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.)

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Now's the Time: The RSS Trio

The RSS Trio works the late shift at Green Lady Lounge on the evening of Friday, November 1.  The young organ trio maintains the same slot on the venue’s schedule through the end of the year.  The group flaunts convention on its new single “Allison”.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Smithsonian published an article about Charlie Parker’s other saxophone.

*Adam Larson was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Steve Paul- This band: @stefonharris and Blackout. Stirring and uplifting concert tonight at @TheFollyTheater in #KC and great convo beforehand along with @MarcCaryMusic and Casey Benjamin (@stutzmcgee). Inspiring in many ways.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Concert Review: Stefon Harris and Blackout at the Folly Theater

Stefon Harris told an audience of about 300 that he and his colleagues intended to “organize vibration into motion” at the Folly Theater on Saturday, October 26.  That’s an alluring notion, but I would have enjoyed the concert even more had the bandleader allowed the members of Blackout to put backfields into motion.

Harris, a master of vibraphone and marimba, kept his New York based band of funk-inclined aces in swing mode.  Multi-instrumentalist Casey Benjamin and drummer Mark Colenburg are members of the groundbreaking Robert Glasper Experiment.  Keyboardist Marc Cary helped the late Roy Hargrove integrate jazz with hip-hop and R&B.  The accomplished bassist Ben Williams is part of Pat Metheny’s Unity Group.

The temperate tone wasn’t entirely surprising.  Blackout’s 2018 album Sonic Creed is a bit bland.  Yet Harris’ melodic gift and winning showmanship almost negated the frustrating absence of  funk.  Even so, a pair of silky Quiet Storm ballads featuring Benjamin on vocoder and keytar were the highlights of the low-key evening.  The selections provided tantalizing hints of how a very good performance might easily have been transformed into the best show of the year.

Setlist: Dat Dere, Gentle Wind, Chasin’ Kendall, Now, Let’s Take a Trip to the Sky, improvisation/It Could Happen to You/Bye Bye Blackbird, For You, The Cape Verdean Blues

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, October 25, 2019

Now's the Time: Laura Taglialatela

The Italian vocalist Laura Taglialatela will perform with her Ropeadope labelmate Logan Richardson at the Blue Room on Friday, October 25.  The spiritual nature of the song in the embedded video reflects the searching tone of her 2018 debut album.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s appearance on Star Sessions is available for streaming.

*The Kansas City Star recommends Laura Taglialatela’s performance at the Blue Room.

*Pat Metheny was named the guitarist of the year in the 84th Annual Readers Poll.

*Carl Tribble has died.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Dominique Sanders- if your a band leader and you call multiple rehearsals and extra stuff for a 100$ gig that leads to nothing else but that gig........ YOU ARE SUPER WEAK hahahah

*From a press release: Jazz Vocalist and Kansas City jazz icon, David Basse, will make a rare appearance in the Kansas City northland on Friday, November 15, when he brings his trio to the Corbin Theater in Liberty, Missouri. For those Kansas City fans who are used to experiencing David's music in clubs & lounges, this performance will showcase his unique talents in a concert, theater setting. The Corbin is a small, 60 seat venue…  Tickets are $15.00.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Album Review: The Karrin Allyson Sextet- Shoulder to Shoulder: Centennial Tribute to Women’s Suffrage

Karrin Allyson doesn’t lack ambition.  The jazz-oriented artist who rose to prominence while based in Kansas City collaborates with an impressive array of prominent friends on her unconventional new project.  Allyson and a core band of trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, saxophonist Mindi Abair, pianist Helen Sung, bassist Endea Owens and drummer Allison Miller are joined by stars including rapper Rapsody, jazz stalwart Kurt Elling, R&B standout Lalah Hathaway, violinist Regina Carter and singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash on Shoulder to Shoulder: Centennial Tribute to Women’s Suffrage.  The performances are impeccable, but the primary purpose of the concept album is edification rather than entertainment.  Anyone who appreciates feminism, Sweet Honey in the Rock and #metoo is certain to be inspired by Allyson’s important history lesson.

(Original image of Karrin Allyson and Houston Person by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Now's the Time: The Casualties of Jazz

Three jazz groups prominently featuring an organ- OJT, Guitar Elation and Matt Hopper’s Organ Trio- will energize patrons of Green Lady Lounge on Thursday, October 17.  A very different organ-oriented group from Los Angeles will perform for unsuspecting rock fans seven blocks away.  The Casualties of Jazz, an organ trio specializing in Black Sabbath covers, will open for the Raconteurs at the Midland theater.  The group interprets the 1970 jam “Fairies Wear Boots” in the embedded video.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Bobby Watson chatted with Brian Ellison on KCUR’s Up To Date.

*The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra received coverage from Joe Dimino, Kansas City Live!, Fox4KC and KMBC last week.

*Molly Hammer discussed her health travails with a television reporter.

*The Kansas City Star previewed concerts by Herb Alpert and Norman Brown.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Steph Irwin- Green lady lounge always lit

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, October 14, 2019

Concert Review: Tatsuya Nakatani at the Ship

For a recital featuring a manic percussionist who blows into cymbals and mercilessly batters small instruments, Tatsuya Nakatani’s appearance at the 1900 Building in April was a remarkably formal affair.  (Plastic Sax review.)

Tucked into a corner of the West Bottoms speakeasy the Ship with keyboardist Shawn E. Hansen, steel guitarist Mike Stover and bassist Jeff Harshbarger, Nakatani gave a pleasingly casual performance with an entirely different sound on Wednesday, October 9.

Saxophonist Assif Tsahar accentuated Nakatani’s sharp edges at the 1900 Building six months ago, but the Kansas City based musicians situated the percussionist’s enormous bag of improvisational tricks in a luxurious bed of hypnotic grooves.  Hansen added surgical slashes of melody, Stover contributed spooky drones and Harbarger provided a vigorous rhythmic pulse. 

What could have been a self-indulgent mess was instead
an exercise in spellbinding minimalism.  I was obligated to leave 45 minutes into the opening jam but I’d like to think the otherworldly quartet didn’t let up for another two hours.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, October 11, 2019

Now's the Time: Benny Golson

It’s astounding that the saxophonist playing alongside Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, Jymie Merritt and Art Blakey in the embedded video from 1958 continues to spread his swinging message in appearances around the world.  Benny Golson, 90, was the hippest, smartest and funniest person in the room during a master class session at Johnson County Community College yesterday afternoon.  He performs with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra at Helzberg Hall on Friday, October 11.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The relevant results of the The Pitch’s annual readers poll follow without comment.  Best Jazz Venue: Green Lady Lounge; Best Blues Venue: Green Lady Lounge; Best Nightclub: Green Lady Lounge; Best Jazz Artist: Lonnie McFadden; Best Jazz Band: A La Mode; Best Jazz Event: Jazzoo; Best Vocalist: Molly Hammer.

*The Kansas City Star recommends the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s  forthcoming concert with Benny Golson.

*In an introduction to an interview with Blair Bryant, the Crazeology podcast suggests that “many people who live here can’t remember the last time they’ve actually listened to the music. Some have never even gone to a performance, even though several clubs have live jazz every night of the week.”

*Tweet o’ the Week: American Jazz Museum- Looking for the perfect space to host your holiday party? Email for more information. The season is filling up quickly!

*From an event’s ticket solicitation: Join us at Greenwood Social Hall for a unique international jazz celebration on Thursday October 10th at 7 pm, presented by Hannover Committee, Sister Cities Association of Kansas City.  The band will swing some classic Kansas City sounds from the songbook of Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton. Special guest Lothar Krist will bring his friends from Hannover Germany and Ghent Belgium to play with Greg Carroll and the crew from Kansas City.  A second performance takes place at Soirée Steak & Oyster House on Saturday, October 12.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Book Review: Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges by Con Chapman

“The birth of one style in an art form generally means the death of another,” Con Chapman declares in his illuminating new biography Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges.  The author is referring to Charlie Parker’s displacement of Hodges as jazz’s preeminent saxophonist.  Parker is revered in his hometown of Kansas City and throughout the world.  Yet his innovations were almost as disruptive to the musical landscape as the Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Chapman laments “the depths of obscurity to which the man who was once one of the most famous saxophonists in the world had fallen.”  His biography is a noble attempt to restore Hodges’ place of importance.  Rabbit’s Blues makes a strong case for Hodges as an essential link between Sidney Bechet and John Coltrane and is a convincing defence of the sensuous swing that Parker rendered unfashionable.

The unapologetically romantic Hodges was rarely cloying.  When considering Hodges’ unlikely album with the “white square” Lawrence Welk, Chapman suggests “one need only compare a latter-day sentimentalist on the soprano sax such as Kenny G to Hodges to detect the difference between emotion used in the service of melody and emotional technique used as superficial decoration, like gingerbread trim on a Victorian house.”

In addition to faithfully documenting the decades Hodges spent as one of the most celebrated members of the orchestras led by Duke Ellington, Chapman paints a vivid portrait of a complicated man who successfully overcame the racial discrimination, music industry misdeeds and substance abuse pandemic associated with his times.

Chapman documents Hodges’ recording sessions in fastidious detail.  Much of Hodges’ most essential work was released under the banner of the Ellington band or with collaborators like Wild Bill Davis.  Tracking down his individual tracks and complete albums on streaming services or music retailers isn’t always easy.  The failure to include a discography in Rabbit’s Blues, consequently, is frustrating.  Yet Chapman’s persuasive case for Hodges’ art is entirely successful.  Bingeing on Rabbit’s timeless recordings caused this appreciative reader to begin to lament Bird’s bop revolution.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Now's the Time: The Branford Marsalis Quartet

It’s possible that the Branford Marsalis Quartet is the best mainstream jazz group in the world.  The embedded video and the ensemble’s latest album The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul demonstrate that the saxophonist, pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner possess spectacular chemistry.  The group performs at the Folly Theater on Friday, October 4.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Sextet uploaded a brief recap of its recent album release show and its Star Sessions appearance (here’s one of four segments) to YouTube.

*The Kansas City Star recommended a concert by the Branford Marsalis Quartet.

*“That’s My Jazz”, the 13-minute documentary about Milt Abel Jr. and his father first mentioned at this site in March, now streams online.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Johnson County Community College- We have your Thursday night plans! Brighten your mood with memorable melodies and toe-tapping jazz and blues from the Midnight Express Jazz Band and Faculty Quintet.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Grand Larson-y

The arrival of Adam Larson on Kansas City’s jazz scene is one of the most momentous developments of 2019.   Am I exaggerating?  Listen With Your Eyes, Larson’s new album on Ropeadope Records, is one of the year’s most exciting mainstream jazz albums. 

Consequently, I was only partly mistaken when I recently asserted that not a single album released in 2019 by a jazz musician based in Kansas City has been reviewed anywhere but Plastic Sax.  Larson and his accomplished New York based cohorts including keyboardist Fabian Almazan, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Jimmy Macbride presumably recorded Listen With Your Eyes in Brooklyn before Larson moved to Kansas City.  Yet I’m now willing to claim it as a Kansas City album.

Something Else raved that Listen With Your Eyes is “stellar” while Stereogum called it “a fierce, stabbing blend of hard bop, funk, and weirdness.”  I concur.  I’m less willing to cosign an All About Jazz review that insists that Larson’s album contains “celebratory music for active intellectuals.”  I’m proof that even a sluggish dullard is capable of relishing Listen With Your Eyes.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 27, 2019

Now's the Time: Pablo Masis

The Brooklyn based trumpeter Pablo Masis is touring with guitarist Dave Juarez and bassist Jeff Koch.  The trio will be joined by saxophonist Adam Larson and drummer John Kizilarmut at Westport Coffee House on Monday, Sept. 30.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Jackie Myers pitched her new album in an interview with Joe Dimino.

*Kurt Wheeler discusses societal issues in a StoryCorps segment on NPR.

*Bird at 100, an album featuring Bobby Watson, Vincent Herring and Gary Bartz, will be released by Smoke Sessions Records on November 29.

*A performance by the Boulevard Big Band is documented by Joe Dimino.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Wing Walker Music- I'm delighted to finally perform some brand new "solo" music I've been working on for the last four years featuring saxophone, synths, pedals, and tape loops.

*From the American Jazz Museum: In celebration of John Coltrane's September 23rd birthday, AJM is proud to present a new exhibition, on display through the end of October, 2019… Featured objects in the exhibit include a letter written by Coltrane to Congressman John Conyers, and a telegram sent by Floyd B. McKissick, the National Director of CORE (Congress Of Racial Equality) to Naima Coltrane after the artist's death on July 17th, 1967.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 22, 2019

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

Let me make this clear at the outset of the third and final installment of my analysis of the Chicago Jazz Festival: I’m not unhappy with what’s readily available on Kansas City’s jazz scene.  Instead, I’m deeply frustrated by the infrequency of performances of homegrown progressive sounds and by the apparent boycott of Kansas City by adventurous touring artists.  I’m obligated to leave town to experience much of the music I love.  During my trek to Chicago- my third music-oriented trip of 2019- I verified that the city’s jazz scene is thriving.  Kansas City is stuck in a rut.  Why?

Critical Mass
Chicago’s greater metropolitan area is five times the size of Kansas City.  A performance by an all-star band led by Vijay Iyer can’t sell 100 tickets in Kansas City, but the same group likely to draw 500 paying customers in Chicago.

The ghost of Charlie Parker is an oppressive presence in Kansas City.  Chicago jazz legends like Ramsey Lewis and Roscoe Mitchell are living symbols of innovation.  And Kansas City has no equivalent to the Chicago based AACM.  The improvised music created in each city reflects those dynamics.

The decrepit buildings scattered throughout the Jazz District aren’t the only things crumbling in Kansas City.  Self-inflicted wounds have impaired three of the most prominent Kansas City jazz organizations.  Advocacy groups such as the Jazz Institute of Chicago efficiently coordinate their efforts with like-minded concerns to achieve large-scale successes including the Chicago Jazz Festival.

The Void
Try to find a review of a 2019 album by a locally based jazz musician anywhere but Plastic Sax.  Not one exists.  Yet releases by Chicago artists- especially those by the hugely influential International Anthem Recording Co.- are regularly given serious consideration at prominent outlets including Downbeat, The New York Times and Pitchfork.

If you talk to almost any Kansas City jazz musician for more than five minutes, he or she will bemoan the lack of rooms for unconventional sounds.  In addition to renowned straight-ahead clubs including Andy’s Jazz Club & Restaurant, the Green Mill and Jazz Showcase, Chicago has spaces designed for innovation including Constellation, Elastic Arts and Hungry Brain.

Plastic Sax is the sole forum in Kansas City reporting on jazz every week.  Howard Reich writes extensively about jazz for The Chicago Tribune.  The Chicago Reader is also dedicated to covering the scene. Chicago Jazz Magazine is among the specialty publications.  KKFI- the only viable radio outlet for jazz in Kansas City- plays 15 hours of jazz a week.  Chicago’s WDCB- one of several Chicago stations programming jazz- offers more than 15 hours of jazz every day.

Case Study
On Saturday, September 28, jazz fans in Chicago will attend performances by groundbreaking touring artists including Ambrose Akinmusire, Chico Freeman and Mary Halvorson.  Angel Bat Dawid and Ari Brown are among the Chicago based musicians with international reputations who have hometown shows.  And in Kansas City?  No touring acts are in town, but I highly recommend guitarist Rod Fleeman’s regular matinee gig at Green Lady Lounge.

The first and second parts of this three-part series were published earlier this month.

(Original image of Sam Harris, Ambrose Akinmusire, Harish Raghavan and Justin Brown at the Chicago Jazz Festival by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Now's the Time: Ben Markley

Ben Markley, a Wyoming based pianist from Denver, will perform with trumpeter Hermon Mehari and bassist Bob Bowman at Capsule on Thursday, Sept. 26.  Markley is best known in Kansas City for The Return, his winning 2014 collaboration with Clint Ashlock.

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.)