Sunday, June 16, 2019

Concert Review: Snarky Puppy at Muriel Kauffman Theatre

With a box office gross of about $75,000, Snarky Puppy’s appearance at Muriel Kauffman Theater on Tuesday, June 11, was the most financially auspicious instrumental jazz concert of 2019 in Kansas City.  The $35 I paid for the worst seat in the house afforded me a panoramic view of the audience of more than 1,500.

The palpable enthusiasm of the uncommon mix of fans of freak-rock acts like Primus, refined pop enthusiasts of artists such as Sting and committed jazz aficionados added a sense of occasion to the band’s long overdue Kansas City debut.  Founded by Michael League in 2004 when he was a student at the University of North Texas, Snarky Puppy is a leading light in the progressive jazz scene and a coveted festival headliner.

Even so, I never warmed to Snarky Puppy’s update of the jazz fusion associated with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report and the Brecker Brothers.  The group’s output always struck me as the overly busy and bombastic work of prodigious studio geeks.  (Tuesday’s lineup consisted of violinist Zach Brock, saxophonist and flautist Chris Bullock, bassist Michael League, guitarist Mark Lettieri, trumpeter Mike Maher, saxophonist Bob Reynolds, keyboardist Bobby Sparks, keyboardist and trumpeter Justin Stanton, drummer Jason Thomas and percussionist Marcelo Woloski.)

I made a conscious decision to drop my guard on Tuesday.  By allowing the ten musicians to barrage me with their ostentatious solos and fussy arrangements without interference from my usual critical defenses, I gained a new appreciation for the collective.  The live presentation is vastly superior to dry studio albums like the 2019 release Immigrance.  I thrilled to each solo (the obligatory dual drummer bludgeoning excepted), admired the light show and was left wanting more at the conclusion of the 100-minute set.  I showed up merely to witness the Snarky Puppy phenomenon.  I left the Kauffman Center as a hard-won fan.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Now's the Time: Aaron Parks' Little Big


Some jazz enthusiasts in Kansas City may know of Aaron Parks only through his association with trumpeter Hermon Mehari.  Yet the 35-year-old keyboardist is one of the most formidable young figures in jazz.  Parks will appear with his electric group Little Big at the Blue Room on Monday, June 24.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*The Kansas City Star follows up on Evan Kappelman’s participation in Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra program.

*A blogger took in Trombone Shorty’s return to Crossroads KC last week.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Maarten Kolsloot- Charlie Parker, geen honkballer, wel een held in Kansas City en ver daarbuiten. American Jazz Museum, Kansas City. (photo)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Album Review: Mike Dillon, Earl Harvin and Arnold Young- Universal Pulse

I’d rather escort a gaggle of screaming children to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s than listen to a 71-minute recording of three percussionists improvising.  Yet my aversion to the concept dissipates when the musicians in question are Mike Dillon, Earl Harvin and Arnold YoungUniversal Pulse, a 2004 session professionally recorded in Kansas City and released by the netlabel Muteant Sounds last month, is nothing like a self-indulgent drum circle.  The elite percussionists wield a variety of instruments and reference rhythms from several cultures, but Universal Pulse isn’t a dreaded world music project.  Some of the best bits sound like a mob of preternaturally funky children banging on pots and pans.  Chuck E. Cheese’s is going to have to wait.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 7, 2019

Now's the Time: Frederick Hodges and Richard Dowling


The piano duo of Frederick Hodges and Richard Dowling entertain at a house concert in Leawood on Sunday, June 9.  The presentation organized by Kansas City Ragtime Revelry serves as a model for how decidedly unpopular forms of jazz can be presented in hospitable environments.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes


*The Kansas City Star reports on the closing of Californos, a sprawling restaurant complex that once hosted about a dozen jazz performances each month.

*Lawrence Leathers, a drummer with connections to Kansas City, has died.

*Thirty-eight minutes of raw footage documenting last weekend’s American Jazz Walk of Fame induction ceremony streams at YouTube.

*Tweet o’ the Week: McGill University- At yesterday’s #McGillGrad ceremony for Music, a Doctor of Music, honoris causa was conferred on Pat Metheny, an accomplished musician and pioneer in the realm of modern improvised music.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Album Review: Ralph Peterson & The Messenger Legacy- Legacy Alive, Volume 6 at the Side Door

The drought in new recordings by jazz musicians based in Kansas City is disquieting.  Yet Bobby Watson continues to make noise.  The hometown hero features prominently on Legacy Alive, Volume 6 at the Side Door, an incendiary 105-minute live album by Ralph Peterson & The Messenger Legacy.  Watson rose to fame as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the 1970s.  He joins Blakey alumni Bill Pierce (saxophone), trumpeter Brian Lynch (trumpet), Geoffrey Keezer (piano) and Essiet Essiet (bass) in a band led by drummer Peterson.  The new collection includes invigorating interpretations of Watson’s modern-day standards “In Case You Missed It” and “Wheel Within a Wheel”.  The selections are every bit as vital as readings of older Jazz Messenger staples like “Blues March” and “Along Came Betty.”  Hard bop often sounds formulaic at this late date, but there’s nothing tedious about Legacy Alive, Volume 6 at the Side Door.  An enormous talent accustomed to the cyclical nature of musical climates, Watson flourishes in drought conditions.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)