Sunday, July 29, 2012

Review: Jazz in the Weeds

Jazz in the Weeds was cool.  Literally.  The temperature at the "pop-up" festival was at least ten degrees less than it was in Kansas City's central districts on Saturday.

The event was staged in the back of large lot behind a storage shed/barn near a lovely house.  The shaded grounds included free-range poultry and a goat pen.  Delightful!  A ten dollar donation came with tokens for a complimentary water and hotdog.  About sixty people enjoyed the excellent sound and relaxed ambience. 

I took in two performances in the ninety minutes I spent at the nifty event.  The Moon City Big Band is a fine kicks ensemble. One member graduated from high school two months ago while another is pushing 70.  Killer Strayhorn's winning set reminded me that the band is probably the closest thing Kansas City has to an act that embraces the sensibility of the ECM label.  (Plastic Sax's reviews of all three Killer Strayhorn albums are here).

I hope that the organizers of Jazz in the Weeds are willing to give it another go.  Kansas City desperately needs additional forums for jazz.  Besides, I'm eager to return to the spot that's seemingly exempt from this summer's heat wave.

(Original image of the Moon City Big Band and my tiny butterfly/moth friend by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Now's the Time: Jazz in the Weeds

I laughed out loud the first time I read the name of the Jazz in the Weeds festival.  Event organizers are presumably spoofing the nearly jazz-free but incredibly popular Jazz in the Woods festival.  The prospect of paying ten dollars to sit in a field while sweating like the owner of a Kansas City jazz club, however, isn't nearly as amusing.  Even so, I'm tempted by the lineup on Saturday, July 28.  It includes Killer Strayhorn (who provide the music for the embedded noirish video), the Michael Pagán Quartet, the Moon City Big Band and OJT.    

Edit: A musician performing Saturday at Jazz in the Weeds objected to the tone and content of this preview. He urged me to post a brief clip of the James Ward Band's set at last weekend's event. He also suggests that "(b)y 530 pm everyone is in the shade."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Book of Gaia was featured on KCUR's Central Standard program.

*Esperanza Spalding, the woman referred to as "The Future" in the Plastic Sax offices, will perform at Helzberg Hall on October 9.

*Kansas City's jazz clubs are reexamined by KCJazzLark.  Kansas City's most prominent blogger takes exception to KCJazzLark's optimism, suggesting that "nothing is going to revive the dead corpse of Kansas City jazz."

*"(F)*ck New York, look at the sh*t thats going on in KC," Phonologotronic asserts as he promotes an August 3 performance titled Fluid Fractures.

*Rep. Emanuel Cleaver paid tribute to the late Ben Kynard.

*Tim Finn wrote a profile of Marco Pascolini.

*Mike Phillips, an Atlanta-based contemporary jazz saxophonist, performed Canada's national anthem at the MLB All-Star game in Kansas City.

*Someone snuck a camera into a Black House Improvisors Collective rehearsal.

*Chris Mills' describes a recent performance by Nicolay & the Hot at Nights at the Blue Room.  Here's fan footage of the show.

*Ernestine Anderson is among the performers at the annual Charlie Parker Festival.  Alas, Kansas Citians must travel to New York to attend.

*Time Out London previews a Bobby Watson gig.

*All of Joe Dimino's Neon Jazz programs are available as audio streams.  The most recent episode opens with the Ben Kynard composition "Red Top."

*My fiendish plan worked.  Steve Kraske featured Matt Otto's "Bird" on KCUR's Up To Date last week.  The show streams here.  Otto's music appears at the 24:00 mark.

*Tweet o' the Week: kcjazzlark- At Take Five: Matt Otto & Rich Wheeler, tenor saxes, TJ Martley, piano, Ben Leifer, bass, Sam Wisman, drums, have the full house mesmerized.

*Comment o' the Week: "Kenny G"- If you think PLBB has or ever had a "manager", clearly you've never been to one of their shows.

*An amusing debate is raging in the comment section the Plastic Sax review of the new Music for Owen/Cox Dance Group, Vol. 1 album.

*From Michael Pagán: The second installment of the "Jazz In The Weeds" festival is Saturday, July 28, at 7607 E. 65th St., KCMO 64113.  The Michael Pagán Quartet featuring bassist Bob Bowman serve as headliners.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review: Pat Metheny- Unity Band

Unity Band is a grower. 

The latest album by Lee's Summit native Pat Metheny initially seemed like a disappointment.  Only the soaring "Roofdogs," the most direct of the project's selections, seemed memorable upon first listen.  I was a fool not to immediately comprehend how much depth was embedded in every track. 

Focusing solely on drummer Antonio Sanchez's decisions- he's exceptionally busy throughout- or on the exciting pulse provided by bassist Ben Williams is immensely rewarding.  And that's just the rhythm section.  The pairing of brilliant saxophonist Chris Potter and Metheny is inspired.  The most intense moments of "Come and See" resemble a collaboration between Jim Hall and John Coltrane.  Unity Band is filled with such unlikely sounds.  It's a freewheeling album without borders or limitations.

One of the most profound musicians of our time, the prolific Metheny is undeniably "important."  Even so, Unity Band is Metheny's most (relatively) conventional jazz outing since 2008's Day Trip and his most vital jazz-based endeavor since 2007's Metheny/Mehldau Quartet.

Metheny will likely move on to new projects at the conclusion of the current tour.  (The Unity Band performs at the Folly Theater on September 6.)  Hopefully, Metheny will find a way to extend the life of the dynamic quartet beyond the inevitable release of a live album.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Our Men in Paris

The jazz content in Diverse's video travelogue of Paris is minimal.  Even so, it's fun seeing footage of the young Kansas City band hanging out with Tony Tixier and Logan Richardson in the City of Light earlier this month.  Here's hoping the new French recordings will be released soon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

 *A friend told me that he'd be a guest on Up To Date's "Best Music to Date of 2012" show on KCUR this Friday.  In an attempt to make Kansas City jazz a part of the conversation, I compiled this list of the Top Five Kansas City Jazz Albums of 2012 (So Far): 1. Matt Otto- Broken Waltz, 2. Project H- Become Light, 3. Pat Metheny- Unity Band, 4. Killer Strayhorn- One Begins to Wonder, 5. Chris Hazelton Trio- Peregrination.

*Jeneé Osterheldt concedes that Kansas City really isn't a jazz town.

*Hearne Christopher reports that Greg Halstead, the founder of Jardine's, has died.

*Neon Jazz conducted a 21-minute interview with Megan Birdsall.

*The Star provided a report on the All-Star game watch party at the American Jazz Museum.

*Inspired by coverage during the All-Star game broadcast, a television station talks to Ollie Gates about the renovation of the YMCA building in the Jazz District. (Via Tony's Kansas City.)

*The BBC highlights the Mutual Musicians Foundation in a travel piece about Kansas City's "renaissance."

*A Beach House concert caused Hunter Long to question the purpose of improvisation. 

*Here's Ben Kynard's official obituary.  A resident of Gladstone fondly recalls Kynard in a letter to The Star.  I couldn't help but notice, however, that the sad news of Kynard's death has been ignored by most national jazz publications.

*Sue Vicory's documentary on Kansas City jazz will be screened at the Kansas International Film Festival in October.

*KKFI's new internet presence allows for quick access to the playlists of the station's jazz programmers.  (Tip via RH.)

*A set of wonderful photos of Claude "Fiddler" Williams is posted by KCJazzLark.

*Tweet o' the Week: @MBIRDMUSIC- This is KC jazz at its finest. Hatzzz Instagram

*Comment o' the Week: Sid Vicious- Hey happy, How can you recognize the superior musicianship of Bobby Watson and Matt Otto but then call the PLBB "arguably the best ensemble in the city"?  Thats like saying the best three soprano saxophonists to ever play the instrument are Trane, Branford and Kenny G.  You lose any kind of credibility when you make bone head assessments like that.  Sid

*From a UMKC press release: The University of Missouri Board of Curators has approved UMKC's Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies. This addition to the Conservatory's degree program underlines the importance of the jazz program at the UMKC Conservatory. Directed by Bobby Watson, the jazz studies program at the Conservatory provides students with rich and varied experiences and opportunities to perform, travel, and work with some of the most important jazz artists working today, including Mel Martin, Donal Fox, Benny Golson, Roy Hargrove, the Mason Brothers, and many others.  The Conservatory Concert Jazz Band was number four on the national airplay charts with the recording of Bobby Watson's The Gates BBQ Suite. Jazz students are Betty Carter Fellows, teaching assistants at leading jazz programs throughout the country, Banff Artist Residents, recording artists and have won many of the world’s most prestigious jazz competitions.

*From Upper Room: 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 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 27, at the Church of the Resurrection, 13720 Roe, Leawood, Kansas 66224… Featured performers of Music Matters are Mark Pender, Trumpet Virtuoso/TV personality from the Conan O'Brien Show; Lonnie & Ronald McFadden aka: The McFadden Brothers, celebrated dancer/singer/instrumentalists from the Wayne Newton Review; David Basse, nationally known recording artist; and Pamela Baskin-Watson, New York singer/songwriter.  Other performers are the children and staff from the Upper Room’s Music Program.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: Music for Owen/Cox Dance Group, Vol. 1

The People's Liberation Big Band is arguably the best musical ensemble in Kansas City.  Although it's substantially less popular than Hearts of Darkness, Tech N9ne or the Kansas City Symphony, the band invests an incomparable level of sonic creativity and reckless joy into each of its frequent performances.  That's why a new album with only one track featuring PLBB is noteworthy to fans of adventurous jazz. 

"12 Miniature Blues," the first of three selections on the 2012 release Music for Owen/Cox Dance Group, Vol. 1, contains most of the elements that make PLBB so appealing.  The freewheeling composition is filled with surprises, humor and wondrous waves of sound.  It manages to be entirely original even as it references Thelonious Monk. 

Accordion and drums are the sole instruments on PLBB bandleader Brad Cox's "Shenker's Last Stand."  The rendering resembles jazz accordionist Richard Galliano less than it does the artier works of Astor Piazzola.

To paraphrase a vulgar saying, "Hong Kong Audio Diary" is a 25-minute mind-mess.  Loud, abrasive and freaky, the sound collage includes contributions from a a few members of PLBB along with prominent Kansas City musicians including Beau Bledsoe and Gregory Sandomirsky.  As if Cox is using a remote control rather than a conductor's wand, the piece wobbles from blasts of feedback to Chinese folk  to lounge music to Mars Volta-style prog-rock.  The disorienting piece might be too extreme for even the most open-minded fans of experimental film composers like Ennio Morricone.

Music for Owen/Cox Dance Group, Vol. 1 may not have much of a beat, but the members of the Owen/Cox collective can dance to it.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Now's the Time: Michael Pagán

The embedded video would position Pagarazzi, the duo project of Michael Pagán and Steve Rigazzi, as a strong contender in a "weirdest gig" contest.  But hey- the sound field seems solid and the environment looks pleasant enough. And the music?  Well, it's stellar.  Pagán performs at area venues several nights a week.  Check his calendar for details.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The outstanding lineup for the Prairie Village Jazz Festival- the Karrin Allyson Quintet, the Bobby Watson Quartet, the Megan Birdsall Quartet, the Mike Metheny Quartet, the Rich Wheeler Quartet and Diverse- is revealed by KCJazzLark.

*A collection of Ahmad Alaadeen's "arrangements, manuscripts and recordings" has been donated to UMKC. A related press release is posted below.

*The Financial Times calls Logan Richardson a "cerebral improviser with a tough-toned veneer" in a review of a gig in London.  Richardson appears understandably displeased at the 1:59 mark in a brief appearance with Tony Tixier on French television.

*KCTV5 "investigates" an alleged lack of progress in the Jazz District.  Mike Hendrick's piece on Ephren Taylor Jr. offers insights into stalled plans for one high-profile development.

*Hermon Mehari promoted last Friday's concert at Crossroads KC on a television station's morning show.  Over 1,000 people attended the event that featured Diverse, Making Movies and Hearts of Darkness.

*Jeneé Osterheldt suggests that Hearts of Darkness offers a "true taste of Kansas City."

*A story about preparations for the All-Star Game includes references to the American Jazz Museum.

*The New Music Summer Festival takes place July 23-28 in Columbia.  Stephanie Berg, a graduate of Park Hill South High School, is among this year's resident composers.

*Bobby Watson will perform in Europe later this month.  The Star offers a photo of Watson playing with his big band Monday at the Blue Room.

*The saga of the namesake of this site is revisited at the American Jazz Museum's Tumblr account.

*Marc Myers' interview with Ed Shaughnessy contains several Charlie Parker-related insights.

*A couple years ago I proposed an initiative to have locally-based artists perform on the national broadcast of last night's MLB All-Star game.  I failed.  The broadcast featured performances by Tennessee-based bluesman Arthur Adams, current American Idol winner Phillip Phillips (the Georgian played a rootsy pop song), country's "platinum-selling superstar" Luke Bryan (another Georgia native) and country vocalist and Georgia native Kellie Pickler.  Alas- no Bobby Watson, Pat Metheny or Tech N9ne.

*Tweet o' the Week: Clint Ashlock- You could be hearing Bobby Watson for $5 right now. #KCJAZZ

*Comment o' the Week: Matt Leifer- Voyager!!!  This show would make the season worthwhile even if every other act was terrible. 2:00 of a quiet buildup on youtube doesn't do it justice. Buy the album: Voyager, Live by Night and get excited. Walter Smith III makes me giddy.

*From Michael Pagan: The Jazz in the Weeds Festival.  A $10 donation gets you 4 hours of live jazz, food, beverages and ice cream. An indoor facility provided in case of rain.  7607 E. 65th St., Kansas City, MO 64133.  July 21: Monte Musa Duo, Bill Crain Quartet, James Ward Band, Sons of Brazil.  July 28: Ken Loverns Organ Jazz Trio, Moon City Big Band, Killer Strayhorn, Michael Pagan Quartet.

*From UMKC: The collection of saxophonist, composer, and educator Ahmad Alaadeen has been donated to the LaBudde Special Collections and Marr Sound Archives in the Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Fanny Dunfee, widow of the acclaimed Kansas City jazz icon, donated the collection, which includes arrangements, music manuscripts, photos, memorabilia, performance videos and audio tapes along with other material related to Alaadeen's life and career.

Renowned musician and producer Najee applauded the gift. "This is a wonderful effort to preserve the legacy of one of our jazz legends," Najee said. "I am pleased that the Marr Sound Archives will safeguard this legacy of one of the profound influences on the history of Kansas City jazz."

A 2010 recipient of the American Jazz Museum's Lifetime Achievement Award, Alaadeen was born and came of age musically in Kansas City. He first picked up the saxophone when he was in sixth grade, and later studied with Leo H. Davis, a revered music teacher at R.T. Coles High School.

Alaadeen's professional debut was with Davis' concert band when he was 14, playing E-flat horn. His first major job was playing baritone sax with the great pianist-bandleader Jay McShann.

Alaadeen attended the Kansas City Conservatory of Music, now the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, and continued his education at St. Mary's College and DePaul University. He served in the military during 1957-59, taking on the job of jazz saxophonist and principal oboist with the 4th Army Band.

Over the course of his performing career, he worked with such jazz luminaries as Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, the Count Basie Orchestra, Della Reese, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, T-Bone Walker, Claude "Fiddler" Williams, and also alongside noted R&B stars, including Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, Four Tops and Sam Cooke.

After returning to Kansas City, Alaadeen became a well-respected educator, teaching jazz in both the school system and privately. In 2009, Alaadeen authored The Rest of the Story: Jazz Improvisation and History, a method manual in which he shares the secrets of how he learned music, passed down to him by the masters.

Alaadeen was the recipient of the Jazz Heritage Award, the Missouri Humanities Council's Community Heritage Award, and the Missouri Arts Award. In 2004 he was presented Kansas City's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Alaadeen passed away from cancer on August 15, 2010 at the age of 76.

(Original All-Star image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ben Kynard, R.I.P.

Ben Kynard died Thursday. The longtime resident of Kansas City was 92. The Kansas City Star provided an overview of Kynard's life. KSHB also filed a helpful report. Kynard is perhaps best known for writing "Red Top" while he was a member of Lionel Hampton's popular band.  He recalls joining Hampton's orchestra in the embedded video I shot at the American Jazz Museum in 2010.  To my knowledge, Kynard hadn't performed publicly in years. Kynard really tears it up beginning at the 3:18 mark in a 1951 clip located by The Star. (Initial tip from R.H.)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Now's the Time: Bobby Watson

I'll repeat myself until everyone in town acknowledges the obvious- Bobby Watson is Kansas City's best musician regardless of genre.  Skip the insufferable introduction in this recent live footage and start listening at the 1:10 mark for further evidence of Watson's sublime genius.  Plastic Sax's Person of the Decade leads a big band at the Blue Room on Monday, July 9.  The last time I saw Watson front a large ensemble, his band included Clint Ashlock, David Basse, Gerald Dunn, Jason Goudeau, Ryan Lee, Will Matthews, Herman Mehari, Al Pearson and Bram Wijnands.  Forget Billy Butler- those men are among Kansas City's genuine all-stars.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Project H's in-studio performance at KJHK was filmed.  (Via KC Stage Blog.)

*The nominees in the category of "Jazz Solo" in the The Pitch's 2012 Music Awards are Hermon Mehari, Mark Lowrey, Jeff Harshbarger and Matt Otto.  (The four men, incidentally, are the past four winners of Plastic Sax's Person of the Year award.)  The nominees in the category of "Jazz Ensemble" are the People's Liberation Big Band, Diverse, Snuff Jazz, Alaturka and The Project H. 

*KCUR offers a report on the American Jazz Museum's monthly "jazz poetry jams."

*After a trip to Denver, KCJazzLark concludes that Denver's jazz fans have access to superior venues but that Kansas City has better musicians.

*The Metheny Music Foundation has awarded a new round of scholarships. (Via KC Stage Blog.)

*Harry Tennant, a "charter member of the Kicks Band," has died.

*The Columbia Tribune features Murray's. (Via KC Stage Blog.)

*Tweet o' the Week: KCJazzConnxn- On @kjhk now playing @PatMetheny Unity Band and the rest of @thefollytheater and Gem Theater acts coming to #kansascity this year #kcjazz

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- ^ That's a stereotype. Of course it's for a reason, there's plenty of that happening. There are, though, hungry, young, original jazz musicians playing in this town who are trying to change that bullsh(*)t status quo.  It seems to me like people think it's somehow fashionable to regurgitate that tired opinion above, without peeking their head out to hear otherwise. There is jazz out there that would satisfy people, but by claiming otherwise you sound sooooo hip. "I'm in the know, I have good taste, and I like music played from the heart, not the brain." No sh(*)t, everyone does...but the best music is both. Get a grip and stop perpetuating a stereotype that is KEEPING you from hearing what you might be looking for.

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Grading the 2012-13 Folly and Gem Seasons

Out with the old and in with the new.  While many of the artists featured in the 2012-13 seasons of the Folly Theater's jazz series and the American Jazz Museum's Jammin' at the Gem series are no longer young, almost all of the musicians represent an encouraging acknowledgment that the audience for conventional swing-based jazz is dissipating.  Audiences interested in relevant, artistically-challenging music will be well-served by these bold selections.  The tide has turned. 

Pat Metheny's Unity Band
Folly Theater, September 6
Aside from a sold out 2008 benefit concert for the Metheny Foundation in Lee's Summit, Pat Metheny last appeared with a full band in the Kansas City area in 2007.  While his Orchestrion concert at the Uptown Theater in 2010 and his duet date with Larry Grenadier at Liberty Hall last year were exquisite, his long-awaited non-series gig with the new Unity Band- Metheny, Chris Potter, Ben Williams and Antonio Sanchez- at the Folly promises to be transcendent.
Grade: A

Chick Corea and Gary Burton with the Harlem String Quartet
Gem Theater, September 29
Crystal Silence, the 1973 duet album by Gary Burton and Chick Corea, altered the way I experience music when I first encountered it in the '80s.  The two jazz legends have an extraordinary musical kinship.  I assume the Harlem String Quartet will recreate the role the Sydney Symphony played on the 2008 album New Crystal Silence
Grade: A

Vijay Iyer
Folly Theater, October 19
Vijay Iyer made history last week when he won five categories of the 60th Annual DownBeat International Critics Poll.   He claimed the top slot in the following divisions- jazz artist of the year, top jazz album, top pianist, top jazz group and "rising star composer."  Should you believe the hype?  Yes.  His concepts are strikingly original.  While he's played in St. Louis, Columbia and Wichita, this date with bassist Stephen Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore marks Iyer's Kansas City debut.
Grade: A

Anat Cohen Quartet
Folly Theater, December 14
Anat Cohen's live 2010 album includes reverent renditions of standards like "St. James Infirmary," "Body and Soul" and "What a Little Moonlight Can Do."  Yet she imbues tired material with a progressive sensibility.  And she doesn't limit herself to jazz.  Cohen has also proved her mettle as an accomplished choro musician.  Dowbeat's 2012 clarinetist of the year is the rare artist capable of appealing to fans of Benny Goodman, Paulo Moura and Kenny Garrett.
Grade: B

The James Carter Organ Trio
Folly Theater, January 25
The Folly Theater will briefly revisit its inglorious days as a burlesque house on January 25 when James Carter fronts an organ trio at the elegant venue.  While I'd prefer to hear the versatile Carter work in another format, the saxophonist will undoubtedly play the blues with greasy conviction alongside organist Gerard Gibbs and drummer Leonard King.
Grade: B+

The Kenny Garrett Quartet
Folly Theater, February 15
Kenny Garrett, 51, is one of the most important saxophonists of his generation.  Even so, I've always wanted even more from the great musician.  His latest album, Seeds From the Underground, is fine, but it doesn't scream "genius."  I imagine that Pres and Bean were burdened by similarly unfair expectations.   
Grade: A-

Kurt Elling
Gem Theater, February 16
It's no secret that I don't particularly relish jazz vocalists. But Kurt Elling's different.  He's stylistically more adventurous and musically more interesting than most of his peers.  His latest release includes unlikely material by Joe Jackson and King Crimson in addition to more typical fare from the likes of the Beatles, Miles Davis and Stevie Wonder.   Old-school artists like Tony Bennett aside, Elling is the most important male vocalist in jazz.
Grade: A-

Matthew Rybicki
Folly Theater, March 9
Bassist Matthew Rybicki is still hungry enough that his cell phone number is published at his site.  His 2011 debut album Driven indicates that he's a formalist in the tradition of Ray Brown, which not surprising given his association with Jazz at Lincoln Center.  A press release suggests that the concertgoers should expect "a couple of New York City's young jazz lions to 'spar' with some of Kansas City's jazz greats."  Vague enough for you?  A real wild card, this show could be either brilliant or boring.
Grade: B

Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour
Gem Theater, March 23
Could this be too much of a good thing?  In such an embarrassment of riches, how will each star find enough time to shine?  Dee Dee Bridgewater's 2007 outing is probably my favorite performance at the Gem.   I missed the 2011 appearance by young lion Ambrose Akinmusire at Johnson County Community College.  I hope he'll have an opportunity to showcase his forward-thinking concepts in this format.  Local audiences are very familiar with Christian McBride. Chris Potter will have appeared with Pat Metheny at the Folly in September 2012.  Dependable stalwarts Benny Green and Lewis Nash round out the bill.   
Grade: A-

Eliane Elias
Folly Theater, April 13
A locally-based musician likes to share a rhapsodic anecdote about Eliane Elias.  He recalls that Elias' sashay to the stage of the Drum Room sold an audience on her merits even before she played a note.  Elias isn't just another Brazilian beauty.  The terrific musician is renowned for her artful- if sometimes excessively sweet- brand of jazz.
Grade: B+

Eric Harlan and Voyager
Gem Theater, April 13
Among drummer Eric Harland's impressive accomplishments is his membership in the all-star band James Farm. The ensemble he'll lead at the Gem is just as stellar.  The collective includes guitarist Julian Lage, pianist Taylor Eigsti, saxophonist Walter Smith III and bassist Harish Raghavan.  Watch, listen and be awestruck here.  This show might be the most exciting jazz concert of 2013.
Grade: A

Alex Bugnon
Gem Theater, May 18
Every Jammin' at the Gem season includes at least one smooth jazz act.  The booking may not be a favorite among Plastic Sax readers, but organizers count on these shows to pack the house.  The deliberately innocuous sensibility of keyboardist and composer Alex Bugnon promises to be a real crowd-pleaser.  Trumpeter Cindy Bradley will add airy textures to the proceedings. 
Grade: C+

I conducted similar exercises for the 2010-11 seasons here and here, for 2009-10 here and for 2008-09 here and here.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)