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.)

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Album Review: Pat Metheny- From This Place

I revisited the consequential collaborations of Lyle Mays and Pat Metheny following the February 10 death of the keyboardist.   The most remarkable aspects of recordings including The Pat Metheny Group (1978), As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita Falls (1981) and Offramp (1982) is each album’s standing as a self-contained universe. 

From This Place is similarly distinct.  Mays didn’t participate in its creation, but Metheny’s latest album echoes his wildly inventive contributions.  Mays and Metheny didn’t merely document performances; they invented new worlds with intrinsic sets of logic and protocol.  The infinite sound field of From This Place is the sonic equivalent of the cinematic special effect in which the frame slowly pans away from a microscopic detail of an earthbound object to reveal the incalculable immensity of space. 

While the core supporting cast of pianist Gwilym Simcock, bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Antonio Sanchez are prominently featured, the lush underpinning provided by the Hollywood Studio Symphony further expands the dimensions of the project.  The monumental production is the central component of From This Place.  Only the chamber-folk of the title track featuring intimate vocals from Meshell Ndegeocello breaks the sense of immensity. 

As with Metheny’s collaborations with Mays, From This Place is best experienced on headphones.  The unapologetic bombast, silvery sentimentality and stupefying melodicism may not appeal to everyone, but to those of us who live within a stone’s throw of Metheny’s old stomping grounds in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, From This Place sounds like home.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Now's the Time: Bill Frisell


Most prominent jazz artists don’t include Kansas City on their tour itineraries.  Bill Frisell is a notable exception.  Thanks in part to the patronage of the Harriman-Jewell Series, the illustrious guitarist reliably appears on area stages every year or two.  He’ll perform with Luke Bergman, Petra Haden and Hank Roberts at Atkins Auditorium on Wednesday, March 4.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Rashida Phillips of the American Jazz Museum chatted with Mike Shanin on KCPT’s Ruckus.

*Five musicians representing the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra performed in an episode of Star Sessions.

*“Light/Dark”, a selection from a forthcoming album by Kansas City Area Youth Jazz, is available for purchase.

*The Chicago organ trio the Soul Message Band will perform at Black Dolphin on March 15.

*Giovanni Russonello reviewed Karrin Allyson’s Shoulder to Shoulder album for Downbeat.

*Mary Lou Williams is remembered by a radio station in Seattle.

*From a press release: The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will accept a donation of four iconic artifacts related to the life and legacy of jazz legend Lester Willis Young (Aug. 27, 1909–March 15, 1959) during a concert by the museum’s big band orchestra-in-residence, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra on Feb. 22. Lester Young Jr. will present the museum with his father’s three surviving instruments: a Conn-manufactured saxophone, a tenor saxophone made by Dolnet and a clarinet by H. Bettoney, as well as a signature porkpie hat that defined Young’s style and swagger.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Concert Review: Alber at RecordBar

I suspect the Kansas City man who performed as Alber at RecordBar on Wednesday, February 19, is among the legions of people who appreciate the dozens of “chill” live-stream YouTube channels with names like LoFi Jazz Beats and Chillhop Radio: Jazzy Beats and LoFi Hip Hop.  The most popular streams regularly attract more than 10,000 simultaneous listeners.

Alber replicated the low-key style in a 30-minute opening set for the Austin rock band Star Parks.  Armed with a trumpet and a case overflowing with gear, Alber’s analog/electronic music combined a distressed rendering of Miles Davis’ late-period fusion with the lo-fi jazz style of today.  The approach was so sublimely gauzy that a monologue about nature-versus-nurture from an oblivious man seated near me was perfectly aligned with the performance. 

At a time in which three-ounce Pocket Operators create credible music, it’s only natural that savvy musicians like Alber fine-tune the readily accessible technology.  He’s the first locally based musician I’ve heard bring the form to a stage in Kansas City.  Alber’s experimentation may be anathema to jazz traditionalists, but the latest wrinkle expressed in work like his is essential to the ongoing viability of the form.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Now's the Time: Stacey Kent


Akin to the cosmopolitan little sister of Diana Krall, Stacey Kent is an impeccably sophisticated crooner.  She began earning rave reviews in the previous century, but Kent's Kansas City debut comes Saturday, February 22, at the Folly Theater.  Better late than never.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The New York Times reports on the odd collision of the Mutual Musicians Foundation’s low-wattage radio station and the Russian propaganda programming broadcast on the same frequency via KCXL.

*The local connections of the jazz-adjacent band the Purna Loka Ensemble are explored by Rick Hellman.

*Steve Kraske interviewed Stacey Kent on KCUR’s Up to DateThe Kansas City Star previewed Kent’s concert at the Folly Theater.

*Charlie Parker’s plastic sax garners a mention in KCUR’s latest arts newsletter.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Johnson County Community College- Featuring some of the most respected local musicians, the Ruel Joyce and Jazz Recital Series kick off on Feb. 17! Happening every Monday and Tuesday at noon, these 1-hour performances are free and open to the public. For more info: (link)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Album Review: Charlie Parker- The Savoy 10-Inch LP Collection

Can Charlie Parker be cool again?  On the centennial of his birth in Kansas City, Kansas, Parker is revered within the secluded jazz community but possesses negligible cachet in popular culture.  An exemplary new box set is a welcome step toward restoring Parker’s legacy as a towering American musical revolutionary no less deserving of widespread idolatry than Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain.

Slated for release by Craft Recordings on February 28, The Savoy 10-Inch LP Collection allows listeners to hear the music in the same format in which most people first experienced it.  The sturdy collection may look strange on the shelves of vinyl obsessives, but the four ten-inch vinyl discs will sound entirely at home on their turntables.

The 28 tracks from 1944 to 1948 represent the first of Parker’s three primary recording periods.  Selections including “Now’s the Time,” “Red Cross” and “Confirmation” are among the most provocative sonic missives of the twentieth century.  Stodgy scholars point out that Parker’s collaborations with the likes of Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach serve as the foundational material of everything to come in jazz, but the box set provides an opportunity to appreciate the innate intensity and inherent insolence embedded in each subversive track with fresh ears.

The music is tastefully remastered, but the 10” format, labels and sleeves of each disc are exact reproductions of the original Savoy issues.  The box includes a 12-page booklet with liner notes by Neil Tesser.  He rightly links Parker’s innovations with the rebellious work of the hip-hop artists of today.  The veneration of Parker within the jazz community is warranted, but treating his innovations as musty museum music is a deluded misinterpretation of his mission.  Still wild, incendiary and vital in 2020, this music is a timeless invitation to anarchy.  Why should jazz nerds have all the fun?

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Now's the Time: Taslimah Bey


The ragtime pianist Taslimah Bey, a veteran of the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in Sedalia, will perform at Old Mission United Methodist Church on Friday, February 21.  The concert is presented by KC Ragtime Revelry.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Deborah Brown spoke to Joe Dimino about her upcoming tributes to Dexter Gordon.

*Photographer Diallo French was interviewed by Tim Finn.

*Boney James returns to the Midland theater on September 11.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Pat Metheny- R.I.P. Lyle Mays (1953-2020) It is with great sadness that we have to report the passing of our friend and brother, Lyle Mays (1953-2020). He passed today in Los Angeles after a long battle with a recurring illness, surrounded by loved ones.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Concert Review: Matt Villinger’s All Night Trio at the Blue Room

The frequent appearances of blues, soul, salsa and rock acts at the Blue Room seems inconsistent with the mission of the American Jazz Museum.  While I appreciate each of those forms, I’ve long believed the venue overseen by the institution should stay true to its mandate.

A couple seated near me at the Blue Room on Saturday, February 8, shared that perspective.  They were visibly displeased by Matt Villinger’s All Night Trio.  The plugged-in attack of Villinger (keyboards and vocoder), Peter Schlamb (keyboards and electronics) and Zach Morrow (drums and electronics) bears little resemblance to conventional Kansas City jazz.

Yet the post-Herbie groove-pop of Villinger’s All Night Trio is the sort of consequential music essential to fostering the ongoing viability of jazz.  Rooted in Herbie Hancock’s innovations on Head Hunters and Future Shock, Villinger’s approach compares favorably with the current affiliates of the Brainfeeder collective.

The trio fleshed out the memorable melodies from Villinger’s excellent 2019 album All Day with whimsical improvisations over amplified grooves.  And watching Schlamb produce stupendous bass lines through a keyboard further affirmed my belief that he’s Kansas City’s finest all-around musician.

The vital experience compels me to reconsider my inflexible stance on the Blue Room’s bookings.  The bold performance by Villinger’s innovative trio in the heart of Kansas City’s jazz district points to a bright- and extraordinarily fun- future for jazz.

(Original image of Matt Villinger by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Now's the Time: Sylwester Ostrowski

The Polish saxophonist Sylwester Ostrowski is one of several notable musicians slated to perform at the Ship on Thursday, February 6, in a show titled Searching for Charlie Parker.  The embedded video captures two aspects of Ostrowski’s sound.  

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Bobby Watson was named the year’s best alto saxophonist in JazzTimes2019 Critics’ Poll.  (Tip via PF.)

*Rashida Philips responded to a few inquiries about her role at the American Jazz Museum for Flatland.

*The Kansas City Star previewed Bobby McFerrin’s concert at Yardley Hall.

*Harold O’Neal was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Marc Myers considers the legacy of Harlan Leonard.

*Tweet o’ the Week: American Jazz Museum- AJM will be closed all day Wednesday, Feb. 5th for the city-wide Super Bowl celebration and parade. We will be open for regular business hours on Thursday, Feb. 6th.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Album Review: Guitar Elation- Double Live at Green Lady Lounge

Acquisition of the vinyl version of Double Live at Green Lady Lounge comes with a quandary.  Do listeners restrain themselves to avoid marring the two gorgeous alabaster platters, or do they accede to the mandate of Guitar Elation’s robust twist on organ jazz and let loose while enjoying the new release on their home stereos?

As I recently suggested in The Kansas City Star, "(t)he rousing recording documents the hard-grooving attack of the quartet on original compositions like “Funkshun Junkshun.”  Guitarists Brian Baggett and Danny Embrey trade astounding solos over Ken Lovern’s funky organ riffs and the impeccable grooves laid down by the internationally renowned straight-ahead jazz drummer Todd Strait."

The memorable melodies and aggressive solos are captured in an appropriately brawny sound field.  Full of vim and vigor, there’s nothing polite about the set recorded on August 10, 2017.  The delectable tension experienced by vinyl aficionados is mirrored by intriguing dynamics within the group.  Not only do the guitarists engage in friendly duals, Lovern and Bagget exhibit rock inclinations while Strait and Embrey are more closely rooted to the jazz tradition.  The divergence elevates Double Live at the Green Lady from run-of-the-mill organ jazz. 

The most appropriate response to the album is punching the volume knob to facilitate unhinged dance parties.  A raucous soundtrack to spilled drinks, bad decisions and day-after regrets, Double Live at the Green Lady is the next best thing to spending a carefree Thursday night at Kansas City’s most vital jazz club. 

The album release show for Double Live at Green Lady Lounge is Thursday, February 6.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Now's the Time: Marbin


The members of the Chicago based fusion band Marbin are true road warriors.  Marbin returns to Kansas City for a gig at Davey’s Uptown Ramblers Club on Thursday, January 30.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Steve Kraske asked the American Jazz Museum's Rashida Philips several tough questions on KCUR’s Up To Date.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Todd Wilkinson.

*Pat Metheny is on the covers of the latest issues of Jazzwise and Downbeat magazines.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Rudresh Mahanthappa- #birdlives #birdcentenary #herotrio

*Extracted from a press release: Guitar Elation will celebrate the release of Double Live at Green Lady Lounge with a performance at Green Lady Lounge from 8-11 p.m. on Thursday, February 6.  Released by Jazz Daddy Records on February 1, the album was recorded on Thursday, August 10, 2017.  Guitar Elation consists of guitarists Brian Baggett and Danny Embrey, organist Ken Lovern and drummer Todd Strait.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Now's the Time: Too Many Zooz


After posting three times a week without a single interruption for several years, Plastic Sax is finally taking a break.  I’ll count on this abrasive performance by Too Many Zooz to bridge the gap until I resume informing (and irritating) Kansas City’s jazz community in a couple weeks.  The imaginative New York tiro performs at the Bottleneck on Saturday, February 8.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Rashida Phillips chatted with The Kansas City Star on her third day on the job as the new boss at the American Jazz Museum.

*“Anthemic” is the lead single from Eldar Djangarov’s forthcoming album Rhapsodize.

*Harold O’Neal released “Look at You”, a track from his Once Upon a Time project.

*The Kansas City Star previewed a concert by the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio.

*J.D. Considine laments the diminished relevance of Charlie Parker in a lengthy essay for Downbeat.

*Albums by Kansas City based musicians were shut out of the 2019 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Steadman- A progressive challenger to Emanuel Cleaver in Missouri accused the congressman, who is black, of keeping a photo of Bill Cosby at his desk. It was Al Jarreau

*From a press release: Craft Recordings is proud to announce the release of The Savoy 10-Inch LP Collection, which spotlights Charlie Parker’s groundbreaking bebop sessions for the legendary jazz label, spanning 1944 to 1948. The deluxe, four-LP box set—also available digitally—features newly restored and remastered audio, faithfully reproduced artwork from the original 10-inch albums, plus a booklet containing vintage photos, rare ephemera and new liner notes…  Set for a February 28th release date, The Savoy 10-Inch LP Collection is available for pre-order today (1/8), while the instant grat single, “Ko-Ko,” can now be streamed or downloaded on all major digital outlets.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Todd Wilkinson: An Appreciation

Todd Wilkinson disappoints me daily.  I encounter Wilkinson’s retweets of liberal talking points every time I open my Twitter feed.  I’m not offended by Wilkinson’s politics, but I know that an extraordinarily interesting person is lurking behind his generic Twitter persona.

As the former proprietor of a live music venue and as an enterprising performer on Kansas City’s music scene for more than 35 years, Wilkinson is uniquely positioned to recount wild stories and share valuable artistic insights.  Three recent albums reveal Wilkinson’s musical range and excellent sense of humor.  The straight-ahead On Ice and the fusion-oriented On the Lam are filled with sprightly melodies and the sort of in-the-pocket playing that’s expected of in-demand Kansas City jazz musicians.

Yet it’s on Tusk that Wilkinson shines most brightly.  Playing every note under the amusing banner of the Conical Boar Saxophone Quintet, Wilkinson playfully evokes serious saxophone chamber groups such as the World Saxophone Quartet and the Prism Quartet on selections including “Two in the Bush”.  Wilkinson may be lousy on Twitter, but he’s absolutely brilliant on Tusk.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Now's the Time: Eboni Fondren


The tradition-minded vocalist Eboni Fondren will perform in Johnson County Community College’s Winterlude series at Polsky Theatre on Sunday, January 19.  She'll be backed by pianist Joe Cartwright, bassist Seth Lee and drummer John Kizilarmut.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Rashida Phillips of the American Jazz Museum reveals a few of her interests and influences for In Kansas City.

*Tony Tixier’s return to the Blue Room was previewed by The Kansas City Star.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Jazz St. Louis- One of our favorite ways to start the new year: The Bad Plus return to St. Louis next week, Jan. 8-12.

*From the American Jazz Museum: AJM is hosting a celebration of Kansas City jazz pianist and bandleader Jay McShann, who would be celebrating his 104th birthday this year.  A social hour with appetizers will be held in the permanent exhibit of the American Jazz Museum. Hosted by his daughter, Jayne McShann Lewis, this time is for attendees to share thoughts and memories of her late father. Although this event is free and open to the public, there is a max capacity of 50 guests. (7-8:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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.)

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Now's the Time: Rod Fleeman


Before becoming Kansas City’s preeminent straight-ahead jazz guitarist, Rod Fleeman was a member of the adventurous jazz fusion group Dry Jack.  Whale City is one of two Dry Jack albums released by Inner City Records in the 1970s.  I don’t know how Fleeman might respond to a request for “Wimpy Thing” at his matinee show at Green Lady Lounge on Saturday, January 4.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Shows by Guitar Elation and Lonnie McFadden are among The Kansas City Star’s latest concert recommendations.

*Joe Dimino documented a performance by Dave Scott.

*Student saxophonist Henry Scamurra catches the attention of the St. Joseph News-Press.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Kansas City Latin Jazz Orchestra- Heading into 2020 and celebrating Pablo’s 17th Year of presenting Salsa and Latin Jazz on 18th & Vine. Longest running Salsa night in the region! A gozarrr #SalsaesCultura

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)