Sunday, July 3, 2011

Grading the 2011-12 Folly Theater Season

Aside from a handful of weirdos like me, who would want to see both The Yellowjackets and Peter Nero? That was my first reaction when I read Joe Klopus' preview of the Folly Theater's 2011-12 season. As I analyzed the seven selections, however, I realized they weren't entirely dissimilar. Excepting the Vanguard Orchestra, each act has a florid musicality in common.

Expect to hear a lot a notes this season.

What concertgoers won't hear is innovative modern jazz. Disappointing turnout for serious music has understandably resulted in a less artistically adventurous new season. Trading Joe Lovano for the Yellowjackets and The Bad Plus for Peter Nero is a bitter pill to swallow.

The Yellowjackets- October 1
Anyone expecting snark from me about the "relaxing" music of The Yellowjackets is going to have to hold their breathe. The jazz fusion ensemble is very good at what it does.
Grade: B

Peter Nero- November 5
With all due respect, I hadn't realized that Peter Nero was still alive. Not only is he alive, Nero, 77, leads a Pops orchestra in Philadelphia. Given my weakness for pianists like Erroll Garner and Vince Guaraldi, it's no surprise that I'm actually looking forward to hearing Nero perform his hit "Summer of '42".
Grade: B+

Mark O'Connor's American String Celebration- December 17
Genre-hopping violinist Mark O'Connor's concert was the best-attended event of the 2009-10 season, so it's no surprise to see his name listed here again.
Grade: B

Nnenna Freelon- January 14
I didn't "get" Dee Dee Bridgewater until I saw her perform in the Jammin' at the Gem series in 2007. While I was familiar with her recordings, it took seeing Bridgewater in person to connect to the vocalist's unique sensibility. I'm hoping to experience the same type of musical epiphany with Nnenna Freelon in January.
Grade: B

Grace Kelly Quintet with Phil Woods- February 4
Grace Kelly's 2009 performance at the Blue Room was a mixed bag. While I was impressed with with the teen's technical mastery, she didn't exactly have me sitting on the edge of my seat. (Here's my review.) The presence of Phil Woods- one of Charlie Parker's greatest disciples- and the hope that Kelly has become a less rigid stylist, make this an interesting booking.
Grade: B

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra- March 3
Big bands don't travel much in 2011. That's the primary reason the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra is the Folly season's most compelling booking. The current edition of the ensemble includes Dick Oatts, Terell Stafford, Scott Wendholt, Gary Smulyan and Jim McNeely.
Grade: A-

John Pizzarelli- April 14
A popular interpreter of the Great American Songbook, John Pizzarelli has found a nice niche as more tasteful alternative to Michael Buble and Michael Feinstein. This is a safe booking that will please conservative listeners.
Grade: B-

I conducted similar exercises for the 2010-11, 2009-10 and 2008-09 seasons.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)


Anonymous said...

Check the Peter Nero videos on YouTube. Then you'll probably want to revise your grade on that one downward. Waaaay downward. (He's not fit to be in the same paragraph as Garner and Guaraldi.)

It is an incredibly "safe" and boring season. And very heavy on people who have been booked in KC within the last few years.

Anonymous said...

Ughhh. What boring, middle-of-the-road crap. I wouldn't go to those concerts for free. Well, maybe the Vanguard.

Hermon Mehari said...


Leo said...

re-treads booking re-treads.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like someone at the Folly is taking KCJazzlark's advice. Nothing like giving the old people what they want right?

Anonymous said...

The old people have the money to spend and donate.

The young people like myself are too busy buying lattes,using Iphones with all the bells and whistles I can't afford, addicted to Facebook, racking up debt and living with a huge sense of entitlement.


Anonymous said...


Guess what? Successful people don't use Facebook nor do they have time to use Facebook. If they have a Facebook page it is only to give the illusion of being up to date, current or hip.

A musician friend of mine produces a monthly concert just west of St.Louis that on average attracts 250- 300 people. The series has been going on for 18 years. He decided to incorporate the use of Facebook to see if it would spike his attendance. He and his band members have approximately 3200 combined Facebook friends. He has been using it for over a year and there have been no significant increase in audience numbers. They still average 250-300.

Most people who obsess over Facebook don't have money to buy tickets.They can barely pay their monthly bills. They might use comp tickets but they wont purchase tickets or pay cover charges.


Anonymous said...

Cracking up at the "successful people don't use facebook" quote. You're a little out of touch, I think, Leo.

And can we stop it already with the Grace Kelly thing? My goodness. When will she be old enough that the novelty of a teenaged girl playing jazz will wear off?

Anonymous said...

Show me some stats that Facebook works.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather spend my money on lattes than go those shows.

Rick in PV said...

Somehow, the Folly series always leaves me nonplussed, overall. Is it too much to ask for Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Mose Allison, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter?

Anonymous said...

@Rick: I agree. But having been a former "insider" in the KC jazz scene, I can tell you that few organizations can afford to hire those folks these days because their performance fees. A few have been booked before, but budgets have shrunk significantly since then.