Sunday, January 29, 2012

Album Review: Mille and Mike Live

Millie Edwards has been rewarded with standing ovations many of the times I've seen her perform in churches and in concert settings. She's a true audience-pleaser. People hearing her for the first time are invariably astounded that such a gigantic voice can emanate from such a diminutive person.

Edwards' brassy approach- she sounds like Liza Minnelli with a hint of Mahalia Jackson thrown into the mix- is more Broadway than Birdland. While I don't particularly care for her style, my bias didn't prevent me from giving CD versions of the 2011 release Mille and Mike Live to friends and family last Christmas. I know plenty of people who enjoy Edwards' renditions of familiar material like "Sweet Home Chicago," "Someone To Watch Over Me" and "I've Got You Under My Skin."

When I listen to the live recording I prefer to focus on the astoundingly versatile pianist Michael Pagan. He can play stride, show tunes and blues with equal adroitness. Edwards and Pagan perform every Monday at The Phoenix. Here's live footage of the duo shot at Jardine's in 2010.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Now's the Time: Megan Birdsall and Diverse

Change, as the saying goes, is the only constant. Two acts that might otherwise have played at the still-shuttered Jardine's this weekend have gigs at relatively new venues on the Kansas City-area jazz scene. Megan Birdsall performs Friday, January 27, at Take Five Coffee + Bar. Her band includes bassist Ben Leifer, keyboardist Paul Smith and drummer Brian Steever. Hermon Mehari and Diverse perform "a selection of originals and covers inspired by music from Africa" on Saturday, January 28, at Kansas City Academy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The January 24 edition of KCUR's weekly KC Currents program features a segment titled "Where To Next For KC Jazz?". (Full disclosure: the halting, stilted voice is mine.)

*KCJazzLark challenges the premise of a January 15 Plastic Sax post. While he makes several well-reasoned points, I still think the music would be best served by a gradual shift away from increasingly irrelevant terminology.

*The KC Sound Collective are the subject of a nice introductory video.

*KCUR's Jabulani Leffal spoke to Mark Lowrey and Hermon Mehari about Kansas City's jazz scene. The conversation streams here.

*Hearne Christopher checks in with Jardine's Beena. He also provides another update on the ongoing ownership saga. And Christopher assesses the health of Kansas City's jazz scene.

*The apparent absence of progress at Jardine's is noted by Tony's Kansas City.

*Here's a review of last weekend's three-day Jazz Winterlude festival. Libby Hanssen reviewed the performance by Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Band.

*Footage of an excellent band led by Brandon Draper is featured in a video showcasing the new venue at the Kansas City Academy. (Via Tony's Kansas City.)

*Steve Kraske interviewed Chris Brubeck.

*Bobby Watson will be featured in a concert during the 2012-13 season of the Kansas City Symphony.

*Hermon Mehari is interviewed here.

*Will Combs of the American Jazz Museum talks about his job.

*A soprano sax mouthpiece once owned by the late Alaadeen is for sale at eBay.

*West Coast drummer Bill Goodwin will be part of David Basse's band on February 3 at BB's Lawnside BBQ.

*Black House Improvisors' Collective is soliciting a new round of participants. And Hunter Long throws down a challenge.

*Here's the new 45 from Hearts of Darkness.

*The second annual Bob James Jazz Festival will take place in Marshall, Missouri, on May 19.

*Jon Poses reports on the recent JEN convention.

*Anyone remember Dry Jack? Here's a '70s-tastic slide show.

*Two notable Kansas City musicians contribute to the mayhem in an appearance at an Apple Retail Store.

*Tweet o' the Week: KCJazzConnxn- I never get sick of bragging about KC jazz. So many good players from here or cleaning up abroad! Despite club downfall, music keeps coming.

*The Plastic Sax comment of the week: Be-Bop- What's the matter? Swing too much? Not enough multimedia for you? Don't play sloppy and work with little tin drums? Don't have a dancer or little hats to wear? You're slippin' Bill. Been reading too much Nick Payton's crap. Hate to tell you, most of the shit being played in this poor town has got boring written all over it. Watched and listened to some of your "J" word picks of the year... let's talk boring. Garage band bullshit. My opinion, that's all. As for Anonymous asking if it was PBT? Let's chalk that comment up to musical ignorance. Instead of asking for a "Disney on Ice" experience of self gratifying "jazz" that you find playing at your weekly gigs in KC to keep you visually entertained, how about remembering the music comes first. I admire the cats in this town that DO remember that. Oh, and I've seen you close your eyes at gigs and concentrate on the music.

*From the American Jazz Museum: Benny Golson Quartet- 2 Shows: 8:00 & 9:30. $25 One Show- $40 Both Shows. (Student Pricing - $20 One Show. $30 Both Shows). Buster Williams- Bass, Carl Allen- Drums, Mike LeDonne- Piano. (Saturday, February 25.)

*From Jim Mair: Information about the 11th Annual Kansas City Jazz Camp is here.

*From Mike Ning: Michael Feinstein performed a concert with the Kansas City Symphony on February 11th, 2011. He came with a film crew for a documentary for PBS. Among the numerous stops, he paid the Mutual Musicians Foundation at 18th and Vine a visit during its early morning Jazz Jam (Saturday morning on the 12th of February from 1-5 am, to be specific). The place was jam packed with fans from the concert and regular patrons. Michael was urged to sit in with the house band: Denyse Walcott - Host / Vocalist, Mike Ning - Pianist, Joe Straws - Bass, Victor Perelmuter - drums. He did a few numbers and brought the house down. Proceedings were taped for the documentary to be aired on Friday, February 3rd, on PBS, Channel 19, Kansas City.

(Original image of the Matt Otto Quintet with Shay Estes performing January 201 by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sorta Kinda

Bad jazz isn't difficult to find. It's often perpetrated by technically proficient musicians. I took in a loathsome gig a week or two ago. The band's song selection was impeccable. Almost every note was perfectly played. And I was bored to tears. I felt as if I was watching an academic instructional video. The musicians' intentions were good but the result was laughably bland. I'd rather listen to a tone-deaf teen sing along to Taylor Swift than hear antiseptic jazz. At least the fan of the pop star would invest some emotion into her effort.

("Sorta Kinda" image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Now's the Time: Poncho Sanchez

The Jazz Winterlude festival at Johnson County Community College is underway. Joe Klopus' preview focuses on the Brubeck Brothers. The sons of Dave serve as Friday's headlining act. Poncho Sanchez tops the bill on Saturday. Dozens of the Kansas City area's premier jazz musicians are also featured.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*This weekend's Jazz Winterlude festival is touted by KCJazzLark.

*Here's the skinny on the new performing arts space at 7933 Main.

*Mary Sanchez encourages community support of the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*Tony's Kansas City notes that Jardine's remains dark. (I've noticed that the venue's name has been removed from the awning above the front door.)

*Jazz Video Guy gives Bobby Watson and his UMKC program a shout-out at the 2:55 mark in his wrap-up of the JEN convention. (Tip via Dominique Sanders.)

*Here's a video "teaser" from the forthcoming Project H album.

*A version of a new song from Diverse streams here.

*Mouth posted 32 minutes of live footage. Hermon Mehari makes an appearance at the 3:00-minute mark.

*Kevin Mahogany serves as the headliner of the Great Bend Jazz Festival.

*Tweet o' the Week: HitShohin- アマゾンヒット商品 MP3 アルバム 2位 The Frank Wess Quartet |形式:MP3ダウンロード

*From Mark Lowrey: Tuesday, January 31st, 2012. Price: $3. Mark kicks off a new series at downtown Kansas City's Czar Bar. Each Tuesday, Mark hosts a rotating lineup of some of Kansas City's finest jazz, improv, electronic, and classical musicians for a special, unpredictable night of music and fun.

*From Mille Nottingham: January 20th, Tribute to Myra Taylor and Pearl Thuston Brown, Wild Women the Blue Room, 8:30-12:30 (Via Connie Humiston.)

*From Knuckleheads' site: Sun 2/19. Today's jam will be a In harmony jam mixing Blues and Jazz jams on 2 stages and A Celebration of Life (would have been Myra's 95th birthday) as on 12/9/12 we lost our Kansas City Legend… 2pm til 7pm No Cover Charge.

*From Hearts of Darkness: Hearts of Darkness and The Good Foot announce the release of their first collaborative project, a split single 7” record titled “Numeration / Bad Way”. 7" vinyl records with digital download cards will release to the public and be available for sale on Saturday, February 18 at the Carnivàle du Soul show at The Uptown Theater...

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Kansas City Hustle

I wrote a piece for The Kansas City Star that examines Nicholas Payton's Black American Music proposal. The challenging subject makes a lot of people uncomfortable. And while the argument isn't new, it's more relevant than ever. Allow me to set aside the political and sociological aspects of Payton's concept in order to demonstrate one reason this topic matters.

Approximately 400 people attended Nnenna Freelon's excellent concert Saturday at The Folly Theater. (Here's my review.) With this issue in mind, I made an informal tally. Including the four musicians on stage, less than fifty people of color took in the concert. Where was everybody? Don't blame ticket prices- student rush tickets were $10 and cheap seats were $18.

To a large extent, the barrier was antipathy to the j-word. The jazz label may have drawn three-quarters of the existing audience, but it repelled even more potential ticket-buyers. Only people immersed solely in hip hop, indie rock, heavy metal or country music wouldn't have enjoyed the show. Music lovers of all stripes who appreciate Stevie Wonder, Amy Winehouse, Luther Vandross, Frank Sinatra or Mary J. Blige would have loved Freelon's performance.

Had the concert been marketed as an evening of Black American Music rather than as an installment of the "Folly Jazz Presents" series, all 1,078 seats might have been sold to satisfied customers. The change in labels wouldn't help everyone. Free jazz, for instance, is always going to have limited appeal. But the new categorization would almost certainly exponentially expand Nnenna Freelon's audience.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Now's the Time: Otra Cosa

I don't care that it's not jazz. The ardent music and enchanting visuals in the embedded clip transcend genres. Beau Bledsoe's Otra Cosa perform Friday, January 13, at R Bar.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCJazzLark is a man with a (business) plan.

*Tony's Kansas City chronicles the Jardine's saga here. Hearne Christopher tracks the story here.

*Finally! A Kansas City jazz video. (Sort of.)

*From the American Jazz Museum: The American Jazz Museum’s Blue Room jazz club is the first among two Kansas City venues to be named to Down Beat Magazine’s “212 Great Jazz Rooms - An International Listing of the Best Places to See and Hear Live Jazz”.

*A track from the forthcoming Project H album is streaming here.

*Roy Hargrove will appear at UMKC Jazz Festival on February 3.

*A Lee's Summit publication features Clarence Smith.

*"Meet Chris Burnett."

*T-shirts, gigs and ideas are on tap at the latest post at the site of the Black House Improvisors' Collective.

*Miles Bonny has a new Kickstarter campaign.

*An exhibit at UMKC includes items related to Kansas City's jazz legacy. (Via KC Stage.)

*The title of the January 18 edition of KCUR's Central Standard Time is "Kansas City Jazz with musician Mark Lowrey."

*The Sun Session, the new album by Grand Marquis, has been released.

*The Glenn Miller Orchestra is performing at Shawnee Mission West on February 11.

*Tweet o' the Week: americanjazzkc- Count down to Benny Golson in the Blue Room 2.25.12...let us know your favorite Benny Golson tune!

*From Doug Talley: As you probably know, Westport Presbyterian Church suffered fire damage a couple of weeks ago. So our annual Martin Luther King Day concert has been relocated to Community Christian Church, 4601 Main Street Kansas City, MO 64112… As always, the concert will begin at noon on Martin Luther King Day, next Monday, January 16.

*From Central Seminary: Please be our guest at Central Seminary this year for the Sacred Arts Recital Series which began last fall in the Baugh-Marshall Chapel. These complimentary recitals feature some of Kansas City’s finest musicians. The spring series, which will be held on the third Sundays of the month at 4:00 p.m. begins this Sunday, January 15… This Sunday’s recital will feature jazz keyboardists Dr. Michael Pagan, Roger Wilder, and Joe Cartwright for a keyboard “play-off.”

(Original image of Russell Thorpe by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Review: Micah Herman- The Ship

It must be terribly frustrating to be a Kansas City-area jazz bassist not named Bob Bowman, Jeff Harshbarger or Gerald Spaits. The three men invariably secure a disproportionate number of the area's high profile gigs. Each member of the triumvirate deserves his elite standing, but that doesn't mean that the talent pool ends with them. James Albright, Ben Leifer, Bill McKemy and Dominique Sanders are wildly different but uniformly excellent bassists.

And then there's the often overlooked Micah Herman. He's no less impressive than the aforementioned bassists, but to my knowledge he hasn't had a regular widely-touted public gig since he teamed up with Loren Pickford at the Golden Ox for a three-year run that ended in 2009. His new album The Ship, Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions makes a strong case for Herman as a top-tier talent.

While The Ship contains a breadth of styles, Herman generally works from a post-Coltrane perspective. "My Ship", a duet with saxophonist Matt Carrillo, is gorgeous. The contributions of saxophonist Matt Chalk also impress.

Yet it's the presence of Logan Richardson that makes the album essential for listeners not already heavily invested in Kansas City's scene. The brilliant saxophonist appears on five of The Ship's nine tracks. Richardson's innovative soloing on "Ease Back" is the sort of next-level stuff that fans of adventurous jazz dream about. Rather than merely admiring Richardson's improvisations, Herman acts as an electric Charlie Haden to Richardson's stunning Ornette Coleman.

The Ship's quiet issuance in December didn't do it any favors. In spite of its unfortunate timing and complete absence of hype, The Ship is the best album released by a Kansas City jazz artist in 2011.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 6, 2012

That's What I'm Talking About

I'm hardly what you'd call a jazz traditionalist. The forthcoming release by Robert Glasper will probably be my favorite album of 2012. Even so, I find this 82-year-old recording by Kansas City's Bennie Moten no less invigorating than anything being created today. The raucous "That's What I'm Talking About" is impossibly strange.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*"Let’s not have another jazz year like 2011," Joe Klopus pleads in a year-in-review column.

*Charles Feruzza reports that Jardine's has been sold to a new ownership group. Tony's Kansas City covers the kerfuffle over Jardine's here, here and here. Hearne Christopher writes about Jardine's here, here and here.

*KCJazzLark captures a remarkable Celebration of Life jam session.

*The Marshall Democrat-News offers a profile of Clarence Smith.

*"It's hard to own and operate a business promoting one of the least popular forms of music in our country," T.J. Martley says in a preview of a gig at the Blue Room.

*Will Matthews is interviewed.

*Mambo DeLeon is the subject of a video interview.

*An audio interview with Karrin Allyson was conducted by the pop group Mulberry Lane.

*Here's 66 minutes of excellent footage from Mark Lowrey's December 21 gig at the Record Bar.

*Kansas City native Frank Wess celebrates his 90th birthday today.

*The author of Outside-Inside-Out solicits the input of his friends in a review of the Owens/Cox Dance Group's most recent collaboration with the People's Liberation Big Band.

*The Star reports on Occupy KC's "jazz funeral."

*Hunter Long addresses a number of topics in a Black House Improvisors' Collective post.

*Howard Reich reports that Miguel Zenon will "re-examine" the Charlie Parker With Strings album in Chicago on February 24.

*Tweet o' the Week: paynic- @Toure The j word has oppressive overtones. It was the name for the white caricaturization of Black music.

*I'll gladly pay $30 for a two-day pass (and $35-$45 more to see Poncho Sanchez) at the Jazz Winterlude festival later this month. But man, $45 buys a two-day pass for this weekend's Winter Jazzfest in New York. It features hundreds of musicians including Marc Cary, Julian Lage, Lionel Loueke, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Marc Ribot, Wallace Roney, Ben Williams and Bernie Worrell.

*Road trip alert: The Robert Glasper Experiment performs February 10-11 at St. Louis' Jazz at the Bistro.

*Alas, the month of January looks slight at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

*From Drew Williams: The Drew Williams/Tim AuBuchon Quartet play music that is loose but accessible. Their compositions draw on musical inspirations as diverse as Ornette Coleman, Paul Motian, Igor Stravinsky, and Wilco... Drew Williams is a saxophonist and a composer originally from Kansas City, Missouri. He is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Jazz Composition from NYU… Saxophonist and composer Tim AuBuchon... is currently Professor of Jazz Studies at Truman State University... The pair performs with Bill McKemy and Matt Leifer on Friday, January 6, at Take Five Coffee Bar, Leawood, Kansas.

(Original image of Customer Quintet performing at Great Day Cafe by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Jeff Harshbarger: The Plastic Sax Person of the Year

I attempt to clear my calendar when I learn that Jeff Harshbarger is participating in a gig. The contributions he makes during jazz, rock, classical and tango presentations often transform good shows into great ones. Harshbarger's refusal to be limited by categories is just one reason the prominent bassist is Plastic Sax's Person of the Year.

In addition to touring extensively as the newest member of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Harshbarger can be heard on The Race Riot Suite, my favorite album of 2011.

Harshbarger is a vital component of the People's Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City, one of the region's most interesting aggregations. The ensemble plays regularly at the RecordBar, where the "alternative jazz" series curated by Harshbarger is an essential element of the jazz scene. Many of the adventurous local and national acts tapped by Harshbarger might not otherwise have found a hospitable place to perform in Kansas City.

Congratulations, Jeff! Feel free to consult with previous winners about this prestigious award's unbelievable remuneration package. Mark Lowrey was Plastic Sax's Person of the Year in 2010. Hermon Mehari took the award in 2009. Bobby Watson was named Plastic Sax's Person of the Decade for his stellar contributions during the previous ten years.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)