Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Top Jazz-Related Stories and Trends of 2019

1. My Dear Watson
As noted at Plastic Sax last month, the Bobby Watson era in Kansas City is drawing to a close. The reigning Plastic Sax Person of the Decade for the past 20 years is irreplaceable.

2. Final Notice
Rashida Phillips was named the new Executive Director of the American Jazz Museum in December.  The beleaguered institution is at a critical juncture.  Can Phillips restore even a portion of its former vitality?

3. Blind Item
“We are dealing with decreased attendance. The continuation of (redacted) is in jeopardy. If (redacted) is to survive, we must increase membership, donors and concert attendance.”  The dire warning emailed to supporters of a Kansas City jazz advocacy group reflects the grim behind-the-scenes struggle shared by several jazz-oriented organizations.

4. Ornithology
Charlie Parker was born in Kansas City, Kansas, on August 29, 1920.  Is Kansas City prepared to properly commemorate the centennial of his birth?  Fly Higher, the most prominent all-star tour honoring Parker, is unlikely to stop in Kansas City.

5. Missing in Action
Joshua Redman told the audience at his April concert at the Folly Theater that Kansas City is “not a city I get to come through very often these days.”  It’s a harsh reality.  Kansas City is not on the itineraries of most touring jazz artists.  Alas, the majority of the sporadic noble experiments fail.  I was compelled to travel to Chicago and Knoxville in 2019 to hear the world’s most important jazz artists.

6. Cold Shoulder
When it comes to coverage by the international jazz press, Kansas City may as well be Dodge City.  The virtual media blackout is galling.  Not a single album overseen by a Kansas City based jazz artist appeared on a prominent best-of-2019 list.  Even the most comprehensive jazz critic snubbed locally based musicians.

7. Green Lady Groove
Green Lady Lounge hunkered down in 2019.  The never-a-cover venue open 365-days-a-year no longer presents touring acts.  Even with a few significant changes- Chris Hazelton no longer holds down the prime weekend spot- Green Lady Lounge and its sister club Black Dolphin remain the dominant destinations for jazz in Kansas City.

8. Dynamic Duo
The two most encouraging moments of the year came from opposite ends of the spectrum.  About 1,500 people purchased pricey ticket to catch the Kansas City debut of Snarky Puppy in June.  And dozens of young people stood in rapt attention during an audacious free show by Logan Richardson at the Ship in September.

9. Prairie Village for the Win
The only jazz festival in the Kansas City area in 2019 was the one-day, five-act Prairie Village Jazz Festival headlined by Dan Thomas & the KC All Star Big Band.

10. Called Out
The notable Kansas City musician Eddie Moore took the author of Plastic Sax to task during my appearance on Marcus Lewis’ Ask a Jazz Dude talk show.  Moore implied that I regularly mocked locally based musicians in essays like this.  That’s not my intent.  Moore is precisely the sort of musician I believe merits more attention.  While I’ll never be mistaken for an uncritical cheerleader, I put everything I have into selectively promoting Kansas City jazz musicians with efforts like this, this, this, this and this.  Like it or not, I remain the most prominent and active media advocate of Kansas City’s jazz scene.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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