Friday, August 31, 2012

Now's the Time: Pat Metheny's Unity Band

Even after all these years, people still don't know what to make of Pat Metheny

Several acquaintances have asked me if I think they should attend Metheny's concert at the Folly Theater on Thursday, September 6.  These potential ticket buyers tell me that they only like certain aspects of Metheny's work or that they dislike other elements of his sound. 

I understand that tickets are relatively expensive and that people don't want to spend their time and money on something they may not enjoy.  Yet these discussions serve to verify my belief that Metheny is one of the most brilliant musicians of our time.  He's been defying expectations since his recording debut with Jaco Pastorious 38 years ago.  Unpredictability is at the essence of what makes Metheny a great artist.  Not everything he does is good, of course, but Metheny never stops exploring. 

The decision to see Metheny with his new Unity Band- Chris Potter, Ben Williams and Antonio Sanchez- seems like a no-brainer.  Even so, the embedded fan footage from a recent concert in Italy may serve as a more useful consumer guide for my friends than my enthusiastic blathering. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*A blogger reports that only a handful of people attended Charlie Parker's grave site memorial service last Sunday.

*KCJazzLark offers insights into a press conference held at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*Susan B. Wilson of KCUR shares her impressions of the late-night atmosphere at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*Hermon Mehari conducts a tour of Kansas City.

*The Kansas City Star offers a fall jazz preview.

*Here's an ostensibly new Bobby Watson track featuring Reach and vocalists that sound a lot like Book of Gaia.

*Michael Pagán and Joe Cartwright made an appearance on Fox4KC.

*David Valdez posted a recording of an August 5 gig at the Blue Monk in Portland that features Matt Otto and Todd Strait.  (Tip via On Jazz Musings.)

*Area jazz instructor and arts patron Charles Molina has died.  (Tip via Chris Burnett.)

*Marlin Cooper was inducted into the Mid-America Eduction Hall of Fame.

*A blogger reviewed a tribute to Fela Kuti at the RecordBar that featured several prominent members of Kansas City's jazz scene.

*Mark Lowrey and Brian Steever are among the musicians backing Sephiroth in footage of Lowrey's Tiny Music Project at the Czar Bar.

*Howard Mandel shares his impressions of the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival.  Ben Ratliff also provides an account of the annual New York event.

*Tom Ryan, an occasional commenter at Plastic Sax, has died.

*Tweet o' the Week: theprojecth- There are few things I enjoy more than playing the KC Suite for a loud audience.

*Comment o' the Week: Lee- F*cker! You come to Portland and don't even let me know. We are no longer friends!

*From Johnson County Community College: The lineup for the fall Jazz Series of Johnson County Community College has been announced. The series, which showcases the talents of local jazz musicians, takes place at noon Tuesday for six weeks from Sept. 25-Oct. 30. All performances, which are free and open to the public, are held in the Recital Hall of the Carlsen Center unless otherwise noted.  The fall 2012 Jazz Series lineup is: Sept. 25  Luqman Hamza Trio, piano and vocals. Oct. 2  Book of Gaia.  Oct. 9  Vine Street East featuring Monte Muza, guitar.  Oct. 16  Kerry Strayer and Dan Deluca, saxophone and piano.  Oct. 23  Joe Cartwright Trio.  Oct. 30  Mike Ning Trio.

*From Anita Dixon: The Mutual Musicians Foundation (MMF) formerly known as Local 627 or the “colored” musicians union from 1917 to 1970, has benefitted from funding secured by the Honorable Emanuel Cleaver, II and has completed an education and archive project to be unveiled, Friday, August 24th from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm at the MMF, 1823 Highland Ave. 

“We have been almost two years working on this project and are extremely pleased to have the Congressman at the event and to give his time and energies to such worthy endeavors as the Mutual Musicians Foundation.” said MMF Chairman James Hathaway, Sr. 

Educational panels have been installed downstairs of the MMF and give a history of the neighborhood and the union hall that has been the subject of countless articles, documentaries and research.  In addition, a 30 minute documentary entitled, “Still Jammin’” will be viewed for the first time.  “This project demonstrates the strength of the history surrounding 18th and Vine and allows the MMF to truly showcase the unique legacy left to us.  We are so proud of the outcome.” said Anita J. Dixon, Vice President.

*From Royal Potato Family: Look up punk jazz in the dictionary and next to it you'll find a picture of its patron saint Mike Dillon... In that spirit, his latest solo album, Urn, due September 25 from The Royal Potato Family, pushes the envelope even further. He recently assembled a new band from his current hometown of New Orleans and proceeded to tour the group relentlessly for the first half of 2012. He then ducked into a Kansas City recording studio and cut the album straight to tape...

*From Brad Cox: The People's Liberation Big Band's show at the RecordBar on September 2 will be a tribute to John Cage in honor of his 100th birthday.

 (Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Kansan Walks Into a Portland Bar

Hankering for live music while stranded without transportation in a suburb northeast of Portland's downtown last Sunday evening, I dejectedly cross-referenced local listings against Google Maps. I spotted a nondescript post for a 8:30 p.m. "jazz jam" at a joint with the unpromising name of Clyde's Prime Rib Restaurant and Bar. It was exactly one mile away. I began walking.

I was encouraged to find that the parking lot at Clyde's was full. I was even more pleased when I secured the last open seat at the bar of the lounge that housed the jazz jam. Host Ron Steen, a personable drummer, seemed to know all sixty people in the room. (He even chatted up a sweaty stranger at the bar.)

The house band was impressive. When guests began to arrive, however, I felt as if I'd entered a jazz lover's dream. A rhythm section of bassist Essiet Essiet (Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, Bobby Watson) and drummer Dick Berk (Ted Curson, George Duke, Cal Tjader) supported a bunch of lesser known but equally impressive musicians. The most immediately distinctive character was David Leshare Watson. He's something else.

I don't know if my sublime experience was a result of karmic serendipity or if the city's jazz scene is on fire. Either way, I wish I wasn't currently sitting 1,803 miles from Clyde's.

(Original images by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCJazzLark objects to changes recently made at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*Chris Lewis conducted an excellent interview with Stan Kessler.

*Here's the EPK for T.J Martley's new Meditations Vol. 1 album.

*Pat Metheny is interviewed at All About Jazz.

*KCUR's 12th Street Jump conducted an online cutting contest.

*St. Louis Jazz Notes reports that Mike Metheny will perform in St. Louis on October 22.

*Road trip alert- Christian Scott, the artist responsible for Plastic Sax's probable pick for the best jazz album of 2012, will perform at St. Louis' Jazz at the Bistro on October 17-20.

*Tweet o' the Week: ShadesofJade4- Where is a good place preferably in KC to do a photoshoot for an album?

*Comment o' the Week: Sam- I don't think Brian is "fronting"....I think he is enjoying Ryan's amazing playing/keeping the bass drum from sliding across the floor.

*From UMKC: The 11th annual Jazz & BBQ benefit for the UMKC Jazz Studies program is Sunday, October 14, 2012. Legendary jazz trumpeter Gerald Wilson will receive a lifetime achievement award. The event, which is extremely popular and typically sold out, begins at 6 p.m. with a silent auction and buffet dinner. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. with Bobby Watson and Dan Thomas leading the UMKC Conservatory Concert Jazz Band and the 11 O'Clock Jazz Band, respectively….  The event is in the UMKC Student Union, fourth floor multipurpose room, 5100 Cherry St., KCMO. Ticket prices: Patron levels $1,000, $500, $250, $175 and $100. Concert and buffet, $75 Concert only, $30.  A VIP reception is 5–6 p.m. preceding the event, on the rooftop of the Student Union.

*From the Prairie Village Jazz Festival: The third annual Prairie Village Jazz Festival takes place on Saturday, September 8, 2012 in Harmon Park, at 77th and Mission Road, in Prairie Village, Kansas. Admittance to the festival is free.  The first festival, in 2010, drew an audience of 7000 fans to Harmon Park. Last year’s event was rained out after the second act. With dual headliners of internationally renowned vocalist Karrin Allyson and saxophone star Bobby Watson, this year’s festival promises to be the biggest yet.  The Prairie Village Jazz Festival is presented by BRGR Kitchen + Bar, and hosted by the Prairie Village Municipal Foundation and the City of Prairie Village. Proceeds from the event go to Heartland Habitat for Humanity. The Schedule:

3:00 – 4:00 p.m.: Diverse, Hermon Mehari, trumpet, Ben Leifer, bass, Brad Williams, drums

4:20 – 5:20 p.m.: Rich Wheeler Quartet 
Rich Wheeler, tenor saxophone, T.J. Martley, piano, Bill McKemy, bass, Sam Wisman, drums

5:40 – 6:40 p.m.: Mike Metheny Quartet
 Mike Metheny, trumpet and flugelhorn, T.J. Martley, piano, Gerald Spaits, bass, Todd Strait, drums

7:00 – 8:00 p.m.: Megan Birdsall Quartet
 Megan Birdsall, vocals, Wayne Hawkins, piano, Bob Bowman, bass, Matt Leifer, drums

8:20 – 9:20 p.m.: Bobby Watson Quartet
 Bobby Watson, alto saxophone, Chris Clarke, piano, Curtis Lundy, bass, Michael Waren, drums

9:40 – 10:55 p.m.: Karrin Allyson Quintet
 Karrin Allyson, vocals and piano, Bob Sheppard, tenor saxophone and flute, Rod Fleeman, guitar, Gerald Spaits, bass, Todd Strait, drums

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Review: Shades of Jade at The Brick

Recent releases by Robert Glasper, Christian Scott and Esperanza Spalding are among the albums I've listened to most in 2012.  When I attend performances by jazz musicians, however, I rarely hear anything that remotely resembles the sounds made by the trendsetting musicians of today.  Most Kansas City-based artists work in styles that are steadfastly rooted in the '40s, '50s and '60s.  I love that stuff, but I often pine for live performances of current jazz.

That's why I flipped my lid when bandleader Josh Williams introduced the second selection I heard Shades of Jade play at The Brick on August 11.

"According to Eddie (Moore), if you don't know who Robert Glasper is, you're living under a rock," Williams said.

As the quartet wound through a creative arrangement of Glasper's new song "Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.)," I knew that everything was truly up to date in Kansas City.  I also began kicking myself for not previously catching Shades of Jade. I'd heard three members of the quartet in other contexts plenty of times.  Williams, trumpet and flugelhorn, works a lot.  Bassist Dominique Sanders is one of the scene's young stars.  Keyboardist Eddie Moore is often seen in conventional jazz bands and he plays an integral role in plenty of hip hop shows.  Only drummer Julian Goff has flown under my radar. 

Energetic and fearless, Shades of Jade reminds me of Diverse in 2009.  There's no reason to believe that the members of Shades of Jade won't achieve a similar level of renown.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Kansas City's Jazz Rebels

Exactly when did jazz become polite?  The music would benefit from a hint of hooliganism.  That's why a rough video capturing a brash display by a Kansas City rhythm section at the 2012 Jazz Education Network conference in Kentucky delighted me.  "They wouldn't let us play," the clip's introduction suggests.  "So we waited 'til they finished breaking down the stage and went at it 'til 5 a.m."  Pianist Andrew Ouellette, bassist Dominique Sanders and drummer Ryan Lee are captured tearing through John Coltrane's "Impressions."  I'm pretty sure that's Brian Steever fronting on Lee and Josh Williams stepping up after Floridian Rane Roatta's solo at 3:53.  The person holding the camera talks about the facility's displeased staff.  Sure enough, the musicians are forced to cease as the clip closes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Pitch provides a recap of last weekend's awards blowout.  Winners include the People's Liberation Big Band ("Best Jazz Ensemble"), Mark Lowrey ("Best Jazz Solo") and Hearts of Darkness ("Best Live Act").

*Darcus Gates, New Jazz Order, Will Matthews, Bobby Waston, Kerry Strayer, JWB and Ron Gutierrez are among the musicians scheduled to appear at the 14th Street Jazz Festival.  The free event is the same day as the Prairie Village Jazz Festival.

*Jeff Harshbarger, Plastic Sax's 2011 Person of the Year, pitches Kansas City in a spot for the Kansas City Area Development Council.

*Gerald Spaits and Charles Perkins are admired by KCJazzLark.

*Kristin Shafel Omiccioli previews several upcoming jazz events.

*A reviewer doesn't mention jazz in his endorsement of Take Five Coffee.

*People who choose to live that lifestyle should know that Guardian Alien performs Wednesday, August 15, at the RecordBar.

*Jazz Times provides additional details about this weekend's Charlie Parker Jazz Festival.

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- Are you saying Stan sounds most inspired when muffled?

*Tweet o' the Week: theprojecth- The Pitch didn't even mention us with the rest of the nominees in our category. Thanks Pitch! #pitchmusicawards

*From UMKC Theatre: “Kansas City Swing”- It’s Kansas City in the autumn of 1947 and Jackie Robinson has just integrated major league baseball. The Satchel Paige All-Stars from the Negro Leagues are gearing up to play the Bob Feller All-Stars from the Majors in a thrilling off-season match-up. But there’s a storm brewing. Baseball is about to change, and so is America. Directed by Ricardo Khan, this play is about some of the greatest stars of the Negro Leagues baseball era. It’s about jazz, and about the historic district at 18th and Vine. It’s a snapshot of America in extraordinary times and at the verge of extraordinary change. The show previews April 19 - 23 and runs April 24 – 28 at the Helen F. Spencer Theatre, Olson PAC. (Tip via R.H.)

*From Jim Mair: Auditions for  Kansas City High School All Stars Jazz Ensemble will take place on Wednesday August 29 between 6-9pm in the band room at KCKCC.  Audition material: Play Billies Bounce by Charlie Parker, Improvise in concert F Blues, Play a major scale of your choice full range of your instrument, Sight Reading.  The cost to perform in this group is $90. Payable at the first rehearsal on Wednesday September 5. The ensemble rehearses for ten weeks and will perform one or two concerts.  The director will be Origin recording Artist and ITG Competition winner Hermon Mehari.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Review: Parallax at Take Five Coffee

Take Five Coffee + Bar was packed for the second and possibly final performance by Parallax last Thursday.  After standing in the back of the room for thirty minutes, I retreated to the patio.  The outdoor vantage point muffled Stan Kessler's horns, Roger Wilder's Fender Rhodes and Bill McKemy's bass, but it allowed me to revel in the dual drums of Ryan Lee and Brian Steever.

Both drummers are extraordinarily accomplished.  Each adds youthful exuberance to the exceptional formal training they received at UMKC.  Hearing the joyous interplay of Lee and Steever on the eve of Lee's departure to New Mexico was bittersweet.

Kessler, an energetic raconteur, works in variety of contexts every week.  Yet I can't recall him ever sounding more inspired than he did fronting Parallax.  Propelled by McKemy's sousaphone, the funky strut of "Make a Hole" was my favorite piece.  And the fascinating "Sky Watcher" offered the sort of progressive jazz that's too rarely heard in Kansas City venues.

Although Lee will be sorely missed, it'd be a shame if Parallax disbanded after just two performances. Here's hoping that Kessler finds a way to maintain a Lee-less version of the group.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Now's the Time: Beau Bledsoe and Joe Powers

Joe Powers seems to be big in Japan.  And in Belgium, Buenos Aires and Portland.  The harmonica virtuoso will perform a tango concert with guitarist Beau Bledsoe at Kansas City Academy on Saturday, August 11.  Maybe someone will demand to hear a rendition of "Bluesette".  (Plastic Sax interviewed Bledsoe in 2010.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Mark Lowrey, Hermon Mehari, Jeff Harshbarger and representatives of the Project H and the People's Liberation Big Band are among the musicians who participated in Q-and-A sessions for The Pitch.

*Marilyn Maye will receive the "2012 Outstanding Kansas Citian Award” from The Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas City on September 18 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

*"I really idolize Matt Otto for his playing and writing.  He just epitomizes everything I love about music," Jeff Stocks says in a Black House Improvisors' Collective interview.

*Set times for the Prairie Village Jazz Festival have been published.

*T.J. Martley's Meditations Vol. 1 has been released.

*KCJazzLark marks his third anniversary as a jazz blogger.

*The Topeka Capital-Journal offers a preview of the forthcoming Topeka Jazz Workshop series.  (Via KC Stage Blog.)

*Touring band conflict alert- Skerik's Bandalabra performs at The Brick and Todd Clouser appears at the RecordBar on September 19.

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- what the HELL is with all these photos you post? Also, please, enough with this Unity Band stuff already. Cheers.

*Tweet o' the Week: yurishimojo- Pat Metheny Unity Band を聴きに行きました Upstateの森の中 古いオペラハウス 音楽好きなともだちと お弁当つくってピクニック 豊かな一日 わたしって大人  帰りはヤンキース試合後の渋滞に巻きこまれました わたしってニューヨーカー

*From Joe Powers: Harmonica virtuoso, Joe Powers makes his debut performance in Kansas City with guitarist Beau Bledsoe. Powers is known for bending and blending genres from jazz to classical, hip-hop to world music, and Argentine Tango. Since gaining a music degree from the University of Oregon he has performed around the world, from Paris to Tokyo to tango-crazy Buenos Aires… His latest album, "Just Duet!" (2012) features eclectic harmonica duos with 12 different instruments. Kansas City Arts Academy, Grassroots concert series Saturday, August 11th, 8pm, 7933 Main St. KC, MO 64114  Ticket $10 and $15 for preferred seating.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Out of Nowhere

If surprise is one of the most treasured qualities of jazz, why are so many performances by jazz musicians entirely predictable?  I've heard many of the same men and women play precisely the same solos on the same material with the same accompanists for twenty years.  Advocates of these artists presumably appreciate their constancy.  Others, myself included, think this mentality is stale. 

That's just one reason many members of the new wave of jazz musicians working in Kansas City is so refreshing.  On Saturday, for instance, Diverse performed at the Riot Room as part of the annual Pitch Music Showcase.  Rather than offering a straight jazz set, Hermon Mehari, Dominique Sanders, Brad Williams, Peter Schlamb and Matt Villinger backed Reach in an invigorating groove-based, rap-themed show. 

One could easily argue that the atypical lineup and the emphasis on hip hop disqualified the outing as a "jazz" performance and even as a "Diverse" performance. A conventional jazz purist attending attending Saturday's showcase expecting to hear Mehari's updates on Clifford Brown material would undoubtedly have been furious.  Yet Mehari had advised his Facebook followers earlier in the day of the content of the gig.

The incorporation of elements of hip hop, obviously, isn't necessary to make jazz interesting.  A great soloist- Kansas City's Bobby Watson comes immediately to mind- could find an infinite number of intriguing ways to play familiar standards.  And plenty of forward-thinking musicians ranging from the members of the People's Liberation Big Band to Pat Metheny are notoriously loathe to repeat themselves.

I hope that the risks regularly taken by the members of Diverse and by peers including fellow Pitch Music Showcase artist Mark Lowrey remind the entirety of the regional jazz community that improvisation shouldn't necessarily be limited to solos played on the bandstand.

(Original image of "Diverse" playing "jazz" at the Riot Room by "Plastic Sax.")

Friday, August 3, 2012

Introducing D'Anthoni Wooten

I accidentally stumbled upon this footage of D'Anthony Wooten's recent recital  at UMKC.  I'm impressed by the 17-year-old's melodic sensibility and confidence.  At his Reverb Nation account, Wooten cites Herbie Hancock as his "sounds like."  It's not surprising that the Olathe North student been involved with KC Youth Jazz

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Clarence Smith and two students enrolled in KC Youth Jazz chatted with Jabulani Leffall on KCUR's Central Standard program.

*KCJazzLark cleverly chastises himself.

*Kevin Mahogany is featured on the Pace Report.

*Chris Burnett considers the concept of competitiveness.  He also cites KC Youth Jazz as an positive indicator of jazz's future.

*Lee Langston, an R&B artist who performs frequently at the Blue Room, is the subject on an excellent feature on KCUR's KC Currents

*KC Metropolis offers a review of the Experimental Music Showcase at last week's Fringe Festival.

*Pauly Cohen recalls a dispute with Count Basie.

*Bobby Watson received another positive review from a jazz critic in London.

*Gigs by Pat Metheny's Unity Band and Harold O'Neal were previewed by the New York Times.

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated.  It looks thinner than usual in part because Kansas City's best jazz club is one of several venues that have yet to publish dates for August.

*Tweet o' the Week: Brandon Draper- Cicadas make the most dope rhythms

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- Hey folks, Three givens in Kansas City. KCJO concerts always sell.  Jazz in the WOODS always attracts large audiences.  Tim Whitmer productions have longevity and huge followings.  Get out of your own miopic worlds. Not everything in Kansas City Jazz is a downer.

*From Brad Cox: The People's Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City celebrates the fourth anniversary of Jeff Harshbarger’s Jazz Series at the RecordBar with a “Year in Review” performance Sunday, August 5, at 8:00pm at the RecordBar (1020 Westport Rd, Kansas City, MO). Admission is $5.  The performance will feature material written for People's Liberation Big Band within the past year by composers Patrick Alonzo Conway, Brad Cox, Hunter Long, and Matt Otto, as well as arrangements of music by Virgil Thomson, and an appearance by The People’s Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City’s Special Mobile Tactical Unit.

*From Michael Pagán: Kansas City Youth Jazz organizers in collaboration with Piropos have announced a Dueling Piano Summit to be held Sunday August 19th 2012 at 3:00 PM inside Piropos Piano Bar in Briarcliff. The concert will last two hours. Participating in the event will be four of the Kansas City region’s premier jazz pianists – Roger Wilder, Joe Cartwright, Michael Pagán, and Bram Wijnands. The pianists will match up in different combinations and play two-piano jazz for approximately two hours. Proceeds will benefit Kansas City Youth Jazz...

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)