Friday, October 31, 2008

Now's the Time: The James Ward Band

The James Ward Band is filling in for Ida McBeth at Jardine's this Saturday night. While the group's version of jazz isn't my favorite, they play precisely the kind of accessible, upbeat music that regularly fills area nightclubs with happy revelers. Matt Hopper and Gerald Dunn are among the band's members.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Joe Klopus spotlights Jason Goudreu. If the trombonist has a web site or a MySpace, I can't find it.

*Jardine's promises "great pianists nonstop" and "surprise guests" for their "new piano marathon" on Sunday, November 2. Artists include John Brewer, Walter Bryant, Joe Cartwright, Everett DeVan, Dan Doran, Wayne Hawkins, Ken Lovern, Mark Lowrey, Paul Smith, Tim Whitmer, Bram Wijnands and Roger Wilder.

*Miles Bonny offers a free Soundtrack To a Presidency" R&B-oriented mix.

*Pete Dulin of Present interviewed Eldar.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Scary Thoughts

Plastic Sax fully endorses libertinism.

That said, the Halloween party at Jardine's described in a recent column by Hearne Christopher, Jr., sounds a little too kinky for me. Snuff Jazz, wonderfully depicted in this video, will be on stage.

Christopher's piece made me wonder about appropriate Kansas City jazz-themed costumes.

I suppose I could don vintage gear like the guys in Grand Marquis. But I'd rather not be a generalized jazz cat.

Would there be a respectful, dignified way to depict Charlie Parker? And would anyone besides Plastic Sax's readers know who Parker was? For that same reason, dressing as Count Basie or even Tom Pendergast might be an exercise in frustration.

With the help of a wig, gown and makeup artist, I'll bet I could make a great Marilyn Maye or Ida McBeth. But again, I don't swing that way. (McBeth, incidentally, is performing at the Blue Room on Halloween.)

Maybe I should just attend Halloween festivities as myself. After all, what could be creepier than an obsessive jazz blogger?

(Original photo by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Krystle Warren: Look At Her Working

I'm kicking myself. I really should have found a way to get to Krystle Warren's show at the Record Bar last weekend. Word on the street is that she's transformed herself into an innovative jazz-inflected artist. The former Kansas City resident failed to impress me the last time I saw her perform. She was doing a folk-oriented thing that I just couldn't appreciate. This recent cover of "Eleanor Rigby" was mentioned in a recent Star profile. It's fantastic. Is it jazz? Not exactly. And I don't care.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The current version of the Count Basie Orchestra will provide the soundtrack to this year's holiday season for tens of thousands of music lovers. A Swingin' Christmas, a collaboration with Tony Bennett, is one of 2008's most prominent new Christmas albums. Don't miss the wacky album cover.

*Steve Penn pays tribute to Luqman Hamza. "From time to time," Penn suggests, "It’s good to let such pioneers know that they won’t be ignored any longer." I concur with Penn's praise of Hamza. But it's pretty hard to properly pay attention to the man when he doesn't have any online presence. It sure would be nice to know, for instance, if Hamza has any forthcoming gigs. Could someone please address this woeful situation?

*The New York Times published a fascinating story about jazz benefactor Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. A new book features her photographs and fresh details about her relationships with greats including Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk.

*Tim Finn profiled jazz-folk artist Krystle Warren. I've heard great things about her recent show at the Record Bar in which she was backed by some of Kansas City's best jazz musicians.

*The silent auction of Jardine's piano takes place November 1. The minimum bid is $7,000. Details are listed here.

*Robert Folsom reviewed Branford Marsalis' concert at Johnson County Community College.

*I know it's really ugly, but I continue to update the Plastic Sax Jazz Calendar with information musicians provide directly to me. If you're not there, you're not trying.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I just got off the phone with Bob Kendrick, director of marketing at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

I had called to inquire about the status of True To the Game, an album benefiting the museum. It features hip hop superstars Kanye West, T-Pain, Akon and Yung Joc.

The album was scheduled for release today, but I hadn't been able to find it. Kendrick told me that the record label and distributor decided to push the album back to February to coincide with Black History Month.

That got me to thinking about one of my pet ideas- an album benefiting the American Jazz Museum.

My model is Bird Up! The Charlie Parker Remix Project. The ambitious 2003 release features acclaimed rock, hip hop and electronic musicians rethinking Parker's sound. It doesn't always work, but it's never less than interesting.

I suggest that the jazz museum reach out to Kansas City's top hip hop artists and DJs. The initial list might include Tech N9ne, Mac Lethal, XV, Reach, Stik Figa, Heet Mob, Miles Bonny, XTA-C, Approach, SKU and Rich the Factor.

They could work with original recordings of Kansas City jazz legends. Even better, perhaps, Bobby Watson and his UMKC students could provide individually tracked cover versions of the classic sounds for the hip hop guys to manipulate.

Ideally, the local stars could pull in a few name ringers from outside Kansas City to give the project additional sales potential.

So, who's in?

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Now's the Time: The Glenn Miller Orchestra

Attention old white people: The Glenn Miller Orchestra plays two shows Saturday at the VooDoo Lounge. Even though it's very unlikely that any elderly folk will ever find their way to this blog post, I shouldn't kid around. The original band helped inspire Americans to win the war. And Miller gave his life for the cause. Besides, this stuff is smokin' hot.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*If asked to name the definitive song in the history of Kansas City jazz, I'd have to seriously consider the Count Basie Orchestra's rendition of "Li'l Darlin'". It's lovely, lush and unabashedly romantic. Neal Hefti, the composer of the piece, died Saturday.

*Chris Burnett was kind enough to implicitly refute my naysaying in his comment to the previous Plastic Sax post. He posted a photograph of the amazing autographs he snagged during last weekend's Art Blakey tribute at his MySpace blog.

*KCUR interviewed saxophonist Javon Jackson.

*A portion of David Basse's interview for Sue Vicory's forthcoming documentary on Kansas City's jazz and blues scene streams at YouTube.

*I'm not sure that a business feature in the Star gave Basse positive publicity. The money line: "Jazz vocalist David Basse played one of his CDs to help lull Welch to sleep."

*Photographer William Claxton, renowned for his work with jazz artists including Charlie Parker, died last week.

*Upojenie, a collaboration between Pat Metheny and Anna Marie Jopek, was reissued last week. (Found via

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I was upset when Dennis Winslett announced Friday afternoon that a panel session would start at least thirty minutes late. I'd been looking forward to hearing jazz greats Curtis Fuller, Javon Jackson and Bobby Watson address the topic: Blakey Training vs. Academic Training: Reflections of the Blakey Institution.

I had rescheduled my day so that I could attend the American Jazz Museum-sponsored discussion; the delay meant I'd be forced to miss it.

My anger, however, was displaced by sadness. Only five people were in the room fifteen minutes after the event's scheduled start time. Perhaps I shouldn't blame the musicians for being so cavalier with the time. Public indifference could inspire such behavior.

The sour experience so annoyed me that I decided not to buy a ticket to the Art Blakey tribute concert Saturday at the Gem Theater. Anyone who went to the show is encouraged to leave a review in this post's comment section.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Now's the Time: Art Blakey Tribute Concert

Plastic Sax feels very fortunate that he caught the Terence Blanchard/Donald Harrison version of the Jazz Messengers in the 1980s. Seeing drummer Art Blakey alternately chide and encourage his talented young charges was a remarkable experience. Blakey died October 16, 1990. Six alumni of his band- Bobby Watson, Javon Jackson, Joanne Brackeen, Carl Allen, Essiet Essiet and Curtis Fuller- perform Saturday at the Gem Theater. Trombonist Fuller solos at the 4:15 mark of this video, but viewers who skip forward will miss Wayne Shorter's transcendent statement. This fascinating chronology of Jazz Messenger membership is invaluable for jazz trainspotters.

(EDIT: Andrew Zender of the American Jazz Museum considers Blakey's contribution at Present magazine.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The American Jazz Museum and the Gem Theater will be busy Friday and Saturday. Scheduled events include tours, student band performances, lectures, award ceremonies and the Art Blakey tribute concert. A recent Steve Penn column focused on Saturday's "Health & Financial Fitness Fair."

*Plastic Sax wasn't the only jazz-related recipient of a Pitch "Best of Kansas City" award. Dennis Winslett received a Best Museum Tour Guide nod for his work at the American Jazz Museum.

*Jardine's recently posted a bulletin announcing "The Society of Charter Members of the New Piano." Members are assisting with the purchase of a new instrument for the jazz club. A "New Piano Marathon" is scheduled for November 2. The existing piano is for sale. That's all well and good, but at the top of my wish list for Jardine's is the simple hope that the kitchen and bar staff not blast punk band Rise Against when musicians are on stage.

*Jazz musician Mark Southerland is also a visual artist. He's been selected by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce to design a "Kansas Citian of the Year" award.

*An MP3 blogger offers a slice of funk by Mary Lou Williams. It's a revelation to me; I'd never heard this side of the pianist.

*A blogger reviewed a recent Bobby Watson concert in Canada.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Plastic Sax Is a Winner

Even Kim Sivils and Steve Rigazzi don't completely get it.

They've been savvy enough to invite me to their gigs and ask me about the booking policies of area clubs. But when I spoke to Kim at Jardine's last Friday, I discovered that she was confused about the intent behind Plastic Sax. (I write about Kim and Steve's music today at There Stands the Glass.)

Allow me to use the occasion of Plastic Sax winning the Pitch's Best Music Blog Award clear up misconceptions and answer commonly asked questions.

*I don't make a dime from this site. I'm beginning to suspect, however, that demanding advertising support and applying for grants might be the only way to be taken seriously by many key players in Kansas City's arts community.

*I do not believe that jazz is an inherently superior genre. Furthermore, I'm not slumming when I attend hip hop, punk rock, country and heavy metal concerts. I love all forms of music.

*I desperately want Kansas City's jazz scene to thrive. I don't hesitate, however, to report negative news. This approach regularly confuses musicians, clubowners and promoters accustomed to mindless cheerleading.

*My friend and colleague Joe Klopus at the Star isn't afraid to tell the truth. I initiated Plastic Sax only because the weekly appearance of his Jazz Town column left me wanting more. And while JAM has the best of intentions, its static online presence and rosy tone doesn't always appeal to me.

*I was so flabbergasted by the absence of a comprehensive list of area jazz links that I dedicated a weekend in July 2007 to creating the guide posted in the right column.

*I haven't picked up a saxophone since I was sixteen. The "Plastic Sax" title is intended as a peevishly disrespectful reference to the American Jazz Museum's famous relic.

*Since February, every image posted at Plastic Sax is an original photo.

*I'm accessible; email me at happyinbag(at)

*I recognize that Plastic Sax is far from perfect. Even so, I'm confident that it's the single most useful and comprehensive source for information and opinion about today's Kansas City jazz scene.

(Original images of Kim Sivils (top) and Steve Rigazzi (bottom) by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Now's the Time: Dave Brubeck

It would be terribly unfair to both Dave Brubeck and ticketholders to tonight's concert at the Folly Theater to suggest that the show will in any way resemble this classic performance with Paul Desmond. The 87-year-old pianist and composer shouldn't be expected to rehash hits from 1959. A blogger's summary of a recent appearance gives a sense of Brubeck's current approach.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Plastic Sax is astounded by the contributions printed in the program for last week's Kansas City Jazz Orchestra concerts featuring Steve March Torme. "Gifts... received between October 1, 2007 and September 1, 2008" are listed. Assuming each contribution did not exceed the minimum donation at each sponsorship level, the group received more than $162,000. That's extremely impressive.

*Pete Dulin of Present magazine interviews Jeff Harshbarger.

*Plastic Sax pal Corky Carrel shot Kirk Whalum's recent concert at the Gem for Present.

*A member of the Basie Orchestra shares his candid thoughts on the plight of today's jazz musicians in the comments to the previous post.

*Reading the excellent St. Louis Jazz Notes blog depresses me. The jazz scene across the state seems relatively vibrant. It's not just that artists like Jason Moran, Cedar Walton and Vinnie Golia performed there last week or will be there this week. It's the more modest efforts by St. Louis jazz fans and institutions that make me most jealous. A "jazz CD listening club" was just initiated. What a fun idea!

(Original image taken last week by Plastic Sax. Most readers will be able to identify the musicians, but you'll receive bonus points if you know where they're performing.)