Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCJazzLark responds to The Atlantic's "Jazz District Authenticity Problem" essay. Hunter Long shares his take. Here's Tony Botello's reaction to the previous Plastic Sax post about the matter: "And if you listen closely, the sound of Kansas City Jazz can still be heard as it evolves, melds and influences hip-hop, R&B and so many other forms of music that are often overlooked by the critics and librarians who keep a constant vigil for Charlie Parker's ghost."

*Project H commissioned an excellent EPK for its new Become Light album.

*Sylvia Maria Gross of KCUR's KC Currents profiles Mike Corrigan's BAC Horn Doctor.

*The establishment of an "International Jazz Hall of Fame" is being considered in Chicago.

*The Majestic has a- wait for it- jazz calendar!

*Black House Improvisors' Collective is having "Fun With Gongs".

*Here's an EPK for the "Diverse Plays Michael Jackson" concept.

*Benny Golson's first set at the Blue Room was reviewed by The Star.

*Bob McWilliams reviewed Dave Pietro's appearance at Kansas City Academy.

*Los Angeles-based Mike Melvoin, an occasional collaborator of David Basse, has died. Basse hosted a tribute to Melvoin a couple months ago. Sue Vicory documented the occasion.

*T.J. Martley takes on Herbie Hancock's solo on Wayne Shorter's "Orbits."

*Last weekend's highly anticipated take on the Charlie Parker with Strings concept, a collaboration between Miguel Zenon and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, was reviewed by Howard Reich.

*Phonologotronic wonders if his ensemble will ever play the Blue Room.

*The American Jazz Museum will host a free "opening reception" and "jazz concert" related to a new Ella Fitzgerald exhibit with "remarks by Mayor Sly James and CEO Greg Carroll" on Friday, March 2, at 6 p.m.

*Tweet o' the Week: ChrisPhelan- KC great Bobby Watson doing a favor. Front of The Gem, 18th & Vine photo at Instagram

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- A trap huh? If it was a trap it was to get you to actually make a statement as opposed to more non-commital, tepid musings that seem to be the bulk of your writing. This write up and your response serve as perfect examples.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kansas City's Counterfeit Jazz

The namesake of this blog is displayed in a case at the publicly-funded American Jazz Museum in Kansas City's Jazz District. The institution isn't located at the corner of 12th Street and Vine. The famous intersection no longer exists. Want to see Charlie Parker's childhood homes? They've also been leveled. Many of the most historically valuable properties in the Kansas City area are gone. Even though I openly mock the city's decision to spend $144,500.00 in taxpayer dollars on a plastic sax once played by Bird, I applaud the motives that inspired the purchase.

Rather than a case of too little and too late, I see the efforts described in Brandon R. Reynold's The Jazz District Authenticity Problem essay as a noble last-ditch effort to formally acknowledge and preserve a portion of what remains of Kansas City's formidable jazz legacy.

Patrick Jarenwattananon of NPR's A Blog Supreme encouraged Plastic Sax and KCJazzLark to respond to Reynold's piece with locally-based insights.

As Reynolds suggests, redevelopment at 18th and Vine has been halting. Before I offer my jazz-oriented explanation of why the the top-down approach to civic engineering has resulted in a disappointing amount of progress, I'd like to surprise longtime Plastic Sax readers by offering a heartfelt tribute to the American Jazz Museum.

Just last night a capacity audience packed the museum's nightclub for Benny Golson's second appearance at the Blue Room in less than a year. It was precisely the sort of event that could only transpire under the auspices of the American Jazz Museum.

While the museum's displays may not inspire repeat visits, its entertainment programming and outreach efforts have added immeasurably to my quality of life. I've met Randy Weston. I've experienced performances by brilliant musicians including Roy Ayers, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Lionel Loueke, Christian McBride and Nicholas Payton. I've attended panel discussions featuring underappreciated artists like Ben Kynard. I'm grateful that the museum continues to provide these invaluable opportunities.

I just wish more people recognized jazz's intrinsic rewards. Unlike barbecue, Kansas City's other ballyhooed gift to the world, jazz simply isn't attracting hordes of eager consumers in 2012. While the Blue Room has been a constant beacon of quality, the past few years have been tough ones for Kansas City's jazz fans and musicians. Even as the indie rock, hip hop and fine arts scenes have become all the rage, the jazz environment has endured a series of humbling setbacks. Unlike the infighting that's weakened support for the Mutual Musicians Foundation and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, most of the challenges faced by the American Jazz Museum aren't self-inflicted.

Kansas City's deep-seated racial divide is the other primary reason the Jazz District has failed to thrive. The town remains segregated. Last night's Benny Golson concert aside, a lot of people are simply unwilling to visit a part of town that they associate both with crime and with people of a different race. No amount of urban planning can rectify biases of that nature.

Time, however, has a a way of changing such perceptions. And there are reasons to be hopeful. Thanks in large part to Bobby Watson's work as the director of jazz studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, dozens of promising young musicians are bringing fresh ideas to the scene. I'll pit Kansas City's top two dozen jazz-based musicians against the talent pool of any North American city other than New York, New Orleans, Chicago and Los Angeles.

I have to believe that enthusiastic audiences will eventually embrace the relevant, #BAM-friendly music being performed by these young innovators. Hopefully, the proper infrastructure will be in place in the Jazz District when that day finally arrives. Kansas City's Jazz District may then seem less like a contrived counterfeit and more like the authentic article.

(Original image of sign at 18th & Paseo by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Now's the Time: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

The retro-swing act Big Bad Voodoo Daddy perform in the Kansas City Symphony's pops series Friday and Saturday, February 24-25. When they encounter this crowd-pleasing ensemble, many nostalgic listeners express a desire to hear more music from "the good ol' days." The most active local band with a similar sensibility is Grand Marquis. This footage gives a sense of the band's approach. Grand Marquis have seven performances scheduled in the Kansas City area next month.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*An essay published by The Atlantic is titled "The Jazz District Authenticity Problem."

*Hearne Christopher reports on possible progress at the location once occupied by Jardine's.

*Behind the Music: Jazz Discharge.

*Diverse appeared on a morning news broadcast on Fat Tuesday.

*Chuck Berg reviewed a concert by Tim Doherty's Nine + One.

*Sue Vicory is uploading unedited interview and performance segments related to her documentary Kansas City Jazz & Blues; Past, Present & Future at her YouTube channel.

*KCJazzLark compiles quotes about Kansas City's jazz heyday.

*The 2012-13 season of the Harriman-Jewell Series includes a Bobby McFerrin concert.

*A blogger posted a photo of Fat Tuesday's parade. (Via Tony's Kansas City.)

*Miguel Zenon's new Charlie Parker-inspired project is examined by Howard Reich.

*Two Kansas City-area musicians participated in a poll about jazz musicians' income.

*Bob Brookmeyer's Kansas City Revisited album has been reissued on vinyl.

*The Kansas City Kansan provides an update on KCKCC's jazz program.


*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- … I love hearing about how much you sacrifice for jazz, with your wife, kids and job with the KC Star. Try dedicating your life to playing it rather than criticizing it from a proudly un-learned point of view. THEN talk to us about sacrifice. Jesus.

*From KU School of Music: The KU School of Music is pleased to present the 35th Annual KU Jazz Festival on March 2-3, 2012, featuring notable guest artists Donny McCaslin (saxophone), Alex Sipiagin (trumpet) and Randy Klein (piano)… Evening concerts are open to the general public. On Friday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Lawrence High School Auditorium, saxophonist Donny McCaslin will be featured with the KU Jazz Festival All-Star Big Band… Saturday, March 5 features trumpeter Alex Sipiagin in concert with KU Jazz Ensemble I, under the direction of Dan Gailey, Director of Jazz Studies at KU. This performance also takes place at Lawrence High School Auditorium at 7:30… Tickets to this year's evening concerts are free. Details are available here.

*From JCCC: Students and faculty from the Music and Theatre Department at Johnson County Community College will perform several concerts in March. The concerts are free and open to the public. All of them will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Carlsen Center in Polsky Theatre... March 7 –JCCC Jazz Night will feature the "For Musicians Only" Community Jazz Ensemble, which is the special guest for the concert; the JCCC Midnight Blues Jazz Choir and the JCCC Midnight Express Jazz Ensemble. A wide variety of jazz styles will be performed.

*From Take Five Coffee: Introducing Take Five Second Set: Saturday night we have Brandon Draper's jazz quartet in our usual time slot, but it will be followed by Miles Bonny in the first ever Take Five Second Set. Saturday, February 25. 11pm Miles played music for Take Five's grand opening back in 2010. We are elated to have him back to host the first of an occasional series of Second Set shows. We're going to open up the room for a 21-and-over crowd and keep the coffee and martinis and the music flowing until 2 in the morning. Brandon Draper is going to stick around and join Miles in this inaugural Take Five event. Bonny's "second set" is scheduled to begin at 11 p.m.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review: Enrico Rava at the Portland Jazz Festival

"I think jazz is the most beautiful music when it's good," Enrico Rava said in an interview before his concert Saturday at the Portland Jazz Festival. "When it's not good, it's the most horrible thing in the world."

Amen, brother.

Sometimes I wonder why I allow jazz to be such a major component of my life. There's not much money in it. My passion for the music isolates me from most of my friends and family. And I love other genres, so I don't really "need" jazz.

Yet it's not true. That's why this Kansan traveled 1,800 miles to attend Rava's concert. Hearing Rava didn't just affirm my commitment to jazz- the experience overwhelmed me with gratitude for having the good fortune to take in such insightful brilliance.

I laughed out loud throughout Rava's 95-minute performance. Rava- like European ECM-affiliated artists Jan Garbarek and Terje Rypdal- is someone I never thought I'd get a chance to see. (I was devastated when Dave Holland canceled his appearance in Kansas City last year.) So aside from concerts by Pat Metheny, I rarely get an opportunity to discover how the ECM sound works in a live environment. It turns out that the translation from a Manfred Eicher studio production to the stage isn't insurmountable.

The dramatic dynamics of Rava's band Tribe were hilarious. Rava frequently deferred to young trombonist Gianluca Petrella. The bandleader clearly believes Petrella can do no wrong. He's right. The aggressive trombonist is redefining the instrument. Pianist Giovanni Guidi, on the other hand, seemed regularly incur Rava's wrath. Unlike Rava, I liked almost every one of his ideas. Bassist Gabriele Evangelista is just a kid, but drummer Fabrizio Sferra managed to keep everyone together. He's fantastic. And Rava? He plays like the logical extension of Bix Beiderbecke and Miles Davis. Genius.

The sheer audacity of the concert gave me another reason to keep smiling. Rava and his band felt no obligation to swing. While the quintet frequently referenced Dixieland, the Count Basie Orchestra of the '30s and early bop, these acknowledgements served to offer context for the sound of 2012. Nothing- not Die Antwoord, Crystal Castles or the Weeknd- is more relevant than the music Rava played Saturday. Incredibly, only about ten people in the capacity audience of 300 at the gorgeous and acoustically perfect Dolores Winningstad Theatre walked out during Rava's performance.

I had a feeling I wasn't in Kansas (City) any more.

(Oregon Music News took proper photos. The site also offers a podcast of the pictured pre-concert interview conducted by Tim Duroche. Original image of Rava and Duroche by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Now's the Time: Benny Golson

Saturday's appearance by Benny Golson at the Blue Room qualifies as a potential "kicking-myself concert." That's my name for important gigs I fail to attend. Maybe finances are a concern- Saturday's show is $25. Or maybe there's something else going on- I'd also love to see Bloodstone inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame or George Strait croon "Amarillo By Morning" at the Sprint Center on Saturday. And then there's the pitiful excuse of being too tired to go out. Well, I'll end up kicking myself if I don't make it to the Blue Room on February 25 to see the 83-year-old composer of "Whisper Not." Golson's all-star accompanists are pianist Mike LeDonne, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Carl Allen. (Plastic Sax recently published an excellent Frank R. Hayde interview with Williams.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*"I like jazz but I didn't really like performing it," Krystle Warren tells the Australian. "That's why I left Kansas City." The full story is here. (Registration required.)

*A Ph.D. candidate at the University of Kansas is doing research on a project titled “Weird Bodily Noises: Race, Gender, and Alternative Jazz History in Kansas City”.

*Pat Metheny won the Grammy award for, ahem, Best New Age Album for What's It All About at Sunday's ceremony.

*KCJazzLark misses Jardine's.

*Whither Jardine's? Hearne Christopher provides another update.

*The Star provides a review of Roy Ayers' concert at the Gem Theater.

*KCTV offers a report on the status of the John Baker film collection at the American Jazz Museum.

*The new incarnation of the Black House Improvisors' Collective will be a full-on big band.

*The Prairie Village Jazz Festival has a new chairman.

*"He's one of the most intense people you will ever meet," George Colligan notes in his appreciation of frequent Kansas City performer Rob Scheps.

*A new three-song EP by funk/jazz/techno/jam act Mouth is streaming at Soundcloud.

*Robert Trussell curates a fine playlist of Kansas City jazz and blues clips at YouTube.

*Libby Hanssen recalls a People's Liberation Big Band's performance of John Cage's "4'33"."

*Jacob Fred Odyssey will issue a series of demos and remixes from Plastic Sax's #1 album of 2011.

*Miles Bonny provides a neo-soul valentine.

*Here's an update on St. Louis' new blues museum.

*Tweet o' the Week: NextOnTCM- The jazz band's leader gets mixed up with gangster in '20s Kansas City. #TCM

*Plastic Sax Comment o' the Week: tjjazzpiano- Listen to any of the Bill Evans' Trio live records (especially the 1960 Birdland Sessions). Those audience members weren't exactly whispering behind the performance of arguably one the greatest piano trios ever. I'm not saying I don't despise the noise too, but it certainly isn't a recent epidemic.

*From the Kauffman Center For the Performing Arts: The GRAMMY Museum's Music Revolution Project, a new education initiative developed by The GRAMMY Museum has been announced by Bob Santelli, Executive Director of The GRAMMY Museum... Scheduled to debut as a pilot program in Kansas City, Mo. in June 2012, The GRAMMY Museum's Music Revolution Project will offer talented youth the opportunity to engage in musical discourse and performance with other peers from across the country, spurring innovative ideas within the realm of American music. Read the entire press release here.

(Original image of the Will Matthews Quartet performing at Jazz Winterlude by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Ghost of a Jazz Club Past

The specter of Jardine's loomed large Friday at Kansas City Academy.

"When I got the idea for this concept," Brandon Draper explained before Alaturka's performance. "This is what I had in mind."

Draper said that the ensemble's monthly gig at Jardine's had been a staple of Alaturka's schedule. The new Grassoots Concert Series was partly inspired as a response to that loss. The gambit seems to be working. A full house of over 75 paid $10 and $15 each for the performance.

Because I've written extensively about Alaturka at Plastic Sax and elsewhere I'll simply suggest that its performance was no less exceptional than usual. Beau Bledsoe, Draper, Rich Wheeler and 2011 Plastic Sax Person of the Year Jeff Harshbarger are four of Kansas City's premier musicians. Tamam Abi was my fourth favorite "jazz" album of 2010. I also interviewed Alaturka founder Beau Bledsoe a couple years ago.

The performance space at 7933 Main Street features bleacher-style seating, fine acoustics and a family atmosphere. Rather than being nuisances, the children on hand Friday were among the most attentive and enthusiastic members of the audience. The sole distractions were occasional ambient noises from the halls of the school and a piercing light above the venue's main entrance.

A question-and-answer segment- often a dubious proposition- was excellent. Harshbarger and Wheeler are remarkably adept at articulating complex ideas.

Sure, I miss Jardine's. I like Beena, the club's owner. And I enjoy adult beverages. Even so, from an obsessive music fan's perspective, the performance space at Kansas City Academy represents an upgrade.

(Original pre-show image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Now's the Time: The Glenn Miller Orchestra

A few area music lovers may be inclined to drive across Missouri this weekend to catch the Robert Glasper Trio in St. Louis. At the opposite end of the #BAM jazz spectrum, the Glenn Miller Orchestra perform Saturday, February 11, at Shawnee Mission West High School. I doubt that Glasper considered including a rendition of "Chattanooga Choo Choo" on his new Black Radio album, but then again, Glasper regularly confounds my expectations.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Here are words I never expected to type: Listen to Roy Hargrove's solo on a song by Kansas City hip hop artist Reach. It was recorded last weekend at a jam session at YJ's. Hargrove isn't visible in a video clip of the unlikely event. And here's footage of Hargrove jamming with Hermon Mehari at the Foundation.

*Take Five Coffee + Bar is featured in an article about the arts in Johnson County.

*An awful chapter in Kansas City's history is recounted by Robert Trussell. The story about a 1945 incident was first published in 1988.

*Bob McWilliams reports on Diverse's recent performance at Kansas City Academy.

*The University of Kansas' annual jazz festival takes place March 2-3. It will feature Donny McCaslin and Alex Sipiagin. Follow the links from here.

*Additional images from Jazz Winterlude are posted by KCJazzLark.

*T.J. Martley's YouTube channel is exceptional. Here's a clip of Crosscurrent performing at Jazz Winterlude.

*Gamelans figure in the future of Black House Improvisors' Collective.

*Steve Wilson's new take on Charlie Parker's strings album is streaming at NPR.

*Universal France has issued a 13-disc Charlie Parker set titled: The Complete Masters 1941-54.

*Tweet o' the Week: Alaadeenswife- Marr Sound Archives is now the home of the Alaadeen Collection. It includes open reel live recordings + other items documenting his career

*Comment o' the Week: "Nicholas Payton" or Nicholas Payton (I can't be sure)- #1 Best living trumpeter: Nicholas Payton

*From Dan Gailey: -The University of Kansas School of Music and Hall Center for the Humanities are co-presenting pianist Randy Klein's Two Duos in concert on Saturday, February 11, at 7:30 p.m. in Swarthout Recital Hall. Admission is free. Klein is the 2011-12 Hall Center Simons Public Humanities Fellow and will be in residence at the University of Kansas for most of February. The February 11 concert will also feature trombonist Chris Washburne and saxophonist Ole Mathesin.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Review: Grace Kelly and Phil Woods at The Folly Theater

"You even get to see Charlie Parker's plastic saxophone," Grace Kelly ad-libbed as she sang about the attraction at the American Jazz Museum during an appealing rendition of "Bye, Bye, Blackbird" Saturday at the Gem Theater.

The 19-year-old has progressed nicely since her tedious 2009 appearance at The Blue Room. (Here are my notes on that performance.) Kelly only occasionally bored me Saturday. Her best feature was a pop-flavored ditty in the vein of Erin Bode.

Several dozen jazz musicians in Kansas City are capable of playing and singing circles around Kelly. But that's not really the point. I can think of only two or three teenagers in the area with better chops than Kelly. And none possess Kelly's charm. Most in the audience of about 375 seemed smitten by her showmanship.

In any case, I didn't lay down $18 for Kelly. I wanted to see Phil Woods one last time. The legend didn't disappoint. His beautiful solo during "People Time" brought tears to my eyes. Even better were pure throwback renditions of "How High the Moon" and "Webb City." The bop classics were rendered as if the past 65 years never happened. I'm not ordinarily inclined to admire exercises in nostalgia, but Woods, an 80-year-old Parker acolyte (he even married Parker's widow Chan!), has earned the right to revisit his youth.

Thanks for everything, Mr. Woods.

Here's Libby Hanssen's review.

(Stunning original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Now's the Time: Roy Hargrove

An exceptionally entertaining parlor game for guys like me is the spontaneous ranking of all things related to music. With that freewheeling barroom mentality in mind, I arbitrarily pronounce Roy Hargrove to be the fourth best living jazz trumpeter. And in the category of "most important living jazz musicians," I'll place Hargrove at #14. He performs Friday, February 3, at UMKC's jazz festival. An imbecile previewed Hargrove's appearance here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The 2012 season of noon jazz concerts at Johnson County Community College has been announced.

*Hearne Christopher files an update on the status of Jardine's. Tony's Kansas City suggests that Jardine's "15 minutes are up."

*The Matt Otto Quintet is admired by KCJazzLark.

*Tim Finn's story about women in Kansas City's music scene contains a bit of jazz content.

*The Star provides a nice feature on ailing pianist Dan DeLuca. (Tip via Jim Mair.)

*Diverse posted an interactive guide to a recent performance.

*UMKC's student newspaper checks in on the jazz program.

*The Los Angeles Times published a profile of Pete O'Neal, the uncle of pianist Harold O'Neal.

*KCTV reports on progress at the Black Archives.

*Tweet o' the Week: Alaadeenswife- I'm listening to Kansas City's Seth Lee and Michael Warren on Najee's new CD, "The Smooth Side of Soul."

*Plastic Sax Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- Looks like you really did your homework on this one. (These words broke Plastic Sax's sarcasm meter.)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)