Friday, May 29, 2009

A Plastic Sax Party

This is so cool!

B.A.C. Horn Doctor, an Olathe company mentioned here earlier this month, has restored a Grafton saxophone similar to the $144,500 instrument on display at the American Jazz Museum.

In this video, Gerald Dunn auditions it in the presence of Charlie Parker's controversial plastic sax.

In addition to Dunn, the Horn Doctor staff filmed Loren Pickford and Bobby Watson playing the instrument. All three men make the plastic sax sound great.

Related videos are available at the Horn Doctor's YouTube channel.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Pitch reports that Gi Gi's Jazz Inn, a jazz club on Troost, has opened. Aside from Jason Harper's story, the venue has no web presence.

*All About Jazz published an extensive interview with vocalist Deborah Brown.

*The Star reports that The Majestic is "temporarily closed." The downtown venue featured jazz nightly.

*Subtitled "A Father's account of his history of jazz in Kansas City," Then appears to be a personal jazz-oriented documentary. As Vimeo is buggy for me, I haven't been able to view much of it. (Tip via Tony's Kansas City.)

*The author of The Daily Record bemoans the fact that he can attend a free jazz festival featuring the likes of Dave Brubeck and Dr. John in Jacksonville but not in Kansas City.

*The excellent lineup for the 17th annual Charlie Parker festival has been announced. Alas, it's in New York City.

*Two prominent local scribes, Tony of Tony's Kansas City and John Mark Eberhart rave about Dave Stephens' recent appearance at Jardine's.

*The Star's piece on Alacartoona is a mandatory reading for all area musicians.

*The Star offers an in-depth story about the ongoing drama at KKFI.

*Our friend Lee brought this jazz radio news to our attention.

*Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon is playing The Blue Room on July 11. Stefon Harris returns to Kansas City in January.

*According to this this Pitch piece, The Blue Room attracts quite a crowd for its monthly poetry slams.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Chris Burnett Makes It Happen

Plastic Sax readers know that I regularly point out that most Kansas City jazz musicians fail to properly market themselves. Just last month I highlighted two outstanding promotional videos by local rappers in an effort to motivate the jazz community.

Chris Burnett is an exception. He aggressively promotes both his work and the Artists Recording Collective on a variety of social media platforms. And now he has a new video to show off.

I don't particularly care for the aesthetic values of the video, but that's not the point. What's important is that Burnett made it happen.

A technical note from the video's creator is instructive: "I made this music video with nothing but Digital Juice Videotraxx HD and SD. It took more time to render the clips (about 60 of them) than it did to cut it together."

Who's next?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Now's the Time: Logan Richardson

While it ranked as my 17th favorite concert of 2008, Stefon Harris's November performance at the Folly Theater occasionally risked becoming overly cerebral. Each time things became a tad too flighty, the work of saxophonist Logan Richardson steered the proceedings back toward terra firma. His somewhat menacing presence seemed to ground Harris' band. Richardson is featured at Jardine's Tuesday and Wednesday, May 26-27. (EDIT: He'll also be at The Blue Room on Saturday, May 30.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Chris Burnett recently notified friends and fans that his 2007 album streams free at Plastic Sax is a fan of the service. There's at least a week's worth of Kansas City jazz- from Count Basie to Pat Metheny to Megan Birdsall- available at the site. I'm listening to Doug Talley's Kansas City Suite at at this very moment.

*Road trip! St. Louis Jazz Notes reports that Sonny Rollins will perform in St. Louis on September 19. And a thoughtful Plastic Sax reader just sent me a link to the impressive schedule for the Chicago Jazz Festival.

*Jazz bassist and Big 8 basketball legend Wayman Tisdale has died.

*Sue Vicory provides an update on her Kansas City jazz and blues documentary.

*The Kansas City Kansan files a report about this summer's Kansas City Kansas Street Blues Festival.

*Pat Metheny appears on the new Gary Burton release. Too bad about the Peter Max album art.

*Corky Carrell's photographs of The Mingus Big Band's recent performance at The Gem Theater are posted at Present.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

It's a New Day

I caught Esperanza Spalding at The Folly Theater Saturday night. I more or less concur with the guy who wrote this rave review of the concert.

Spalding, 24, served notice that the game has changed.

With breathtaking versatility- the performance included straight-ahead jazz, crossover pop, fusion, avant-garde edginess and forays into the sounds of Brazil and Argentina- Spalding demonstrated that a jazz-based musician can engage a diverse audience if he or she displays enthusiasm, charisma, and most importantly, immeasurable talent.

Musicians in Kansas City's jazz community need to step up or be left behind. There's no shortage of local talent or innovation- but the ability to combine those elements into a forward-thinking concept is largely absent.

The sixty-plus set that has propped up the local scene for decades won't be around much longer. Only a handful of jazz hermeticists, Plastic Sax among them, will be eager to consume the music in its purest forms in ten years.

Spalding understands that she's competing directly against Bjork, Ben Harper, Alicia Keys and Radiohead. She accepts that challenge without compromising her art.

Spalding proved Saturday that it's possible to blaze a new trail in which jazz might find an artistically and commercially bright future. Are you going with her?

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Now's the Time: Esperanza Spalding

I'm holding out on you. My thoughts about Esperanza Spalding will first appear in another forum. Joe Klopus provided a fine preview of her Saturday show at The Folly Theater.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Star summarized the $143,000 earmark presented to the Mutual Musicians Foundation at a ceremony Monday. Betty Crow and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver are interviewed in a companion video.

The Star indicates the funds "will be used to upgrade the video and still photography archives at the Mutual Musicians Foundation building." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but is there any reason not to begin uploading the archives to free services YouTube and Flickr? I'd be happy to help.

That way the money can be used for maintenance. Here's a Cleaver quote from a March press release: "If I can’t find money for the historic building that is crumbling on top of the players at the Mutual Musicians Foundation, where will it come from?"

*The KC Tribune published a lengthy story on the same topic. Their piece includes quotes from Lucky Wesley and Luqman Hamza.

*Public reaction has been overwhelming positive. My favorite comment comes via a Twitter user: "Keeping Jazz swinging Sen Cleaver donated 143,000 to the Mutual Musicians Foundation!" Um...

*The summer concert series at The Power & Light District stage has been announced. As I did in 2008, I'll enjoy several of the free shows by big-name talent. Unfortunately, not a single jazz act is scheduled to appear. Jazz fans shouldn't feel like they're being singled out. No soul, R&B or hip hop acts have been booked, either. If I didn't know better....

*The Plaza has published the initial round of their summer music schedule. Because I love these free shows, I took the time to add the jazz bookings- at least the artists with a home page or a MySpace account- to the Plastic Sax Event Calendar. The Plaza obviously doesn't make having any kind of web presence a requirement for securing the gig.

*Much is being made of the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Kind of Blue. An interesting Los Angeles Times analysis suggests that the album delivered jazz from a listlessness that began with Charlie Parker's death four years earlier.

*This epic press release from The Thelonious Monk Institute describes a series of "informances" taking place at Kansas City public schools.

*Here's the Star's story about "Gates Bar-B-Q Suite."

*Doug Ramsey took notes at a recent Karrin Allyson concert.

*Bill Caldwell's new album, Common Tones, is available at CD Baby and iTunes.

*I'm so eager to see the documentary Cowtown Ballroom... Sweet Jesus! that I studied the Kansas City venue's complete schedule. The only jazz act to play there during the hippie era was Charles Lloyd. He opened for King Crimson and Gentle Giant on April 22, 1973.

*The Pitch reports that The Marching Cobras are in a bit of pickle.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Review: Eldar at Jardine's

During the first of Eldar's two sets Saturday, a friend likened the three men on the stage of Jardine's to caged lions at a zoo. They did, in fact, seem restless, agitated and unnaturally inhibited.

It's just idle speculation on my part, but I suspect that Eldar and his band were uncertain of how to best address the wildly different expectations held by the various factions of the near-capacity audience.

The older set probably longed for the polite swing music they heard Eldar play as a prodigy growing up in Prairie Village. Affiliates of the jam band crowd were also in the room. They were hoping for the adventurous grooves popularized by Medeski Martin & Wood. And a handful of curious jazz musicians were on hand; they wanted Eldar to bring the noise.

An unsatisfying compromise resulted. Eldar seems to be attempting to fuse classic Stanley Clarke with Thelonious Monk's ugly beauty. But by approaching it hesitantly, Eldar failed to make much headway toward his new direction.

At least it was loud. For the first time ever at Jardine's, I thought about retrieving the earplugs I keep stashed in my car. But the bracing volume brought to bear by Eldar, bassist Jose Armando Gola and drummer Ludwig Alfonso only masked the lack of focus. There were shockingly few moments of clarity.

It's entirely likely that the trio later locked in on the sort of sustained inspiration on display in the previous Plastic Sax post. Brilliant, forward-thinking musicians aren't likely to go on extended cold streaks.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Eldar: Now's the Time

Eldar's rapid progression from tradition-leaning tot to noisy progressive is astounding. The clips from his forthcoming album streaming at MySpace indicate that he's continuing to drift outward. I obviously didn't select this static video for its visual components. It features Eldar's trio kicking up a ruckus just five months ago. The pianist appears with the same group- bassist Jose Armando Gola and drummer Ludwig Alfonso- at Jardine's Friday and Saturday. It's going to be good.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Good news! From a press release: Theater League’s jazz, blues and comedy hour, 12 O'Clock Jump, will make its own jump to live broadcast this summer, when KCUR, Kansas City’s public radio station, starts carrying the program from midnight to 1AM on Saturday nights. The weekly broadcasts of the show, live! from the Mutual Musicians Foundation in Kansas City ’s 18th and Vine Historic District, begin on Saturday, July 4.

A "featured artist" and "guest host" will be provide each night's theme. Here's the lineup: July 4- Pete Fountain/Lynn Zimmer, July 11- Cal Tjader/Greg Carroll, July 18- Carmell Jones/Stan Kessler, July 25- Charlie Christian/Rod Fleeman, August 1- Louis Armstrong/Lonnie McFadden, August 8- Benny Carter/Kim Park, August 15- Oscar Peterson/Bryan Busby, August 22- Count Basie/Will Matthews, and August 29- Charlie Parker/Bobby Watson.

The spotlights on Carmell Jones, Charlie Christian and Charlie Parker look particularly promising.

*Amazon compiled a list of "The 100 Greatest Jazz Albums of All Time." Like all such exercises, it's inherently silly. Naturally, it meets with Plastic Sax's approval. How did Kansas City's jazz artists rate? Pat Metheny's Offramp is #92, Charlie Parker With Strings is #31, Count Basie At Newport is #18 and Bird and Diz is #3. If you like this sort of thing, don't forget that Plastic Sax compiled a list of Top Ten Kansas City Jazz Recordings.

*The Pitch previewed a show by The People's Liberation Big Band. A complete idiot reviewed that performance. The same fool wrote about Tony Bennett's concert at The Midland.

*The public information supervisor at The Kansas City Kansas Community College thoughtfully submitted a fine photo to Plastic Sax. Here's the caption: Kansas City jazz icons (from left) pianist Mike Ning, clarinet and saxophonist Jim Mair and vocalist Millie Edwards highlighted the 15th Annual Jazz Cabaret at Kansas City Kansas Community College. A fund-raiser for the KCKCC music department, the Jazz Cabaret was also held at the Leavenworth Community Center. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)

*Great minds think alike. (Rolling of eyes encouraged.) Joe Klopus and I wrote variations on the same theme last week.

*A "recruit video" for the Kansas City Youth Jazz band was just posted at YouTube.

*The "hiatus" of the Rhythm & Ribs festival is noted in St. Louis.

*Honestly, I can't tell if Hearne Christopher is being serious or ironic in his latest piece about Beena Rajalekshimi of Jardine's.

*A song titled "Olathe" is streaming at drummer Richie Pratt's MySpace.

*A guy associated with B.A.C. Horn Doctor, an Olathe instrument shop, is restoring a Grafton saxophone. Even cooler? He has a podcast about his work on the "plastic sax."

(Original image by Plastic Sax. The Kansas City Zoo once featured blues and jazz acts at this site. Longtime Plastic Sax staffers get particularly misty-eyed as they recall the parties Sonny Kenner hosted here.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Is This Thing On?

One of Kansas City's most compelling jazz musicians handed me a show flyer as I exited The Pistol last week.

It's great that the guy is out there grinding and interacting with his target audience.

But... The guy doesn't have a proper web site or MySpace account. He doesn't employ Twitter or, to my knowledge, maintain an email list. He lacks a YouTube channel. Why wouldn't every musician use today's most effective- and inexpensive- means of communication?

Another artist listed on the handbill has publicly complained about the reluctance of music venues to book free jazz acts. I'm sympathetic. I also recognize that it's the obligation of musicians to create, foster and develop their audiences.

Look at The Bad Plus. While I'm a fan, I recognize that their relative success has a lot to do with their willingness to be relentless self-promoters.

One more thing- what about my jazz calendar? Hey, I know it's ugly. But sadly, it's the only online directory dedicated to Kansas City jazz. Use it.

It's 2009. Just being a genius is no longer enough.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)