Friday, September 30, 2011

Now's the Time: Maurice Brown

Longtime readers of Plastic Sax know that I'm prone to whining about the dearth of proper music videos by Kansas City's jazz artists. Regional (and undoubtedly cash-strapped) rock and hip hop artists crank out videos as if there's nothing to it. The efforts of Hidden Pictures and Reggie B are good examples. (I prefer to ignore the fact that the two videos have less than 2,500 views between them.) Trumpeter Maurice Brown is the rare jazz musician withe a top-tier music video in his arsenal. The Brooklyn-based artist performs at The Blue Room on Monday, October 3.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Frank Driggs, the co-author of Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop- A History, has died. Commenters at Doug Ramsey's Rifftides provide additional insights.

*Joe Klopus bemoans the tendency of area jazz programmers to repeatedly book the same artists. His disappointment is merited, but I'm not going to complain about the opportunity to catch Joe Lovano and Christian McBride more than once every twelve months.

*Could this be the best week of the year for Kansas City's jazz fans? Our locally-based talent is, of course, always outstanding. Tonight's options include Megan Birdsall, Shay Estes with Mark Lowrey, Michael Pagan and Lonnie McFadden. Additionally, Jardine's hosted Todd Clouser on Sunday. The Blue Room hosted a compelling jazz talk last night. The UMKC Conservatory's bands are showcased tonight at Helzberg Hall. Garage a Trois and Pat Metheny perform in the area Thursday. Ambrose Akinmusire is at Yardley Hall on Friday. Saturday's options include Wynton Marsalis with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the Yellowjackets.

*Calvin Wilson interviews Wynton Marsalis for the Post-Dispatch. Marsalis leads the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at Helzberg Hall on Saturday. (Via St. Louis Jazz Notes.)

*Alaadeen's Dysfunctional: Life Journeys of a Second Generation Jazz Musician and Sonny Gibson’s Kansas City: Mecca of the New Negro are reviewed by KCJazzLark.

*Black House Improvisors' Collective has announced the participants in its new season.

*Tim Finn offers an excellent sendoff for Crosstown Station. The venue hosts its final show Saturday.

*Hermon Mehari talks about a weekly gig at YJ's.

*Tweet o' the Week: JazzWinterlude: Call the Box Office about a special price to add Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band, appearing Saturday, Jan. 21!

*Disastrous technical problems erased the initial draft of this post. Any omissions are purely unintentional. Musicians and publicists are encouraged to resubmit any material that they expected to appear in this space.

*From the Facebook posting for The People's Liberation Big Band's October 2 show at The Record Bar: We missed you, Record Bar! Last month we tried to take our radical jazz agenda to Prairie Village KS, but the gods weren't having it. The clouds have now parted and we are BACK! Be sure to hang around for the second set, in which we'll be joined by chanteuse/deluge-conjurer Shay Estes.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kansas City's Jazz Geniuses

Jazz percussionist and composer Dafnis Prieto was awarded the MacArthur Foundation's so-called "genius grant" last week. Who on Kansas City's jazz scene qualifies as a potential recipient? The MacArthur Foundation rewards "talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction." I'm nominating ten individuals accordingly. A brief explanation follows each selection.

1. Black House Improvisors' Collective- aggregated creativity (I'm not entirely certain who's responsible for the collective.)

2. Beau Bledsoe- musical brilliance, musical proselytism

3. Leon and Linda Brady- music education, moral guidance, musical proselytism

4. Chris Burnett- economic applications, musical proselytism

5. Brad Cox- musical brilliance

6. Jeff Harshbarger- musical brilliance, musical proselytism

7. Larry Kopitnik- historic preservation, institutional memory, musical proselytism

8. Hermon Mehari- musical brilliance, musical proselytism

9. Matt Otto- musical brilliance

10. Bobby Watson- musical brilliance, music education

Feel free to disparage my picks or suggest who I have incomprehensibly overlooked. (I ruled out artists including Bob Brookmeyer, Pat Metheny, Harold O'Neal and Logan Richardson on the basis that they don't reside in the area.)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Now's the Time: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones

Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones is a book that merits a video trailer. Jones was, as the embedded video suggests, "a complex man." The new title on the University of Minnesota Press about the longtime drummer for Count Basie has an appropriately complicated backstory.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The namesake of this site was aired out Saturday. The plastic sax once played by Charlie Parker was employed by Bobby Watson at the grand opening of the Kauffman Center. Robert Trussell reviewed the performance. A St. Louis-based critic also took note of the "plastic saxophone." The Grafton, by all accounts, sounded good.

*Another addition to Jay McShann's legacy is documented by KCJazzLark. Absolutely essential.

*Here's the lineup for the annual jazz recital series at JCCC. The first noontime concert features Charles Williams on September 27.

*The world premiere of Michael Pagan's "Reflections of Jazz Trilogy" takes place at The Changing Gallery at the American Jazz Museum on Friday, September 23, at 5 p.m. Pagan will perform with Bob Bowman, Ray Demarchi and Dave Chael.

*Doug Ramsey reviews a performance by Pat Metheny and Larry Grenadier. The duo appear at Liberty Hall on September 29.

*Tim Finn chats with Jeff Harshbarger about his role in Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Friday's performance by the band is reviewed here.

*A blogger catches sets by Bobby Watson and Megan Birdsall at Kauffman Center's open house.

*A blogger recounts her visits to Jardine's and the Blue Room.

*Even though it rehashes many points regularly made at Plastic Sax, I swear that I did not write this 'Dear John' Letter to Jazz. (Tip via Gary.)

*The rescheduled The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival takes place Friday, September 23, in Harlem. Kenny Werner, James Carter, Tia Fuller and Gerald Clayton will perform.

*Separated at birth: Megan Birdsall and Jessica, the redheaded vampire on True Blood.

*Take Five Coffee continues booking many of Kansas City's top jazz artists. This week Bob Bowman, Danny Embrey, Stan Kessler and Roger Wilder appear at the Leawood venue.

*Today's Groupon is a two-for-one deal on the Rhythm & Ribs festival.

*From a press release: Although 1911 Restaurant & Lounge (1911 Main) opened in July this year, they will hold a Grand Opening on the weekend of Friday, September 30 and Saturday, October 1 from 6:00 p.m. until 12:00 a.m. The Grand Opening of this restaurant and jazz venue will be celebrated with performances by David Basse and the Everette DeVan Trio on Friday and Bob Bowman & Bowdog on Saturday... Saturday at midnight will be the first of a four month run by the live radio broadcast of 12th Street Jump, Public Radio’s Weekly Jazz, Blues, and Comedy Jam.

*From a press release: The Swope Corridor Renaissance/Upper Room’s Eddie Baker School of Music will present Music Matters to benefit the children of its Music Program. The musical event will be at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, October 14, at the Church of the Resurrection, 13720 Roe, Leawood, Kansas 66224. Featured performers of Music Matters are Bobby Watson, world renowned saxophonist/educator; Lonnie McFadden, celebrated artist from the Wayne Newton Vegas Review; Marilyn Maye, the most featured singer on the Tonight Show; and Pamela Baskin-Watson, New York singer/songwriter. Other performers are the Palestine Gospel Singers, The Elder Statesmen of Kansas City Jazz, and the children and staff from the Upper Room’s Music Program.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Review: Anthony Wilson at the Westport Coffeehouse

On the same evening many of Kansas City's most prominent citizens donned tuxedos and evening gowns to attend the grand opening of The Kauffman Center, about fifty people in everyday apparel descended a creaky staircase at The Westport Coffeehouse to take in a relatively low-profile but artistically-rewarding jazz gig.

The first forty minutes of the performance made this correspondent forget all about the big hullabaloo thirty blocks away. (Other obligations prevented me from staying longer.) The quartet of guitarist Anthony Wilson, saxophonist Matt Otto, bassist Gerald Spaits and drummer Tim Cambron struck an ideal balance between mainstream and outside jazz.

It was no surprise to find that the Los Angeles-based Wilson merits his reputation as an artistic peer of Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny, but no one warned me that he hums and sings as he plays. Instead of a grating whine in the style of Keith Jarrett, the pleasant noise Wilson emits resembles the singing of Milton Nascimento. Far more jarring was Wilson's tendency to loudly comp over the solos of his band mates. I liked the approach, but that sort of aggressiveness is rarely displayed when Kansas City's jazz musicians get together. Otto and Spaits were, of course, excellent. I rarely see Cambron in a free setting. He excelled in the off-leash environment.

The intense focus of the audience was also refreshing. Alcohol and jazz may be a time-tested combination, but an attentive audience in a dry listening room is vastly preferable to a lubricated and talkative crowd in a bar. And the sound in the somewhat funky basement is excellent.

More like this please.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Now's the Time: Diana Krall and Anthony Wilson

Diana Krall has quite a band. Regulars at Jardine's will recognize drummer Jeff Hamilton in the embedded video from his annual gigs at the Main Street venue. Bassist Gerald John Clayton performed with The Clayton Brothers at The Gem Theater in 2010. Less familiar but no less significant is guitarist Anthony Wilson. Krall is bringing him to Kansas City this weekend for the grand opening celebration at the Kauffman Center. He also plays a gig with Matt Otto at the Westport Coffee House Theater from 8-10 p.m. on Friday. Wilson will be backed by Matt Otto on tenor sax, Gerald Spaits on bass and Tim Cambron on drums. Here's rough footage of Wilson performing with Otto in California.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Here's a nice remembrance of the late Pearl Thuston-Brown.

*Unlike Plastic Sax, KCJazzLark refuses to blame Shay Estes for the cancellation of the Prairie Village Jazz Festival. He does, however, provide a couple of nice photos.

*The PV Post offers a follow-up story on the Prairie Village Jazz Festival's cancellation.

*The free "14th Street Jazz Fest" is Sunday September 18 in the Power & Light district. Participating musicians include Mark Lowrey Will Matthews, Ida McBeth, Matt Otto and Darryl Terrel. More information is available here.

*Harold O'Neal did not win, place or show at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition, but he did catch the attention of many, including a correspondent for Jazz Times.

*The UMKC Conservatory of Music commissioned a 30-second commercial for its upcoming gig at Kauffman Center.

*Hunter Long pledges to "figure out how to play with electronic beats in a non-cheesy way" in a new post about Hominid.

*Marc Myers examines the new Basie-Sinatra reissue with enthusiasm.

*A blogger recounts his visit to The American Jazz Museum.

*Here's an impressive performance video of Mouth at Crosstown Station on July 2.

*Tweet o' the Week: kcjazzlark: Storm moved through, ruined some electrical equipment. Rest of Prairie Village Jazz Fest is cancelled. Very sad.

*The wake for longtime Kansas City music industry personality Leroy Johnson is Sunday, September 18, from 2-5 p.m. at BB's Lawnside BBQ.

*The September 9 "Current State and Future of Jazz" program on Up To Date featuring Brad Cox, Deborah Brown, Shay Estes and Bobby Watson is available as a podcast.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Here's That Rainy Day

I blame Shay Estes.

Impeccable weather greeted the start of the 2:45 set by Shay Estes and Trio ALL at Saturday's Prairie Village Jazz Festival. The performance of Estes, Zach Albetta, Mark Lowrey and Ben Leifer demonstrated that the band is a legitimate player in the sophisticated space also occupied by Melody Gardot and Erin Bode.

I didn't think much of the ominous clouds to the northeast of the Kansas City suburb. After all, the sun was shining and butterflies were dancing in Harmon Park. Then Estes, lost in the music, began dancing during a lively rendition of Paul Simon's "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes."

Wholly unaccustomed to such a bewitching spectacle, the Prairie Village sky couldn't contain itself. Within moments, a torrential downpour ensued, scattering the audience of about 300. Although the sun reappeared an hour later, the damage was done and the full slate of premier locally-based talent was cancelled. (Here are reports from the PV Post and The Star.

I hope you're happy, Shay.

(The original image, taken the moment the storm hit, is by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Now's the Time: Colin Stetson

In today's installment of his weekly column, Joe Klopus does a great job of running down the upcoming highlights on Kansas City's jazz scene. And sure, I'll be at Saturday's promising Prairie Village Jazz Festival. Joe did not mention, however, that Colin Stetson will perform as part of Bon Iver at the Uptown Theater on Friday. The saxophonist's solo work may or may not be considered jazz, but it's certainly remarkable.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Deborah Brown promotes the Prairie Village Jazz Festival in an interview with Joel Nichols.

*Charles Ferruza interviewed Marilyn Maye. Tony Botello reviewed the final set of her engagement last week at Jardine's. Maye's performance at Missouri State University is previewed by the Springfield News-Leader.

*Festival season is considered by KCJazzLark.

*Chris Burnett touches on a broad array of personal and professional topics in a new blog post.

*"The state of jazz today" is the topic of KCUR's Up To Date this Friday. (Tip via KCJazzLark.)

*A press release characterizes 12th Street Jump as "one of the most listened-to weekly live jazz radio shows in the country."

*Bobby Watson's contribution to the Chicago Jazz Festival is noted by the Chicago Tribune.

*Anima, a new duet album by Matt Otto and Leonard Thompson, is available at CD Baby.

*The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings of Frank Sinatra and Count Basie were reissued yesterday.

*New York's Charlie Parker Jazz Festival has been rescheduled.

*Geri Allen, who will perform March 24, 2012, at the Gem Theater, will be featured in a live webcast tonight (September 7) at NPR.

*The St. Joseph Jazz Festival in St. Joseph, Missouri, is no more. It's now the Coleman Hawkins Bikes & Blues Festival. Meanwhile, The Phoenix, once a dependable Kansas City jazz venue, is hosting a blues festival on October 1.

*Karrin Allyson and Rod Fleeman perform Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" at a radio station in Seattle. Allyson will return to Jardine's on November 28 and 29.

*Tweet o' the Week: ericbowersphoto: photoblogged - the Phoenix Jazz Club in Kansas City link to photo

*From Alaadeen Enterprises: (G)o to this site. Use coupon code CJ39C to get 20% off download of Alaadeen's book of memories: "Dysfunctional / life journeys of a second generation jazz musician". Available in formats for Kindle, Nook, Sony, Palm and more. Promotional price $3.99!

*From JCCC: Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and his band will appear Friday, Sept. 30, at Johnson County Community College in a musical and historical production that recalls the post-World War II jazz of Miles Davis. The Miles Davis Experience: 1949-1959, a collaboration with Blue Note Records, recaptures the sound and history of those years through the lens of the music that Davis created. The show includes live music performed in the manner it was first presented, with photos and film clips brought together by a beat poet-style narrator... Modest, Akinmusire would like you to know his band collectively with saxophonist Walter Smith III, pianist Sam Harris, bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Justin Brown.

*From Jeff Davis: Sir Threadius Mongus returns for a free show during First Friday for their Threads EP release celebration, as well as the debut of new music and a new lineup featuring Jeff Davis (guitar and composition), Matt Otto (saxophones), Andrew McGhie (saxophone), Stanton Kessler (trumpet), Mike Stover (bass) and Jonathan Taylor (drums), on October 7, at 8PM, at La Esquina.

*From the American Jazz Museum: Services for Pearl Thuston-Brown are scheduled for Thursday, September 8, 2011. Visitation: 9:00 am – 11:00 am. Service: 11:00 am. Location: Boone Tabernacle Church of God, 1317 East 12th Street.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Marketing of the Irish

I marveled at the sight of teeming masses Friday at Kansas City Irish Fest. Organizers expected to top last year's attendance of 100,000 during the three three-day event.

How did this happen? Why does a city closely associated with the role it played in the development of jazz lack a major jazz-based festival even as an Irish-themed event attracts massive crowds? The answer, of course, is complicated. Kansas City has a long history of defunct jazz festivals.

Kansas City Irish Fest wasn't always a big deal. I recall attending a modest affair in a Westport parking lot about a dozen years ago. Organizers have dealt with a few setbacks, but the festival continues to grow. I attribute a large part of its success to organic support from the close-knit Irish community. I repeatedly had to fend off eager volunteers Friday. The event's organizers are also brilliant, hardworking and efficient. Take a look at their Thorough. Social. Media. Presence.

Don't tell me these tactics don't pay off. With ticket prices of $5 on Friday and $15 on Saturday and Sunday, the festival clears over a million dollars in gate receipts. It doesn't hurt that the festival boasts one ringer. Kansas City-based band The Elders can easily attract over 1,000 dedicated fans for its one-off concerts. There's just no equivalent on Kansas City's jazz scene.

Before addressing why the local jazz community can't capture the "luck" of the Irish, I'd be negligent if I didn't mention a few existing efforts. The American Jazz Museum presents the Rhythm & Ribs festival next month. I'm a big fan, but this year's version is a one-day event that has a '70s funk band and a blues legend as its top-billed performers. Jazz Winterlude and the Prairie Village Jazz Festival , both Johnson County, Kansas, events, are excellent showcases of top locally-based talent. Jazz In the Woods draws a big crowd for its lineups of smooth jazz and pop.

I support all four events, but where's the Kansas City festival with James Carter, Ornette Coleman, Robert Glasper, Charlie Haden, Vijay Iyer, Pat Metheny, Sonny Rollins and John Scofield?

Regular readers of Plastic Sax already know my answer to that vexing question. The potential of another serious top-tier jazz festival in Kansas City is buried under the seemingly insurmountable burdens of audience indifference, preconceived bias and a disjointed jazz community. There's no need for me to address the first of these issues at length. I write it about it with predictable frequency at Plastic Sax. Kansas City's best jazz musicians regularly perform for audiences of less than two dozen enthusiasts. Even fewer attended Charlie Parker's gravesite service last week. Recent performances by both The Bad Plus and Ernie Andrews were woefully under-attended.

Semi-professional provocateur Nicholas Payton digs into my second point in an essay he published last month. It doesn't matter if the subject is Coleman Hawkins or Anthony Braxton- the negative baggage attached to the word "jazz" has become exceedingly oppressive. Irish music, on the other hand, is a blank slate for most Americans.

Finally, the jazz community is divided. The lack of grassroots support means that area jazz musicians and jazz presenters must turn to foundations, corporations and government entities to merely subsist. With so many groups competing for dollars, the jazz landscape has become a political minefield.

Our best hope, at least for the foreseeable future, is that one of the festivals mentioned above will evolve into a top-tier jazz event. Until then, Kansas Citians can be content with hosting one of the world's most successful Irish festivals.

(Original image of Kansas City Irish Fest by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Now's the Time: Marilyn Maye

Marilyn Maye's roots in Kansas are explored in the embedded 2008 video. Her current engagement at Jardine's concludes with one show on Friday and two sets on Saturday. Maye is worth every penny of the hefty cover charge.

Edit: A 5 p.m. Friday show has been added to the schedule.