstration was in the offing.  Yet every time the auditorium doors opened, the sound of a performance by the R&B band Soul Revival in the lobby of the adjacent Bloch Building spilled into the room.  Vibrant covers of hits by Aretha Franklin, Rufus and Stevie Wonder tugged at me like siren songs.  I couldn’t take it any longer when I heard Soul Revival break into Maze’s “Before I Let Go”.  I bolted out of the room to join the nearby throng of nimble dancers.  I’m confident Parker would have approved.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Now's the Time: Tia Fuller

Tia Fuller isn’t a member of the millennial generation, nor is a Kansas City gig listed at her site or in her social media feeds.  Yet the saxophonist and bandleader from Colorado is billed as a panelist at the Jazz, Millennials, and the Music and Legacy of Charlie Parker discussion at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on Thursday, August 15.  Fuller last appeared in Kansas City in 2014 as a member of Teri Lyne Carrington’s band.  (Plastic Sax review.)  Plastic Sax caught her two years ago at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in New York City. (Plastic Sax review.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Chuck Haddix and Mitch Butler considered the legacy of Charlie Parker in an episode of KCUR’s Up To Date.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Brad Cox.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Ann Salo- Celebrating 65th birthday of Pat Metheny by listening to New Chautauqua, 1979

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Standard Deviation

After driving 25 minutes to catch a set by a jazz ensemble a couple months ago, I walked out in disgust after ten minutes when the group sleepwalked through stock arrangements of “Misty” and “The Girl From Ipanema.”  And I might swear off jazz clubs altogether if I’m subjected to another humdrum rendition of “Summertime” this year.  My screed is provoked by the track listing of a new album by a locally based jazz musician.  Unless his goal is to obtain bookings from musically unsophisticated venue owners, I don’t understand the point of recording straightforward interpretations of tired warhorses like “Ain’t Misbehavin’”, “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “Route 66.”  And let the record show that any person who gets between me and the door the next time a band breaks into “Ain’t No Sunshine” could get hurt.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Now's the Time: Blair Bryant

The Kansas City bassist Blair Bryant is on the bill of the free District Rhythms concert in the Power & Light District on Sunday, August 18.  Bryant pays tribute to Stanley Clarke in the embedded video.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Jayne McShann and a know-it-all jazz blogger discussed Jay McShann’s Live in Toyko 1990 on KCUR’s Up to Date program.

*The logistics of Kansas City’s jazz scene was among the topics reviewed by the same squirrelly blogger in an episode of Thursdays with Tim Finn on 90.9 The Bridge.

*Alan Hoskins filed a dispatch about the New Century Jazz Band for Wyandotte Daily.

*Here are the jazz-related categories and nominees as they’re listed in The Pitch’s Best of Kansas City 2019 award ballot: Best Jazz Artist: Alex Abramovitz, Eboni Fondren, Herschel McWilliams, Lonnie McFadden and Molly Hammer; Best Jazz Band: A La Mode, Alex Abramovitz and His Swing'n Kansas City Jazz Band, Grand Marquis, Herschel McWilliams Quartet and the Marcus Lewis Big Band; Best Jazz Event: Jazzoo, Kansas City Kansas Street Blues Festival, Phoenix Saturday Brunch, Prairie Village Jazz Fest; Best Jazz Venue: Black Dolphin, Green Lady Lounge, The Blue Room, The Majestic, The Phoenix.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Carl Kincaid- I was lucky enough to catch him at the KCKS Street Blues Festival several years ago, shortly before he died. He was amazing. And I got to speak with him and get his autograph after his set. He was so kind.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

I encountered my friend KC Jazz Lark shortly after making the suggested $10 donation for entry to the Musicians For Molly benefit concert at Mod Gallery on Sunday, July 14.  He informed me that he’d donated two of his most prized possessions to the fundraiser for Molly Hammer.  Although KC Jazz Lark is otherwise humble and gracious, he’d long boasted about his autographed posters from the sorely-missed Kansas City Jazz Festival.

I knew I was in big trouble.

As one of the organizers of the festival during the 1980s, KC Jazz Lark had every headliner sign corresponding concert posters.  Sure enough, autographs of an audacious clutch of jazz legends are inscribed in silver ink on the 1985 and 1986 posters that were displayed at the silent auction at Mod Gallery.  A partial list: Toshiko Akiyoshi, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Stan Getz, Al Grey, Percy Heath, Major Holley, Milt Jackson, Gus Johnson, Connie Kay, Andy Kirk, John Lewis, Herbie Mann, Jay McShann and Buddy Tate.

I bid slightly over the minimum for each poster, a sum that exceeds my airfare and lodging outlay for an upcoming trip to the Chicago Jazz Festival.  No one topped my opening salvo.  I’m now the proud owner of two unique pieces of jazz history.  My bank account took an unexpected hit, but the money went to a good cause.  And knowing that a miniscule moment in the lives of each jazz giant is in the room with me as I enjoy recordings like “Blue Clarinet Stomp” (1929), “Laura” (1953), “That’s All” (1955), “Fontessa” (1956), “Corcovado” (1964), “Memphis Underground” (1969) and “Trouble in Mind” (1981) enhances my appreciation of each classic.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Now's the Time: Kayla Waters

It’s a family tradition.  Kayla Waters, the daughter of smooth jazz fixture Kim Waters, makes similarly reassuring music.  She’s slated to perform at the Heart of America Hot Dog Festival on
Saturday, Aug. 10.  While I hope to catch Waters someday, I won't be in the Jazz District on August 10.  Last year’s festival was a hot mess.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Ralph Caro, the Interim Executive Director of the American Jazz Museum, shared his plans for the institution with The Kansas City Star.

*Jeff Harshbarger chatted with Tim Finn and Jon Hart on 90.9 The Bridge.

*Warren Vaché and Jeff Hamilton are among the featured artists in the 2019-20 season of the Topeka Jazz Concert Series.

*Joe Dimino documented a performance by Stan Kessler, Kathleen Holeman and Sam Copeland.

*Howard Reich of The Chicago Tribune reports that the 65th annual Charlie Parker tribute at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago will feature appearances by Gary Bartz and Ira Sullivan.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Tony’s Kansas City- Critics Claim Outgoing Councilman Jermaine Reed Clings To American Jazz Museum Leadership Whilst Many 3rd District Insiders Demand Traveling Music & His Departure From Influence On Future Operations: (link)

*From Chris Burnett: The Charlie Parker Student Music Boot Camp is a jazz immersion program for middle school and high school students with at least one year of music experience. Spend the day learning about jazz music, improvisation, and the music and genius of Charlie "Yardbird" Parker from the Kansas City music scene's top musical talents! We will close the camp with a mini-concert performance.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Let Your Backbone Slip

A mild commotion broke out at Capsule on Thursday, July 25, when a phone started playing music during a performance by a trio led by Peter Schlamb.  The panic during the 15 seconds it took a woman to silence her device resembled a tense scene from a horror film in which bloodthirsty monsters are attracted to noise.

The ostensible goal of the monthly Spine Showcase recitals is to provide a forum for forward-thinking jazz artists to perform for attentive audiences.  The brief interruption caused by the noisy phone allowed the 50 other people in the room to silently castigate the embarrassed offender.  The excellent performance by Schlamb (keyboards and vibraphone), DeAndre Manning (electric bass) and Ryan J. Lee (drums) helped judgy patrons quickly forget about the disruption.  The free beer and the absence of a cover charge also helped to allay any grievances.

Following a break featuring complimentary cake, Lee led a group featuring Andrew McGhie (saxophone), Andrew Ouellette (keyboards) and DeAndre Manning (electric bass).  The quartet evoked the most compelling fusion groups of the late 1970s.  Even though Lee’s emphatic drumming recoiled off the concrete floor like dangerous shrapnel, the sound field for both sets was remarkably clear.

Spine’s proposition is less translucent.  The initiative, intent and effort of the primary organizer are undeniably commendable, but I’m less convinced about the master plan.  I’m not among the 59 people who donated $4,655 to Spine’s successful Kickstarter campaign.  The organization’s assertion that it’s “showcasing local musicians playing the original material they don't get to perform anywhere else” seems disingenuous.

A free-jazz freakout at the Brick and a jubilant brass band excursion at the Ship transpired on the same night as the concert by Schlamb and Lee.  I’m fairly certain the featured musicians weren’t given any directives at either venerable nightclub.  The people who operate Kansas City’s music venues might rightfully insist that competing directly against a non-profit project that offers free beer and free admission is decidedly unhelpful.

Spine’s most valuable mandate is the creation of another proper listening room.  Boorish gabbing during musical performances of any stripe is my biggest pet peeve.  The grievance is particularly painful during acoustic jazz performances.  I’m grateful for any opportunity to hear innovative musicians work in respectful environments.  That’s why I’ve been a regular at the improvised music showcases hosted by Westport Coffee House, RecordBar and the 1900 Building for years.  Talking is strongly discouraged during the frequent jazz performances at the establishments.

I also expect to pay a cover charge and buy my own drinks.  I voluntarily dropped a few bills in the bucket on Thursday.  I’d like to see Spine make the transition into a self-sustaining entity for which substantial ticket and drink sales cover all expenses.  A robust jazz scene should be rooted in organic audience development rather than in sympathetic handouts.

(Original image of Peter Schlamb, DeAndre Manning and Ryan J. Lee by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Now's the Time: Lonnie McFadden

Lonnie McFadden indulges his Vegas-style inclinations in the embedded video.  The multi-faceted showman dubbed Mr. Kansas City performs at Chaz on Thursday, July 25, at the Phoenix on Friday, July 26, at Black Dolphin on Saturday, July 27, and at Johnnie’s Jazz Bar on Sunday, July 28.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra announced that Benny Golson and Sean Jones will perform as guest artists in its upcoming concert season.

*An 11-minute video recaps recent activity at Chris Burnett’s KC Youth Jazz organization.

*A promotional video was created to solicit contributions to Spine Showcases.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Ryan Heinlein- My first book is out now. The next 75 books are $25 for the PDF version! Treble, Bass, B-flat and E-flat versions available! (link)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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.)