Monday, August 17, 2009

Grading the 2009-10 Folly and Gem Seasons

Joe Klopus' synopsis in the Star revealed the complete lineup for the new jazz seasons at the Folly and and the Gem theaters.

Rather than fuss about what's not coming to Kansas City, I've elected to grade each booking on its own merit. My entirely arbitrary system is primarily based on my own tastes, but I've also taken each act's commercial viability into account.

Feel free to check my track record. I conducted this exercise with the Folly in 2008 and in 2007. And here is my preview of the Gem's 2008 season.

Eldar- Folly Theater, October 10
In my lukewarm review of an Eldar show four months ago, I indicated that Eldar and his cohorts failed to find their footing. That doesn't mean, however, that I don't think the former Kansas City resident isn't capable of blowing my mind on any given night. I'm a little concerned about empty seats- Eldar's recent run at Jardine's did not sell out.
Grade: A-

Edward Simon- Folly Theater, October 31
Known primarily only to jazz geeks, Edward Simon is an extremely tasteful and stylistically diverse pianist. Unless I'm mistaken, Simon has previously appeared on the Folly's stage as a member of one of Bobby Watson's groups. Artistically, this is a solid booking. Yet I question Simon's ability to fill seats. Not sure about Simon? Check out NPR's stream of a recent Simon concert here. (It's very good.)
Grade: B+

Ken Peplowski- Folly Theater December 18
Expect to see Kansas City's eldest jazz fans turn out en masse to hear Ken Peplowski. He represents the conventional swing-oriented music favored by the sorely missed KCUR radio staple Just Jazz. The clarinetist is an exceptional talent, but he doesn't inspire much passion in these quarters.
Grade: C+

Mark O'Connor- Folly Theater, January 23
Fiddler Mark O'Connor came from the bluegrass world. He's since demonstrated his expertise in classical, country and jazz music. Let's hope he doesn't limit his presentation to the night's ostensible Django Reinhardt theme.
Grade: B+

Dave Frishberg- Folly Theater, February 27
Dave Frishberg is an acquired taste. Sometimes he seems worthy of comparisons to Hoagy Carmichael and Sammy Cahn. Sometimes he's just plain annoying. Honestly, I'm not sure I can make it through a full evening of solo Frishberg. But I'm eager to find out.
Grade: A-

Trio Da Paz- Folly Theater, March 13
I'm an Antonio Carlos Jobim freak. I know, consequently, that his brilliant but delicate compositions can easily turn treacly. This tribute features Trio Da Paz, Harry Allen and Maucha Adnet. This fan footage of the ensemble does nothing to alleviate my skepticism.
Grade: C+

Christian McBride- Folly Theater, April 24
The Folly saves the best for last. The acclaimed bassist Christian McBride is the subject of Downbeat's current cover story. Whether he's playing straight-ahead jazz, funk or fusion, McBride's work is almost always infused with a melodic sense of adventure. McBride will be joined by the top-notch band featured on his new album Kind of Brown.
Grade: A

Jimmy Cobb- Gem Theater, October 17
Call it tribute fatigue. In a recent column, Joe Klopus bemoaned the glut of tributes. (There are way too many here.) I share the sentiment. So forgive me if I fail to contribute to the considerable hype surrounding Jimmy Cobb's celebration of Kind of Blue.
Grade: B+

Maysa and Bilal- Gem Theater, February 13
Line up a date for Valentine's Eve. The double bill of Maysa, perhaps best known as the voice of Incognito, and Bilal, the man behind slow jams like "Soul Sista", should inspire all types of romantic thoughts. Of course, this booking is entirely unrelated to jazz.
Grade: B

Oleta Adams- Gem Theater, March 20
It's about time! Oleta Adams hasn't played a proper show in her hometown in years. Her new album is in the same vein as her tasteful pop hits. Expect a great show. Just don't expect to hear jazz.
Grade: A

The Clayton Brothers Quintet- Gem Theater, April 17
Veterans of the Basie organization, the Clayton Brothers play unassuming mainstream jazz. I'm receptive to a Plastic Sax reader to convincing me otherwise, but my initial expectations for this booking aren't high.
Grade: C+

Clark Terry- Gem Theater, April 30
Eighty-eight-year-old trumpeter Clark Terry is universally beloved. The previous appearance in Kansas City by the Basie and Ellington veteran was canceled due to health issues. This night will be a true celebration.
Grade: A-

The 18th & Vine Big Band with Bobby Watson and Ernie Andrews- Gem Theater, May 8
Bobby Watson is the closest thing Plastic Sax has to a sacred cow. Almost everything he does is wonderful. This night should be no different. The presence of vocalist Ernie Andrews, 81, is a nice touch.
Grade: A-

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)


Hermon Mehari said...


I'd personally give Eldar a lower score, probably in the B range.

Edward Simon I'm excited about because he has a great band, which includes my favorite vocalist-- Gretchen Parlato. Adam Rogers and Antonio Sanchez sound great too. I'd give that an A.

The only other one I'd probably disagree with would be the Clayton Brothers. I saw them recently and they sounded great. Obed Calvaire is my favorite drummer and I'm really excited to see him. And you can't go wrong with Terrel!!

Just my two cents..

Happy In Bag said...

Thanks for checking in, Hermon. I value your opinion- it's worth at least a dollar...