Monday, September 29, 2008

Who Are You?

The majority of jazz fans here in Kansas City can be grouped into one of two categories. There's the aging white audience for whom Glenn Miller is still the king. These people can actually recall a time when jazz was popular music.

Then there are the primarily black fans in their 40s, 50s and 60s who came of age to Ramsey Lewis' The In Crowd and Grover Washington, Jr.'s Mr. Magic.

The first group's communal vigilance has been the bedrock of the local jazz scene. Area jazz clubs are vanishing as their numbers dwindle.

The second crowd's conception of jazz is far less rigid. Norman Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, Najee and Mary J. Blige all have equal merit in this more liberal world view. While I applaud this perspective, it's not going to sell many tickets to a Cecil Taylor concert.

To be certain, there are at least a couple hundred misfits like me, relatively young jazz fans who support the music in spite of the indifference of our peers. Kansas City is also home to an astonishing number of jazz educators and students.

If the economy continues its downturn, the federal funds and the charitable grants that have propped up area jazz series and institutions might disappear. Toss in a rapidly aging fan base, and you have to wonder what's to become of jazz in this town.

Who's going to pay money to see the Count Basie and Tommy Dorsey ghost bands? What will happen to the careers of musicians like Alaadeen, Will Matthews, Loren Pickford and Tommy Ruskin?

I know there's no shortage of local musicians willing to step up. But will there be an audience to support them?

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sandomirsky & Wijnands

KANU recently spoiled my afternoon.

Even though I knew that the station diligently publishes its playlists online, I simply couldn't leave my sedan until I discovered who was responsible for the magical duet being broadcast. When the selection was finally back-announced twenty minutes later, I discovered that I'd been listening to a recording of a February 18 performance by Bram Wijnands and Gregory Sandomirsky from the Ruel Joyce series at Johnson County Community College.

The duo performed again this week at Community Christian Church. Luckily for fans of innovative music, the performance was filmed. Eleven selections are up at YouTube.

What the radio broadcast failed to reveal is the amusing physical interplay between Kansas City pianist Wijnands and Sandomirsky, the Associate Concertmaster with the Kansas City Symphony. Their playful antics don't disguise the revealing connections the men make between the worlds of jazz and classical music.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*John Kreicbergs cites "modest attendance" in his review of Tuesday's David Sanborn concert at the Uptown Theater. Hey, John- was the number over or under 500?

*A consultant who had previously advised Kansas City, Missouri, on development at 18th and Vine is receiving additional money from the city.

*Sue Vicory reports that her documentary film about Kansas City jazz and blues will premiere April 18th 2009. Here's her project's site.

*Joe Klopus interviews Pat Coil.

*A blogger fondly recalls an exhibit at the American Jazz Museum.

*Via There Stands the Glass: I hate the New York Yankees organization just a little less today. I practically fell off my couch last night when I heard Yankee Stadium's organist play a swinging version of Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite" during ESPN's broadcast of the final home game at the landmark. Hey, Kansas City Royals- I'm reluctant to suggest that you copy the Yankees, but how about replacing John Denver with Bird next season?

*Jazz Wax reports that Mary Lou Williams' Black Christ of the Andes is now available at iTunes.

*Pat Metheny appears on Charlie Haden's new Americana-oriented album.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Temporarily Suspended

I was quite annoyed Friday evening. Three days later, my aggravation has been replaced with concern.

I've been extolling the merits of the Mutual Musicians Foundation's Friday "Rush Hour" sessions since the program's inception. Offering a free Friday matinee jazz session in the historic building is a great idea that I've doggedly supported. Last Friday I dragged another potential convert to 1823 Highland.

We were met with a placard indicating that Rush Hour is "temporarily suspended." The Foundation's online event calendar indicated that Al Pearson and Heat Index would be performing. It also lists a September 26 program titled "Remembering the Ink Spots with Luqman & Lucky Wesley." I'd like to confirm this date at the artists' web sites, but um, neither man has one...

Do any Plastic Sax readers know what's going on?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Now's the Time: David Sanborn

That sound! Love it or loathe it, there's no denying that the tone of David Sanborn's saxophone has had an enormous impact on modern popular music. The 63-year-old's new album is being marketed as a tribute to David "Fathead" Newman, Hank Crawford and other epochal jazz and R&B saxophonists. Sanborn will undoubtedly emphasize that material when he performs Tuesday at the Uptown Theater.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The site documenting Miles Bonny's recent European trip is simply amazing.

*David Basse's 1989 album Count On Me is being remastered. Read about it here. Don't miss the free download.

*Al-Andaluz is featured in Present.

*Does federal funding of the American Jazz Museum qualify as pork? A local television station poses the question.

*Kansas City, Kansas, soul great Marva Whitney wrote a new blog post.

*A student praises UMKC's music program. It's unclear why he refers to Bobby Watson as "the late great Bobby Watson" when he clearly understands the jazz educator is very much alive.

*Have a spare $75? A house party is being held for The American Jazz Museum at a private residence on Friday.

*Some jerk reviewed Norman Brown's Summer Storm concert at the newly renovated Midland at AMC.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Grading the Gem's New Season

Plastic Sax graded the Folly Theater's forthcoming jazz concert series last month. I now turn my attention to the American Jazz Museum's Jammin' At the Gem 2008-2009 season.

My analysis is profoundly impacted by a bittersweet experience at the Gem last October. As I wrote at the time, Dee Dee Bridgewater's genre-bending performance was "like witnessing the inception of an extraordinary new art form." Yet the profoundly moving concert was poorly attended.

Kirk Whalum- September 20
As I've suggested many times in this forum, jazz must never stand still if it's to remain relevant. Whalum's music more closely resembles Ne-Yo than Charlie Parker; it will almost certainly fill the Gem.
Grade: B+

Tribute To Art Blakey- October 11
With all due respect to Joanne Brackeen, Essiet Essiet, Javon Jackson and Bobby Watson, this concert is most notable for the presence of Curtis Fuller. The ensemble's Blakey alumni have substantial careers. Yet it's the chance to catch 73-year-old Fuller, a cat who appears on the opening strains of 1957's Blue Train, that makes this date special.
Grade: B+

Blue Note 70th Anniversary Tour- February 20, 2009
I yawned when I first saw the listing for this event. Then I discovered who would be participating- Bill Charlap, Lewis Nash, Nicholas Payton, Peter Bernstein, Peter Washingtom, Ravi Coltrane and Steve Wilson. These relatively young guys are the premier musicians in today's classical jazz scene.
Grade: A-

New York Voices- March 21, 2009
Most vocalese makes Plastic Sax immediately reach for his Tom Waits albums. I'm sure this concert is the highlight of the Gem's season for many area concertgoers. It's not for me.
Grade: C

The Mingus Big Band- April 18, 2009
The brilliant jazz bassist and composer will have been dead for over thirty years come next April. So much depends on which version of the touring band comes to Kansas City. Much like Mingus, this concert is a real wild card.
Grade: B

Poncho Sanchez- May 9
The Latin jazz journeyman has appeared regularly in the Folly's series. His concerts are a guaranteed good time.
Grade: B

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Now's the Time: Tower of Power

What a weekend for fans of the commercial side of jazz! Trumpeter Chris Botti combines forces with the Kansas City Symphony tonight. Norman Brown's Summer Storm tour, featuring Alex Bugnon, Chante Moore and Paul Taylor stops at the Midland on Saturday. That same night, Tower of Power brings the funk to Ameristar. Go ahead and laugh at the gruesome visuals in the accompanying video. But the music is impeccable. What is hip, indeed.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Eldar is booked for a five-night run at Jardine's November 16-20. Shows will be at 6:00 and 8:30.

*Steve Paul offers a glass-half-full analyis of Kansas City's jazz scene.

*Present magazine provides live footage of Joe Cartwright, Joe Straws and David Basse.

*Ahmad Alaadeen and Mark Southerland are among the artists awarded grants by an arts organization.

*KCUR conducted a nice interview with Everette DeVan. It's downloadable.

*The New York Times investigates Jazz at Lincoln Center's management structure.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Now's the Time: Mike Moreno

If you prefer Pat Metheny when he works in a conventional jazz format, you'll want to catch Mike Moreno at Jardine's tonight. The critically acclaimed guitarist is on a roll. Among his other accomplishments, he's featured on Invisible Cinema, the enormously hyped new Blue Note release by pianist Aaron Parks. Joe Klopus composed a fine preview of tonight's show. Although this video is murky, it provides a decent sonic representation of what promises to be one of this year's better jazz shows in Kansas City.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*A most unusual jazz performance transpired last weekend at the Kansas City Irish Fest. Eric Rigler of Bad Haggis is a piper, alright, but his band offered a chagrined audience a blast of jazz fusion in the vein of Return to Forever and Weather Report.

*Andrew Zender composed a beautiful review of a new Hot Lips Page biography.

*Mazuka was profiled by Joe Klopus.

*Steve Penn visits with musicians about Charlie Parker's legacy.

*The New Low Down outs me in his superior analysis of this year's Charlie Parker memorial. Lee is too gracious to mention that Kansas City's jazz community suffered a terrible blow when he left town.

*How I Came To Love Jazz is the title of a new book by Kansas City poet Phyllis Becker.

*An unissued Charlie Parker recording is scheduled for release.

*Miles Bonny has four gigs in Germany and Austria over the next few days.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)