Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Black House Improvisors' Collective's May 18 collaboration with Gamelan Genta Kasturi is available as a free download.  Hunter Long notates the performance.  Phonologotron provides accompanying footage.

*The Kansas City Memorial Juneteenth Jazz & Arts Festival is Saturday, June 9, at the Kansas City Blues & Jazz Juke House.

*KCJazzLark photographed Thursday's performance by the KC Sound Collective.

*A critic for the Guardian compares Krystle Warren to Nina Simone in a rapturous review of a live performance.

*Actress Janet Carroll has died.  The native of the Kansas City area was also a jazz vocalist.

*Chris Hazelton's recent performance at Take Five Coffee was documented.

*Here's a slide show of Bob James' clinic at the recent festival bearing his name. 

*Pat Metheny has issued an official  preview of his new album.

*Addison Frei, a native of Lawrence, Kansas, won the Jacksonville (Fla.) Jazz Piano Competition.  (Link via KC Stage Blog.)

*The Star offers a review of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's concert at Crossroads KC.

*The Chevy Music Showcase is featuring eight area acts in an ambitious publicity campaign.  None are jazz bands.

*Tweet o' the Week: kctrumpeter- Diverse goes PUNK this Wednesday at Club Mustache. #diverted

*Comment o' the Week: Darren- Why won't the TJW book something for us, "The Occupy Wall Street crowd of far left zealots"  Note to self: Maybe if I got a job, saved some money and took some personal responsibility I could finance a concert season of my taste and maybe even network with other people who had jobs, saved some money and took personal responsibility who would get on board and underwrite a portion of the series.  Naaaa, I'll hang out at Harlings and the Record Bar for a couple more decades, that makes a lot more cents!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Dr. Watson, I Presume?

Tens of thousands of people heard Bobby Watson perform as a featured guest artist at Sunday's Celebration at the Station.  Thousands more will take in the public television broadcast. 

It was a nice showcase for Watson, a man who's mentioned at Plastic Sax almost every week but isn't necessarily known among the general public.  Yet not everyone present on the expanse between Union Station and Liberty Memorial was prepared to recognize greatness. 

"Bring on the fireworks!" a yahoo sitting near me shouted as Watson interpreted "Amazing Grace."  Watson also played "America the Beautiful."  For those situated several hundred yards from the stage, the concert was more of a rumor than a proper listening experience.

I applaud the Kansas City Symphony for featuring Watson on Sunday and in its pops series next February.   It'd be great for both the Symphony and for the city's jazz scene if it included a locally-based jazz artist at every Memorial Day concert.   As I was surrounded by people who refused to STFU as the Symphony performed, I  speculated about other locally-based jazz artists who might take Watson's place next year.  Ideal candidates will have the capacity to sight-read, possess a track record of artistic innovation and know how to connect to a large audience.

I'd encourage Frank Byrne or Michael Stern to consider hiring any one of the past three recipients of the prestigious and coveted "Plastic Sax Person of the Year" designation.  Jeff Harshbarger, Mark Lowrey or Hermon Mehari would almost certainly excel in a Memorial Day collaboration with the Symphony.  Readers are welcome to make additional suggestions.

(Original image of Bobby Watson performing at the Celebration at the Station by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Now's the Time: Deborah Brown

I'm tempted to pay the $25 cover charge Saturday at the Blue Room just so I can verify the existence of Deborah Brown's new album All Too Soon.  A CD copy comes with the price of admission.  The elusive album, apparently recorded in the past year with Dutch bandleader Eric Ineke, has assumed the status of a mythical object in my mind.  It's not mentioned at the sites of Brown or Ineke and it's not listed at Amazon, iTunes or Spotify.  A Dutch jazz blog and Joe Klopus' latest column are two of the few places in the world to acknowledge the project.  The Kansas City-based Brown merits better representation.  As I noted in a review of a 2011 concert at the Gem Theater, she's one of the world's elite jazz vocalists.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*A saxophone once owned by Charlie Parker will be auctioned June 8. The instrument is "expected to sell for $30,000-$35,000."

*Here's a slideshow commemorating the life of the late Bill Caldwell.

*The Topeka Jazz Workshop has unveiled its 2012-13 season. Highlights include Byron Stripling, Marilyn Maye, Harry Allen and Wycliffe Gordon. Chuck Berg reviewed Sunday's performance by the Kenny Barron Trio in Topeka, the final concert of the 2011-12 season.

*Passport, the duo of Beau Bledsoe and Stan Kessler, is releasing an album. Here's the trailer.

*The new release by the Chris Hazelton Trio is reviewed by KCJazzLark.

*Michael Pagan is profiled by Eric Crump of the Marshall News.

*Bobby Watson is among the Kansas City Symphony's guests at Celebration at the Station on May 27.

*A set of videos documents a Brothers Leifer performance at Take Five Coffee. Check 'em out here, here, here and here.

*Here's footage of Diverse performing at the Middle of the Map festival.

*TJ Martley filmed his piano trio from an odd angle.

*Roger Lewis of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band is interviewed by The Pitch in advance of his band's concert Thursday at Crossroads KC.

*Chris Lewis of Killer Strayhorn blogs at his band's site. He recently reviewed the new ECM release by the Marcin Wasilewski Trio.

*Glenn North provides insights on the history of cakewalking.

*I heard a DJ spin vinyl versions of tracks by Duke Ellington and Eric Dolphy at last weekend's Psychfest. The festival, which featured about fifty acts, was precisely the sort of enthusiasm-driven, forward-thinking event I recently proposed for Kansas City's jazz scene.

*Phonologotronic comments on his recent activity.

*The entertainment at the 2012 edition of Jazzoo includes an R&B band, a hip hop act, a Jimmy Buffet tribute band and Ida McBeth.

*Miles Bonny and Brandon Draper discuss Kansas City Academy's Grassroots Concert Series with Sam Wisman. (Via KC Stage Blog.)

*A fan uploaded ten minutes of shaky footage of last weekend's Ramsey Lewis concert at the Gem Theater.

*Tweet o' the Week: EldarMusic- New Yorkers! Come out to Blue Note: MAY 20- ELDAR + guest CHRIS POTTER MAY 22- ELDAR + guest KARRIN ALLYSON MAY 23- ELDAR + guest JOE LOCKE

*Comment o' the Week: Clint Ashlock- There were a bunch of things going on Sunday night, and I think you can look at it in a different perspective - that over half of the crowd were musicians shows how much respect these five guys have. There's another show Thursday night at the Blue Room if you happened to miss the Record Bar hit.

*From Lisa Engelken: Extraordinary singer, songwriter & arranger Lisa Engelken returns to Kansas City to perform at the Blue Room on Friday, June 22, 2012… Lisa is thrilled to Kansas City after last Summer’s sold-out performances, and to be joined once again by the powerhouse combo that includes Kansas City’s own Roger Wilder on piano, Gerald Spaits on bass and trumpeter Stan Kessler. Rounding out the quintet is San Francisco drummer Matthew Swindells. The program includes the premiere new works from Lisa’s upcoming album Anima Explorations and selections from Engelken’s Caravan, named to the “Best of 2010” List by the Jazz Journalists Association. Engelken is a Kansas-born straight-shooter, known for a fearless stage presence that has garnered her comparisons to Evel Kneivel, Janis Joplin and a roaring Harley Davidson.

(Original image of Psychfest by Plastic Sax.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Review: The KC Sound Collective at the RecordBar

 Perhaps the most radical aspect of the KC Sound Collective is the ensemble's conservative approach.  Consisting of five of Kansas City's most notable young jazz musicians, the band carefully hews to the hard bop tradition.  While each member excels at playing in less conventional contexts, the Collective elects stay within the familiar framework codified half a century ago. 

As I noted in my review of the band's debut performance last year, the band's brash sound is in the tradition of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.  Only the electric keyboard played by Andrew Ouellette at the band's album release show Sunday at the RecordBar betrayed the formula.   About twenty people- over half of them prominent musicians- caught the quintet's first set. 

The lion's share of the soloing went to saxophonist Steve Lambert, trumpeter Hermon Mehari and Oulette, but the excellent work of bassist Dominique Sanders and drummer Brad Williams represent much of the Collective's appeal.  Sanders is also the composer of the band's most striking composition.  The freeform opening of one of his pieces reminds me of vintage Pharaoh Sanders. 

I have yet to hear it, but the Collective's new album In the Moment almost certainly documents the compositional talent of Sanders and his bandmates.  It'll be available when the band performs Thursday, May 24, at the Blue Room.  An appearance by the Collective at the venue, incidentally, was my my favorite jazz gig of 2011.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Now's the Time: Arrington de Dionyso and Thollem McDonas

Arrington de Dionsyo and Thollem McDonas will perform their "songs of psychic fire" at Grunauer's performance space on Thursday, May 24. It's unlikely the event will resemble the embedded video. This is probably more representative of what will transpire at Grunauer. Last year the pair issued a fascinating album that was "recorded to blue plastic plates using a Wilcox Gay record lathe from the 1940's." Ten Thousand Tigers is the duo's latest release. Snuff Jazz will also be on hand Thursday.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Rich Wheeler's Quartet is admired by KCJazzLark.

*Logan Richardson is the subject of an  interview in Ink magazine.

*The Black House Improvisors' Collective's gamelan project is featured by KCUR's KC Currents.

*Black House's Russell Hunter Long interviews Teri Ann Quin.

*Ramsey Lewis pitches his May 19 show at the Gem Theater.

*A hometown newspaper previews Marshall, Missouri's Bob James Jazz Festival.

*Michael Pagan digs Bill Evans.

*Marilyn Maye will perform at the Quality Hill Playhouse from October 26 through November 4.

*Glenn North is featured in a public television segment related to the Black Archives. (I can't find a direct link to the piece.)

*A new version of The Quintet: Jazz at Massey Hall  was released yesterday.

*Northeast News features a swing dancing club.  (Via Tony's Kansas City.)

*Unverified report: Bobby Watson, Rod Fleeman, Tommy Ruskin and James Albright will join Bob James at the (internet-free) Gold Star Lounge on May 20.  Joe Klopus provides a phone number for the venue in his weekly column.

*Tweet o' the Week: Chris Hazelton- We release the album tomorrow! I hope to see you all at the Blue Room for the release party tomorrow night! #soexcited #kcjazz

*Comment o' the Week: Happy In Bag- Here's a worthwhile new think piece from NPR about DIY jazz festivals.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: Killer Strayhorn- One Begins to Wonder


As recently as the '80s, jazz was still a viable form of popular music.  Acts like Spyro Gyra, David Sanborn and Grover Washington, Jr. sold albums to people who also enjoyed the music of Anita Baker, Lionel Richie and Journey.  The best-selling jazz of the era was designed to please casual listeners with sturdy melodies, accessible textures and an overall pleasant sensibility. 

The members of Killer Strayhorn realize that there's still a lot of rewarding music left to be mined in that neglected vein.  The Kansas City band's new album One Begins to Wonder combines straight-ahead jazz with the pop sensibility of a crossover jazz act.  The five men in Killer Strayhorn make the savvy concept pay off.

The album's most telling track may be "Ridin' 'longside Bruce," a jaunty nod to Bruce Hornsby.  One can easily imagine the song's delectable groove thrilling thousands of Bela Fleck, Steely Dan or Phish fans at a summer festival.  Driven by Chris Lewis' piano, the title track possesses the gentle lilt of a Joe Sample project.  The band acknowledges its debt to Pat Metheny on a rendition of the guitarist's "As I Am."

Lest these comparisons give readers the wrong impression, One Begins to Wonder contains plenty of conventional jazz chops.  Billy Strayhorn's "U.M.M.G.", for instance, is given an appropriately melancholy treatment.  "Mellowdrama," a Heath Brothers jam from 1978, sounds like the best thing Bobby Watson never recorded.  Saxophonist James Isaac shines throughout.  Kansas City is knee-deep in woefully under-appreciated saxophonists.  Tracks like "Two by Two" make a case for Isaac being the candidate most worthy of wider recognition. 

My only complaint is that at almost eighty minutes, One Begins to Wonder lacks focus.  While charming, guitar-oriented tracks like "Escuridao" and "The Next Step For Mallory" sound like they belong on a separate album. 

Killer Strayhorn's first and second albums were also reviewed at Plastic Sax.  Long Story Short was good.  80/20 Blue was even better.  With One Begins to Wonder, Killer Strayhorn flirts with greatness.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Now's the Time: Madeleine Peyroux

If loving Billie Holiday is wrong, Madeleine Peyroux and I don't want to be right.  Peyroux performs Friday, May 11, at the Folly Theater.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*From a flyer provided by a friend: Welcome to the Gold Star Lounge, the "New Home for Metro K.C. Jazz". Our opening night will be May 5, 2012 at 7pm with Sons of Brasil opening our new Jazz Venue.  Please come and join us for our Happy Hour from 5:00pm to 6:30pm and our outstanding food selections on our newly created menu which will be offered from 6:00pm to 7:30pm.  Suggested donation for show is $5.00. We will also be selling ticket at $35.00 per person for our Dinner Shows featuring such performances from the McFadden Brothers, Angela Hagenbach and so many more.  I've added the the shows listed on the flyer- including a Bob James gig on May 20- to The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.  Alas, the venue lacks a web site and Facebook account.  Here we go again.

*Hearts of Darkness has a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds for its second album.

*Ashley Hirt is the subject of an excellent Black House Improvisors' Collective interview.

*The People's Liberation Big Band is admired by KCJazzLark.

*Here's more from the recent I Rock Jazz interview with Bobby Watson.

*Michael Shults is pictured and interviewed in the June edition of Downbeat magazine.

*A California-based publication interviews Deborah Brown.

*T.J. Martley and Bill McKemy go hard at a Barnes & Noble in Leawood.

*Pop star Kenny Loggins and songwriter Arthur Hamilton sat in with David Basse and Mark Pender at a recent gig in California.  Sue Vicory  
filmed the encounter.

*Hearne Christopher reports on activity in the space once occupied by Jardine's.

*Lisa Henry is quoted in a preview of Aretha Franklin's appearance at Helzberg Hall.

*Carmen Bradford discusses her initial encounter with Count Basie.

*Here's a track from the forthcoming Pat Metheny album.

*The Bob James Jazz Festival is Saturday, May 19, in Marshall, Missouri.

*Tweet o' the Week: Django McTunes- It is a little known fact that Chris Getz of the Kansas City Royals is the son of jazz legend Stan Getz. #FakeRoyalsFacts

*Comment o' the Week: Matt Leifer- Uhhh...I'm not one to defend politicians, but I believe that the bridge leads somewhere, specifically, the other side of Brush Creek. Since when is infrastructure a waste of money? Get a grip.

*From Stan Kessler: We are having a joyous celebration of the life of Bill Caldwell, May 20, 2pm at The Blue Room. This is for those of us who knew & loved Bill, but could not make it to the funeral… Here's the format: Short set of tunes recorded by Bill by host band-Me, Kerry Strayer, Everett Devan, Bob Bowman, Mike Warren, (Jerry Hahn?). Remarks & stories by friends & family. Jam session  Tunes from Bill's CD projects played intermittently throughout.  The idea is for this to be fun and light, as Bill would have wanted it. This will last about 2 hours. There will be his CDs for sale, and part of the proceeds go to his wife, Kim, to help defray funeral costs.

*From Michael Pagan: Kansas City Youth Jazz organizers have re-set their annual MASTERS OF JAZZ fundraiser for 6:30 PM on Sunday, June 10, 2012 in Room 19 of the Education Center on the Metropolitan Community College Penn Valley campus… The event will include dinner and music provided by the Abel Ramirez big band and KCYJ groups for listening and dancing. Tickets cost $75 per person. A Patrons’ Party/reception will take place at 6:00 PM for donations of $150 or more. Dance only tickets will be available for $20. All proceeds will benefit Kansas City Youth Jazz.

(Original image of the new Troost Avenue bridge by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Review: The Meet Me at the Bridge Festival

I had a nice time at Saturday's Meet Me at the Bridge festival even though I quickly realized that very few of the approximately 250 people in attendance were there to hear performances by several of Kansas City's elite jazz musicians.  The free event was actually a community gathering that just happened to feature jazz. 

The commemoration of a new bridge on Troost Avenue immediately north of the UMKC campus served as a public forum for a host of politicians, community organizers, educators, environmental advocates and representatives of neighborhood associations.  Anyone not familiar with the cultural implications of Troost is encouraged to watch the trailer for  We Are Superman.  And yes, the filmmaker was on hand to pitch his documentary. 

So many speakers crossed the stage and so many clipboard-toting activists worked the modest crowd that I wondered if a friend and I weren't the only people present who weren't directly connected to the event.

I caught two acts in the two hours I spent at the bridge.  Pamela Baskin-Watson, Nedra Dixon and Angela Hagenbach are the members of the relatively new ensemble Book of Gaia.  The ambitious trio was backed by trombonist Karita Carter, pianist Eddie Moore, bassist Tyrone Clark and drummer Mike Warren.

"We are ladies on a mission," Dixon explained.  "We're striking out on a fearless path."

The trio combines the socially conscious themes also explored by Esperanza Spalding on her new Radio Music Society album with a classic sound inspired by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross.  Book of Gaia's rarefied approach doesn't appeal to everyone, but it could go over extremely well in the right setting. 

I also heard the first set of a band co-led by David Basse and Bobby Watson.   The pair were joined by trumpeter Hermon Mehari, saxophonist Steve Lambert, trombonist Ben Sailor, pianist Joe Cartwright, bassist Ben Leifer, a percussionist I didn't recognize and Warren on drums.  Although he fired off a couple typically dazzling solos, Watson mostly relegated himself to section playing.  It's one of the few opportunities I've had to hear Watson in that context.  The band's repertoire included standards like "Smack Dab in the Middle" and "Moanin'." The latter selection can be heard in the background of a solid report from Fox 4 News.

Mildly disappointed that no one invited me to join the evening's cavalcade of speakers, I left before the band resumed.

(Original image of Book of Gaia by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Now's the Time: Bobby Watson

Plastic Sax's devotion to Bobby Watson isn't a secret.  Watson isn't just the best jazz musician in Kansas City. He's the best musician in Kansas City- period.  Plastic Sax's Person of the Decade was the subject of an "I Rock Jazz" video interview last week.  (Disregard the incorrect date.)  Watson is among the dozen or so jazz musicians scheduled to appear at the Meet Me at the Bridge Street Festival on Saturday, May 5. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCUR's KC Currents reports on the ongoing collaboration between saxophonists Matt Otto and Rich Wheeler.  (The segment begins at the 42:40 mark.)

*The Houston Chronicle cites the charitable efforts of the Olathe-based Mike Corrigan and B.A.C. Horn Doctors in New Orleans.

*Mark Lowrey has a Kickstarter campaign for his next album.

*Project H's YouTube channel includes clips from the band's recent trip to New Orleans.

*Howard Reich reviewed Bobby Watson's opening night at Chicago's Jazz Showcase.

*Pat Metheny will tour behind a new album that features Chris Potter, Ben Williams and Antonio Sanchez.  A Kansas City date isn't on the published itinerary. 

*A David Basse title receives a positive review.

*A set by KU jazz students was recorded by KJHK.

*Here's a video of Horace Washington performing the National Anthem at the Royals' home opener.

*Tweet o' the Week: Jason Harper- The People's Liberation Big Band brings riotous sound to silent Battleship Potemkin (Instagram photo)

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- LOL - that album cover is nasty!

*From the American Jazz Museum: The American Jazz Museum is pleased to announce the NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS has released its 2012 Art Works Grant Awards Recipient listing. The American Jazz Museum is honored to be among those recipients. Specifically, the American Jazz Museum has received $16,000 to support the 2012 Rhythm & Ribs Jazz and Blues Festival. The Rhythm & Ribs Jazz and Blues Festival is a day-long indoor/outdoor event featuring 15 performances on three stages by local and nationally known jazz and blues artists such as: Christian McBride, Charlie Hunter, Greg Gisbert, and Bobby “Blue” Bland, along with educational programming. The American Jazz Museum Board of Directors unanimously approved the 2012 Rhythm & Ribs Jazz and Blues Festival be produced on Saturday, October 13th. Ticket pricing, programs and feature artist talent element of the event are now in development.  “The news of receiving a 2012 NEA Art Works Grant is extremely encouraging to our mission,” says Greg Carroll, CEO of the American Jazz Museum. “The funding allows continued growth of the Rhythm & Ribs Jazz and Blues Festival and also reinforces the diverse cultural programming we deploy in support of our organizational mission pillars of Performance, Education, Exhibition, and Research,” Carroll concluded.

*From Jim Mair: Kansas City Kansas Community College rolled out its best in vocal jazz at the annual Jazz Cabaret Thursday night.  A crowd estimated at nearly 200 filled the Jewell Center for the annual showcase of KCKCC’s talented array of soloists and ensembles.

*From Jim Mair, part two: The Big Dogs had their way at the 2nd Annual Kansas City Jazz Summit at Kansas City Kansas Community College April 23-27.  The Blue Valley Northwest Big Dog Band took home first place in the Kansas City Jazz Heritage “Basically Basie” competition. Directed by John Selzer, the BV Northwest band received 787 votes to out-distance runnerup Lee Summit North and third place Winnetonka in voting by text by members of the audience. “I think voting by text was a first for a jazz competition,” said Jim Mair, KCKCC Associate Professor of Music and Festival Coordinator. The text voting represented 25 percent of the total score.  Not including KCKCC instrumental and vocal groups, 31 middle school, high school and college jazz bands and vocal groups from three states took part in the festival, a 25 percent increase over the initial festival.

*Spotted on the Folly Theater's calendar: Join with a group of stellar Kansas City musicians as we depart on a narrated journey of musical “time travel.” Starting in the early 1900s, we explore how America’s “melting pot” of many cultures provided the ingredients for the development and evolution of our country’s original the true meaning of our country's original musical art form – Jazz! This Folly Theater Production is high energy, great toe-tappin’ fun! The event is April 4, 2013.

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)