Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Oscar "Lucky" Wesley of The Scamps died March 27th. The Star has the story.

*The Jazz In the Woods festival has announced its 2010 lineup. Plastic Sax is very pleased to note that Erin Bode and Bobby Watson are included this year. Bode, Mingo Fishtrap and Mindi Abair perform June 11. Matt Marshak, the Bobby Watson Quartet featuring Curtis Lundy and Nick Colionne/Steve Cole play the following day.

*The Pitch and KC Confidential comment on 12 O'Clock Jump's unceremonious exit from the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*In addition to the aforementioned controversial item, the agenda of a recent Foundation meeting includes an entry titled "MMF Jazz Radio Show."

*The live entertainment accompanying the May 6 film premiere of Sue Vicory's Kansas City Jazz & Blues: Past, Present & Future is very compelling. Diverse, Matt Otto, Stan Kessler, Lonnie McFadden, Mama Ray and Marilyn Maye are slated to perform. Jazz trumpeter Mike Metheny and country vocalist Jessi Colter will also be on hand for the event at the Gem Theater.

*The greatness of Myra Taylor is documented by KCJazzLark.

*From AfterGroove: "We are looking for your ideas for the name and concept of our next cd. We are recording it now. If we use your idea, you will be listed on the cd and you will receive your own copy."

*Black House Improvisors' Collective continue to post intriguing content at their site.

*Here's a new video of Mouth performing live on KKFI.

*I've heard a rumor that GiGi's Jazz Inn, an establishment on Troost without any internet presence, has obtained a liquor license.

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated. Careful observers will note that I usually omit R&B, blues and cabaret acts. Yet I couldn't resist including Greg Ginn's April 6 gig at the Record Bar. I'm one of the jazz-punk genre's 326 fans.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Review: Pat Metheny In Rome

I've never traveled so far nor worked as hard to attend a concert.

Over five thousand miles from our Midwestern hometowns, I caught Pat Metheny's revolutionary Orchestrion tour on March 17 while on vacation in Rome.

I didn't actually fly to Italy to see Metheny, but since I was already there the opportunity to be one of the first Americans to witness the guitarist perform with robots proved irresistible.

It wasn't easy. I'll resist the urge to offer a detailed account of my epic trek to and from the concert in northern Rome. I'll only state that Metheny played for two-and-a-half hours and that my round trip journey from my cot near the Colosseum took at least that long.

My difficulties didn't end when I finally arrived at Auditorium Parco della Musica. The complex's 2,800-seat Sala Santa Cecilia concert hall was sold out. I managed to secure a €31.50 balcony seat at face value from a sympathetic ticket scalper.

(Spoiler alert: Read no further if you'd prefer to be surprised by Metheny's forthcoming North American tour.)

After opening with a lovely acoustic set, Metheny began his mad experiment by employing a simple robotic finger cymbal set reminiscent of a clapping monkey toy. It was a deliberately tedious set-up to the dramatic unveiling of the physically imposing Orchestrion machine.

Metheny's Orchestrion is akin to a gargantuan music box with the guitarist acting as the windup key. It's insanely cool. It's also outright insane.

While endlessly fascinating and awash with the thrill of the new, it quickly became apparent that the contraption is incapable of swinging. While it would be unfair to call the device a Rube Goldberg machine, Metheny's regular drummer Antonio Sanchez has nothing to worry about. As far as I can tell, Metheny's robots are responsive to factors like volume and tempo but they're incapable of true improvisation.

After performing Orchestrion in its entirety, Metheny played a handful of spontaneous pieces and a few familiar compositions in a futile attempt to humanize the robots. The set list from the Milan date is similar to what I heard in Rome.

Here's video footage from the concert. Note that the house lights are turned up between songs. While I found the custom entirely foreign, I really liked it. I also appreciated the Italian audience's attentive nature. They sat in perfect silence as Metheny performed.

I should be so lucky when I catch Metheny and his robots in May when they collaborate eight miles from my home in Kansas.

(Original images by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Taking the "A" Train With Jazzbo

One of the small joys of living in Kansas City is the possibility of a serendipitous encounter with Jazzbo. I've seen the man performing in parks, on sidewalks and at conventional music venues for over two decades. His one-man-band routine always makes me smile. The Pitch profiled Jazzbo a couple years ago.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Congressman Emanuel Cleaver blogs that he "spent a sleepless night on the phone to Paris securing Charlie Parker’s plastic sax for Kansas City."

*Reading KCJazzLark's outstanding research on the early efforts to establish a jazz museum in Kansas City is a depressing but incredibly revealing exercise. His latest installments are here, here and here.

*Tess Koppelman reports on problems with redevelopment in the Jazz District.

*Joel Francis reviewed Oleta Adams' concert at the Gem Theater for the Star.

*An essay in the Star makes the connection between jazz and basketball. (Tip via Phil F.)

*Chris Burnett notes one of his contributions to the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*Les Izmore's collaboration with Diverse netted the rapper a cover story in the Pitch. Ink and The Daily Record also previewed the event.

*The Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra recently performed Kansas City Suite in its entirety. Here's a review. The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra plays the piece April 30 at the Folly Theater.

*Steve Penn lays out a case against financial cuts at the American Jazz Museum. Elsewhere, a member of the Kansas International Film Festival Committee advocates continued funding of the institution.

*The Guardian tells a fascinating story of a rarely seen sculpture of Charlie Parker.

*Alaadeen continues to share his story.

*Here's an intriguing big band arrangement of Pat Metheny's "Song For Bilbao."

*The in-flight magazine of Midwest Airlines recently featured the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*Hearne Christopher previews Marilyn Maye's return engagement at Jardine's.

*I don't recognize the Kansas City jazz scene described in a Dallas Morning News article.

*From a Theater League press release: 12 O’CLOCK JUMP, public radio’s blues and comedy jam, will say good-bye to the Mutual Musicians Foundation, 1823 Highland, after a nine-month run. "We've enjoyed playing in this very special place." explained 12 O'CLOCK JUMP Executive Producer Mark Edelman. "But it's time to take our show someplace else. There are some great jazz spaces in Kansas City; I expect a lot of them will be interested in hosting 12 O'CLOCK JUMP.” (Tip via a friend of Plastic Sax.)

*St. Louis Jazz Notes graciously references Plastic Sax's coverage of Diverse in his preview to the Kansas City band's gig across the state.

(As this original image indicates, I've been in Italy. And yes, I took in a jazz concert while there. My notes on that event will appear in this space Monday.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

In Joyland with Andy McKee

I like to pretend that Kansas-based guitarist Andy McKee is a jazz musician. Who, after all, wouldn't want to claim ownership of such a gifted and wildly popular cult artist. The embedded "Hunter's Moon" video has garnered 35,000 views in just three weeks. The song is available on McKee's forthcoming album Joyland.

All seventeen Plastic Sax readers should be advised that I'm taking a bit of a blogger's break. Plastic Sax will resume near the end of March.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Stan Kessler is interviewed by Hunter Long of the Black House Improvisors' Collective. Their illuminating discussion is quite entertaining.

*Good news for the Jazz District! Danny's Big Easy, a Cajun restaurant, is scheduled to open next month in the space most recently occupied by Harper's.

*The hot streak of KCJazzLark continues with a damning editorial about jazz's historical (un)popularity in Kansas City.

*Downbeat compiled a list of the "25 Best Big Band Albums." Count Basie places at #5, #7, #12, #22, and #23.

*Jim Mair reports that Theodore Wilson died March 9. Wilson was the original bassist of The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra.

*Marilyn Maye mania continues. The Des Moines Register chimes in here.

*UMKC's LaBudde Special Collections Department received "The David Basse Collection" earlier this year.

*From a press release: "Kansas City Youth Jazz is proud to announce that their top band- Reno Band, has been invited as special guests to participate and perform at the Next Generation Jazz Festival in Monterey, CA April 9th-12th, 2010." (Tip via AZ.)

*Joe Klopus' latest column focuses on women in jazz.

*AfterGroove will perform at Wisconsin's Great River Jazz Fest in August.

*Doug Ramsey uncovered live footage of Basie's band working through a portion of Kansas City Suite. The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra performs the complete work at the Folly Theater on April 30.

*In her latest vlog, Megan Birdsall reinvents the wheel demonstrates how she's putting together her MBird singer-songwriter tour.

*Does anyone remember Josh Charles' time in Kansas City? He now resides in New Orleans. Charles is interviewed here.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Jazz Talk With Ben Kynard and Sellie Truitt

I love listening to old men tell stories.

As I noted on February 26, I was stunned and thrilled to discover that Ben Kynard was scheduled to speak the next day at the American Jazz Museum. I'm incredibly fortunate to have been part of an audience of about thirty to witness Kynard and Sellie Truitt, musicians from Kansas City's jazz heyday, reminisce. Oscar "Lucky" Wesley of the Scamps also made an appearance. Prompted by moderator Dennis Winslett, Kynard and Truitt chatted about their childhoods, their musical training and their opinions of contemporary music and Barack Obama.

Truitt is quite a character. Watch, if you dare, this video, and listen, if you must, to clips from his 2009 album. Kynard is more reserved but no less compelling. I filmed portions of a couple of his stories. Watch them here and here.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Now's the Time: Brandon Draper

At the risk of sounding like a jazz Pollyanna, I'll confess to being astounded and delighted that so many forward-thinking young musicians are currently based in Kansas City. Momentarily ignoring the fact that there's not much of an audience for the music, it's easy to believe that this moment represents an artistic rebirth, if not a full-blown renaissance, for Kansas City jazz. This fresh footage features drummer Brandon Draper leading keyboardist John Brewer, saxophonist Rich Wheeler, trumpeter Hermon Mehari and bassist Ben Leifer at a session at Jardine's.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCJazzLark recovered and posted an invaluable four-minute peek at Kansas City's jazz scene in 1988. The blogger recounts the back story here. Give that man a medal!

*Will Friedwald offers what might be the definitive profile of Marilyn Maye. The New York Post also raves about the 81-year-old saloon singer.

*Here's a nice new promotional video for Diverse.

*The Michael Pagan Trio's latest CD is admired by a critic at AllMusic.

*An excellent video of Alaadeen telling stories was recently posted at YouTube.

*A recording of a gig by Black House Improvisors' Collective can be purchased here.

*A reviewer for the Star praises Dave Frishberg's recent concert at the Folly Theater.

*The Unthinking Lemming offers a nice review of Saturday's appearance by Charlie Hunter. The Pitch was also on hand.

*"I personally consider (Bobby Watson) to musically be the “Bird” figure of our times," Chris Burnett suggests at his blog.

*Krystle Warren garners a Guardian review.

*It's short but sweet. Oklahoma City Community College provides a wonderful video promoting Dan White's traveling exhibition of photographs depicting Kansas City jazz musicians.

*A Star story about Matt Chalk is examined.

*Here's a brief interview with Angela Hagenbach.

*Mark Edelman breaks down the week in live jazz.

*According to their site, The Phoenix will be closed for remodeling March 22-25

*Prairie Village's forthcoming jazz festival has a dedicated site and a Facebook fan page.

*Here's a great video of Millage Gilbert playing the blues at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*I heard a radio advertisement for a Jazz Outreach benefit at the Beaumont Club. Details are posted at Swope Health Services' site.

*Some of Pat Metheny's fans scare me.

*Metheny is on the cover of the March issue of Jazz Inside magazine.

*The indie rock and hip hop communities in Kansas City have combined forces to showcase their talents at SXSW this month. Check out Midwasteland Takeover. The Midwest Music Foundation, one of the entities behind that effort, also has a lot to offer area jazz musicians.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)