Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: A Vibe Called Fresh at the Blue Room

I bought The Low End Theory as a new release in 1991. A Tribe Called Quest's fusion of jazz and hip hop combined my passions for both forms of music. It came as a surprise, consequently, that I was possibly the oldest person on hand in the Blue Room last Wednesday to witness a live recreation of the seminal album.

Over 100 young adults paid $10 to see Diverse, Reach and Les Izmore make the effort. Of the 100-plus times I've been to the Blue Room, it was the youngest crowd I've ever seen there. The jazz club is usually shuttered on Wednesdays. Here's hoping the success of this event will inspire the management of the American Jazz Museum to consider hosting a jazz-meets-hip hop night every Wednesday.

When I arrived, Glenn North, poet and Education Program Manager of the American Jazz Museum, was giving a thoughtful lecture on the relationship between jazz and hip hop. His presentation would be invaluable for middle school students. The talk was followed by a brief but impeccable jazz set by Diverse. The addition of pianist Eddie Moore was nice, but the clear star of the night was bassist Ben Leifer. He held it down like a champion.

After Diverse burned through Kenny Garrett's "Wayne's Thang", trumpeter Hermon Mehari rapped the opening lines of "Excursions" in deliberately inept fashion. Hilarious! I wasn't laughing quite as hard a few minutes later. I mean no disrespect to accomplished performers Izmore and Reach, but I really missed hearing the unique flows of Q-Tip and Phife. Maybe I could have make the adjustment if the distorted mix hadn't been quite so hideous.

The musicians, of course, had every right to take liberties with The Low End Theory. Yet several of their choices, including performing the album out of sequence, didn't appeal to me. Apoplectic about the sound quality and annoyed by the artistic choices, I left the Blue Room during the first break.

Elke Mermis of The Pitch liked the show more than me. Here's her review. And since I couldn't be bothered to get out of my seat, it's also fortunate that the The Pitch took good photos.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tony DiPardo, 1912-2011

Longtime bandleader and Kansas City icon Tony DiPardo died yesterday. He was 98. One of DiPardo's few recordings is this unfortunate collaboration with Marilyn Maye. "A Chief is the bravest of all!"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Bird speaks! An obscure 1954 discussion featuring Paul Desmond and Charlie Parker was recently posted at YouTube. (Via Rifftides.)

*KCJazzLark analyzes the inconsistencies of Kansas City's primary jazz clubs.

*"An institution that’s become best known in recent years for turmoil, mismanagement and unfulfilled promises is again asking for trust," asserts Sam Mellinger in a column about the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. (Out-of-town readers should know that the attraction is housed in the same building as the American Jazz Museum.

*Charles Feruzza shares a memo from Vera Willis of the Peachtree Restaurant that includes her rationale for shuttering the location at 18th and Vine.

*London's, a new venue in Topeka, occasionally features live jazz. The Topeka Capital-Journal has the story.

*Road trip! (Part One)- Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa perform in Wichita on January 25. And Benny Golson, Gretchen Parlato and Lionel Loueke are on the way. Find the details here. (Tip via Lee Ingalls.)

*Road trip! (Part Two)- Dean Minderman reports that Brad Mehldau will appear April 6-7 at St. Louis' Jazz at the Bistro.

*Chris Lewis of Killer Strayhorn wants Plastic Sax readers to know that the official CD release party for 80/20 Blue is January 29 at the Pressroom in Crosstown Station.

*Tweet o' the Week- JazzWinterlude: Jazz Winterlude is ON TONIGHT! It's New Jazz Order with Megan Birdsall at the JCCC's Carlsen Center. It's at 7 pm & it's free. (Posted January 20.)

*Barrie Lee Hall, Jr. has died. He was 61. Plastic Sax readers might recall that the trumpeter and one-time leader of the Ellington Orchestra performed in Kansas City last April. He's seated to Clark Terry's right in this photo. (Tip via Michael Pagan.)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Review: New Jazz Order at Jazz Winterlude

"This is jazz," Clint Ashlock told a reverent audience of approximately 125 Thursday at Polsky Theater. "It's OK- you can talk."

Ashlock was attempting to loosen up the crowd at the opening event of the Jazz Winterlude festival. I'm glad he failed. I've seen his New Jazz Order big band several times at Harling's. The dingy midtown bar attracts oblivious, obnoxious talkers. (I'm guilty as charged.)

Thursday's concert, consequently, was the first time I've truly heard New Jazz Order. It's excellent. Under Ashlock's direction, the collective works in jazz's mainstream without seeming overly hidebound. Ringers in the band included Ben and Matt Leifer, Hermon Mehari and Kerry Strayer. Interestingly, however, Steve Lambert (reviewed last week at Plastic Sax), was allotted the lion's share of solos.

Just as I felt as if I was hearing New Jazz Order for the first time, I was finally able to give the effort of featured vocalist Megan Birdsall my undivided attention. Until Thursday, I'd never completely grasped that she's an old-fashioned stylist in the tradition of June Christy and Anita O'Day.

Ashlock's objections aside, I was pleased that ninety percent of the polite audience was older than ninety percent of the musicians. I prefer the company of sober senior citizens to talkative midtown hipsters while appreciating a swinging big band.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Now's the Time: Kim Park

Kim Park might own the dubious distinction of being the best talent most routinely ignored at Plastic Sax. Allow me to begin to make amends. The technically masterful and deeply soulful saxophonist plays with the Joe Cartwright Quartet, Friday, January 21, at the Jazz Winterlude festival. Cartwright, incidentally, is the pianist in the embedded video.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Steve Penn reports on the most recent rift at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*Chuck Berg covered the Topeka Jazz Workshop's January 16 tribute to the late Russ Long. The concert was also previewed by the Topeka Capital-Journal.

*Robert Folsom reviewed Earl Klugh's concert at the Folly Theater.

*The merits of this weekend's Jazz Winterlude festival are extolled by KCJazzLark.

*Ink offers a review of the debut album by the People's Liberation Big Band of Kansas City.

*Mark Edelman promotes the live jazz offerings at Leawood's West Chase Grille. It's the first I've heard of it. There's no mention of jazz at the restaurant's site.

*A blogger questions Kansas City's jazz legacy.

*From the American Jazz Museum: The American Jazz Museum mourns the passing of William Henry Cogshell, who left us on January 6, 2011. Mr. Cogshell was a current member of the American Jazz Museum Board of Directors and Chair of the Board Finance Committee.

*Joe Lovano's January 11 concert at the Village Vanguard streams here.

*Doug Talley was featured in a North Dakota publication.

*Doug Auwarter shares Brazilian recipes.

*The Take Five Coffee House offers live music, including an occasional jazz event. Diverse, for example, performs at the Leawood venue on Friday, January 21.

*Tweet o' the Week: Clint Ashlock: Thursday night, JCCC Winterlude - New Jazz Order with Megan Birdsall, 7-8pm. It's FREE. And good. In JOHNSON COUNTY. Seriously. Come.

*My friend Meesha asks readers for help in identifying a set of vintage photos of Kansas City.

*Care to guess which youth jazz participant admired Charlie Parker? You really don't want to know.

*Ink previewed Diverse's forthcoming performance of A Tribe Called Quest's Low End Theory.

*Concert announcements: Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten appear at the Granada Theater on March 11. Junior Mance returns to the Blue Room with a quintet on February 5.

*From Steve Kidwell: Hoping you'll list these events on your calendar. They are all part of the Musical Gems Concert series benefiting the Lincoln College Preparatory Academy Wind Ensemble performance in China. The third event is not a jazz event- but is great music! Horace Washington, woodwinds with the Kicks Big Band, January 28, 8 p.m. Mike Ning, piano & Sherri Jones, vocalist with the Kicks Big Band and the Lincoln Academy Jazz Ensemble, February 18, 8 p.m. Lincoln Academy Wind Ensemble premiering their China repertoire, February 27, 3 p.m. All three events are at the Gem Theater. Advanced: VIP $50, Regular $25, Under 12 - $15 (upper level only)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: Steve Lambert Quartet at the Record Bar

There's a tough new tenor in town. Steve Lambert doesn't look the part. The kid is as thin as a rail. I've seen the saxophonist play in a number of configurations, most notably as a member of Crosscurrent, but Lambert was a revelation as he led his own group Sunday, January 16, at the Record Bar.

Joined by T.J. Martley on electronic keyboard, Seth Lee on bass and Matt Leifer on drums, Lambert evoked Johnny Griffin, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, and yes, John Coltrane in a performance for an audience of about 25 during the evening's first set. While not nearly as burly as those jazz giants, Lambert possesses a strong tone and aggressive attack. There's no reason to think he won't continue to improve at a dramatic pace.

A rendition of Bud Powell's "Celia" was mainstream enough to please jazz traditionalists, but the most rewarding moments came when the quartet played with reckless abandon on original material including the shrewdly-titled "19th & Highland." I understand that Lambert will release an album later this month.

Lambert, incidentally, is not to be confused with this jazz musician with the same name. Alas, Kansas City's Steve Lambert is the one without a web site.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Now's the Time: Earl Klugh

Kansas City, believe it or not, had a commercial jazz radio station In the 1970s. KPRT aired everything from vintage Count Basie to "Dr. Macumba" by guitarist Earl Klugh. Those halcyon years are long gone, but Klugh is still playing his guitar. He'll showcase his mellow music Saturday at the Folly Theater. Joe Klopus previewed the concert.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Will Matthews, President, and Chris Burnett, board member, have resigned from their positions at the Mutual Musicians Foundation "under protest."

From Matthews' letter of resignation: "The manner in which the current Executive Board is doing business is taking the organization in a direction that I do not condone and can no longer be a part of. I regret to have to say that the Foundation is the loser in all of this."

From Burnett's letter of resignation: "The current round of in-fighting and unclear executive leadership of the Mutual Musicians Foundation is not conducive to successfully accomplishing any business in the manner established under President Matthews' leadership and 2009 vision. It must be stated that although I am not privileged to the personal motivations or professional reasoning behind the fracture that has occurred which resulted in literally locking President Matthews out of the building at 1823 Highland Avenue, I do know that such is not the type of professional response that I would personally expect to be engaged among colleagues of such an historically important organization as the Mutual Musicians Foundation. Especially considering that this was done while President Matthews was out of the country on tour with the world-famous Count Basie Orchestra, no less."

*Vocalist Nancy Van Fleet died January 1. She was 89. A memorial jam session will be held at Jardine's on February 10.

*NPR brought a previously overlooked The Checkout session featuring Bobby Watson and Orrin Evans to my attention. The public radio network also parses the seminal performance of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis on "Donna Lee."

*Michael Musto appreciates Marilyn Maye.

*The Magic Jazz Fairy makes a return appearance at KCJazzLark.

*A letter published by the Star correctly points out that a writer neglected to mention the passing of Lucky Wesley in his summary of the year in jazz. I noted that same oversight in this space a couple weeks ago.

*Highland Avenue and Vine Street will become one-way streets between 17th and 18th according to this report.

*Hermon Mehari was interviewed on New Orleans' WWOZ.

*Tony DiPardo, 98, is seriously ill. Steve Penn reports.

*Pat Metheny's Orchestrion came in at #25 (2,491 spins) and Bobby Watson's The Gates BBQ Suite placed at #81 (1,591 spins) on Jazz Times Top 100 radio playlist for 2010.

*Tweet o' the Week: clintashlock: Harlings tonight. There is no snow. There is no snow.

*A live webcast of Joe Lovano's performance at the Village Vanguard starts at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, January 12. The saxophonist will presumably feature material from his new album of material associated with Charlie Parker. He performs at the Folly Theater on April 2.

*Minimal jazz content: Here's a fan video of sometime-Kansas Citian Mike Dillon performing with Stanton Moore on this week's notorious Jam Cruise.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: Michael Pagán- 12 Preludes & Fugues

Stream of Michael Pagán's Fugue 12 at YouTube

My introduction to saxophone quartets was The Real Deal by Bobby Watson's 29th Street Saxophone Quartet. The raucous swing of the 1987 album led me to investigate the The World Saxophone Quartet. The ensemble's stunning creativity exposed me to new musical vistas.

Even so, I probably wouldn't have appreciated 12 Preludes & Fugues while I was still in my twenties. Listening to the Colorado Saxophone Quartet perform compositions by Kansas City transplant Michael Pagán offers a sublime experience that will most readily resonate with more mature audiences.

More Bach and Beethoven than Basie and Ellington, the album belongs in a classical music bin. The four musicians occasionally improvise, but Pagán's compositions are carefully structured. Yet the recording projects an engaging human element that makes 12 Preludes & Fugues anything but an academic exercise.

Although I've seen him perform as a pianist and bandleader a handful of times, I haven't heard any of Pagán's other recordings. Listening to the album without any preconceived expectations has allowed me to enjoy it on its own terms.

Adventurous jazz fans shouldn't let the generic album art, Pagán's dry liner notes and absence of traditional song titles put them off. The form of 12 Preludes & Fugues may be classical, but at the core of the project is a jazz soul.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Now's Not the Time: The Dave Holland Quintet

The American Jazz Museum issued the following press release yesterday:
We regret to announce that the January 22nd Jammin' at the Gem Dave Holland Quintet concert has been canceled. Mr. Holland’s wife will have unanticipated open-heart surgery on January 18th and has in fact canceled the remainder of his tour. At this time, no re-scheduling or make-up concert is planned. We await a statement about this from Mr. Holland’s management, which we will release to the media as quickly as possible.
I extend my best wishes to the Holland family. Still, the cancellation is terribly disappointing. As I wrote in a Jammin' at the Gem season preview, I was "positively giddy" in anticipation of the performance. The embedded clip from October of last year provides a taste of the brilliance we'll be missing.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Joe Klopus provides a fine year-in-jazz wrap-up.

*Harold O'Neal's New Year's Eve gig at the Mutual Musicians Foundation is documented by KCJazzLark.

*Wayward Blog gets the scoop on a jazz "reinterpretation" of A Tribe Called Quest's Low End Theory at The Blue Room.

*NPR is streaming Bird Songs, Joe Lovano's tribute to Charlie Parker. The saxophonist appears at the Folly Theater on April 2.

*Steve Penn explains the American Jazz Museum's "Take Five" program.

*Here's a compelling video for an event that apparently takes place Mondays at the Kansas City Blues & Jazz Juke House. I'd link to the venue if it had a site.

*Geek alert! Eric Singer demonstrates his music robot inventions. Content specific to Pat Metheny's Orchestrion project begins at the 12:20 point.

*Interesting 2007 footage of Bobby Watson, Hermon Mehari, Will Sanders and Ben Leifer at Switzerland's Blues to Bop Festival recently surfaced.

*A couple new items have been posted at the home of the Black House Improvisors' Collective.

*Plastic Sax's Kansas City Jazz Calendar, while far from perfect, remains the area's best compilation of jazz-only events. (As always, musicians and club owners are encouraged to send me gig information. Listings are, of course, free.)

*Tweet o' the Week: kcjazzlark Jan 4 & The Phoenix has yet to update their online calendar. Guess they don't care if those who go out for music go there this month. Sad.

*From a JCCC press release: The country’s most celebrated Gypsy jazz ensemble, The Hot Club of San Francisco, will accompany four silent surrealist films in a night titled Silent Surrealism at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4, in Polsky Theatre of the Carlsen Center, Johnson County Community College... The Hot Club accompanies these films with the distinctive music made famous by Stephane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club de France. Tickets are $30... A free gypsy jazz guitar master class will be offered at 4 p.m. Feb. 4 in Polsky Theatre.

*From the artist's publicist: The internationally acclaimed musician Delfeayo Marsalis comes to Springfield, MO on February 5 with his original theatrical jazz production "Sweet Thunder: Duke & Shak" which melds the work of Duke Ellington with William Shakespeare. Featuring Marsalis, actor Kenneth Brown, Jr. (Treme, Memphis Beat) and a jazz octet - Marsalis on trombone, Lynn Grissett on trumpet, Shaena Ryan on bari sax, Mark Gross on alto sax, Don Byron on tenor sax and clarinet, David Bryant on piano, Dezron Douglas on bass, and Winard Harper on drums-plus full stage set and costuming, the show will tour to 36 American cities and towns from January 19 - May 6, 2011.

*From Brandon Draper: Drummer Brandon Draper brings The Willie Waldman Project to Jardine's! The name might not strike an immediate chord, but Willie Waldman is one you’ll find in the liner notes of artists and groups including: Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Warren G., The Dogg Pound, Tupac Shakur... While the list goes on, there’s much more to this trumpet players credit than simply recording as a sideman... Joining the group on bass will be Eric Gould of the band Particle and Mickey Hart's Hydra and Brandon Draper on drums, percussion and electronics.

(Original image of Prospero's Books by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Jazz Clubbing

I had a specific venue in mind when I began to create this animated short, but the dialog is actually a composite of conversations I had with several jazz presenters in 2010. The challenges have already carried over into 2011. I went to two jazz-oriented venues on January 1. The first club didn't have the show listed online and the headliner has absolutely no web presence. An audience of nine people caught the majority of the first set. At the second venue, I couldn't find anyone willing to take the five dollar cover charge from me. And citing the full room, a waiter suggested that he'd prefer not to take my table's drink orders.