Monday, August 11, 2008

Grading the Folly's New Season

Put yourself in Doug Tatum's shoes.

Among the considerations of the Folly Theater's executive director when scheduling the annual jazz series are pleasing his moneyed patrons, retaining the allegiance of aging core supporters, developing a younger audience and securing artists who can fill seats.

It's an exceedingly challenging proposition. While the end result means that Cecil Taylor isn't coming to Kansas City, Tatum largely succeeded in booking a varied, interesting set of shows for the forthcoming season.

Here's Plastic Sax's initial verdict on each of the seven concerts. I realize it's an insolent and presumptive act, but I assign a grade to each booking.

Dave Brubeck- October 2
The Folly should continue to book the 87-year-old pianist as long as he continues to tour.
Grade: A-

Stefon Harris- November 22
The young vibraphonist is precisely the sort of forward-looking, innovative artist favored by Plastic Sax. Even so, he's not exactly a household name.
Grade: B+

Roberta Gambarini- December 13
This is the Folly's most suspect booking. The vocalist has little name recognition. While her mainstream cabaret style will please the swing era set, her approach is probably too conservative to interest a young audience.
Grade: B-

John Scofield- January 31, 2009
Plastic Sax isn't personally excited about the guitarist's increasingly close relationship with the jam band sound and corresponding audience, but Scofield should attract the next generation of jazz fans.
Grade: A-

Kevin Mahogany's Kansas City Review- February 28, 2009
A slam dunk. Mahogany's homecoming should be triumphant.
Grade: A

Terence Blanchard- April 4, 2009
The two best jazz concerts I've witnessed at the Folly were Tito Puente in the '90s and Roy Hargrove last year. Even though Blanchard is today's equivalent of Quincy Jones, I don't anticipate his measured approach to elicit the same level of excitement.
Grade: B

Esperanza Spalding- May 16, 2009
She's the "it" musician of the moment in the jazz world. If the current buzz behind the young and beautiful artist continues to build, Spalding could be a huge hit by the time May rolls around. On the other hand, her momentum could fizzle out just as easily. The risky booking delights me.
Grade: A+

Overall grade (based soley on who's appearing, instead of on what might have been): A-

All shows are listed at the Plastic Sax Jazz Calendar.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)


Unknown said...

i differ with you in gambarini. i just reviewed 8 sets my ms. gambarini at yoshi's in oakland, ca. she
is one of the greatest musicians alive today. click charts then JAZZ.


wen the "chinese bird of santa monica" feb. 2003 L.A. JAZZ SCENE


Happy In Bag said...

I appreciate the input, Wen Mew. I'd love to be wrong about RG. Thanks for checking in.

bgo said...

Isn't the photo The New York Life Building and not The Folly?


Happy In Bag said...

I realized I've never grabbed an exterior shot of the Folly, BGO, and figured this downtown building is even more dramatic.

bgo said...


It is sad that it looks like the NY Life Building will be empty soon. Since Aquila was sold the new owners for whatever reason are moving out.

Part of the perks at working at the library was we could eat at the cafe they had in the basement of the NY Life Building. For $4.00you could get an entree with 2 sides and some bread. Iced tea was free with lemon or lime to add flavor. I'll miss it.

It IS the most dramatic building in downtown KC and every effort should be made to save it.

Anonymous said...

The Folly would not be my first choice of venue to see Scofield. Spoiled by Medeski, Martin and Wood appearances at Liberty Hall, I'd rather catch him out there.

Happy In Bag said...

I absolutely love the Folly. But dance-oriented shows don't work so well there- how will people dance at the Los Lobos show in October?