Monday, April 28, 2008

The Plastic Sax Muxtape

The good old days were a drag. Warped albums, crummy cassettes and universes of unheard music made discovering and collecting sound recordings an often frustrating endeavor.

Savvy musicians take advantage of today's enlightened environment by making samples of their music- an increasingly free commidity anyway- readily available to listeners.

Plastic Sax decided to join the cool kids by creating a Plastic Sax Muxtape of Kansas City jazz artists. I tossed this mix together Sunday afternoon using only downloadable material from MySpace, artist sites and record labels. The exception is the rarity by Pete Eye, which I snagged from an MP3 blog.

My mix opens with Megan Birdsall's bright signature song and ends with skronk from Dwight Frizzell and This Is My Condition. Also included are Chris Burnett, Bram Wijnands, Harold O'Neal, Kim Sivils and Steve Rigazzi, Ryan Jesperson, the New Red Onion Jazz Babies and Craig Akin. Enjoy.

(Original image by Plastic Sax. I still own hundreds of useless cassettes.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Now's the Time: Kenny Werner

Incredibly accomplished pianist, composer and bandleader Kenny Werner performs in a trio setting Saturday at the Blue Room. As evidenced by the accompanying video, he's a master of the form. Jazz fans hoping to go for broke might choose to begin their evening at the Gem Theater premiere of the McFadden Brothers documentary.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*Steve Penn sheds some light on the mysterious new blues club in the jazz district. Plastic Sax is incredibly excited about its arrival. I've peered in the windows; it looks really nice. A note to management: Please, if you're not going to advertise, consider creating a simple web site. How about submitting your entertainment schedule to local papers? And have the acts you book post the gigs at MySpace.

*The Kansas City Library suggests a jazz reading list.

*Saxophonist Mike Miller reports that the Mango Room is closing. I've been unable to confirm his assertion.

*The Star's Robert Butler takes note of Sons of a Hoofer.

*Now this is what I call a party!

*A blogger thinks the American Jazz Museum is "worth the trouble".

*It's no secret that Plastic Sax has a thing for Erin Bode. The star-in-waiting brings her "folk-jazz" to the Blue Room Thursday.

*I love it when Wichita's biggest smooth jazz enthusiast gets angry.

*It sure is ugly, but I moved the Plastic Sax Event Calendar here.

(Original image of Kansas City Blues and Jazz Juke House Bar and Restaurant by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, April 21, 2008

An Education In Jazz

As I attended the MCC-Penn Valley 18th & Vine Jazz Festival last Friday afternoon, word was spreading that the International Association of Jazz Educators intended to file for bankruptcy.

According to a memo posted at the Manhattan, Kansas-based organization's site, IAJE "as it presently stands will no longer exist." The board president claims that the organization was "blindsided last fall with the discovery of the extent of the accumulated association debt."

(Although there's absolutely no indication that he's in any way remotely responsible for the situation, it must be noted that Greg Carroll, Executive Director of the American Jazz Museum, was the IAJE's Director of Education for ten years.)

Regular Plastic Sax readers already know that I'm not an advocate of the jazz education establishment. Friday's festival only solidified my stance.

The students could play remarkably well; that's not at issue. It's the distressing absence of passion and fire that's alarming. As if to confirm the event's lack of relevance, the audience consisted almost exclusively of supportive parents. I suspect that many of the teenage musicians applied their talent to ska, hip hop and rock bands later that night.

Why not allow these kids to make the music meaningful to themselves and their classmates during school hours? It's cool that high school marching bands play versions of Outkast's "Hey Ya!" and Black Sabbath's "Iron Man." But I'll bet they'd prefer to arrange and perform Green Day's American Idiot or Dr. Dre's The Chronic.

It's an appropriate time to reevaluate the status quo. The question must be asked- "Why jazz education?" If there's no satisfactory answer, perhaps jazz programs should be abandoned in favor of popular music departments.

I would rather hear an inspired cover of a Rick Ross hit than a desultory rendition of a Billy Strayhorn chart.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

My Suppressed Desire

Athough they're almost entirely forgotten today, the Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra may be the most successful act to have originated in Kansas City. Don't believe me? Chuck Haddix has details at Club Kaycee. He digs in even deeper in this essential history. Or just check Wikipedia.

(This gem was kindly brought to my attention by The New Low Down.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*The trailer for Sons of a Hoofer, the new documentary about the McFadden Brothers, is posted at some awesome dude's MySpace page. It's also showing at the American Jazz Museum's site. And I just discovered that the museum has seven original videos available at MySpace.

*The Metheny Music Foundation's site has been updated with photos from their recent fundraising event.

*Mike Metheny is jazzed about his April 29 gig at a Lee's Summit library- "No talking, no smoking, no blenders buzzing during ballads, or spontaneous slow dancing by drunks in heat."

*The Philadelphia Inquirer gives Karrin Allyson's new release a lukewarm review.

*A blogger muses on dining options near the jazz district.

*A smoker teases the Blue Room's long-standing smoking ban in an editorial.

*Smart and lucky people are including the jazz festival and Friday's big show at the Gem in their weekend plans.

*Trad jazz fans are heading east for the Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival that begins today. (Link via St. Louis Jazz Notes.)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Plastic Sax Jazz Event Calendar

Welcome to my nightmare. People have been asking for a jazz calendar since the inception of Plastic Sax.

"But that's work!" I'd exclaim. "Besides, the Jazz Ambassadors produce a fine weekly jazz calendar."

Knowing that I had a free hour that might allow me to catch a bit of live music early Friday evening, I turned to their calendar only to discover that it hadn't been updated. And the Mutual Musicians Foundation event calendar has been dormant for weeks; I hope their Friday "Rush Hour" shows haven't been discontinued.

I remembered that Tim Whitmer has a Friday matinee at Jardine's and that smooth jazz was on tap at the Blue Room's Indigo Hour. But I wasn't in the mood for those offerings. Frustrated and disappointed, I furiously compiled this Kansas City jazz calendar in my office.

My calendar is obviously incomplete and highly selective. Only a fraction of live jazz events are listed here. Use the links on the right to see everything that's happening at clubs including Jardine's, the Blue Room, the Drum Room and the Majestic. It's safe to assume that musicians like Chris Burnett, Rod Fleeman and Angela Hagenbach are playing somewhere in Kansas City this week. Please click on their links.

Instead, my list focuses on special events, concerts and festivals. Please leave a comment if you spot a particularly egregious omission, demand to know why Junior Brown is on the calendar or merely want to tell me I'm an idiot. (I suppose I'll update this monster monthly; I may slap it on a separate site.)

4/15 People's Liberation Big Band w/ Pattern Is Movement- Record Bar

4/18 Benny Green/Christian McBride/Gregory Hutchinson- Gem Theater

4/18-19 MCC- Penn Valley 18th & Vine Jazz Festival

4/19 Logan Richardson with Billy Hart- Blue Room

4/19 Glenn Miller Orchestra- Carlsen Center

4/19 Junior Brown- Knuckleheads

4/19 Grand Marquis- Blues Society house party

4/24 Erin Bode- Blue Room

4/25-26 The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, "Herd Again"- Unity On the Plaza

4/26 George Clinton- Crossroads KC

4/26 David Basse w/ OJT- Jardine's

4/29 Mike Metheny- Lee's Summit Library

4/30 Megan Birdsall- Jardine's

5/03 Leo Kottke and Leon Redbone- Uptown Theater

5/03 Bill Edwards, "Ragtime Revelry"- Community Christian Church

5/04 Clark Terry w/ KC Youth Jazz Orchestra

5/05 Son Venezuela- Crossroads KC

5/10 Monty Alexander- Folly Theater

5/16 Alto Madness w/ Richie Cole- Blue Room

5/16 Mike Dillon's Go Go Jungle w/ Hairy Apes BMX- Davey's Uptown

5/18 Brad Cox Ensemble- All Soul's Unitarian

5/19 Mark Southerland/Mike Dillon- Blue Room

5/22-24 Owen/Cox Dance Group- City Stage at Union Station

5/28 Dresden Dolls- Beaumont Club

5/30-31 Winard Harper- Blue Room

6/05-8 Wakarusa

6/06-8 Hawkfest w/ Sam Rivers, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Flora Purim and Airto

6/06 Roy Bookbinder- Mountain Music Shoppe

6/14-15 Rhythm & Ribs Festival w/ Oleta Adams, Fourplay, George Duke

6/12 Chicago w/ the Doobie Brothers- Starlight

6/19-20 Jazz In the Woods- Erin Bode, Grady Nichols, Greg Adams

7/18 Matt Haimovitz- The Brick

9/17-21 Walnut Valley Festival, aka "Winfield"

9/26 Branford Marsalis w/ the Alexander String Quartet and- Lied Center

9/27 George Winston- Folly Theater

10/19 Marsalis Brasilianos- Carlsen Center

10/26 The Harlem Quartet- Lied Center

10/31 Spaghetti Western Orchestra- Carlsen Center

11/04 Savion Glover- Carlsen Center

12/13- The Boston Brass- "A Stan Kenton Christmas"- Lied Center

1/16/09 Metta Quintet, "Stolen Moments: 100 Years of Jazz"- Lied Center

2/11/09 Imani Winds, "Josephine Baker: A Life of Le Jazz Hot"- Lied Center

(Original image by Plastic Sax. Please bail me out!)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Are Shorts Allowed In Jazz?

Kansas City pianist Joe Cartwright recently posted several live performance videos at YouTube. My favorite is this Jazz In the Woods session featuring Stan Kessler, Kim Park, Ray DeMarchi and Gerald Spaits. Park's sax solo is particularly noteworthy.

I know how insufferable the heat can be at this event- I became delirious from sunstroke during Erin Bode's set a couple summers ago- but it's still disorienting to see jazz musicians donning shorts.

While Bode's alluring pop-jazz returns to the festival in 2008, you're not going to find traditional acoustic jazz musicians at Jazz In the Woods this year. Nor will you hear any local talent. Let this video serve as a satisfying reminder of a different time.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*No smoking! Is the result of yesterday's vote good or bad for Kansas City's jazz clubs? Loren Pickford calls it "white yuppie nonsense" in a KCUR report.

*The MCC-Penn Valley 18th & Vine Festival April 19-20 promises to be a memorable event for aspiring jazz musicians.

*Jason Harper of the Pitch was reminded of the inherent fun of Kansas City jazz club-hopping. Don't miss his evocative video of the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*More than once I've used this space to suggest a local jazz film series at the Gem or the screening room at the American Jazz Museum. Well, a guy in Minneapolis made it happen in his city. Tellingly, the story makes several references to Kansas City.

*A New York City blogger composed a fine review of Karrin Allyson's new release.

*Here's a new discovery for Plastic Sax: "The Freedom Band, Kansas City's gay and lesbian community band," played a concert of "big band and jazz favorites" April 5. I've added them to the performers' links to the right.

*Chris Burnett was the subject of a KCUR interview.

*Bobby Watson's new release gets a mixed review in a Buffalo newspaper.

*Chris Botti will perform a pops concert with the Kansas City Symphony on September 12, 2008.

*I'm delighted that my post pleading for more interaction seems to have stimulated dialogue. A handful of the items in today's post were even forwarded to me by artists, writers and publicity people. What a concept! I even like it when I'm called out. To that end, local retailer Vinyl Renaissance asked me to let local musicians know that "we are going to be accepting local artist cd's on consignment. The best part (is) we aren't going to charge any fee for the sale."

*The Kansas State School For the Blind now has a recording studio.

*Who knew that jazz vocalist D.J. Sweeney was a community agitator? She hopes to "save our jazz on KKFI 90.1."

(Original image of "Jazz Day" at KCKCC by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Show-Me Jazz Showdown

Brad Mehldau, the jazz musician of the moment, has a four-night residency this week at St. Louis' Jazz At the Bistro. The pianist then plays Columbia on Sunday. There's no Kansas City date.

It often seems like St. Louis has more to offer jazz fans than its cross-state rival. To help determine if St. Louis really is a superior jazz town, I've broken the question down into five categories.

Major caveat: It's been a couple years since I've been to "The Lou," and I've spent a total of about 100 nights in the city. And while I really like St. Louis, I live in Kansas City by choice.

1. LIVE JAZZ Edge: St. Louis
I adore the intimacy of the Blue Room, the consistency of Jardine's, and the beauty of the Folly. St. Louis's venues include Jazz At the Bistro and the Sheldon. St. Louis' festivals break the tie.

2. HISTORY Edge: Tie
Both cities are rightfully proud of their jazz legacies. There's no point in arguing about Miles versus Bird or the World Saxophone Quartet versus Bobby Watson.

3. RETAIL AND RADIO Edge: St. Louis
Jazz experts abound at St. Louis music dealers Vintage Vinyl, Euclid Records and Webster Records. Kansas City no longer offers anything of the kind. KWMU, KDHX and WSIE fill St. Louis' airwaves with jazz. KKFI gives Kansas City ten hours of jazz programming a week. It's no contest.

(Edit- The staff of Vinyl Renaissance disagrees with my assessment. And sure enough, they list some prime vinyl at their site. I look forward to visiting their Shawnee store. Maybe I'll make it out on "Record Store Day," April 19.)

4. INTANGIBLES Edge: Kansas City
The American Jazz Museum, the Blue Room and the Mutual Musicians Foundation are unique to Kansas City.

5. JAZZ TALENT Edge: To be determined
Rather than smugly insisting that Kansas City dominates this category, I'll propose a novel concept. What if representative artists of each city were to trade dates? Better yet, a group of Kansas City musicians- say Bobby Watson, Megan Birdsall, the Jazz Disciples and Chris Burnett- might play together in St. Louis as "The Kansas City All-Stars." Meanwhile, St. Louis might send Hamiet Bluiett, Erin Bode and the Kennedy brothers to Kansas City. Jazz fans and musicians in both cities would benefit.

So which city wins? I'll let Don Denkinger decide.

(Image of Jazz At the Bistro's calendar by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, April 4, 2008

All Eyes On Pete

There's no need to explicate the many elements that make this humble home movie one of the greatest things I've ever stumbled across on YouTube. Just watch for yourself. Pete Eye was one of the most popular musicians in Kansas City in the '70s. This excellent interview conducted by Mike Metheny offers keen insights into the town's social fabric.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News and Notes

*Present Magazine covered the recent concert by Bobby Watson, Mary Stallings and Karrin Allyson at the Gem Theater. Plastic Sax pal Corky Carrell captured several beautiful images. A review also ran in UMKC's University News.

*The American Jazz Museum will premiere Sons of a Hoofer, a documentary about the McFadden Brothers, at the Gem Theater on April 26.

*A customized message from Clark Terry greets visitors to the site of the KC Youth Jazz Orchestra. The legend performs with the group May 4.

*The life of William Hyland made for an amazing obituary. In addition to helping guide U.S. foreign policy, the Kansas City native wrote "three books about jazz, big bands and Broadway musicals."

*Lee Ingalls recalls the late Dennis Irwin's final appearance at the Blue Room.

*Doug Ramsey sings the praises of a forgotten Basie title at his site.

* JazzTimes reviews a recent Pat Metheny concert.

*Here's a press release Bobby Watson's record label submitted to All About Jazz.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)