Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Star reports that the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s fall and winter concerts are among the few events still on the books at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

*No musicians from Kansas City are among the more than five dozen winners named in the 2020 DownBeat Critic’s Poll.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Eda Karat- Kansas City you gotta quit sleeping on jazz, it's such an important part of our history there

*From a press release: Over 25 Kansas City-based musicians came together to create Kansas City Syzygy, a compilation of music created during the shutdown of the world in the Spring of 2020… The nineteen songs on the album span the entire spectrum of music… The album can be purchased from Bandcamp beginning July 17, 2020. All proceeds will be donated to KC Tenants… Trevor Turla, Jeff Harshbarger, Robert Castillo, John Kizilarmut and We the People are among the jazz-related artists contributing to the project.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Album Review: Steve Cardenas- Blue Has a Range

Pat Metheny employs a vast sonic canvas on From This Place.  I praise Metheny's evocation of the “incalculable immensity of space” in my review of his new album.  Steve Cardenas, the second most artistically renowned living jazz guitarist from the Kansas City area, takes the opposite approach on Blue Has a Range.  Released on Sunnyside Records on July 10, the album is a dazzling miniature. 

Cardenas and his celebrated collaborators- pianist Jon Cowherd, bassist Ben Allison and drummer Brian Blade- prove that small-scale refinement can be just as profound as loud flamboyance.  The variations on the blues implied by the title may be subtly articulated, but they express enormous ideas.  Cowherd’s excellent playing emphasizes the influence of Thelonious Monk on Cardenas’ compositions.   All four members of the band leaven their knotty inclinations with thoughtful serenity.

Although “Reflector” is an undeniable earworm, the quiet gracefulness of tracks including “Language of Love” may struggle to capture the attention they deserve in a world dominated by flashiness.  Yet the stunning magnification of intimate beauty will be revealed to listeners willing to pay close attention to the hushed Blue Has a Range.

(Original image of the Mediterranean Sea by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Now's the Time: Born to Swing


What happens when the world moves on decades after you altered the cultural landscape?  The 1973 British documentary “Born to Swing” attempts to answer the question through the prism of the Kansas City jazz diaspora.  Not all 47 minutes of the occasionally grim film are pertinent, but the best segments are essential.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Steve Cardenas’ new album Blue Has a Range will be released on July 10.

*Three news reports- here, here and here- document and analyze recent fatal shootings in the Jazz District.

*A city councilman lobbies for the relaxation of regulations in the Jazz District in an effort to attract party-minded revelers.

*Tweet o’ the Week: James De Noir- I want everybody to tune in this week for the @jazzwalkkc Jazzy Jamdemic Live Stream. I’ll be blessing the stage of the Historic Gem Theater. You don’t want to miss this!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Album Review: Bobby Watson- Keepin’ It Real

Keeping’ It Real arrives as a radiant beacon of hope at a difficult moment.  Bobby Watson’s strongest album in more than two decades offers indispensable inspiration during a time of societal upheaval and lethal pandemic.

Watson’s first release since stepping down as Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City is a vibrant return to form.  While each of the recordings he made as a leader during the new millennium is good, Keepin’ It Real is on par with the work that made him a vital star worthy of a six-night stand at the Village Vanguard in 1991.

Performing with a new version of Horizon- trumpeters Josh Evans and Giveton Gelin, pianist Victor Gould, bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Victor Jones- Watson revives the robust energy and unencumbered joy of his albums for Blue Note Records in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

Watson comes out swinging with an incendiary solo on the opening track “Condition Blue.”  His enthusiasm is matched by the fresh-faced pianist and trumpeters and the old-guard bassist and drummer.  Unlike the more innovative faction of Charlie Parker acolytes represented by Rudresh Mahanthappa, Watson sticks with tried-and-true bop.  The conventional approach works.  Watson’s band breathes new life into a stale form throughout Keepin’ It Real.

The album also documents the revival of Watson’s melodic gifts.  The title track and “My Song” (the latter piece first appeared in abbreviated form on 2013’s Check Cashing Day) are among the ebullient compositions likely to join Watson classics like “Wheel Within a Wheel” as modern-day standards.  A pair of ballads provide respite from the frantic pace.  Gould sparkles in Bill Evans’ role on Kind of Blues’s “Flamenco Sketches.”  Watson imbues Donny Hathaway’s gentle protest song “Someday We’ll All Be Free” with a sense of profound yearning.

Watson’s playing is so curative that listeners may wish they could inject it directly into their veins.  Keepin’ It Real may not be a vaccine for the coronavirus or a solution to America’s troubles, but it serves as a wondrous infusion of fulfilling assurance.

(Original image of a Village Vanguard calendar from 1991 by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 26, 2020

Now's the Time: Milton Morris


Twelve entertaining minutes of the salty Kansas City raconteur Milton Morris holding court begin at the 1:25 mark of the embedded video.  KC Jazz Lark wrote a fine overview of the colorful character’s ties to Kansas City’s jazz scene.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*UNESCO Creative City KC honored Marcus Lewis with the 2020 American Music International Innovator Award.  The organization cites Lewis’ “leadership and creativity in musical composition, as a creative director for the Marcus Lewis Big Band and for his original compositions fusing the big band jazz tradition of Kansas City with the latest and greatest hip hop from Kemet and Kadesh Flow with Brass and Boujee.”

*A television news reporter previews today’s city council deliberations about the allocation of $7,000,000 additional dollars to the Jazz District.  Tony Botello objects to the prospect of additional government funding for “a doomed district wherein gunfire echoes through the streets far more loudly than jazz.”

*Todd Strait drums on pianist Randy Porter’s new album Porter Plays Frishberg.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Mayor Q- I am deeply disappointed that a festive day ended again in tragedy in my home district at 18th & Vine. Long after establishments had closed, gunfire rang out. We'll pursue every option available to ensure residents and businesses in the area can be safe. (link)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Album Review: Rudresh Mahanthappa- Hero Trio

One of the truest barometers of musical popularity is what’s heard blaring out of open car windows.  For better or worse, the phenomenon hardly abated during the coronavirus era.  While I frequently hear the music of the Kansas City icons Rich the Factor and Tech N9ne at stoplights, I’ve encountered the music of Charlie Parker emanating from a car exactly once.  And given the rare instance occurred near Parker’s grave at Lincoln Cemetery, it almost doesn’t count. 

The track list of Rudresh Mahanthappa’s new album Hero Trio reveals what the heralded New York based jazz saxophonist would blast on a car stereo.  In addition to rabble-rousing readings of Charlie Parker staples including “Red Cross”, Mahanthappa, bassist François Moutin and drummer Rudy Royston interpret selections associated with Stevie Wonder, Johnny Cash, Keith Jarrett, Ornette Coleman and Sonny Rollins.  From Mahanthappa’s tart tone to his startling melodic choices, Hero Trio is the most vital homage to Parker’s innovations since the bandleader’s 2015 album Bird Calls

As I noted in an assessment of the essential new box set The Savoy 10-Inch LP Collection, the persuasive vitality of Parker’s music doesn’t require apologies or excuses.  Once again, Mahanthappa provides further evidence that Bird doesn’t merely live- he thrives.  The indefensible embargo currently tarnishing the reputation of Kansas City takes nothing away from Mahanthappa’s achievement.  I’ll be bumping Hero Trio in my whip through the remainder of this momentous summer.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Now's the Time: Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson


I’ve already shared the story of encountering Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Priscilla Bowman performing for a handful of admirers at the Grand Emporium in the early 1980s.  Given the informal tone of the gig, I’ve always assumed Vinson was living in Kansas City at the time.  The charismatic vocalist and saxophonist shares the stage with the Count Basie Orchestra in the embedded video.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Hermon Mehari was interviewed by Laura Spencer of KCUR.

*Eddie Moore appears on The People of 2020, a recording on which “40 composers from the NYC music community and around the globe, seeking a way to deeply speak about the times, collaborated to write and record an album... over a 14-day period.”  The project will be released on Friday, June 19.

*A politically-oriented arts site considers the cultural implications of Charlie Parker’s association with “Cherokee.”

*The Shawnee Mission Post reports on the cancellation of the Prairie Village Jazz Festival.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Deborah Brown and Tim Whitmer

*Vine Street Rumble will perform at a virtual version of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival in July.

*Tweet o’ the Week: The Folly Theater- Did you catch our Executive Director on @fox4kc this morning? Gale chatted with @markalfordkc about our reopening and upcoming concerts! (link)

*From The American Jazz Museum: The American Jazz Museum is excited to reopen on Tuesday, June 16th, 2020. Come celebrate the Jazz Experience again! We have taken careful precautions to keep our visitors, staff, and volunteers safe. Following the guidance from health agencies at the local, state, and federal levels, we have partnered with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the KC Culture Cares group to welcome visitors back to the Museums at 18th & Vine. (Details are available here.)

*From a press release: Burnett Music Foundation is pleased to announce it has received a $5,900 grant from the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission. These funds will support the August 22, 2020 Bird Boot Camp that is also an official program of the annual Spotlight Charlie Parker festivities.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Tuned Out

Complaining about terrestrial radio in 2020 is akin to railing against the decimation of the typewriter industry in 1990.  It’s a hopelessly irrelevant subject.  Yet I continue to see musicians and jazz institutions pouring time and money into the sham.

The enterprise is a Potemkin village erected by duplicitous publicists and brazen programmers.  Examine the total weekly plays and the corresponding number of stations on the most prominent chart.  Furthermore, the majority of the reporting stations are obscure.  Only one of the stations occasionally featuring jazz in the Kansas City market even registers as a blip in the ratings.

The content of the jazz chart is even more jarring.  There’s nothing wrong with any of the individual albums.  I happen to love a few of the recordings in the current Top 50.  Yet taken collectively, the grouping presents a picture of jazz as a fossilized remnant of the past.

At a time when innovative and socially relevant jazz is being made by the likes of Ambrose Akinmusire, Terri Lyne Carrington, Robert Glasper, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Matana Roberts, the anodyne tone of the majority of jazz radio programming (there are, of course, plenty of wonderful exceptions to the bland predictability) is designed to pacify rather than inspire active engagement.  Maybe it’s a good thing so few people hear it.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 12, 2020

Now's the Time: Bennie Moten


Bennie Moten was 40 when he died in 1935 following a botched tonsillectomy in his hometown of Kansas City.  Ninety-one years after it was recorded, the embedded “Spanish stomp” still sounds like a vibrant party-starter.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*A recording of a purportedly lost interview with Charlie Parker recently surfaced.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Leslie Maclean and Dave Panico.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Tony’s Kansas City- Kansas City After Hours Argument Sparks MASS SHOOTING INURING FIVE PEOPLE In The Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District: (link)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 7, 2020

EP Review: Hermon Mehari- A Change For the Dreamlike

Hermon Mehari’s reverence for jazz tradition was evident during his performances while he was based in Kansas City.  Even when he led tribute bands dedicated to reviving the rambunctious sounds of Miles Davis’ electric period, Mehari was resolutely dedicated to faithful recreations.

A Change For the Dreamlike, Mehari’s new 24-minute missive, shows the continued and entirely welcome expansion of his sonic palette during his ongoing residency in France.  Each of the seven tracks showcases intriguing ideas and textures.

The elegiac meditation on the wistful melody of “Shenandoah” opening the EP is followed by a jolt of contemporary production accents on “Let’s Try This Again.”  Mehari riffs over the spoken cadence of a family member on “Conversation With My Uncle,” a concept also effectively deployed by musicians including pianist Henrique Eisenmann.  The tale of a dangerous transnational journey makes the experiment the recording’s most essential track. 

“Eritrea” is an electro-acoustic groove in the vein of Lionel Louke while the chamber-jazz of “I Cry” evokes the innovations of Ambrose Akinmusire.  “All Alone” and “Dreamscapes” are moody soundscapes not unlike the recent work of Kendrick Scott Oracle and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah.

Mehari’s signature plaintive trumpet tone- a trait causing him to sound like Miles Davis’ sensitive great-grandson- provides a sense of continuity amid the disparate sounds of A Change For the Dreamlike.  Mehari's insightful statement of purpose for the project is here.

(Original image of Mehari performing in 2011 by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 5, 2020

Now's the Time: Jimmy Rushing


The Oklahoma native Jimmy Rushing sang in Kansas City based bands led by Walter Page and Bennie Moten before rising to fame through his association with the Count Basie Orchestra.  Known as Mr. Five by Five for his stout build, Rushing is supported by an auspicious cast of geniuses in the embedded video.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra created a social isolation rendition of the Clint Ashlock composition “Solitary Confinement.”

*2019 Fellows, an album recorded under the auspices of Kansas City Area Youth Jazz, is available on Bandcamp.

*The 2020-21 season at The Lied Center includes concerts by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Sherman Irby and Charenée Wade.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Ryan Anselmi, Brett Jackson and Eddie Moore.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Clint Ashlock- I play Black American Music. I wouldn’t have the career and life I have if it weren’t for great black Americans. To say I condemn racism doesn’t seem significant, but I do, and I’m trying to educate myself, figure out how best to make things better from my small part of the world

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 31, 2020

A Jerk Judges the Jazzy Jamdemic

I’ve long believed the only people who use the word “jazzy” without irony are either dullards or sardonic jazz-haters.  So I cringed when I learned of Jazzy Jamdemic just a few hours before the first concert in the series transpired at the Gem Theater on Sunday, May 24.  (Why bother informing a Kansas City music journalist and dedicated jazz blogger about the initiative?)

At a reported cost of $75,000, Jazzy Jamdemic consists of free one-hour streams of live concerts on Facebook at 5 p.m. C.S.T. six nights a week through July 3.  The verbiage at American Jazz Walk of Fame’s site notwithstanding, the events stream only at Facebook.

The unfortunate name of Jazzy Jamdemic belies the high quality of the first six episodes. The sound and lighting of the performances are invariably outstanding.  In spite of the off-putting absence of live audiences and the unsettling but welcome use of face masks by musicians, the concerts are excellent showcases for Kansas City artists.  My notes on the first week’s episodes follow.

Bobby Watson- Sunday, May 24
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, the apparent driving force behind Jazzy Jamdemic, introduced the first concert by suggesting the series will act as a “painkiller.”  The setlist rendered by saxophonist Bobby Watson, pianist Roger Wilder, bassist James Ward and drummer Mike Warren- “Confirmation,” “E.T.A.,” “A Wheel Within a Wheel,” “Soul Eyes,” “Up to the Minute Blues” and “In Case You Missed It”- was indeed a familiar balm for admirers of Kansas City’s most notable jazz practitioner.  Peak viewership: 114.

Molly Hammer- Monday, May 25
A woman suggested “who needs NYC jazz when we have Molly and the ‘guys’!” during Molly Hammer’s triumphant return to the stage.  If by “NYC jazz” the commenter meant “adventurous,” she was right.  Pianist Joe Cartright, bassist Steve Rigazzi and drummer Brian Steever supported the vocalist with appropriately conventional swing.  A hushed cabaret-style rendition of “Listen Here” was easily the best selection.  Peak viewership: 226.

James Ward Band- Tuesday, May 26
The extreme dynamics created by fiery saxophonist Ernest Melton and the harmonious smooth jazz and sublime fusion played by bassist James Ward, keyboardist Angela Ward and drummer Jaylen Ward caused the week’s only sound problems.  Melton’s compulsion to test the textural limits of standards by Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter as his bandmates played it straight was thrilling.  Peak viewership: 58.

Millage Gilbert- Wednesday, May 27
The Kansas City bluesman led a quartet in desultory renditions of blues and soul standards associated with the likes of Bobby “Blue” Bland, Tyrone Davis and Albert King.  Peak viewership: 48.

Pablo Sanhueza and the Kansas City Latin Jazz Orchestra- Thursday, May 28
The nine-piece band played the vibrant form of salsa associated with Eddie Palmieri with infectious enthusiasm and spontaneity.  Peak viewership: 77.

Lisa Henry- Friday, May 29
Lisa Henry reflected the fraught tenor of the times with a set highlighted by a searing reading of “Strange Fruit” and a powerful recitation of Natasha Ria El-Scari’s poem “The Secret Life of Black Mothers.”  Flugelhornist Chalis O’Neal, pianist Everett Freeman, bassist DeAndre Manning and drummer Mike Warren backed the vocalist with exquisite sensitivity.  Peak viewership: 55.

Based on comments and "likes" during the Facebook broadcasts, the majority of the paltry viewership of each stream consisted of the same people every night.  The well-intentioned Cleaver has miscalculated the intrinsic support for jazz in Kansas City for decades.  From historical and artistic perspectives, however, Jazzy Jamdemic is an entirely vital and necessary endeavor.  It’s a shame about the name.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Now's the Time: Mary Lou Williams


Mary Lou Williams established a reputation as a stellar arranger and composer while working in Kansas City in the late 1920s.  Her appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1978 came three years before her death.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Jazzy Jamdemic concert series continues through July 3.

*Ted Panken catches up with Eldar Djangirov for Downbeat.

*Steve Paul checks in with Bobby Watson for KC Studio.

*Patrick Neas promotes the 2020-21 season of the Folly Jazz Series in The Kansas City Star.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Candace Evans, E.E. Pointer and Dan Thomas.

*Tweet o’ the Week: KC Jazz Orchestra- KCJO's annual four-concert series is back and ready to wow you with a season that celebrates Kansas City's most beloved jazz icons. Subscription renewals under way, new subscriptions available beginning June 15! (link)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 24, 2020

I Voted

I elected to join the Jazz Journalist Association after sitting next to Howard Mandel for much of the Chicago Jazz Festival last year.  Mandel is President and Executive Director of the enterprise dedicated to “the creation and dissemination of accurate, balanced, ethical and informative journalism on all of jazz’s genres.”

I hope my affiliation with the JJA will boost the profile of my ongoing documentation of Kansas City’s jazz scene, and will in some small way contribute to an eventual reestablishment of Kansas City as a vital jazz hub.  The first true benefit I redeemed after paying my dues fee derived from the satisfaction I felt in nominating Kansas City’s Peter Schlamb alongside Joel Ross and Stefan Harris as Mallet Player of the Year in the JJA Jazz Awards.  Even though Schlamb didn’t make the final ballot, I was pleased to give him a little shine.

No musicians based in Kansas City were among the JJA winners, an omission that mirrors the discouraging results of almost every jazz poll of recent years.  I intend to continue to do my part in bringing the work of worthy artists like Schlamb to prominence in the years to come.

(Original image of Joel Ross at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2019 by Plastic Sax.)

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Now's the Time: Coleman Hawkins


Coleman Hawkins was born in Saint Joseph, Missouri, in 1904. He attended Topeka High School and Washburn University prior to attaining immortality in New York.  The breathlessness of the hokey hipster narrator in the embedded video is understandable.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Lonnie McFadden’s virtual concerts are the subject of a KCUR audio feature.

*Bobby Watson performs and talks about his forthcoming album in a Jazziz “Happy Hour” video.  Watson’s segment begins at the 32:45 mark.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Essential to my wife, so at home- #vinylrecords from my #vinylcollection People into jazz know Kansas City. People in Kansas City know Pete Eye. Pete only put out a couple of records, but they’re really great.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Grading the 2020-21 Season of the Folly Jazz Series

The last concert I attended before the coronavirus lockdown was Luciana Souza’s appearance in the Folly Jazz Series on March 7.  The Kansas City debut of the innovative Brazilian was filled with surprises.  The recently announced 2020-21 bookings in the Folly Jazz Series don’t hold much potential for the thrill of discovery.  Conventional, tried-and-true sounds by touring musicians already familiar to Kansas City audiences dominate the season.  The absence of the centennial tribute to Kansas City’s Charlie Parker- the most important tour of the year- is particularly egregious.

Karrin Allyson
Saturday, October 17
Karrin Allyson rose to fame while living in Kansas City.  Her homecomings are always welcome.  She last performed in the Folly Jazz Series in 2016.
Grade: B

David Benoit
Saturday, December 12
David Benoit’s biography suggests the keyboardist “has reigned supreme as one the founding fathers of contemporary jazz” for decades.  Joined by the son of Mel Tormé, Benoit and his band will revisit his popular 2000 tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.  The Folly last hosted Benoit’s holiday show in 2015.
Grade: C-

Jeff Lorber
Saturday, January 16
I walked to Line Creek Park in 1977 or 1978 to catch a free Sunday evening concert by a group led by Jeff Lorber.  The fusion band’s saxophonist was a scrawny kid named Kenny G.  Lorber performed at the Gem Theater in 2014.
Grade: C+

Anat Cohen
Friday, February 12
Anat Cohen is an Israeli clarinetist with wide-ranging interests.  She’ll be joined by Vitor Gonçalves, Tal Mashiach and James Shipp, men who helped make her lightly attended 2018 appearance at the Gem Theater extraordinary.
Grade: B+

Paquito D'Rivera Quintet
Saturday, March 20
The Cuban saxophonist and clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera, 71, is a Latin jazz mainstay.  The former member of Irakere is making his first public appearance in Kansas City in recent years.
Grade: B+

Eliane Elias
Friday, April 9
Eliane Elias has repeatedly proven she’s a sublime performer on Kansas City stages.  The Brazilian chanteuse and pianist last appeared at the Folly in 2017.
Grade: B

(Original image of materials from the 2006-2007 season of the Folly Jazz Series by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Now's the Time: Richard Ross


Joe Cartwright recently made the world a better place with his upload of a jubilant 1984 performance by the Richard Ross Trio.  The invaluable footage features the late drummer, vocalist and bandleader, pianist Cartwright and bassist Gerry Leonard tearing into a blues number.  Ruth Rhoden, the co-host of KCUR’s sorely missed program Just Jazz, eggs them on.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Folly Theater unveiled the 2020-21 season of the Folly Jazz Series.  The bookings will be soon be evaluated at Plastic Sax.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Community Christian Church- We’re bringing Happy Hour to you, so you can enjoy “live” jazz music from our own Tim Whitmer wherever you’re at! Check out our playlist of Tim’s Happy Hour videos any day of the week. #kcjazz #kansascity #kansascityjazz #kcjazz #livejazz #happyhour

*From a press release: 90.9 The Bridge is thrilled to announce KC Bands Together, a two-night virtual concert celebrating the resilience of the Kansas City community and benefiting the Midwest Music Foundation.  KC Bands Together  will feature nearly 20 local musician performances from 8:30 to approximately 11 p.m. on May 15-16. A one-hour highlight reel will air May 22 at 8:30 p.m. on KCPT with an audio version presented on 90.9 The Bridge.  Performers include Hermon Mehari and Krystle Warren.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Album Review: Leslie Maclean Trio featuring Molly Hammer- Live at Black Dolphin

I didn’t add to the outpouring of grief in the Kansas City music community when the Tank Room closed in 2017.  I sensed something even better was coming to the performance space at 1813 Grand Boulevard.  Black Dolphin didn’t disappoint.

Black Dolphin’s excellent sound, superior service and the gold backdrop behind the stage immediately elevated the room to the top tier of music venues in Kansas City.  While inconsiderate patrons occasionally detract from the live music experience, notable artists including Steve Cardenas, Jerry Hahn and Lonnie McFadden invariably attract attentive listeners at the room next door to Green Lady Lounge.

The members of the audience at Black Dolphin on March 24, 2019, were almost certainly riveted by the Leslie Maclean Trio.  Pianist Maclean, bassist Tim Brewer and drummer Jerry Pollack play the cheerful form of bluesy jazz long favored by Kansas City audiences.  The auspicious vocalist Molly Hammer joins the trio for six of the eight selections on the jaunty Live at Black Dolphin.  

The notes accompanying the new release suggest “these tracks would have been considered mainstream in the 1960s.”  “Let’s Let It Happen,” the strongest of Maclean’s original compositions, evokes the era in which the likes of Eydie Gormé, Jeri Southern and Nancy Wilson were major attractions.  The throwback approach wouldn’t ordinarily appeal to me.  Yet two months into the quarantine, Live at Black Dolphin sounds like a dispatch from heaven.  I’d give most anything to attend a performance by Maclean’s band at the nightclub this evening.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Now's the Time: Melba Liston


Melba Liston was born in Kansas City in 1926.  The embedded clip from 1960 features the trombonist and arranger performing in a big band led by Quincy Jones.  Randy Weston also benefited from Liston’s groundbreaking work.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Jeff Harshbarger and Johnny Hamil’s treacherous trip to Paris is documented by KCUR.

*Candace Evans is featured in Johnson County Lifestyle magazine.

*Joe Dimino interviewed A La Mode, B.J. Jansen and Jackie Myers.

*A graphic novel will depict Charlie Parker’s stint in California.  (Via St. Louis Jazz Notes.)

*Tweet o’ the Week: The Folly Theater- We're ecstatic to announce our involvement in Charlie Parker's 100th birthday celebration with Charlie "Bird" Parker 100! with Dan Thomas and the Kansas City All Star Band and almost 20 special guests! Tickets are available Friday!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Birdshot

Kansas City wasn’t among the cities slated to host a Fly Higher: Charlie Parker@100 concert before the pandemic forced the temporary suspension of live music.  It’s not a moot point.

Born 100 years ago in Kansas City, Kansas, Parker had a notoriously contentious relationship with his hometown.  The discord continues 65 years after his death.  Civic leaders and representatives of arts groups tout the area’s connection to the man who transformed music in the 20th century, but their diplomatic words aren’t matched by intrinsic support.

Fly Higher is an all-star band led by saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington.  Along with vocalist Charenée Wade, trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, pianist Kris Davis, bassist Larry Grenadier and DJ Kassa Overall, Mahanthappa and Carrington uphold Parker’s revolutionary spirit.  A fearless dedication to Parker’s subversiveness reflects the global acclaim bestowed upon the members of Fly Higher.  Yet they’re personae non gratae in Kansas City.

Willful defiance of convention doesn’t fly in Kansas City.  Only after his innovations were codified and he was safely ensconced in Lincoln Cemetery was Parker embraced as a hometown hero.  My fervent longing for a Fly Higher tour date doesn’t take anything away from the dozens of Kansas City jazz musicians who know Parker’s music inside and out.  But none of them- not even the exemplary Bobby Watson- possess the intrepid recklessness of the band led by Mahanthappa and Carrington.

It’s not too late for jazz power brokers in Kansas City to rectify the mortifying omission.  Concerts in San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago have been canceled, but dates in Washington D.C, Detroit and several European cities are still on the books.  Is Kansas City really going to further dishonor Parker by snubbing a vital tribute on the hundredth anniversary of his death?

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Now's the Time: Jo Jones


I recently irked a mainstream jazz enthusiast by reminding him of my predilection for cutting-edge jazz.  My reverence for past masters is paired with a belief that their work is properly honored by an insistence on ongoing innovation.   The embedded video montage reflects my philosophy.  An instructional album by Jo Jones (of the famous Charlie Parker cymbal misadventure) is contrasted with subsequent improvisational deviations by the likes of Elvin Jones and Paul Motian.  I trust this waggish compilation made by a like-minded aficionado allows my friend to understand where I’m coming from.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Wynton Marsalis chatted with Steve Kraske about Rock Chalk Suite on KCUR’s Up To Date.

*Brandon McCray died from a coronavirus-related illness.  The saxophonist was 52.

*Brian Scarborough’s debut album will be released August 7.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Chris Burnett, Jeff Harshbarger and Matt Kane.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Green Lady Lounge- Steve Cardenas - RR (Composer: Steve Cardenas) #Jazz #NowPlaying #KansasCityJazz Green Lady Radio

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Album Review: Jackie Myers- Clementine

I was surprised to encounter several jazz musicians at the Sprint Center as I reviewed a James Taylor concert for The Kansas City Star in 2018.  Few of the soft rock icon’s folk-based hits possess even a smidgeon of swing.  Then again, Pat Metheny is an avowed Taylor fan.

Probably only a small fraction of the 12,000 people at Taylor’s concert were jazz enthusiasts, but I’m confident almost every one of them would enjoy Jackie Myers’ new album Clementine.  The latest release by the Kansas City keyboardist, vocalist and songwriter channels Taylor’s longtime collaborator Carole King on the project recorded at Black DolphinClementine often resembles Tapestry with the addition of a horn section.

Myers is accompanied by trumpeter Trent Austin, saxophonist Brad Gregory, guitarist Rod Fleeman, bassist Ben Tervort and drummer Todd Strait on the genial 36-minute set.  Each member of the backing band acquits himself well, but Fleeman stands out.  Although he’s not a deliberately flashy sideman, Fleeman is a longtime scene-stealer.

Myers’ sturdy songcraft on eight original compositions provides Fleeman and the other soloists with abundant inspiration.  The genial melodies and relatable lyrics of songs including “The Worst Part” wouldn’t be out of place on Tapestry.  The intersection of the singer-songwriter style and Kansas City jazz may be unconventional, but Myers’ eclecticism makes Clementine her most convincing and outright enjoyable album.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Now's the Time: Andy Kirk


Was rock and roll invented in Kansas City?  “Roll ‘Em Pete”, the famous 1938 collaboration between Pete Johnson and Joe Turner, sounds a lot like rock and roll to me.  And a few years after moving from Kansas City to New York City in the 1940s, Andy Kirk’s band was captured in the embedded film performing the style of music later popularized by the likes of Bill Haley.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCUR reports on the results of the American Jazz Museum’s Charlie Parker Song Contest.

*The Brandon Goldberg Trio featuring Logan Richardson will perform at the Folly Theater on September 26 as part of the 2020-21 season of The Harriman-Jewell Series.  A concert by Larry Carlton is among the jazz-related offerings in the 2020-21 season of the Carlsen Center Presents series at Johnson County Community College.

*Bobby Watson spoke to Joe Dimino about his retirement plans.

*The Marcus Lewis Band Band documented another virtual performance.

*Tweet o’ the Week: KC Jazz Alive- KC Jazz ALIVE has compiled a list of relief funding sources and other resources available to artists during COVID-19. Click the link to view!

*From a press release: As saxophonist/composer Bobby Watson embarks on a new chapter in his storied career, his latest album arrives as a reminder of the authenticity that has characterized his music on every step of that journey. Keepin’ It Real, due out June 26 via Smoke Sessions Records, debuts a new incarnation of his renowned band Horizon… Watson now finds himself in a position to dedicate more of it than ever to his own music. After 20 years as Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and decades more as an educator at institutions like Manhattan School of Music, the New School, and William Paterson University, Watson retired from academia this year. That newfound freedom instigated the launch of a new version of Horizon featuring a cast of rising stars and one lifelong collaborator… Rechristened New Horizon, the current band includes trumpeters Josh Evans or Giveton Gelin, pianist Victor Gould, drummer Victor Jones and bassist Curtis Lundy, whose relationship with Watson dates back to their college days at the University of Miami.

*From a press release: Mike Dillon has announced his new album 'Rosewood' will be released July 17 via Royal Potato Family. Recorded intermittently between January 2018 and September 2019, its 13 majestic tracks were created solely with vibraphone and percussion instruments… It was written and recorded during a period where Dillon was in the midst of leaving a long term relationship, followed by the beginning of a new relationship that would result in marriage. Dillon also found himself relocating from his longtime home-base, New Orleans to his current residence, Kansas City. "I fell in love with my dear friend, Peregrine Honig, in the midst of break up turmoil. I started spending time in Kansas City in August 2017, a city where I'd previously lived and had first met Peregrine in 1997," explains Dillon.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, April 19, 2020

EP Review: The Cur3- The Anecdote

 The Cur3- not to be confused with the legendary goth-rock band or the possible solution to the current global pandemic- is a jazz-adjacent ensemble with roots in Kansas City.  While the trio's confounding name is un-Google-able, pianist Christian Swan, bassist Blair Bryant and drummer Zach Morrow are respected contributors to the area's music scene.  (Two members are currently hunkered down elsewhere.)  The four songs on the 19-minute The Anecdote validate the musicians' reputations.  “P.G.F.” is a throwback to the sound of the smooth jazz radio format known as the “The Wave.”  The trio merges an intimation of new jack swing with glitchy hip-hop on “Traffic.”  An eponymous track is a cosmic burst of jazz fusion.  A man announces “we just came to chill and have fun- I guess that’s what life’s all about” over a bed of chipmunk soul on “The Ocean.”  The Anecdote isn’t a magic elixir, but the new release is a therapeutic sonic balm during a challenging time.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Now's the Time: The Last of the Blue Devils


It’s time to bring out the biggest gun in the arsenal.  “The Last of the Blue Devils” is an invaluable film about Kansas City jazz.  Its ongoing availability as a free stream on YouTube astounds me.  The first 15 minutes of the documentary in the embedded video capture a reunion of titans at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Purnaprajna Bangere spoke to The Kansas City Star about the Purna Loka Ensemble.

*The Marcus Lewis Big Band performed a quarantined rendition of “Facing East.”

*Tweet o’ the Week: KOJH 104.7- James D. Conqueror - Black Bouquet Ft. Ernest Melton (Radio Edit)

(Original music by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, April 13, 2020

Lockdown Listening

Harsh ambient recordings provide my soundtrack of choice during the lockdown, but I still find time to enjoy jazz.  My ten favorite jazz albums released in the first quarter of 2020 are listed in alphabetical order below.  No two sound alike. 

1. Majid Bekkas- Magic Spirit Quartet
Islamic jazz.
2. Jennifer Curtis and Tyshawn Sorey- Invisible Ritual
Avant-garde fiddle and drum duets.
3. Guitar Elation- Double Live at Green Lady Lounge
Party grooves.  (My review.)
4. Kilter- Axiom
Free jazz collides with doom metal.
5. Hailu Mergia- Yene Mircha
Ethiopian jazz.
6. Pat Metheny- From This Place
Infinite lushness.  (My review.)
7. Roscoe Mitchell- Distant Radio Transmission
Orchestral noise.
8. The Necks- Three
Agitated minimalism.
9. Jeremy Pelt- The Art of Intimacy, Vol. 1
Gorgeous ballads.
10. Oded Tzur- Here Be Dragons
Reticent chamber jazz.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, April 10, 2020

Now's the Time: Ben Webster


The embedded clip of the Kansas City native Ben Webster performing “Old Folks” in 1970 is the stuff of jazz lore.  The tear that appears to stream down Webster’s face at the 4:10 mark is said to be a reflection of the grief he felt upon learning of the death of Johnny Hodges prior to the gig.  Want more?  The edifying 48-minute Webster documentary Big Ben also streams on YouTube.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Purna Loka Ensemble is the subject of Libby Hanssen’s audio feature for KCUR.

*Roger Wilder, Andrew Ouellette, Max Levy, Paul Roberts, Sean Murdy and Matt Villinger are the winners of the American Jazz Museum’s Charlie Parker Song Contest.  Corresponding videos stream at the Facebook account of The Blue Room.

*The Kansas City jazz advocate Yoko Takemura notes Hermon Mehari’s participation in a Parisian fashion show in Jazz Tokyo.

*Logan Richardson contributes to Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds, the Blue Note Records debut of the South African pianist Nduduzo Makhathini.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Green Lady Lounge- Steve Lambert - Naima Rose (Composer: Steve Lambert) #Jazz #NowPlaying #KansasCityJazz Green Lady Radio

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Album Review: The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra- Rock Chalk Suite

The men’s basketball team representing the University of Kansas was ranked No. 1 when the coronavirus outbreak prematurely ended its season.  The Jayhawks were denied a shot at winning the national championship, but music-loving Jayhawk fans can take comfort in a similarly rarified achievement.

Rock Chalk Suite, a recording by The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, was released on March 20.  The project was “commissioned to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Lied Center of Kansas, KU’s performing arts center.”  Each of the 15 original compositions honors a Kansas basketball standout.  The Lied Center provides the “stories behind the songs”.

The hyper-partisan Kansas alumni who make their allegiance an integral component of their identities should be shouting the good news from their rooftops.  Yet I haven’t heard one of them boast about Rock Chalk Suite.  KU boosters aren’t alone in ignoring the recording.  One of four albums released by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in the first quarter of 2020, Rock Chalk Suite has been roundly ignored by the general public and the jazz media.

The neglect is unmerited.  Most of the unflaggingly swinging selections are immediately engaging.  Wynton Marsalis and his all-star ensemble sound fully committed to honoring Kansas’ basketball tradition on Ellingtonian selections like “Passing Game.”  Only three tracks contain overt references to basketball, making Rock Chalk Suite a largely unjarring experience for supporters of Kansas adversaries like Duke and Missouri. 

Switching out Luther Vandross’ “One Shining Moment” for the Jazz at Lincoln Orchestra’s Rock Chalk Suite may not placate devotees of sports, but for many jazz fans in Kansas and throughout the world, it’s an even trade.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, April 3, 2020

Now's the Time: Jay McShann and Claude "Fiddler" Williams


Retaining the upbeat tone of last week’s throwback video post, here’s a morale booster from 1979.  Kansas City legends Jay McShann and Claude “Fiddler” Williams join fellow all-stars including Erskine Hawkins and Buddy Tate in a rendition of Hawkins’ “Tuxedo Junction.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City musician Reggie Watkins has died.

*Logan Richardson released a new song titled “Frequency”.

*Matt Hopper and Adam Larson discussed the shutdown of Kansas City’s live jazz scene with Joe Dimino.

*Tweet o’ the Week: KC Kerrie- When you are stuck inside for the umpteenth day and need new ear joy so you open your suggested playlist. Spotify says "I got you" Jazz...who knew??? Thank you @Spotify for hitting a note I didn't know I was missing

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Spot(ify) the Difference

Before the coronavirus epidemic initiated the necessity of social distancing, I intended to meet privately with a Kansas City jazz musician to provide guidance on his approach to music streaming services.  Rather than conducting a Zoom session with the artist, I’ll outline my suggestions in this forum.

I commend him for not joining many of his indignant peers in posting misinformed memes about the ostensible evils of streaming services.  Spearheaded by industry leader Spotify, streaming services paid out $10,000,000,000.00 to musicians and their affiliates last year.  Yes, that’s ten billion dollars.  Artists can whine about penny fractions all they like, but popular musicians are raking in mountains of money.

How can my associate get in on the action?  First, he needs to stop behaving as if interacting with streaming services is beneath him.  While maintaining up-to-date profiles won’t make him a star, his current recalcitrance hinders his career.  In 2020, an artist’s Spotify account is an interactive business card that’s at least as important as a Wikipedia entry.

Adding a photo, biographical information, links to his web presence and maybe even microvisuals to his Spotify account won’t suddenly catapult the musician to fame and fortune, but at least it will provide him with a fighting chance.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, March 27, 2020

Now's the Time: Count Basie


It may not cure the coronavirus, but vintage footage of an all-star band led by Count Basie joyously riffing on Charlie Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce” is surely good for what ails us.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The American Jazz Museum announced a Charlie Parker Centennial Contest with cash prizes of $500.

*Drone footage created by The Kansas City Star shows a deserted Jazz District.

*Tweet o’ the Week: The Boston Globe- Joe Biden calls Charlie Baker ‘Charlie Parker’ during national address (link)

*From a press release: It’s been said that basketball is like jazz—but Rock Chalk Suite takes the comparison to another level entirely. Written and recorded by the musicians of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, each of the suite’s high-flying 15 movements takes inspiration from a different University of Kansas hoops legend... Rock Chalk Suite was commissioned to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Lied Center of Kansas, KU’s performing arts center, and the album utilizes the JLCO’s full roster to honor the university’s rich athletic heritage as well as its cultural contributions to the world.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Album Review: Eldar Djangirov- Rhapsodize

If speed and aggressiveness were the form’s most prized attributes, Eldar Djangirov would be the top pianist in jazz.  When he was a child prodigy living in the Kansas City area, Djangirov was defined by his age.  He’s now associated with his faster-and-louder ethos.

Djangirov acts as the jazz equivalent of a speed-rapper on his frenetic new album Rhapsodize.  Abetted by bassist Raviv Markovitz and drummer Jimmy Macbride, Djangirov seems to be attempting to set a land speed record on “A Night in Tunisia”.  “Variations on a Bach Prelude” is among the additional tracks showcasing his maximalist tendencies.

Rhapsodize is spectacularly impressive as a purely athletic endeavor.  Yet several interesting things occur amid the dizzying blur of notes.  Djangirov’s shifts between acoustic and electric keyboards provide intriguing textural contrasts. 

A reading of the Soundgarden song isn’t as ambitious as Brad Mehldau’s epic 22-minute version from 2008, but Djangirov’s take on “Black Hole Sun” provides an accessible point of entry for headbangers.  Fans of the bombastic prog-rock institution Emerson, Lake & Palmer will be right at home with “Anthemic”.  And “Devotion” successfully merges mainstream jazz with the fresh sounds of innovative groups like GoGo Penguin.

Nuance and restraint may be in short supply on Rhapsodize, but Djangirov’s over-the-top heroics may be precisely what the world needs in this difficult moment.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, March 20, 2020

Now's the Time: Big John Patton


I intend to showcase Kansas City jazz artists of yore during the coronavirus-related closure of performance spaces.  Long before jazz organists like Everette DeVan, Chris Hazelton and Ken Lovern entertained local audiences, the Kansas City native Big John Patton was one of Blue Note Records’ best-selling artists.  A year before he died, the organist performed at the Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival in 2001.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*As my note at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar indicates, Kansas City’s live music venues have been silenced.

*CJ Janovy created an audio feature about Logan Richardson for KCUR.

*I highlighted the careers of artists including Deborah Brown, Julia Lee, Marilyn Maye and Priscilla Bowman in an episode of 90.9 The Bridge’s Eight One Sixty program.

*Mike Herrera and Jim Lower discussed Kansas City’s jazz scene with Joe Dimino.

*The New York Times recommended Logan Richardson’s appearance at the Jazz Gallery.

*A devastating fire ravaged Davey’s Uptown Ramblers Club.  The venue fostered the careers of musicians including Mike Dillon.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Mayor Quinton Lucas- Under the authority of Mayor Lucas’s State of Emergency proclamation, and per new @CDCgov guidance, no events or gatherings with 50 or more attendees will be allowed in Kansas City for the next eight weeks. #COVIDー19 #KCMO

*From the American Jazz Museum: In order to support Kansas City’s effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 the American Jazz Museum and The Blue Room jazz club will be closed temporarily, effective immediately.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Concert Review: Luciana Souza, Chico Pinheiro and Scott Colley at the Folly Theater

After hearing me excitedly rant about the rare opportunity to hear a Brazilian luminary perform in Kansas City as we made our way to the Folly Theater on Saturday, March 7, my date wondered why Brazilian music was being presented in a concert series dedicated to presenting jazz.  A stupendous genre-transcending performance answered her question.

Guitarist Chico Pinheiro and bassist Scott Colley joined bandleader Luciana Souza in a wondrously sublime rendering of jazz and Brazilian sounds.  In a pre-concert talk moderated by Doug Auwarter, Souza praised Colley as “a great architect on bass.”  The elegant foundations he constructed verified Colley’s reputation as one of the top bassists in jazz.  Souza also insisted Pinheiro has secured his place in “the pantheon” of indispensable Brazilian musicians.  The sublime guitarist added beautiful embellishments to Colley’s frameworks.

Standing between her collaborators, Souza provided light percussion and vocals.  (My Instagram clip.)  The arty conceits that occasionally mar Souza’s recordings were entirely absent in the spare setting for audience of about 400.

Because the trio’s musical interpretations of Leonard Cohen’s poetry and the classic works of Brazilians including Luiz Gonzaga and Milton Nascimento were squarely in my sweet spot, it’s difficult for this dazzled observer to be impartial.  The namechecks of personal favorites Bertolt Brecht and Hermeto Pascoal were just icing on a deliciously rarified cake of a concert.

(Original image of Chico Pinheiro, Scott Colley, Luciana Souza and Doug Auwarter by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Now's the Time: Soul Message Band


Deep Blue Organ Trio achieved a modicum of acclaim before disbanding.  The old-school organist Chris Foreman and the accomplished drummer Greg Rockingham now perform in Soul Message Band.  With guitarist Lee Rothenberg replacing Deep Blue Organ Trio’s Bobby Broom on guitar, the Chicago based Soul Message Band is building a new legacy.  The trio will perform songs from its 2019 album Soulful Days at Black Dolphin on Sunday, March 15.  The cover charge is $15.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The author of this site is once again manning The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

*The Kansas City Star recommends Deborah Brown’s two Dexter Gordon-inspired concerts this weekend.  Maxine Gordon promoted the events on KCUR’s Up to Date.

*Michael Mackie crafted a profile of Candace Evans.

*Jeff Harshbarger informed Joe Dimino about the Purna Loka Ensemble.

*E.J. Becker narrates an audio feature about the American Jazz Museum’s children’s program.

*The American Jazz Museum’s Rashida Phillips appeared on Marcus Lewis’ Ask a Jazz Dude show.

*David Epstein of Tom’s Town Distilling Company laments the shortage of “balls-out, wild-ass jazz” performed in Kansas City clubs in an episode of the I Love This Town podcast.

*The Brandon Goldberg Trio will perform at the Folly Theater on September 26 in the 2020-21 season of the Harriman-Jewell Series.

*Newly uploaded footage of Brian Hanni’s introduction of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at a 2018 concert at the Lied Center isn’t cringey at all.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Green Lady Lounge- Kansas City jazz radio (ok David Basse @JazzBasse it's not actually radio) streaming online 24/7 --Green Lady Radio.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Concert Review: Bill Frisell’s Harmony at Atkins Auditorium

The ethereal beauty of “Everywhere”, the opening track of Bill Frisell’s 2019 album Harmony, is the sort of heavenly sound I hope to hear moments after drawing my final breath.  The version of “Everywhere” rendered by the brilliant guitarist Frisell, vocalist Petra Haden, guitarist and vocalist Luke Bergman and cellist and vocalist Hank Roberts at the start of their 90-minute performance at Atkins Auditorium on Wednesday, March 4, was somewhat less transportive.

The audience of more than 400 at the Harriman-Jewell Series presentation was immediately reminded that the four musicians are inspired humans rather than divine beings.  Yet the concert’s rough edges and dead ends were integral components of its appeal.  After Haden apologized for giggling mid-song, Frisell told her “don’t worry about it- it’s ok.”  He embraces happy accidents and is more interested in discovering new terrain than in repeating cautious routines. 

Frisell added delicate shadings and subtle tones to an exhibition of the country-tinged aspect of his artistry.  Yet rather than resembling a hillbilly jazz ensemble, the quartet evoked an alternate version of The Carter Family that excelled at improvisational theory while studying at Julliard.

While I favored the abstract instrumental forays, the audience responded most enthusiastically to comparatively straightforward interpretations of folk, pop and jazz standards.  A startlingly insightful reading of “Lush Life” was the clear highlight, but delighted gasps filled the room when Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” morphed into David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”  More than a dozen people stood during a reverent take on the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.”

I knew I hadn’t died and gone to heaven when the quartet played an unironic version of Skeeter Davis’ over-the-top teen lament “The End of the World” as the encore.  Even so, the best moments of the quartet’s inspired- and entirely temporal- concert confirmed that death isn’t necessary to experience a glorious intimation of heaven.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Now's the Time: Luciana Souza


The Brazilian luminary Luciana Souza is backed by a German big band for an exquisite reading of “Corcovado” in the embedded video.  She’ll perform in a far more intimate context at the Folly Theater on Saturday, March 7.  Souza is accompanied only by the sublime guitarist Chico Pinheiro and the accomplished bassist Scott Colley on The Book of Longing tour.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s next concert is previewed by The Kansas City Star.

*Ken Lovern chatted with Joe Dimino about Guitar Elation’s new album.

*Rashida Phillips continues her media blitz on behalf of the American Jazz Museum with a question-and-answer session for KC Studio.

*Luciana Souza appeared on KCUR’s Up to Date to promote Saturday’s appearance at the Folly Theater.  The Kansas City Star also highlighted the concert.

*Pat Metheny’s new From This Place album debuted at #92 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Brian Ellison- MO Rep. Ingrid Burnett (D-Kansas City) presents a proclamation from the Missouri General Assembly celebrating Bobby Watson’s career and leadership of the @UMKC Jazz Studies program. #moleg

*From a press release: Special guests Bobby Watson, Helen Sung and Mike Rodriguez will headline the KU School of Music’s 43rd Annual Jazz Festival held on Friday, March 6. The festival will include an evening concert at 7:30 p.m. at the Lied Center of Kansas that will celebrate the music of Charlie Parker.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)