Monday, January 5, 2009
The People's Liberation Big Band
John Cage's infamous composition is not the type of work one expects to hear performed on a Sunday night inside a Kansas City rock venue.
Yet there it was. The sound of silence from the bandstand competed with the shrill shushes of po-faced patrons, an indifferent bar staffer yammering on his cell phone and my bemused cackle. I couldn't believe it was actually happening.
I would have paid the Record Bar's five dollar cover charge for that experience alone. Yet The People's Liberation Big Band offered a lot more than five minutes of serious silence.
Two compositions by P. (Pat) Alonzo Conway provided the best moments of the first set. The profane funk of "Scat Rut" and the loose improvised feel of "Seven" showed the twelve-or-so piece ensemble at the peak of their power. The set's weakest moments resembled a failed rebellion by high school band nerds.
The second set opened with a rousing one-two punch. A relaxed Sun Ra composition was followed by a burly rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." That's precisely the free-wheeling aesthetic that the audience of approximately sixty expected.
It ain't your dad's Stan Kenton show. In fact, last night's performance represents the most exciting, engaging and surprising effort by Kansas City-based musicians I've heard in several months.
Last night represented the thirteenth installment of the "Jeff Harshbarger Presents" series. The next event is January 18.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)