Friday, June 29, 2012

Now's the Time: Quasimodo

The grand (re)opening of the retooled Quasimodo takes place this weekend.  The new promotional video for the southern Johnson County establishment serves as a microcosm of the actual status jazz holds in the community.  Of the 21 acts booked on its July calendar, there's one true jazz group (Chris Hazelton's organ trio) and a fine jump blues act (Grand Marquis).  Otherwise, there's an assortment of post-Stevie Ray Vaughan blues acts, dance-oriented blues ensembles and classic rock cover bands.  In its previous incarnation, the venue booked a higher ratio of jazz musicians.  I doubt that Quasimodo's management holds an institutional bias against jazz.  They probably found that the non-jazz acts simply attract larger crowds that spend more money.  Please- tell me I'm wrong.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Business Journal reports that a new "120-seat club will focus on jazz music and rum-based drinks" and is slated for an August opening in the Power & Light District.  Joyce Smith offers additional details about the Kill Devil Club.

*The Folly Theater has announced an outstanding lineup for the 2012-13 Folly Jazz Series.  Pat Metheny's Unity Band will appear in a non-series concert at the Folly on September 6.  Joe Klopus applauds the bookings.

*Broken Waltz, the latest release by Matt Otto, is now available.

*David Hudnall enjoyed celebrating Juneteenth in the Jazz District.

*KCJazzLark dissects the strategy behind the 2012 edition of the Rhythm & Ribs Jazz & Blues Festival.

*Beau Bledsoe, Shay Estes and Jordan Shipley have formed Fado Novato.  The trio's commitment to the Portuguese style is on display here.

*Another update on the lack of activity at the former location of Jardine's is filed by Hearne Christopher.

*A story about the redesign for the space formerly occupied by sometime jazz venue The Marquee makes no mention of plans for live music.

*Emanuel Cleaver submitted recognition of the Mutual Musicians Foundation into the Congressional record.

*Janelle Monae's headlining turn at the Ottawa Jazz Festival is praised.

*Tweet o' the Week: theprojecth- Happy to say that we will be playing the MLB fanfest. Monday, July 9 at 1pm at Bartle Hall. The snowball keeps getting bigger!

*Comment o' the Week: Michael ShultsThanks for the post and the kind of words, Happy. Much-appreciated. That was a really fun night playing music with some of my favorite people in the world. One small note: it is not captured on the video but the audience that night was well upwards of 50, in a room about the size of Take Five. The median age was probably 25. Not a rock audience, no, but for a Wednesday night at a coffee shop, not bad! If you catch the last 20 seconds or so of the video of "REL" from the same night posted on youtube, you'll hear proof from the crowd reactions that it is possible to play live jazz and have it resonate with young people. It's difficult, yes, and hard to sustain on a regular basis, but I do think if you work really hard at promoting, play original music, and have a good band, there's hope.

*From Tim Whitmer- The year's July Jazz Jam follows up on the standing-room-only inaugural concert in 2011. The acclaimed concert event will be Sunday, July 29 from 7 to 8:30 p.m...  Featured headliners of the concert will be a trio of celebrated All-Star Keyboard Kings: Tim Whitmer, Everette DeVan and Joe Cartwright. Also returning this year is the highly acclaimed July Jazz Jam House band, which includes saxophonist Jim Mair, bassist James Albright and drummer Jurge Welge...  The July Jazz Jam is at Community Christian Church...  Tickets are on sale now: $10 in advance... $15 at the door...

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Welcome to the Future

The embedded video may simply look like five guys playing cerebral jazz for a small audience.  I see more- a lot more.  The video represents the future of jazz in Kansas City.  Four of the five young musicians are graduates of the jazz program at UMKC's Conservatory of Music.  They're playing a gig in Michael Shults' current base of Cincinnati with St. Louis' Peter Schlamb.  At a time when jazz is an afterthought at area "jazz" festivals and the number of Kansas City venues dedicated to jazz can be counted on the hand of a careless butcher, the elements exhibited in this modest video provide a reason to celebrate.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Charlie Parker Story

Chuck Haddix and Jay McShann are among the talking heads in the BBC's excellent Charlie Parker documentary that was recently uploaded to YouTube.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

 *Angie Stone, Arturo Sandoval and Joe Louis Walker are the national headliners at the 2012 edition of the American Jazz Museum's Rhythm & Ribs Jazz & Blues Festival on October 13.

*Tim Finn reports that Mark Southerland is now an official member of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey.  The band will perform the entirety of The Race Riot Suite, my favorite album of 2011, in its appearance at the RecordBar on Thursday, June 21.  Here's a five-camera video of a rendition of "Grandfather's Gun."

*The Pace Report offers a compelling 25-minute feature on Eldar.

*David Basse was a guest on KCUR's Up To Date last week.

*KCJazzLark reflects on the impact urban renewal programs have had on the Kansas City's jazz district.

*The American Jazz Museum has a new Tumblr account.

*Hermon Mehari is the subject of a new video "documentary."

*The People's Liberation Big Band will perform its celebrated score to Battleship Potemkin at the Lawrence Arts Center on June 30.

*Mark Edelman lists the week's jazz events.

*Recent upgrades at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem are lauded by the New York Times.

*Tweet o' the Week: WOLFrach3I- #JazzintheWoods there are sooo many people here right now #perfectweather Instagram

*Comment o' the Week: tjjazzpiano- Well, performer selection aside, let me share a positive experience about CWJF. One of my first experiences hearing live jazz was at the Corporate Woods Jazz Festival. I listened to Pete Eye play with his trio on the main stage in 1997. I was able to go right up to the stage afterwards and have him sign a copy of his CD. Just hearing him playing and talking about music played a huge role in my decision to become a serious musician.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Analysis: Jazz in the Woods

Jonathan Butler, Friday's headliner at Jazz in the Woods, surveyed the vast crowd from the stage and suggested that "over 10,000" people were in attendance.

The free festival is designed to raise money for area charities.  I'm tempted to bemoan the fact that Jazz in the Woods no longer features, you know, "jazz," but there's no arguing with success.  That's why I laughed along with Ian Byrne of The Elders when he joked that his Celtic rock band was performing "Irish jazz" as it opened for the adult urban contemporary Soul of Summer review of Butler, Warren Hill and Maysa.  Besides, I'm rather partial to the Elders and I love singing along to Butler's 1988 pop hit "Sarah Sarah".

I recall when the festival was headlined by founder Vince Bilardo and was held in the parking lot of the nearby strip mall that currently houses Garozzo's.  I also remember that I was able to secure a parking spot within 25 yards of the stage back when Jazz in the Woods featured "real" jazz.  With the notable exception of the acts featured at the free Prairie Village Jazz Festival and at a couple holiday-themed concerts, improvisation-based small jazz ensembles haven't been able to draw audiences of more than 1,000 in Kansas City for at least a decade. 

Pouting would be pointless.  Instead, my biggest concern today is that embarrassing video documenting my dancing to Butler's "Mandela Bay" will soon surface.

(Original image of the Soul of Summer's background vocalists by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Now's the Time: Maysa

Jazz in the Woods#BAM in the Woods would be a more appropriate moniker for this year's edition of the Johnson County festival.  Not that I'm complaining- I'm partial to the adult urban contemporary format.  In fact, Jonathan Butler's appearance at the Gem Theater last May was one of my favorite concerts of 2011.  Performing in a sold-out room for 500 diehard fans, however, is less challenging than attempting to win over an audience of thousands of suburbanites expecting to hear "jazz."  Warren Hill and Maysa will assist Butler on Friday, June 15.  Joe Klopus interviewed Butler for his preview of the two-day event.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Tony's Kansas City highlighted an intriguing item published by the city clerk's office.  Dated June 7, it's titled Authorizing the City Manager to enter into a Management Agreement with the American Jazz Museum, in the amount of $647,363.00, from the American Jazz Museum account, for management and operations of the 18th and Vine Project. Readers are welcome to explain the implications of this proposal.

*Kansas City needs to "re-embrace jazz," Chad Harris tells The Pitch.  "We are known for it, yet I fear it is leaving our community, and fewer and fewer venues seem to offer it on a regular basis." (Tip via Plastic Sax reader Gary.)

*Hearne Christopher suggests that an expiring liquor license associated with the site that once housed Jardine's could spell the end of the tired saga.

*KCJazzLark laments the "dearth" of young musicians performing traditional Kansas City jazz.

*"Maybe I hate jazz," Hunter Long confesses in an excellent blog post.

*A lengthy story in the Columbia Tribune details the work of Jon Poses. 

*Columbia's Blind Boone Ragtime and Early Jazz Festival is noted by the Columbia Missourian.

*The first big review of the new Pat Metheny album comes from The Guardian.  Reviews from All About Jazz and Peter Hum are also overwhelmingly positive.  Metheny refers to the project as a "straight-ahead jazz quintet" album in a video stream of a new podcast.

*The New York Times's Stephen Holden raves about an appearance by Karrin Allyson at Birdland.

*Joyce Smith reports on a new black history tour that includes stops at the American Jazz Museum and the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*Mike Hendricks wrote an interesting article about a new push to sell real estate near the Jazz District.

*Comment o' the Week: Anon- Bill - I didn't go to the gig, but your review is kind of a bummer... one wonders if was a necessary to post anything.

*Tweet o' the Week: Jaleel Shaw- @benwmsonbass: The new Pat Metheny album "Unity Band" is out TODAY!!! Downloading noooow. @PatMethenyNews

*Road trip alert: Sonny Rollins, the Wynton Marsalis Quintet, the Pat Metheny Unity Band, Chick Corea/Gary Burton, Wayne Shorter, Joe Lovano/Dave Douglas, Fred Hersch, Donald Harrison, Kenny Garrett and David Binney are among the acts performing at the free Detroit Jazz Festival.

*From a press release: The Marr Sound Archives’ Chuck Haddix discusses the city’s contribution to this most American of musical forms in Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop at the annual meeting and party of the Friends of the Kansas City Public Library. Haddix is one of the leading authorities on the subject, having authored biographies of local jazz players Jay McShann and Claude “Fiddler” Williams, the section on Kansas City jazz in the New Grove Dictionary of Music, and (with Frank Driggs) Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop. A Friends membership is required to attend and may be purchased either in advance or at the door. The event is Wednesday, June 13, at 6 p.m.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Review: Juego Estandar at Take Five Coffee

I haven't had much of an appetite for polite and reserved music during the first half of 2012.  With my recent predilection for harsher sounds, I simply couldn't appreciate what I heard from Juego Estandar at Take Five Coffee + Bar as the sun went down on Saturday evening. 

The concept of young locally-based musicians forming a new Latin jazz band is inherently appealing.  What I experienced, however, sounded too much like the "lounge-chill" sensibility Marc Myers cites in an essay at his excellent JazzWax blog.  Keyboardist Andrew Ouellette, for instance, played a technically impressive solo in the vein of Eddie Palmieri, but the star's signature ferocity was missing.  Only a percussion segment during a version of "Afro Blue" contained the sparks that I associate with Latin jazz. 

It's entirely possible that the sextet played an impassioned second set.  Not wanting to feel like I was at a Sunday brunch as my Saturday night was just getting started, I didn't stick around to find out.

(EDIT: The personnel pictured in the band's publicity photo is not the same as the band that appeared Saturday at Take Five.  Perhaps most notably, neither Sam Wisman nor Dominique Sanders were present.)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Disperse- It's Diverted!

I haven't asked the members of Diverse about the motives behind their recent punk performance at Club Mustache.  The embedded video offers insights into the atmosphere of the unlikely evening.

As someone who developed a love of jazz and punk simultaneously, the concept of successfully merging the two forms has long intrigued me.  I'm not the only one.  I once shared a moment with Black Flag's Greg Ginn when we discovered our mutual love of Sonny Rollins.  Yet as Ginn's efforts have indicated, most attempts to combine punk's aggression with the innate artfulness of jazz are unsatisfying.  A more promising (and potentially lucrative) proposition occurs when hip hop and jazz artists with nihilistic attitudes collaborate.

Traditionalists might wonder why Kansas City's premier young jazz act would opt to play punk.  I'd counter by suggesting that it's precisely that adventurous spirit and willingness to take risks that make Diverse notable. In 2012, jazz can't have too many daring artists like Ambrose Akinmusire, Robert Glasper, Lionel Loueke and Jason Moran.  Diverted offers further confirmation that Ben Leifer, Hermon Mehari, Dominique Sanders and Brad Williams are similarly fearless musicians.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Sometime jazz venue The Marquee will be shuttered in favor of an indeterminate lounge with a "'Jazz Age' atmosphere" according to reports in the Kansas City Business Journal and the Kansas City Star.  (Initial tip via KCJazzLark.)

*The Magic Jazz Fairy makes an angry encore at the site of KCJazzLark.  (As the curator of the Kansas City Jazz Calendar, I share the fairy's frustration.)

*The Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival is afforded a 24-minute preview by KCUR's Central Standard.

*Pat Metheny explains how he put his new band together.  (Tip via Pat Metheny News.)

*A premium Mary Lou Williams performance video was recently uploaded to YouTube.

*Libby Hanssen documents a romantic jazz-related moment at the RecordBar.

*Herb Reed, a founding member of the pop vocal ground the Platters, has died.  He was born in Kansas City in 1928.

*Potential conflict alert- Norah Jones' concert at the Midland Theater and the American Jazz Museum's Rhythm & Ribs Festival fall on October 13.

*St. Louis Jazz Notes reports that the 2012-13 season of Jazz St. Louis includes performances by Sonny Rollins, the Bad Plus, John Scofield, Christian Scott, the Chris Potter Trio and Lionel Loueke.

*Tweet o' the Week: AviWisnia- #roadtrip scoping Bill Clinton's sax at The American Jazz Museum - Kansas City, MO with @Twanbomb (photo)

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- PS(:) Much love and respect for RecordBar continuing a Sunday jazz series which I've never seen well attended, yet exists in the spirit of providing an outlet for challenging music.  Some venues recognize art for art's sake and are willing to back it. RecordBar is one of those venues.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, June 4, 2012

The People's Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City: An Appreciation

Impressed by one of the monthly appearances of the People's Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City at the RecordBar, a prominent musician recently posted a screed at Facebook.  He suggested that he would no longer tolerate any barroom discussions about Kansas City's best bands that didn't automatically place PLBB in the top slot.  Very few locally-based acts working in any genre, he noted, begin to approach the adventurousness, playfulness and musicianship exhibited by PLBB. 

I concur.  While I'm smitten by a broad array of Kansas City musicians- including the raucous rap of Tech N9ne, the unforgiving thrash of Hammerlord and the exquisite work of Bach Aria Soloists- PLBB's experimental yet accessible sensibility makes it unique. 

The first set at last night's show was no different.  With notables like James Isaac, Matt Otto, Mike Stover and Rich Wheeler in the band, it's a forgone conclusion that the music is going to be imbued with zestful creativity.  Even the subs impressed yesterday.  Andrew Stinson filled in admirably for bassist Jeff Harshbarger while keyboardist Roger Wilder joined the band for the second set in place of the out-of-town bandleader Brad Cox.  Young trombonist Brian Scarborough turned in a fine solo.  In addition to selections by John Zorn and Charles Mingus, the band played memorable original material by Peter Lawless, Otto, Hunter Long, Brad Cox, Patrick Alonzo Conway. 

So how is it that the musicians on the stage outnumbered the members of audience as the first song was played?  The audience swelled to about fifty an hour after the band began, but the lack of support accorded to Kansas City's best act is tragic.  I refuse to accept that the assertion that PLBB's repertoire is too challenging.  The music may be difficult, but it's also really fun.  And the venue certainly isn't the problem.  The RecordBar has good food, friendly service and reasonably-priced drinks.

I realize I'm preaching to the choir here at Plastic Sax, but I implore music lovers of all stripes to do themselves a favor by spending $5 to see PLBB at the RecordBar at 8 p.m. on July 1.

(Original unrelated image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Now's the Time: Jazz for Joplin

As more than one area vocalist has been disappointed to discover, I don't care for straightforward jazz crooning.  It's not surprising, consequently, that I'm not a fan of Ken Rosberg's genteel vocals on Just Follow Your Heart.  I'm setting aside my personal preferences to highlight the new album that benefits the related Jazz for Joplin organization.  Rosberg is backed by saxophonist David Chael, guitarist Danny Embrey, pianist Mark Lowrey, bassist Gerald Spaits and drummer Zack Albetta on the project.  That's heady company for a man known as "Mr. Cedar Creek".  Rosberg's singing may be sampled here.