Monday, December 31, 2012

Doug and Lori Chandler: The Plastic Sax People of the Year

Two of the most valuable people on Kansas City's jazz scene are amateur musicians.  Doug Chandler plays drums.  Lori Chandler is a bass guitar student.  Yet the couple's musical talents have nothing to do with the crucial contribution they've made to the area's live music landscape. The co-owners of Take Five Coffee + Bar are Plastic Sax's 2012 people of the year.

As several conventional jazz venues have shuttered or shifted formats, the Chandlers have provided an increasingly ambitious refuge for the music at Take Five.  The couple spoke to Plastic Sax at their home earlier this month about their experiences since opening Take Five on January 2, 2010.

"It started out as just a coffee shop," Doug said.  "We didn't set out to do music." 

Take Five was the site of a fundraiser designed to help finance the European trip of jazz act Diverse in early 2010.  Shortly afterwards guitarist Ron Carlson contacted the Chandlers about the possibility of booking additional jazz performances.  Other musicians, including Stan Kessler, were soon added to the mix. 

A jazz venue was born.

"We started taking what was in our business plans for marketing and using that money to pay bands," Lori said.

"We make our money five dollars at a time," Doug added.  "The rest of the business is very important to us but the jazz sets us apart."

The unconventional strategy isn't without risk.

"Some nights it works amazingly well.  Other nights it doesn't," Lori said. "To a certain extent that's how we gauge who is going to come back.  To come back you have to be someone we're really passionate about or make money for us."

Musicians have learned to respect Take Five in spite of its suburban location in southern Johnson County.

"Every time a musician plays there for the first time I have to imagine what's going through their head is, 'I'm going out to Leawood and I'm going to play in a coffee shop'," Lori suggests.  "They get out there and they have a crowd and that crowd is hanging on every note.  And all of a sudden it's cool.  But it takes getting over that 'coffee shop in Leawood' thing."

Audiences have also been remarkably receptive.

"There's something about the intimacy," Doug explained.  "The overall concept of Take Five is we try to make it like your satellite living room.  It's as comfortable as going into your own front room but you don't have to do the dishes. You can be your own host in our place.  That intimacy carries over when we set a band in a corner of the room and someone like Clint Ashlock is blowing his trumpet right in front of a twelve-year-old kid in a comfy chair.  The kid is mesmerized by what Clint's doing.  Parents realize that's something you can't get anywhere else.  They can have a glass of wine yet not feel like they're going into a bar." 

The room's excellent acoustics enhance the experience.

"We got super lucky," Lori noted.  "The one thing I would change about the room is the damn pole."

The unfortunate placement of a structural beam seems to be one of the few barriers between Take Five and the area's musicians.

"We look at the musicians like family.  We want to be a place where they will try out things that won't try out somewhere else," Doug said.  "They're partners.  We want them to do well and they want us to do well."

Lori is philosophical about the relationship.

"We appreciate the music.  We will continue to book music that we really like and people that we really like and push the limits," she said.  "We're not just a venue.   We care about the musicians and the people that come to see them.  I just want to be part of the jazz community."

The previous Plastic Sax people of the year are Jeff Harshbarger in 2011, Mark Lowrey in 2010 and Hermon Mehari in 2009.

(Image supplied by Doug and Lori Chandler.)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Now's the Time: Mardra and Reggie Thomas

The recent deaths of Kansas City's Marva Whitney and St. Louis' Fontella Bass serve as a solemn reminder that we shouldn't take our divas for granted.  The world also lost Etta James, Whitney Houston and Donna Summer in 2012.  Mardra Thomas will sing at the Blue Room on New Year's Eve. She'll be accompanied by pianist Reggie Thomas, guitarist Will Matthews, saxophonist Bobby Watson, bassist Nick Jost  and drummer Marty Morrison.  (Anyone seeking something more low-key and significantly less pricey might consider the duo of Miles Bonny and Eddie Moore at the new Green Lady Lounge.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Kristin Shafel Omiccioli interviewed Kerry Strayer of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra.

*Robert Trussell reviewed Saturday's performance by the Owen/Cox Dance Group.

*The Black House Improvisors' Collective unveiled the roster for its forthcoming season.

*Bob McWilliams of KANU lists his top twelve albums of 2012.

*A blogger surveys the life of Charlie Parker.

*Clint Ashlock updated his SoundCloud account.

*12th Street Jump presents a new episode of "Blues In the News."

*A deranged man ranted about Eddie Moore and Logan Richardson after presenting tracks by Mark Lowrey and Michael Pagan on KCUR's Up To Date last Friday.

*Tweet o' the Week: paulgerni- Last night I listened to, and danced to, the New Vintage Big Band, an excellent 18-pc band in the true Kansas City jazz tradition.

*Comment o' the Week: Gary- Had the privilege to hear Harshberger playing Snuff Jazz Saturday night at Take Five. I'm going to be spending a lot more Saturday nights there for sure.

*From a press release: A Musical Night of TV Theme Songs & Movie Classics.  Take a trip down memory lane with those old familiar songs of hit movies and television series. Hosted by Jim Mair, and the incredible songbook and talent of Dan Deluca on piano, the Consort Band will take you on a journey of memories through music... Wednesday, January 2, 2013. 7:00 p.m. Unity Temple on the Plaza, Tickets at the door only - $7.00

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Ghost of Christmas Present

Am I Ebenezer Scrooge?  My good friend KCJazzLark seems to think so.  In a clever new post titled "A KC Jazz Christmas Carol, Part 1," he refutes this site's year-end recap with surgical precision. 

I stand by my assertions regarding the diminishing audience for jazz, but KCJazzLark's eloquent take-down suggests that I may be failing to adequately share my enthusiasm for the music.  Fortunately, I need only go back a few hours for a vivid reminder of why I continue to espouse the ongoing vitality of the music being played on Kansas City's jazz scene.

A performance last night at the RecordBar was almost as good as anything I'd heard in all of 2012.  Brilliant saxophonist and composer Matt Otto led a band featuring visiting trumpeter Dave Scott, bassist Jeff Harshbarger and drummer Ryan Lee.  The quartet played some next-level stuff that continually astounded me.

Lee has never sounded better.  I recall giving him a hard time a few years ago for occasionally overplaying.  That's all behind him.  He and Jeff Harshbarger, Plastic Sax's 2011 Person of the Year, were endlessly creative.  I would have been happy to hear just the two of them play as a duo all night.  Yet Otto and Scott were similarly inspired.  The compelling new material Otto wrote for the gig enhanced the quiet power of his band.

I know KCJazzLark shares my passion for these musicians.  I also know that both of us will continue spreading the good news about these essential sounds in the new year.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Now's the Time: The People's Liberation Big Band's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

Even jaded people who've endured enough versions of the Nutcracker to last several lifetimes and music-centric people who are reluctant to attend the ballet will marvel at the embedded video.  The sound of the People's Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City and the visuals provided by the Owen/Cox Dance Group are spectacular.  The sole Kansas City performance of 2012 takes place at the Folly Theater on Saturday, December 22.  Advisory- as of Friday afternoon, about 150 seats remained unsold at the 1,050-seat venue.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Five locally-released albums are recommended by KCJazzLark.

*Downbeat offers a report on the First China Jazz Education Festival in Shanghai.  Clint Ashlock was among the participants.

*Grand Marquis is in the news for the whistle-blowing role its members played in an animal abuse scandal.

*Nextbop offers a preview of the Next Collective's forthcoming project featuring Logan Richardson.

*Chris Burnett recently updated his Tumblr.

*Tweet o' the Week: John Hilderbrand- Chris Botti is the best selling instrumental artist in America since 2004. That’s what my press release about his Blue Note residency says.

*Comment o' the Week: Jim Mair- Perhaps #12… The Kansas City Jazz Summit (last week of April) band and combo enrollment doubled for year number two. Our Kansas City Jazz Heritage big band competition sign ups went up 33%. The top two bands playing exclusively the music of Basie had a playoff format and the audience members were able to TEXT their vote for the winning band. The texting was worth 35% of there score. This is a first for a competitive jazz festival anywhere. One of our guitar students received a full ride to attend the Pat Metheny Guitar camp last summer. Good things happening in KCK! We are just scratching the surface. KCKCC is the place to be!!

*From Take Five Coffee + Bar: It's our great pleasure to present a series of performances by bassist, composer and bon vivant Jeff Harshbarger in January and February at Take Five Coffee + Bar. Jeff performs with some of the most inventive musical groups in the country, and he'll bring a sampling of them for four performances in the intimate surroundings of what has become one of the Kansas City area's favorite listening rooms… So we're turning over four straight Saturday nights at Take Five to showcase the many faces of Jeff Harshbarger…
  • Saturday, January 19 - 10:30pm to 12:30am: Alaturka- Join us for the official JCCC Jazz Winterlude After Party hosted by Alaturka. Jeff Harshbarger (bass), Brandon Draper (drums/percussion), Rich Wheeler (sax) and Beau Bledsoe (guitar) bring you Turkish jazz, and oh, how they bring it. Help us celebrate Kansas City's amazing jazz community. Mistura Fina with Shay Estes will play the earlier set, 8pm to 10pm.
  • Saturday, January 27 - 8pm to 10pm: Snuff Jazz with Brian Haas- As if somehow the madness of Snuff Jazz weren't exciting enough on its own, on this night they add the frenetic energy of Brian Haas, whose piano drives Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and the Dead Kenny Gs. We're only kind of sure the roof won't come down.
  • Saturday, February 2 - 8pm to 10pm: Sequel- This ferocious trio will play two sets of funk jazz by Medeski, Martin and Wood. It's Ken Lovern on keys and Brian Steever on drums joining Harshbarger for extended explorations into the deepest grooves.
  • Saturday, February 9 - 8pm to 10pm: Jeff Harshbarger Quartet- Rich Wheeler on sax, Roger Wilder on piano, Mike Warren on drums. Serious jazz.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Top Jazz-Related Stories and Trends of 2012

1. Gone for good.
In the early months of 2012 it was still possible to believe that Jardine's, the busiest and most popular jazz club in Kansas City, would somehow be revived.  It didn't happen.

2. Jazz fans abhor a vacuum
The launch of the Kill Devil Club and a sudden plethora of impressive bookings at Take Five Coffee + Bar have helped to take some of the sting out of the loss of Jardine's. 

3. D.I.Y.
Joe Klopus, jazz columnist for The Kansas City Star, noted the trend of jazz musicians booking shows at non-traditional venues.  The dwindling number of actual jazz clubs has compelled many musicians to take matters into their own hands.  Jazz in the Weeds, Tim Whitmer's monthly "Spirituality and All That Jazz" series and the Live at the Hollywood Theater series in Leavenworth are among these ambitious ventures.  Dozens of smaller-scale events are also taking place at art galleries, restaurants, private clubs and on city sidewalks. (Update- see Jim Mair's comment on KCKCC's new Jazz by the Lake series. I simply forgot to mention it.)

4. Things ain't what they used to be.
A Plastic Sax reader regularly commends the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, Tim Whitmer's "Spirituality and All That Jazz" series and the annul Jazz Carol Fest at Community Church for drawing audiences that range from 250 to 1,500.  He's right to point out those successes.  What he doesn't mention is that the overwhelming majority of the audiences for those shows are in their sixties and seventies.  The turnout for concerts by international stars like Vijay Iyer and Kansas City's progressive jazz musicians is often disconcertingly dismal.

5. This will go on your permanent record.
The ongoing audience attrition is belied by the encouraging number of new recordings.  Here's a partial list of artists who released albums in 2012- the Brian Baggett Trio, Deborah Brown, the Chris Hazelton Trio, Hearts of Darkness, the KC Sound Collective, Killer Strayhorn, Kevin Mahogany with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, T.J. Martley, Pat Metheny, Matt Otto, the Owen/Cox Dance Ensemble, Michael Pagan, Passport and the Project H.

6. R.I.P.
The great Ben Kynard, best known as the composer of "Red Top," died in July.  He was 92.  The death of Bill Caldwell rocked the jazz community in March.  He was 49.

7. Quiet as it's kept.
Bobby Watson was everywhere.  And that's a very good thing.   Watson was a headliner at Live at the Hollywood Theater, was featured at Celebration at the Station with the Kansas City Symphony and served as a guest artist at a concert by the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra,  He also sat in on gigs by artists ranging from Delfeayo Marsalis to Karrin Allyson.  His presence is always welcome.

8. Bravo.
The forward-thinking bookings of programmers at the American Jazz Museum included Gary Burton/Chick Corea and Eric Harland at the Jammin' At the Gem series in addition to many noteworthy artists at the Blue Room.  The museum also made the Rhythm & Ribs Jazz and Blues Festival work under challenging storm-related circumstances.  The 2012-13 season of the Folly Theater's jazz series includes Anat Cohen, Kenny Garrett and Vijay Iyer.  The Prairie Village Jazz Festival and Johnson County's Jazz Winterlude also enhanced the quality of life of area jazz fans.

9. New digs.
The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra's new home at Helzberg Hall in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts represents a luxurious achievement for the Kansas City jazz establishment.

10. Empty talk.
Bobby Watson performed at the New American City conference at the Kauffman Center a few weeks ago.  That's as it should be.  Yet prominent displays of lip service can't compensate for the overwhelming indifference the vast majority of the area's populace have for Kansas City's jazz heritage and current artistic renaissance.  A final example- less than a dozen people attended this year's annual service at Charlie Parker's grave at Lincoln Cemetery.  The unsustainable trend must change.

I conducted a similar exercise in 2011.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Now's the Time: Shades of Jade

Inspired by Robert Glasper and Sean Jones, Shades of Jade is at the vanguard of the burgeoning youth movement on Kansas City's jazz scene. I've seen the quartet perform at the Brick, the Mutual Musicians Foundation, the main stage at the Plaza Art Fair and at a fashionable boutique in recent months.  In each instance, the quartet adeptly tailored its approach to the demands of the setting.  Shades of Jade are certain to excel in a  8:30 p.m. performance on Friday, December 14, at Take Five Coffee + Bar.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Pat Metheny's Unity Band was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Jazz Instrumental Album.

*A blogger compares Eddie Moore to "other great young and contemporary Houston-bred jazz pianists like Jason Moran and Robert Glasper."  Moore uploaded a track from his forthcoming album to SoundCloud.

*Opportunities for aspiring musicians abound at the Black House Improvisors' Collective.

*The eightieth anniversary of an important recording session by Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra is noted by KCJazzLark.

*A new set of videos documenting a recent KC Youth Jazz performance is impressive.

*Here's another video of a 12th Street Jump "Blues In the News" segment.

*Kristin Shafel Omiccioli reviewed Marilyn Maye's appearance with the Heartland Men's Chorus at the Folly Theater and Project Trio's concert at Polsky Theatre.

*Here a clip of jazz students at Kansas City Kansas Community College playing a Stan Kessler arrangement of "We Three Kings".

*Side By Side, the new album by "antique pop" duo Victor & Penny, was recently released.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Gary Smulyan. 

*Frequent Kansas City visitor Rob Scheps is featured on Marvin "Bugalu" Smith's new album Majestic.

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- Thank god we have the Betty Carter jazz program to show us the way. I never realized that playing "All the Things You Are" really well was a solid business model.

*Tweet o' the Week: KCJazzOrch- The new KCJO/Kevin Mahogany Christmas CD is available for download: Itunes, Muve, Rdio, Deezer, Rhapsody, Amazon MP3, Spotify, &Google Play.

*From a press release issued by Take Five Coffee + Bar: Take Five Coffee + Bar brings you a packed calendar of stellar music this month from Kansas City and beyond… Friday, December 14, 8pm- Shades of Jade (and a barista competition!)… Saturday, December 15, 8pm- Snuff Jazz… Friday, December 21, 8pm- Matt Chalk with Diverse… Saturday, December 22, 8pm- Mandy Nousain and her Trio… Friday, December 28, 8pm- Parallax… Saturday, December 29, 8pm- Drew Williams Quartet… Friday, January 4, 8pm- The KC Sound Collective.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Plastic Sax's Top Albums and Concerts of 2012

Attentive jazz aficionados in Kansas City had the luxury of sifting through an outpouring of quality and quantity in 2012.  So many exceptional recordings were released by locally-based artists that I'm obliged to offer two lists of albums this year.  These rankings, of course, are merely a reflection my personal taste.

1. Vijay Iyer Trio- Folly Theater
2. People's Liberation Big Band- RecordBar
3. Pat Metheny's Unity Band- Folly Theater
4. Matt Otto Quartet- Westport Coffeehouse
5. Vanguard Jazz Orchestra- Folly Theater
6. Parallax- Take Five Coffee
7. Bobby Watson with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra- Unity on the Plaza
8. Delfeayo Marsalis- Blue Room
9. McFadden Brothers- Gem Theater
10. Shades of Jade- The Brick

Kansas City Albums
1. Pat Metheny- Unity Band
2. Project H- Become Light
3. Deborah Brown- All Too Soon
4. T.J. Martley- Meditations
5. Matt Otto- Broken Waltz
6. Killer Strayhorn- One Begins to Wonder
7. Various- Music for Owen/Cox Dance Group, Vol. 1
8. Michael Pagán- Keyboard Christmas
9. Hearts of Darkness- Shelf Life
10. Chris Hazelton- Peregrination

Jazz Albums From Elsewhere
1. Christian Scott- Christian aTunde Adjuah
2. Lionel Loueke- Heritage
3. Esbjörn Svensson Trio- 301
4. Neneh Cherry & the Thing- The Cherry Thing
5. Robert Glasper- Black Radio
6. Vijay Iyer Trio- Accelerando
7. Charles Gayle Trio- Streets
8. Branford Marsalis Quartet- Four MFs Playin' Tunes
9. Tord Gustavsen Quartet- The Well
10. Floratone- Floratone II

Previous annual listings were published here and here.

(The photo of a dumbfounded doofus watching Ryan Lee perform with Parallax at Take Five Coffee + Bar was submitted by Stan Kessler.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Now's the Time: Project Trio

In the spirit of the season, here's Project Trio's take on a familiar Tchaikovsky theme.  When the trio performs at Polsky Theatre on Friday, December 7, they're almost certain to air out their version of the late Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk".

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Hearne Christopher provides another extensive recap of the Jardine's saga.

*Brad Cox participates in a brief Q-and-A with The Kansas City Star.

*Mark Lowrey reinterprets the Republic Tigers' "Buildings and Mountains" on his forthcoming album.

*Tommy Johnson Jr.'s connection to Lawrence's jazz scene is examined by The Lawrence Journal-World.  (Via Offstage.)

*One of Marilyn Maye's recent performances with the Heartland Men's Chorus was reviewed by Paul Wilson. (Via Offstage.)

*Victor & Penny are featured in this week's new episode of 12th Street Jump.

*Is a blogger battle brewing?  KCJazzLark once again takes exception to a Plastic Sax post.

*The Marshall Democrat-News reports on plans for next year's Bob James Jazz Festival.

*Matt Otto has made two sets of tracks available as free downloads.

*The man known as Phonologotron has completely revamped his blog.

*Analogue Productions of Salina, Kansas, continues to delight audiophile jazz fans.  Here's a  clip touting new reissues of classic titles on the Prestige label.

*Tweet o' the Week: MayorSlyJames- Saw jazz Harpist Lori Andrews at Blue Room tonight. She couldn't get over how friendly folks in KC are. PROUD OF YOU KC!!

*Comment o' the Week: Michael- The day that music critics call me a "musician's musician" will be a career highlight for me.

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated.

*From a press release: “Better to be lucky than smart” was a learning experience passed down from his father to local jazz and blues guitarist Tom DeMasters, as was DeMasters Insurance, LLC in Westport that Tom took over in 1983.  The CD Release Party for Better to Be Lucky will be December 10 from 7-10 p.m. at the Phoenix, 302 W. 8th St. in KCMO (no cover). Tom’s second CD features some of Kansas City’s finest, including internationally-recognized guitarist and KC transplant Jerry Hahn, Tim Whitmer, Wild Women Millie Edwards and Lori Tucker, Rick Huyett, Wayne Hawkins, Ray DeMarchi, Allen Fishell, Andy Hambleton, Bob Jolley, Mike Moreland and Joe Pruessner.

*Rob Scheps reports that he's booked the following dates for a band he'll co-lead with Jerry Dodgion: Thurs April 4- WestChase Grille; Fri. Apr. 5- Lucky Brewgrille; Sun. Apr. 7- House Concert; Wed. Apr. 10- Ottawa University; Thurs. Apr. 11- 12th St. Jump Recording Session; Thurs. Apr. 11- Take Five Coffee Bar; Fri. Apr. 12- Lucky Brewgrille; Fri. Apr 12- Blue Room; Sat. Apr. 13- Lucky Brewgrille with Ron Carlson.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Review: Kevin Mahogany and the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra's The Christmas Album and Michael Pagán's Keyboard Christmas

Two new albums by artists deeply embedded in the Kansas City jazz scene feature entirely different treatments of Christmas music.  Keyboard Christmas by Michael Pagán is a refined solo piano album.  The Christmas Album by Kevin Mahogany and The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra is a lush set of big band swing.

Anyone familiar with both Mahogany and The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra will immediately recognize that the pairing should result in splendid music.  Mahogany, perhaps the most significant male jazz vocalist from Kansas City since Big Joe Turner, is featured on half of The Christmas Album's 14 tracks.  Mahogany's lustrous voice is ideally suited for seasonal material like "I'll Be Home For Christmas."  Yet it's the instrumental selections that stand out.  An evocatively arranged version of "O Come, O Come, Emanuel" is my favorite track.  (Full disclosure- I played an incidental role in the creation of the album.)

Where Mahogany and The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra conform to expectations for holiday music, Pagán approaches the task from a less conventional angle on Keyboard Christmas.  The project's generic title and album art are misleading.  The album isn't an obvious rehash of familiar material.  It more closely resembles a jazz piano album that happens to contain seasonal material than a holiday album by a jazz pianist. 

Pagán sets the adventurous tone on the opening track by merging "So What" with "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."  I was so stunned by the pairing that I was compelled to ask Pagán if the concept was original.  He confirmed that the idea is his.  I expect Pagán's stroke of genius to be quickly adopted by musicians all over the world.  The rest of the album is similarly enchanting.  Pagán demonstrates his classical chops on "Good King Wencelas" while an elegant blues-tinged take on "Coventry Carol" evokes Kenny Barron.

While I'm glad to own a copy of The Christmas Album, only a Keyboard Christmas will be added to the small stack of holiday albums that are part of my perennial rotation. 

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Now's the Time: John Stowell

One of my favorite jazz performances of 2012 featured a band led by saxophonist Matt Otto at the Westport Coffeehouse in February.  Otto and the comfortable listening room beneath the cafe are a terrific combination.  Otto, bassist Ben Leifer and drummer Brian Steever will support guitarist John Stowell on Tuesday, December 4.  Not unlike Otto, Stowell falls into the dreaded "musician's musician" category.  Even so, receptive listeners without any formal training should be able to appreciate what promises to be a sublime evening of refined musicianship.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Bassist Johnny Hamil is featured in a brief but striking video.  (Via Tony's Kansas City.)

*Even more live Jay McShann is made available by KCJazzLark.

*Joe Klopus previews performances by Holly Hoffman, John Stowell and Lori Andrews. 

*B.A.C. Horn Doctor recently posted a series of videos.  A typical example features Matt Otto.

*A couple episodes of 12th Street Jump's "Blues In the News" have been set to video.

*A collaboration with Reach is among the videos The Project H recently uploaded to YouTube.

*Tweet o' the Week: kcstage- Plastic Sax apologizes for UMKC Conservatory review…

*Comment o' the Week: The Phonologotron- I know most J@$$ers are on the leading edge of a bell curve and prone to thinking their feces smell like roses, but goddamn that 1st amendment.  I can't help but think that perhaps I might have appreciated knowing that someone beyond my parents and roommates had attended my combo concert. As all well know, parents are mostly terribly biased in their support.  I am of the opinion that most people just graduated from high school are some of the most sheltered, over-insulated, and self-centered people I have ever met. (Even myself at that age, probably more-so than most) As a result you know what most of them need? A clout to the ear and a contusion to the ego.  Add to this the common practice of parents and teachers praising "talent" over "work" and what do you get? Thin-skinned youngsters who won't try things outside of their comfort zone for fear of looking foolish or experiencing failure.  Guess what folks, thats what improvising is all about, not fearing failure. And if you fail, which hopefully is more often than not, then f&*@ing learn something from it rather than nurse your boo-boo.  People gang up on me all the time. The most common refrain is "that dude is so lame, he needs to get hisself ina practice room yo" Does it hurt my feelings? Not especially. I either have no idea or a fairly good idea who most of you anonymes are anyway so why should it matter?  Having this conversation (more like typing this monologue) I wonder how many of you will read this, how many will gloss over it, how many will take the chance to make a dig on me, and how many will use their critical faculties to have an open mind. Maybe we can all come out the other side with a changed point of view.

*From the KU School of Music: The KU School of Music is pleased to present Jazz Vespers at the Lied Center on Thursday, December 6, 2012, 7:30pm.  This year’s concert will feature the KU Jazz Ensemble I and Jazz Ensemble II, both directed by Dan Gailey, KU Director of Jazz Studies; the KU Jazz Singers, directed by David von Kampen; and the KU Jazz Combo I, directed by Matt Otto. Also featured will be Professor Chuck Berg, saxophone and master of ceremonies; Professor Vince Gnojek, saxophone; Professor John Stephens, voice; and KU School of Music Dean Robert Walzel, clarinet and saxophone.  The program will include performances of various holiday favorites, including What Child Is This?; Sleigh Ride; O Come, O Come Emmanuel; Four Santas; Bach’s Aria; Jingle Bells; Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers; and more.  The concert is $7/general admission and $5/students and seniors, and tickets are available at the Lied Center Box Office, 785-864-2787 or at

*From a press release: Wednesday, December 5, 2012.  The Incredibly Soul-full Vocals of Ron Gutierrez, accompanied by Charles Williams and Tim Whitmer & The Consort Band.  For Ron Gutierrez, vocal versatility developed naturally through his exposure to a wide array of music at an early age. His father, saxophonist Tony Gutierrez, was a founding member of the Topeka Jazz Workshop and his mother loved country music… He’s toured as vocalist with the world-renowned Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and other top Big Bands in the country.

*From Jim Mair: Jazz by the Lake.  Thursday December 6.  Joe Cartwright Trio- Noon to 1:00pm.  Conference Center. Free.  KCKCC, 7250 State Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas 66112.

From Miles Bonny: Hola. Im back from europe to share some international soul jazz beats. Let's hang out at the new Kill Devil Club. I'm hoping this place is the beginning of the tide turning for P&L. Focus on local jazz, locally owned by Ryan Maybee who will be at the bar.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I Can Feel Your Energy From Two Planets Away

Allow me to begin with an apology.  I acknowledge that the Plastic Sax post of November 19 was ill-advised. 

I'm sorry. 

Instead of deleting the post or editing its contents, I'll let it stand as a permanent record of my poor judgement.  My intention was to remind readers that UMKC's Conservatory of Music and Dance- one of Kansas City's most significant cultural assets- regularly offers concerts that are free and open to the public.  I now recognize that I abused the institution's community service.  I hope any students I may have offended use a blogger's misguided opinions as motivation rather than as a roadblock.

While I accept the personal attacks I suffered among the numerous comments left at the post, I can't help but think that part of the animosity is rooted in our shared frustration about the diminished role jazz occupies in Kansas City.  I witnessed another prominent affront last week. 

Most everyone from Pittsburgh to Paris associates Kansas City with two things- jazz and barbecue.  If pressed to offer a third hallmark of the Kansas City experience, many would mention the Plaza's holiday lights.   That's why the fact that the annual lighting ceremony on Thanksgiving no longer features jazz seems to epitomize jazz's declining prominence.

Unless I'm mistaken, jazz acts played an integral role in the ceremony until a Glee-style ensemble provided the entertainment in 2011.  Last week The Elders performed before and after the light flip was switched.  The Elders are one of Kansas City's most popular rock-based bands for a reason, but a performance by a jazz band would have been far more inclusive.

Until jazz manages to regain a conspicuous position in Kansas City's cultural landscape, I expect the discourse at Plastic Sax to remain disconcertingly contentious.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Remembering Claude "Fiddler" Williams

I wasn't terribly concerned about my legal right to purchase alcohol in Kansas and Missouri when I turned 21.  Instead, I was relieved that I could show up at barroom performances by living legends Jay McShann and Claude "Fiddler" Williams without the risk of getting turned away.  The violinist's performances served as life-affirming experiences.  Williams' sprightly demeanor and phenomenal playing never failed to inspire me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The work of the Coda Jazz Fund is lauded by The Kansas City Star.

*Additional live recordings of a band led by Jay McShann are unveiled by KCJazzLark.

*Another saxophone associated with Charlie Parker was slated to have been auctioned last weekend.  Here's a photo of the item that was expected to sell in the range of $22,000 to $26,000.

*Pat Metheny's The Orchestrion Project will be released on January 29.

*Chris Lewis calls Rahsaan Roland Kirk the "greatest jazz performer of all time" in an extended essay.

*Joe Dimino's interview with Hubert Laws touches on Kansas City once or twice.

*Tweet o' the Week: loveleehartley #Blue Room K City, Mo. Is the bomb! Thanks folks for getting me to Dance! Great Fun @AmericanJazzMuseum

*Comment o' the Week: Hunter- Black House- I think it is in extremely poor taste to criticize students who are in the early stages of their development and performing in a school setting. I also question your judgement that a critique of a student recital is worthy reading material. Even the UMKC student newspaper doesn't cover events like this.  Let's also keep in mind that school-assigned jazz combos are notoriously bad because most of the time the players don't get to choose who they play with or what material they get to play.  Feel free to criticize people who take your money and are actually being paid to perform. Spare the young and stuggling your half-assed musings on whether or not you think they're destined for greatness.

*Is Hunter right in suggesting that writing in general, non-specific terms about a public recital of university jazz students "is in extremely poor taste?  Feel free to join the angry mob here.

(Original image of the mirror ball from the original El Torrean Club on display at the Science of Rock exhibit at Union Station by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: UMKC Student Jazz Combos at White Recital Hall

Jazz is hard.  The music's advocates in Kansas City are so accustomed to hearing performances by exquisitely refined musicians that it's easy to take their virtuosity for granted. 

I was one of about 50 people who witnessed 14 students of UMKC's Jazz Studies program struggle to master their craft as members of three ensembles at White Recital Hall on the evening of November 12.  The concert concluded with a performance of a band led by Paul Roberts

I was unable to identify a player that seemed destined for greatness but that doesn't mean that none of the students won't develop into extraordinary musicians.  It usually takes time to develop an individual voice.  There's a big difference between achieving technical proficiency and becoming an interesting musician.  One drummer, for instance, played with the lifeless efficiency of an intricate drum machine. 

Much of the problem may have been a function of the format.  The members of a couple ensembles seemed constricted by the inclinations of both their bandmates and by the presence of their instructors.  I suspect that the students are fully capable of playing with far more passion in looser settings with likeminded musicians of their own choosing. 

That's why I was disconcerted that I was laying my eyes on all but two or three of the students for the first time.  Maybe if these budding musicians had spent more time attending confident performances by the likes of Vijay Iyer and Jeff Harshbarger they wouldn't have seemed quite as uncomfortable on stage Monday. 

With the addition of a little more seasoning in the real world, I'm confident that Bobby Watson and his excellent staff at UMKC will transform at least one of these promising kids into the next Hermon Mehari or Logan Richardson. 

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Now's the Time: Les McCann

With all due respect to bandleader Javon Jackson and poet Jessica Care Moore, Les McCann is the main attraction of Saturday's show at the Blue Room.  As the embedded video indicates, the soul-jazz icon, 77, was a genuine star forty years ago.  Mercilessly panned by jazz critics for decades, McCann's crossover approach seems prescient in the post-hip hop era. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCJazzLark previews Jazz Winterlude and offers brief reviews of T.J. Martley's new solo album and the debut release of the collaboration between Beau Bledsoe and Stan Kessler.

*The Baker Jazz Festival in Baldwin City, Kansas, is this weekend.

*You're in luck if you've been hankering to hear a robot read the Wikipedia entry about Kansas City jazz.

*Tweet o' the Week: ChrisHazeltonB3- Enjoying some spacey grooves by @theprojecth at @TakeFiveCoffee. I love Ryan's writing!

*Comment o' the Week:  Low Rider- Charisma is an important ingredient to any top tier performer. Depending on how you define the word of course. Is charisma in the eye of the beholder.  Diana Krall has a lot more charisma then Dee Dee. Dee Dee is hard to watch. She has these unorthodox mannerisms and gestures that distract from the music. Shirley Horn on the other hand had great charisma. Not what you would call glamorous though.  Karrin's voice has charisma but she looks awkward on the bandstand. Too macho perhaps.She translates better on recordings.  To me, Kurt Elling and Eddie Jefferson have charisma. Eddie had some funky mannerisms but he had an endearing quality. Kevin Mahogany, not so much.  Deborah is a fantastic musician, So is Marilyn Maye.  What separates the "big names" from the not household names?  Please weigh in.

*From Jim Mair: The Kansas City High School Jazz All Stars directed by Hermon Mehari will perform Wednesday November 14 from 7-8pm at Planet Sub at 75th and Quivira.  A Jazz Jam session will take place immediately following their performance until 9:00pm. The jam session is open to any interested high school students. 20% of all sales will benefit the Kansas City High School All Stars program.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: Deborah Brown- All Too Soon

I've said it time and time again and I'll say it once more- Deborah Brown is Kansas City's premier jazz vocalist. 

Brown's superb new album All Too Soon serves to solidify my opinion.  Brown's lustrous voice is in spectacular form.  Unlike far too many so-called jazz vocalists, Brown doesn't sound like a frustrated pop artist who only recently discovered Ella Fitzgerald.  She's the genuine article.  It's no coincidence that Brown can regularly be spotted in the audience at instrumental jazz gigs.

An expert band led by Eric Ineke backs Brown on All Too Soon.  While the recording is pristine, Brown and Ineke's charges sound as if they inhabit 1962.  The project holds its own against Nancy Wilson's 1960 album Something Wonderful and Ella Fitzgerald's 1962 album Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie!.

Yet until now, the internet doesn't contain a single review of All Too Soon.  Brown remains a virtual non-entity among jazz fans- both in her home town and throughout the United States.  Brown's low stature isn't a complete mystery.  She's her own worst enemy.  Brown's woeful site doesn't list her forthcoming tour dates nor does it even mention All Too Soon.  I assume she hasn't solicited jazz journalists about the project. 

Even if the "right" people received press kits promoting All Too Soon, there's no guarantee that the album would be well-received.  The taste-makers who advocate Vijay Iyer and Jason Moran might be inclined to believe that Brown's throwback swing is passé.  That argument is playing out locally here and here.

Finally, race, age and appearance almost certainly contribute to the ongoing neglect of Brown.  As has been suggested elsewhere, non-musical considerations help explain why Diana Krall fills large venues while Dee Dee Bridgewater performs in clubs.  Meanwhile, friends and family continue to tell me about the "great new jazz singer" Nikki Yanofsky.  The Canadian teen, not coincidentally, looks as if she belongs on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine.  It's the difference between a McDonald’s McRib and a mixed plate at Gates Bar-B-Q or between Miller Lite and The Sixth Glass from Boulevard Brewing.

All Too Soon is the seasoned work of a consummate swing-based jazz vocalist. 

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Now's the Time: Julian Vaughn

In its publicity materials for the Buck O'Neil Celebration 2012, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum suggests that "Buck loved virtually every music art form but surmised them all by saying 'It's all Jazz'."  That's an excellent workaround for the divisive fact that Tuesday's "It's All Jazz" concert at the Gem Theater doesn't feature what most people would consider jazz.  I'm not most people.  Avery*Sunshine is an Erykah Badu-style neo-soul artist.  Her sensibility is entirely in keeping with the spirit of Billie Holiday.  Bassist Julian Vaughn is poised to become to the biggest smooth jazz artist with a Kansas City connection since Norman Brown. The fine double bill is close enough for jazz.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCJazzLark hauls out heavy artillery- two previously unreleased live tracks by Jay McShann- in an adamant retort to this Plastic Sax post.  My friend knows that I'm deeply devoted to McShann.  For the record, I stand by my assertion that "(s)wing-based jazz will never die, but I expect it to take a permanent seat next to Dixieland on the cultural sidelines by 2042."

*A lengthy essay by Bob McWilliams praises the efforts of Take Five Coffee + Bar and the Blue Room.

*Robert Trussell admires a Marilyn Maye performance at the Quality Hill Playhouse.

*Pat Metheny was voted "Guitarist of the Year" in the 2012 DownBeat Readers Poll.

*Bobby Watson is the subject of an interesting interview in a Pennsylvania newspaper.

*A video documents the construction of the Folly Theater's new signage.

*A stammering buffoon extolled the virtues of Pat Metheny, Deborah Brown and The Project H on KCUR's Up to Date last week.  The show about Kanas City's music scene is available as a stream or as a download.

*Tweet o' the Week: IsleOfCapriKC- #FREE LIVE Jazz and Blues EVERY SUNDAY in the Lone Wolf Bar @IsleOfCapriKC! (performance schedule)

*Comment o' the Week: Matt Leifer- As to anon's comment and the responses to it...  I think it's safe to say that the primary base of readers of this blog are A) musicians or B) jazz fans, most of whom fall in to that born before 1960 category. Aside from the fact that it's obviously not the opinion of someone who would belong to category B, people born before 1960 have higher standards of grammar and generally present themselves in a more educated way.  So, since I would put money on Anon being a musician of some sort I'd deduce that either 1) everybody just was trolled, hard, or...  2) Anon is a musician, and a plebe, destined to continue on a course of musical mediocrity until he either dies or gives it up. (The former, if we're lucky.) Now, I'm not saying that musicians that don't play jazz are plebes, I'm saying that musicians who don't RESPECT jazz are destined for f***ing failure. Whatever musical path someone is on, I don't think there's anyone worth a god damn who doesn't at least accept its validity and importance, whether or not they choose to be a practitioner of it. If you are that musically shallow and narrow minded, your music is going to suck.  I'm going to go with troll, however.

*From AfterGroove: Some of you may not be aware, but we lost our good friend (& drummer) Quinton McDonnell to cancer in August. We have planned a fund raiser/celebration event on what would have been his 46th birthday at Aftershock Bar & Grill. AfterGroove will be performing with the various great musicians who have had the opportunity to play with Quinton throughout the years. It will be an exciting evening with LOTS of great music. There will be a $5 cover and we will also be selling raffle tickets for $5 each. We have $1000.00 worth of merchandise donated by various businesses. So your odds of winning are extremely good! The lose of Quinton has left his family in a very bad financial position. Please come out and support the cause. (November 18, 5-8 p.m.)

*From Jim Mair: A full house stood and applauded the Bram Wijnands Trio long and loud at Kansas City Kansas Community College Thursday.  The second in a “Jazz by the Lake” noon concert jazz series held the first Thursday of the month, the performance drew a standing room only crowd in the College’s Conference Center adjacent to the campus lake… The Joe Cartwright Trio will be featured in the third concert of the series from noon-1 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6. The 2013 schedule will feature Diverse Feb. 5, Chris Hazelton and Friends March 7 and Tim Whitmer April 4.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: The Owen/Cox Dance Group at H&R Block City Stage Theater

The People's Liberation Big Band's monthly residency at the RecordBar is one of the most consistently rewarding events in Kansas City.  The opportunity to hear Brad Cox lead an inventive band of forward-thinking musicians in an exemplary listening room is deeply fulfilling. 

Only one thing is lacking- patrons of the Westport venue tend to sit passively even when the music demands movement.  That's just one reason the three performances by The Owen/Cox Dance Ensemble at the H&R Block City Stage Theater in Union Station during the last weekend of October were so essential. 

Motion provided the central theme of the ensemble's showcase.  Titled Theme and Variations, an all-star band led by Brad Cox performed bracing jazz-based compositions as dancers including Cox's partner Jennifer Owens displayed stunning athleticism.

The world premiere of "Theme and Variations for Nine Dancers and Nine Musicians" was the highlight of the program.  Filled with surprises, the multifaceted piece included segments with free jazz, space-age bop and exuberant studies in rhythm.  George Russell and Sun Ra would have been delighted by the contributions made by co-bassists Ben Leifer and Jeff Harshbarger.  And the choreography?  Spectacular!

Saxophonists Matt Otto and Rich Wheeler stood out on "A Tree that is a Tree is not a Tree."  The piece ranged from Gil Evans-esque passages to noisy nods to No Wave.  Fluid blue-clad dancers added congruency.  The introspective minimalism of "Long Day/Good Night" was my favorite selection while the frolicsome skronk of "I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream" served as a colorful send-off.

The Owen/Cox Dance Group will reprise their acclaimed version of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King with the People's Liberation Big Band on December 22 at the Folly Theater.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Loosening Spaces" with Lester Young

Lester Young, the most distinguished of the Count Basie Orchestra's great saxophonists, is the subject of a forthcoming documentary.  The embedded clip is a sample of Henry Ferrini's film. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Logan Richardson is a member of the Next Collective, a new group that includes other prominent young musicians like Gerald Clayton and Ben Williams.  Jazz Times reports on the group's recording plans. 

*Glenn North takes KMBZ's Joel Nichols on a tour of the American Jazz Museum.  (Via KC Stage Blog.)

*Chris Hazelton chats with Neon Jazz' Joe Dimino.

*An interview with Chuck Haddix is featured in UMKC's student newspaper.

*Jazz-inflected bassist Thundercat opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Sprint Center last Saturday.  At least one rock fan was displeased.

*Not surprisingly, the previous Plastic Sax post elicited a few strong reactions. 

*Tweet o' the Week: americanjazzkc- EMPLOYMENT VACANCY ANNOUNCMENT: Director of Finance & HR -... PDF.

*Comment o' the Week: Phonologotron- whas all dis jibber jabber?  architecture stands the test of time, but only if its materials are quality. too bad you can't make people to the same standards and tolerances.  we are damn lucky to privileged enough to get to hem and haw on and on about this "important cultural artifact" or that "syncretic historical dialogue." not only are we privileged in ways no one 100 years ago could fathom, we are also much much weaker in the head for it.  people's memories used to be much better, but then some idiot priest in the hinterlands had to go and write shit down. its been all downhill ever since for things like oral tradition. which is, when you get down to it, what everyone wants J@$$ to still be when it is most obviously not. And neither is it an exclusive refuge or destination anymore. The redcoats are coming!!! the redcoats are coming!!  so ultimately it becomes a question of, can you get your sh*t together enough to sound like something nothing everything anything?  Costanza, you and your reducto ad absurdum can go blow some V7/ii - ii7 - V7 - I .

*From a press release: Tim Whitmer’s Annual Birthday Bash featuring the Birthday Boy Himself, TIM WHITMER with Special Guests ROD FLEEMAN, CHICO BATTAGLIA & MONIQUE DANIELLE.  TIM WHITMER has been the gracious host and resident pianist since the inception of the Spirituality & All That Jazz program in 1994…  Wednesday, November 7, 2012.  Unity Temple on the Plaza. Tickets at the door only - $7.00.  Children under 16 free.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reaching Out with Shades of Jade and Vijay Iyer

The credulous questions posed by prominent Kansas City-based jazz artists dripped with skepticism last Thursday at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.   Shades of Jade was hosting an event billed as a "Youth Education Program to expose people of ages (15-28) of the relevance of Jazz music in our mainstream society and in their local community." 

A bassist questioned Shades of Jade's decision to stray from the conventional Kansas City sound.   A saxophonist wondered why Shades of Jade favored odd meters.  A vocalist rephrased his question this way- "He wants to know why you don't swing."  I was simply delighted by the opportunity to interact with the members of one of the region's most exciting bands at one of the world's most significant jazz institutions.  About two dozen people attended the event. 

Bandleader and trumpeter Josh Williams professed his admiration for Sean Jones while keyboardist Eddie Moore spoke highly of Robert Glasper.  No surprises there.  But I was thrown by bassist Dominique Sanders' shout-out to Modest Mussorgsky and drummer Julian Goff's reference to Terry Bozzio.  The members of the quartet aren't just exceedingly bright.  Their unorthodox perspectives- free from the limitations that the conservative jazz orthodoxy would impose on them- represent refreshing new artistic and commercial possibilities for the music. 

The program was particularly interesting in light of the dustup surrounding a controversial essay in the Seattle Weekly titled "Vijay Iyer and the Outreachification of Jazz."  Chris Kornelis suggests that Iyer's frequent outreach programs are futile inasmuch as "jazz lacks broad appreciation outside academia because of artists like Iyer and albums like Accelerando.  The album is fascinating, richly textured, adventurous, and full of ideas.  But it's completely inaccessible to listeners not predisposed to appreciate jazz." 

Kornelis has a point.  I witnessed the Vijay Iyer Trio's mind-bending performance at the Folly Theater on October 19.  Given the enormous (and entirely deserved) acclaim accorded the artist, all 1,050 seats should have been filled for Iyer's Kansas City debut.  Yet only 300 people attended.  A few disgruntled patrons left at intermission. 

What the hell is going on?  I think I know.

The jazz being made in 2012 can be placed in one of three categories.  The mainstream, swing-based jazz exemplified by Wynton Marsalis at the international level and in Kansas City by the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra is becoming incrementally less popular.  Once everyone born before 1960 dies, the ongoing attrition of support for the sound will finally cease.  Swing-based jazz will never die, but I expect it to take a permanent seat next to Dixieland on the cultural sidelines by 2042.

The progressive art-jazz played by Iyer, Matthew Shipp, Dave Douglas and The People's Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City will continue apace.  It seems incapable of attracting large crowds in the United States, but the creative explorations of adventurous musicians will never be silenced.

The final category is the groove-based jazz that incorporates funk, R&B and hip hop.  Glasper, Shades of Jade and even the entirety of the smooth jazz realm represent this grouping. The strain is jazz's best hope to regain a sizable audience.  Anyone who can get their head around the idea of Erykah Badu as a jazz vocalist and J Dilla as the Max Roach of his generation will agree.  The Next Collective, featuring the likes of Christian Scott and Kansas City's Logan Richardson, just issued a cover of "No Church in the Wild."  That's change I can believe in.

Of course, most artists can't be neatly pigeonholed.  Esperanza Spalding and Kansas City's Diverse, for instance, freely jump between my somewhat arbitrary classifications. 

I hope Iyer, Shades of Jade and jazz artists at every level continue to engage in "outreachification."  Perhaps such efforts will disprove my bleak prognosis.   In the meantime, I'll forward this missive to a person with skin in the game who asked me why Iyer failed to attract a larger audience in Kansas City.  Plastic Sax, after all, is yet another form of "outreachification." 

(Original image captured at an institution of higher learning by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Now's the Time: Marilyn Maye

Marilyn Maye begins a nine-day residency at Quality Hill Playhouse on Friday, October 26.  At 84, the indefatigable cabaret artist is arguably better than ever.  The lively humor Maye displays in the embedded clip will startle anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of seeing Maye perform.  Everyone else will smile knowingly. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Susan B. Wilson of KCUR's KC Currents interviewed Deborah Brown.

*Shunzo Ohno is interviewed by Joe Klopus.

*KCUR notes the 100th anniversary of the Gem Theater.

*KCJazzLark commends the promotional efforts of the Blue Room, the Majestic and Take Five Coffee + Bar.

*Ed Ward recounts Joe Turner's career for NPR's Fresh Air.  (Tip via KCJazzLark.)

*A reviewer for The Kansas City Star seemed to enjoy Vijay Iyer's concert Friday at the Folly Theater.  Phonologotronic also raves about the show.

*The Joplin Globe provides an update on Ken Rosberg's Jazz For Joplin project.

*"Ballad For an Optimist" is among the new compositions Chris Burnett will perform November 3 at Take Five Coffee + Bar.

*Chuck Haddix received an award from the Johnson County Library Foundation.

*A YouTube user named Leo Grass uploaded a batch of scratchy videos that ostensibly contain footage shot at the Kansas City Women's Jazz Festival in 1979.

*Multi-instrumentalist Mike Stover has assured me that Lauren Krum's debut at Take Five Coffee + Bar on Saturday, October 27, will be a jazz-oriented performance.  Krum is the vocalist for alt-country act The Grisly Hand.

*Plastic Sax received a shout-out from a "veteran celebrity journalist" at the 4:30 mark in a jazz blogging webinar produced by the Jazz Journalists Association.

*Tweet o' the Week: vijayiyer- the show already happened, but this 15-second promo video is fire. Vimeo video.

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- Pointless anachronism??? Stop trying to be cute. IMO the world could use more Jim Hall and less rap. I'm all over this one!

*From Stan Kessler: Passport CD Release Party.  Stan Kessler/Beau Bledsoe.  Music From Everywhere.  October 26.  Take Five Coffee Bar.  8-10.  Free.  CDs $15.

*From Jim Mair: Swing jazz at its best is on tap for the second in the “Jazz by the Lake” series at Kansas City Kansas Community College Thursday, Nov. 1.  Featuring the Bram Wijnands Trio, the free concert will be held from noon-1 p.m. in the Conference Center adjacent to the Campus Lake at the State Avenue end of the College campus at 7250 State Avenue...  He will be joined by two other KCKCC adjunct instructors, guitarist Rod Fleeman, a three-time Grammy nominee, and percussionist Jurgen Welge, a native of Germany who came to the U.S. more than 20 years ago…    The “Jazz by the Lake” series is held the first Thursday of each month. The Everette DeVan Quartet featuring Eboni Fondren drew a standing room only crowd in the opening performance. Still ahead in the series is the Joe Cartwright Trio Dec. 6, Diverse Feb. 5, Chris Hazelton and Friends March 7 and Tim Whitmer April 4.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Review: The Brian Baggett Trio- 2012

2012?  More like 1962.  That was my inital reaction upon downloading the new release by the Brian Baggett Trio.  A mainstream guitar trio in the Jim Hall tradition with standards like "God Bless the Child," "Angel Eyes" and "Stella By Starlight" seemed like a pointless anachronism.  Even so, I found myself repeatedly turning to the project as I worked at my computer. 

At first blush, 2012 seemed like little more than sedate background music.  Then I began noticing hip details.  Baggett's introductory passage to "The Days of Wine and Roses" alludes to his searing fusion and jazz-rock work.  He also threatens to break into a Pat Metheny-style jam on "Angel Eyes."

The album really opened up to me when I began listening to it on headphones.  It's beautifully recorded.   While Baggett isn't attempting to break any new ground, careful listening uncovers plenty of advanced concepts.  Perhaps most significantly, bassist Bill McKemy is incapable of being boring.  Drummer Tom Morgan, an Associate Professor of Music and the Director of Percussion Studies at Washburn University, swings with admirable subtlety.

The 45-minute album is available as a free download at Bandcamp through October.  It's also available at CD Baby, iTunes and Spotify.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Now's the Time: The Vijay Iyer Trio

In his excellent preview of the Vijay Iyer Trio's concert Friday, October 19, at the Folly Theater, Joe Klopus characterizes Iyer as the "leading light among the younger jazz generations."  The embedded clip substantiates Iyer's exemplary reputation. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Star reviewed the Rhythm & Ribs Jazz and Blues Festival.  KCJazzLark provides an account.  UMKC's University News reported on Saturday's event.

*The Pitch named Hermon Mehari "Best Collaborator".  (The publication didn't have any categories dedicated to jazz in its popular annual "Best of" edition.)

*Here's a 15-second video promoting Vijay Iyer's upcoming concert at the Folly Theater.

*Sue Vicory made an appearance on Fox 4 News to promote her Kansas City jazz and blues documentary.  Vicory was also interviewed by Steve Kraske.

*Esperanza Spalding's concert at Helzberg Hall was reviewed by Kristin Shafel Omiccioli.  Mark Edelman also offers an appreciation.

*A nice profile of Marlin Cooper was published by the Wyandotte Daily News.

*The Kansas City Star reviewed Norah Jones' concert at the Midland Theatre.

*Ben Ratliff of The New York Times reviewed a concert by Pat Metheny's Unity Band.

*Tweet o' the Week: Chris HazeltonB3- Hey @MayorSlyJames, we need to start advertising #KCJazz on a national level. Seriously, we've got something special going on in this city.

*Comment o' the Week: Matt Leifer- Anon, I'm not trying to undermine the importance of subtlety of phrasing and dynamics but not everything taught in school is relevant all the time. Maybe part of the reason younger generations don't listen to jazz is because it's too academic too much of the time. 

High artistic standards are a must, and there's a time and place for everything, but I feel that sometimes "piss and vinegar," volume and balls are more called for than the alternative. Especially at a bar marketing toward a younger demographic. Nobody at Kill Devil is listening for subtlety of phrasing, they're looking for a kickass, swinging good time and loud is par for the course in a situation like that. 

That's just my take on things.

*From Bad Cox: Composer and pianist Brad Cox will present a night of music written for his nine-piece ensemble on Sunday, October 21 at 8:00 p.m. at the RecordBar as part of Jeff Harshbarger’s twice-monthly jazz series.  The Brad Cox Nonet consists of a "double trio" configuration (two drum sets, two basses, and two tenor saxophones) augmented by three additional musicians playing percussion and keyboards… The musicians involved include saxophonists Rich Wheeler and Matt Otto, bassists Jeff Harshbarger and Ben Leifer, drummers Scotty McBee and Kent Burnham, percussionists Sam Wisman and Patrick Alonzo Conway, and Brad Cox on Rhodes electric piano.  Much of the music to be performed on the October 21 RecordBar date was written for Owen/Cox Dance Group’s upcoming fall performance, which will take place on October 26, 27 & 28 at the H&R Block City Stage Theater.

*From Take Five Coffee + Bar: Thursday, October 18, 7pm. Rob Scheps with special guest Shunzo Ohno. SPECIAL ENGAGEMENT: New York sax-man Rob Scheps has played at Take Five several times to outrageously big crowds and great reviews. This could be the best yet, as with him will be trumpeter Shunzo Ohno. Shunzo, a luminary in his own right, has played with Art Blakey, Gil Evans, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. And if you aren't a jazz historian, he's also played with Sting, Dave Matthews and David Byrne. If that wasn't enough, this man has overcome serious adversity to stay one of the best in the business. Go read his story at, then make absolutely sure you get to Take Five early to get a seat for this performance. Roger Wilder on piano, Bob Bowman on bass, Ryan Lee (back in town for a visit) on drums. No reservations accepted.

Friday, October 19, 8pm. Matt Otto Trio.  Saxophonist Matt Otto’s intensity and command as an improviser, composer and leader will keep us rolling into the weekend in the company of Ben Leifer, bass, and Mike Warren, drums.

Saturday, October 20, 8pm.  Jerry Hahn and Friends.  Renowned jazz guitarist Jerry Hahn will grace Take Five with his trio, featuring Everette DeVan on the organ and Mike Warren on drums. If you haven't seen him yet, do so. You’ll hear stories spun on guitar strings in a way few others can do.

*From Fanny Dunfee: Alaadeen Enterprises Inc. announces two recipients of this year's annual Alaadeen Awards of Excellence. The outstanding achievements of these individuals were acknowledged at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri on September 14, 2012. Kerry Strayer, artistic director for the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, presented the awards during the band's Tribute to the Count Basie Orchestra. The Alaadeen Awards Of Excellence include Jazz awards in two categories: The Alaadeen Achievement of Excellence Award and The Alaadeen Educator of Excellence Award. The recipients are recognized for their creative approach, originality and their ability to reach beyond technical excellence in Jazz music. 

The Alaadeen Achievement of Excellence Award recognizing artistic excellence in Jazz performance was presented to Dennis Winslett. Winslett began his study of the saxophone at the age of 9 in the historic jazz town of Kansas City. Upon moving to Chicago, his full intense sound and high energy free swinging style of improvisation quickly earned him a reputation as an exciting young player to watch. Returning to Kansas City he served as director of education at the American Jazz Museum. Alaadeen and Dennis spent many hours together in which Alaadeen passed on an enormous amount of information to Dennis; passing the torch, so to speak to the next generation. Alaadeen writes about Dennis in his autobiography "Dysfunctional/life journeys of a second generation jazz musician:" "I first taught him when he was in Junior High in Olathe, Kansas and now he's become an excellent saxophonist. One time he played a solo for me. He thought he really killed it. And he did, too, but I told him, 'Yeah, that's Cannonball…now I want to hear Dennis.'

The Alaadeen Educator of Excellence Award recognizing excellence in Jazz education was presented to Kevin Mahogany for his role as a teacher in developing each student's uniqueness. Mahogany began his study of music as a child with piano and later learned to play the clarinet and baritone saxophone, performing with jazz bands and teaching music while still in high school.

A former student of Alaadeen's at The Charlie Parker Foundation, Mahogany exemplifies Alaadeen's belief that the role of the teacher should help the student gain the ability, technique and knowledge to put together a convincing story to tell. With eleven CD's as a leader, and quite a few as a sideman, he has proved to be the quintessential jazz vocalist. Newsweek describes him as " the standout jazz vocalist of his generation." New Yorker magazine writer Whitney Balliet writes, "There is little Mahogany cannot do." Says the LA TIMES, " Mahogany is one of the first truly gifted male vocalists to emerge in years." As a jazz educator, Mahogany has taught at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and the University of Miami.

On presenting the awards, Kerry Strayer the Artistic Director for the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, commented: “The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra was honored to present the Alaadeen Awards of Excellence at our concert. Alaadeen was a vital part of the Kansas City jazz scene for many decades. His legacy will live on in the works and deeds of his many students and colleagues as they follow his example of passing this music on by sharing it freely with others. Congratulations to Kevin and Dennis.”

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)