Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Loose Cannon Brass Band At Blayney's

A musical Rorschach test is conducted on a Westport sidewalk when The Loose Cannon Brass Band play their Friday matinee show at the open-air upstairs bar at Blayney's.

Passerby are assailed by the blare of a New Orleans street party. Many people stop dead in their tracks as wide smiles form on their faces. These are the people I want in my life. Others stop and stare, unsure what to make of the improbable scenario. I'm cool with this cautious approach. Finally, there are the haters- people who are visibly contemptuous of the spontaneous party.

The most uninhibitedly joyous sound on the planet may be the sound of a New Orleans-style brass band. Raucous, funky and celebratory, it's balm for the soul. With the exception of high school jazz band offshoots, it's been years, if ever, that I've encountered a locally-based brass band in Kansas City. The guys in Loose Cannon may not be changing the world, but I intend to squeeze into this tiny space to become a part of the music every chance I get.

(Original photos by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Like a Phoenix?

I'd been hearing disturbing rumblings about The Phoenix. Sure enough, the doors were locked on the night of July 26. The site now confirms that the jazz bar is "temporarily closed." While the 8th Street establishment is just as much of a destination for revelers as it is a listening room, it's a vital part of Kansas City's jazz and blues scene. My fingers are crossed...

(Image pulled directly from the Phoenix's site.)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Up On the Roof With Mark Southerland

A few dozen indie rock kids, jazz enthusiasts and stray Fringe Festival geeks gathered on the roof of the Central Library's parking garage Saturday night for a performance misleadingly billed as "Acid Jazz."

A live drummer emitted a constant spray of rhythms as an electronic beat pulsed. Mark Southerland alternated manipulating tape samples and playing saxophone and the Seussian instrument in the first photo.

The effect was not unlike a remixed version of "Psalm, Pt. 4" from A Love Supreme, a grittier version of Amon Tobin or the electronic work of Matthew Shipp. While it was dense, challenging music, only the stodgiest traditionalist could have resisted its engaging charms.

*I also attended the screening of Flow: Living In the Stream of Music in the former bank's vault. While I wanted to see the documentary about Terence Blanchard's band, what I had most been looking forward to was chilling in a frigid room on the hot July day. I was disappointed to discover that the vault offered little relief from the sweltering heat. The film itself is a perceptive examination of the creative process, although the constant sighs of boredom from impatient moviegoers prevent me from recommending it too strongly.

(Original photos by Plastic Sax.)

Rush Hour At the Foundation

If, like me, you'd rather be in bed than out on the town at 2 a.m., you should be thrilled to learn that The Mutual Musicians Foundation recently added an alternative to their famous late night jam sessions. Live jazz is on tap at 1823 Highland on Friday from 4:30-8:30 p.m. The house manager told me that a different band plays each week.

I was one of the fortunate few to witness an outstanding late afternoon performance on July 27. A trio of young men played earplug-loud jazz. Their primary frame of reference seemed to be the work of Miles Davis' and Wayne Shorter's groups circa '64-'67.Mike Herrera's impressive alto dominated. Although his playing is a bit blustery, he owns a fully developed tone which prevents his torrential outbursts from becoming tedious. The volume level dropped significantly when Herrera switched to flute. Adam Kabak's bass work was superb, and hard-hitting drummer Kevin Cervick- I recognized him from UMKC jam sessions at Mike's- kept the informal atmosphere playful.

(Original photos by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Space Is Still the Place For BCR

This is Dwight Frizzell in the early evening of July 26, 2007. That was the date on Earth's calendar, anyway. I recall my first encounter with him here.

As is customary for Frizzell and the rest of BCR, they began their performance outside the venue. I'd love to know what the driver of that pickup truck thought.

I sat next to my friend and colleague Tim Finn for much of the show. His fine recap is here. I'll only add that I was pleased to find that after the band's recent forays into funk, they're once again squarely positioned amidst the space junk.

(All photos taken by Plastic Sax.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*Pearl Thuston-Brown celebrates her 80th birthday at Knuckleheads tonight. The Kansas City Blues Society has a brief biography of Thurston on this page. (The photograph of Thuston-Brown and Myra Taylor was cribbed from NPR.)

*Pollstar lists a February 8, 2008, date at the Folly Theater by Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Orchestra. You can prep for the concert by downloading a 2001 recording at no charge from Marsalis' site here. I did- it's top-notch Marsalis. (I first spotted this information at the St. Louis Jazz Notes blog.)

*This weekend's Dogstock Festival in Melvern, Kansas, features a number of interesting jam band-friendly jazz artists, including the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and the Ruskin Quartet,

*It looks like Ahmad Alaadeen has assumed ownership of the planning of this year's function at Charlie Parker's grave site. His press release is here.

*I love the title Dan of Gone Mild gave a post about his experience seeing Will Matthews at the Blue Room and a visit to a public golf course. He called it Subsidized Saturday.

*Parole for a man convicted of the 1980 murder of Kansas City jazz musician Stephen Harvey was denied. The Star's story is here. (Tip via Bill O.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Jazz At the Fringe Festival

I'm a huge fan of the Kansas City Fringe Festival. And while I shudder to think that anyone would limit their choices at this week's event to jazz-related offerings, I've compiled a separate list for the convenience of adventurous jazz fans. The two events I most look forward to- a set by Mark Southerland and the screening of a film about Terence Blanchard- take place at the downtown library pictured here. Please double-check times and locations; the festival's schedule is somewhat "fluid" by definition.

Thursday, July 26
6:30 p.m. at 7 E. 19th
The collective has been one of the most important "new music" groups in Kansas City for over 25 years.

Brother Iota
8:30 p.m. at Arts Incubator, 113 W. 18th
Only "jazz" in the loosest sense; expect unapologetic prog rock.

Friday, July 27
9:30 p.m. at 7 E. 19th
The collective has been one of the most important "new music" groups in Kansas City for over 25 years.

Brother Iota
10:00 p.m. at Arts Incubator, 113 W. 18th
Only "jazz" in the loosest sense; expect unapologetic prog rock.

KC's Jazz Underground: The Jazz Pathogens
10 p.m. at Screenland
I have no idea what this is about, but the title is promising.

Mutual Musicians Foundation Jam Session
1 a.m. at Mutual Musicians Foundation
"The tradition jams on..."

Saturday, July 18
Jazz Poetry: Stacey Tolbert and Natasha Ria El-Scari
5 p.m. at Central Library Grand Reading Room
If you see a guy fleeing from this reading in horror, it'll probably be me.

Flow: Living In the Stream of Music- A documentary about trumpeter Terence Blanchard
6:30 at Central Library Film Vault
The movie's trailer is outstanding.

Brother Iota
7:00 p.m. at Arts Incubator, 113 W. 18th
Only "jazz" in the loosest sense; expect unapologetic prog rock.

Barclay Martin
8:00 p.m. at 7 E. 19th
Talented singer-songwriter informed by jazz.

Mark Southerland
8:00 p.m. at Central Library Roof
Officially billed as an "Acid Jazz" show, there's no telling what's going to happen in this slot.

KC's Jazz Underground: The Jazz Pathogens
8:30 p.m. at Screenland
I have no idea what this is about, but the title is promising.

Mutual Musicians Foundation Jam Session
1 a.m. at Mutual Musicians Foundation
"The tradition jams on..."

Sunday, July 29
KC's Jazz Underground: The Jazz Pathogens
4 p.m. at Screenland
I have no idea what this is about, but the title is promising.

(Library image not a Plastic Sax photograph.)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Dan Bliss In Olathe

Dan Bliss was in solo country blues mode for his 50-minute set opening for Marcia Ball at a free outdoor concert in Olathe on Friday night. When he wasn't evoking Mississippi John Hurt, Bliss's fleet picking resembled the criminally underappreciated Chris Smither.

The audience of about 2,000 tranquil suburbanites responded well to Bliss' genial sensibility.

"This next song is about a day in the life of a small-time musician," Bliss confessed while introducing "That's What I'm Here For." His fun interpretation of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross' "Gimme That Wine" also went over well.

Plastic Sax looks forward to catching Bliss with brilliant jazz guitarist Rod Fleeman later this summer.

"Long tall Marcia Ball" was her usual fine self as she filtered Fats Domino, Clifton Chenier and Professor Longhair through her unique pop sensibility. Ball and band battled an inadaquate sound system most of the night. Perhaps that was the reason that she and her sharp band never caught fire. The closest they came was an emotional reading of Randy Newman's flood saga, "Louisiana 1927." It was the musical and emotional capstone of her show.

(Photos taken by Plastic Sax.)

Trio JuJu At Harry's

Trio JuJu had a tough Thursday at Harry's Country Club. The cosmopolitan charm of the music featured at their MySpace page was shattered by the din from approximately two dozen drinkers on the establishment's wonderful patio. Trio Juju were unable to establish a meaningful connection with the City Market revelers. Worse still, the trio frustrated the one guy who seemed to be there specifically for the band's bossa nova. He'd shout out encouragement and requests, but his presence seemed to rattle the group. As rough as it was for Trio JuJu last night, it's reassuring that the promising group is giving the Jobim and Gilberto songbooks a regular workout in Kansas City. Trio Juju try Harry's again on Thursday, July 26.

(Photo taken by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Myra Taylor: Our Greatest Treasure

Myra Taylor is perhaps our greatest living musical treasure. Few performers have the 90-year-old fireball's charisma and spontaneous sense of fun. She tells a cute story about her time with Harlan Leonard in this charming video. It's downright hysterical. Unfortunately, the uncouth audience captured here is not an anomaly in Kansas City.

Musings On the Folly Jazz Series

Joe Klopus of the Star did a fine job in his survey of the Folly Theater's forthcoming Jazz Series. I agree that it's refreshingly vibrant programming. That said, Doug Tatum of the Folly can't expect to retain many of the predominately older subscribers. He'll have to scramble to find a younger audience to replace them. Here's my take:

Joshua Redman is exactly the sort of artist that belongs in the jazz series. He's young, exciting, grounded in tradition but committed to moving the music forward. (October 26)

Bill Charlap is another inspired choice. I rave about the young pianist here. His is a quiet style; he'll be challenged to make his presence felt throughout the vast venue. (November 16)

I can't say that I'm a fan of vocalist Kurt Elling. His style always left me cold, an opinion that was confirmed when I saw him at the Green Mill in Chicago a few years ago. But that's just me. Elling is a fine showman. Unlike Charlap, he'll have no trouble keeping the Folly audience entertained. (December 14)

I'm not hip to Bobby Sanabria. But salsa and Latin jazz go over well at the Folly. I've seen great shows by Tito Puente and Poncho Sanchez at the 12th Street hall. (January 12)

The best concert I've seen in 2007 was Roy Hargrove at the Folly. It's unfair to ask fellow trumpeter Terell Stafford (pictured above) to match Hargrove's fire, but one can always hope. (February 29)

I'd never heard of Rachael Price. And after initial investigation, I didn't immediately fall in love with the vocalist's style. She's no Erin Bode. (March 28)

I'm pretty sure I've seen Monty Alexander perform at the Folly. (Or maybe it was at the Kansas City Blues & Jazz Festival.) He interprets Bob Marley songs on his latest album, so it'll be hard to go wrong with this show. (May 10)

(Image is not a Plastic Sax photograph.)