Monday, December 30, 2013

The Top Jazz-Related Stories and Trends of 2013

Bird Lives. 
Two new biographies of Charlie Parker- Chuck Haddix's Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker and Stanley Crouch's Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker- offered new insights into Kansas City's most famous son.

On Broadway.
The recent opening of Broadway Jazz Club- a venue dedicated to mainstream Kansas City jazz- is enormously encouraging.

The maturation of the Green Lady Lounge into a popular establishment for jazz fans and upscale drinkers alike has been very satisfying.  And Take Five Coffee + Bar is now firmly established as one of the area's elite listening rooms.  The Kill Devil Club, however, shifted away from a jazz format.  Jazz has become a niche offering at the Phoenix.  The West Chase Grille closed this year while JJ's literally blew up.

Kansas City became a lesser place when Kerry Strayer died on August 1.  He was an extraordinary baritone saxophonist, bandleader, teacher, and all-around great guy.

Mired in minor festivals.
In a June editorial, KC Jazz Lark suggested that Kansas City is "mired in minor festivals."  He's right.  The Prairie Village Jazz Festival, the 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival, the Corporate Woods Jazz Festival and Jazz Winterlude are terrific, but none is a "major" jazz-oriented festival. 

Art jazz.
Commercially problematic but artistically fruitful aspects of jazz were explored at this year's Black Lab: A New Music Festival and monthly at the RecordBar and Grunauer.

Atypical flareups of violence and a challenging business environment bedeviled the Jazz District in 2013.

Series sustenance.
Every time I go to a poorly attended concert by a renowned artist in the Jammin' at the Gem and the Folly Jazz series, I consider it a small miracle that the programs continue in spite of the lack of support.  I'm very grateful for the organizers' perseverance. 

When Aryana Nemati served as a last-minute sub in Harry Connick's band at a concert at the Midland theater, she floored the star with a sterling solo.  Anyone familiar with the high quality of the artists who've honed their skills at the UMKC Conservatory in recent years wasn't surprised.  Nemati is just one of dozens of remarkable young players in Kansas City.

Secret Story.
It seems silly to suggest that a man who won his twentieth Grammy Award this year is under-appreciated, but Pat Metheny still doesn't receive the respect he deserves from "serious" jazz listeners.  His 2013 releases Tap: The Book of Angels, Vol. 20 and The Orchestrion Project are extraordinary.

I conducted similar exercises in 2012 and 2011.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Now's the Time: Drew Williams

Drew Williams' site prominently features an endorsement from Doug and Lori Chandler of Take Five Coffee + Bar.  The couple asserts that Williams' "playing is driving, thoughtful and expertly balanced" and that his compositions are "challenging in their use of time and angular lines, but at the same time very accessible."  Williams returns to Take Five on Saturday.   He'll be accompanied by saxophonist Tim Aubuchon, guitarist Scott Bein, bassist Bill McKemy and drummer Brendan Culp.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Mike Hendricks reports on long-term plans for the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*The Kansas City Star published a review of the "The Nutcracker" by the Owen/Cox Dance Company and the People's Liberation Big Band.

*The Magic Jazz Fairy returns to KC Jazz Lark's blog.

*Here's the latest episode of "Blues In the News" from 12th Street Jump.

*Joe Dimino of Neon Jazz interviewed Suzanna Smith, a Bay Area-based vocalist.

*Tweet o' the Week: Michael Shults- Hobbyist musicians have totally distorted laypeople's views of my profession.

*From a press release: Drummer extraordinaire Matt Wilson kicks off the tour to celebrate his new CD Gathering Call with concerts in St. Louis and Columbia, MO.  Joined by special guest John Medeski on piano, Wilson performs with his quartet featuring Chris Lightcap on bass, Kirk Knuffke on cornet, and Jeff Lederer on tenor/soprano saxophones and clarinet.  Wednesday, January 22 - Saturday, January 25, at Jazz at the Bistro… St. Louis. One set each night beginning at 7:30 p.m. Admission: $33 Wednesday and Thursday; $38 Friday and Saturday; $15 students...  Sunday, January 26 at Murry's… Columbia, MO.  Special fundraising concert for the We Always Swing Jazz Series. Sets at 3:30 and 7:00 p.m. Tickets: general admission $35 - $50; students $25 - $40.

*From Take Five Coffee: Friday, December 27, 8 pm:  Kevin Cerovich and the Ben Leifer Quartet- Kansas City native Kevin Cerovich is an award-winning trombonist and one of those players whose return gets the other musicians in town excited. We're thrilled to have him rock the house in the excellent company of Ben Leifer (bass), John Kizilarmut (drums) and Mike Herrera (sax). $5 cover.  Saturday, December 28, 8 pm:  Drew Williams Quintet- This is becoming an annual event - welcome Drew Williams back to Take Five to share his latest whimsical compositions.  Drew (sax) is the leader of the famed Drew Williams Nonet in NYC, and he has blown our minds every time he comes to play. This time he's accompanied by Bill McKemy (bass), Tim Aubuchon (tenor), Brendan Culp (drums) and Scott Bein (guitar).  Sunday, December 29, 7 pm:  Matt Chalk Trio- Our first try at this was cancelled due to the ice, so here's another chance to get close to the fire and hear one of the most intriguing young saxophonists to come out of KC in a long time. A hearty welcome home for the holidays to Matt Chalk, who is presently killing it in New York City. Tonight he's bringing Ben Leifer (bass) and Ryan Lee (drums) to round out an intimate trio with tremendous power. $5 cover.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Concert Review: Kenton Christmas Carols at Southminster Presbyterian Church

I've never heard Stan Kenton's Christmas album.  Furthermore, it never occurred to me that I might actually enjoy it. 

The presence of some of Kansas City's top brass musicians in an ensemble consisting entirely of musicians donating their time lured me to Southminster Presbyterian Church yesterday afternoon.

Organized by trombonist Lindsey Williams and serving as a benefit for Meyer Music's Band of Angels program, the 50-minute track-by-track rendition of Kenton's album by the Holly and Ivy Brass was delightful.  About 150 people attended the performance.

Kenton's distinctively grandiose style lent itself to the familiar seasonal material.  Free from saxophones, Williams characterized the arrangements as an "explosion of brass."  The contributions of trumpeter Jay Sollenberger, a veteran of Kenton's orchestra, added luster to the occasion. 

The musicians' sterling effort is almost certainly one of the most meaningful Christmas presents I'll receive this season.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Now's the Time: Steve Cardenas

Guitarist Steve Cardenas will lead bands at Take Five Coffee + Bar on Friday, December 20, and at the Blue Room on Saturday, December 21.  Saxophonist Matt Otto and bassist Bob Bowman perform with Cardenas on both nights.  Ryan Lee plays drums on Friday and Brian Steever plays drums on Saturday.  Cardenas is captured playing with an all-star band at this year's Heineken Jazzaldia in the oddly-edited embedded video. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Bobby Watson is slated to appear on KCUR's Up To Date program on Thursday, December 19.

*"It seems that right now, we have more places to hear music and more good bands than we had even a year ago," Joe Klopus asserted in his column last week.

*KC Jazz Lark places the significance of Paseo Hall into historical context.

*Steve Kraske interviewed Ben Sidran on KCUR's Up To Date.  A blogger reviewed Sidran's concert at White Theatre.

*The Pitch recommends upcoming performances by Steve Cardenas at the Blue Room and Take Five Coffee.

*Chris Burnett takes note of Google's free tools.

*Tweet o' the Week: Steven Lambert- Tonight 10 to 1 @thesoundkc plays @GreenLadyLounge for their 1 year anniversary!!!!

*Comment o' the Week: Mike Metheny- This is a very good band!

*From the American Jazz Museum: Thurs. Dec. 19 - KC MAD! Musician's Appreciation Day! Elder Statesmen of KC Jazz 5-7 p.m.; Carl McComas Reichl 7:30-11 p.m., Free. Fri. Dec. 20 - Charles Williams with Lisa Henry featuring the music of Ramsey Lewis, $10… Sat. Dec. 21 - Music of Thelonious Monk - Matt Otto Quartet featuring Steve Cardenas, $10. Mon. Dec. 23 - Everette DeVan, Free.

*From Take Five Coffee: Friday, December 20, 8 pm:  Steve Cardenas and Matt Otto- Kansas City native guitarist Steve Cardenas is legendary in the world of jazz. He has recorded with some of our favorites, such as Paul Motian, Charlie Haden and Joey Baron, just to name a few.  Tonight he's at Take Five with Matt Otto on sax, Ryan Lee on drums and Bob Bowman on bass, playing the music of Thelonious Monk, among others. Make plans accordingly. $5 cover.  Saturday, December 21, 8 pm:  Matt Chalk Trio-  A hearty welcome home for the holidays to sax wonder Matt Chalk, who is presently killing it in New York City. Tonight he's bringing Ben Leifer (bass) and Ryan Lee (drums) to round out an intimate trio with tremendous power. $5 cover.  Sunday, December 22, 8 pm:  New Jazz Order presents Ellington's Nutcracker- Clint Ashlock brings in the New Jazz Order Big Band (yes, a full big band) with an elite holiday treat for you. Come join us for Duke Ellington's brilliant interpretation of a holiday favorite, and let the Sugar Plum Fairies bounce! $10 cover.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Plastic Sax's Top Albums of 2013

Plastic Sax's Favorite Kansas City-Related Jazz Albums of 2013
1. Pat Metheny- Tap: John Zorn's Book of Angels, vol. 20. (Plastic Sax review)
2. Bobby Watson- Check Cashing Day. (Plastic Sax review)
3. Pat Metheny- The Orchestrion Project. (Plastic Sax review)
4. Mark Lowrey- Tangos for 18th Street. (Plastic Sax review)
5. Frank Wess- Magic 101.
6. Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle- Freedom of Expression. (Plastic Sax review)
7. Alaturka- Yalniz. (Plastic Sax review)
8. Eldar Djangarov Trio- Breakthrough.
9. Karrin Allyson- Yuletide Hideaway. (Plastic Sax review)
10. The Paul Shinn Trio- Reason Pure. (Plastic Sax review)

Plastic Sax's Favorite Jazz Albums of 2013 From Elsewhere
1. Dave Holland- Prism
2. Terri Lyne Carrington- Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue
3. Gary Burton- Guided Tour
4. Joe Lovano & Us Five- Cross Culture
5. Orrin Evans- It Was Beauty
6. Ben Goldberg- Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues
7. Brad Goode- Chicago Red
8. Rudresh Mahanthappa- Gamak
9. Damir Out Loud- Graduation Day
10. Ben Wolfe- From Here I See

Similar year-end listings were published at Plastic Sax in 2012, 2011 and 2010.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Now's the Time: Parallax

Stan Kessler's Parallax returns to Take Five Coffee + Bar on Saturday, December 14.  The ensemble is one of Kansas City's most interesting jazz bands.  I reviewed Parallax's performance at Westport Coffeehouse in January.  Additional footage of much of that gig is posted here.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Joyce Smith of The Kansas City Star reports on the food and beverage options at the Broadway Jazz Club.

*The shocking history of Paseo Hall is examined by KC Jazz Lark.

*The Pitch recommends Logan Richardson's performance at the Blue Room.

*The New York Times notes the new biographies of Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch and Chuck Haddix.

*Blog post from Chris Burnett: "You are an artist AND a business".  Burnett also posted his top albums of 2013.

*Jeff Harshbarger is among the participants in The Kansas City Star's year-end top albums list poll.

*Regina Carter will perform at Helzberg Hall on March 23, 2014.

*Tweet o' the Week: Brian Scarborough: Just came across this last night. Thanks for the shout out Plastic Sax! #kcjazz

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous: Good post. I with you when you say, "I'm not in the market for a $29 dollar filet mignon or a $12 martini..." me neither. I will gladly pay a reasonable cover charge and buy (reasonable) drinks but they can keep the high priced food.

*From the American Jazz Museum: Convergence in Blue. Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle. Thursday, December 12, 2013 • 7 p.m. Blue Room Jazz Club. This special Jazz Showcase in the award-winning Blue Room jazz club will fuse performing and visual artists in spontaneous performance. Three visual artists will be commissioned to create original works as the music evolves in collaboration with the performance work from the jazz artists on the stage. Three separate visual art stations will be created to complement the performance space within the Blue Room, thus giving the audience an intimate connection to the creative process at work.  This event is free and open to the public.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Begin the Beguine: The Broadway Jazz Club

After attending a media event at the Broadway Jazz Club last week, I can confirm that the chatter about the resurrection of Jardine's is justified.  The new venue at 3601 Broadway has the look and feel of the shuttered jazz venue.  The Broadway Jazz Club officially opened on Friday, December 6.

Two prominent bloggers offer contrasting perspectives.  Paul Wilson's endorsement of the Broadway Jazz Club notes that the sound system is excellent.  I'll add that the food I sampled was tasty and that the staff was charming during my initial visit.

In a hypercritical editorial, Tony's Kansas City suggests that a "glut" of jazz venues showcase "Kansas City's signature but mostly dead art form."  While Tony is just trying to be funny, I am concerned that much the core constituency of Jardine's may be unwilling to drive 1.4 miles north into midtown.

The old Jardine's set could afford to dine at the Broadway Jazz Club.  I'm not in the market for a $29 dollar filet mignon or a $12 martini, but I might be tempted by the $11 pork tenderloin sandwich and a beer or a $14 roasted barbabietole salad and a glass of tap water.  I'm also eager to discover how jazz fans reluctant to order food will be treated.

I'm not likely to get an answer this week.   Because there are no calendar listings, I'm unable to plan my next visit. 

Footage of Megan Birdsall singing "Love For Sale" on Saturday captures of bit of the ambiance of the Broadway Jazz Club.

(Original image of Mark Lowrey, Dominique Sanders and Brian Steever by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Now's the Time: Brian Scarborough

I first took notice of Brian Scarborough a year or two ago.  After the trombonist took a daring solo during a People's Liberation Big Band performance at the RecordBar, I leaned into someone at an adjoining table.

"Who is that kid?" I asked.

If the measure of a man is the company he keeps, Scarborough is a burgeoning giant. 

He performs with Matt Otto, Danny Embrey, Jeff Harshbarger and Brandon Draper in the embedded video.  On Friday, December 6, at Take Five Coffee + Bar, Scarborough will appear a similar lineup of Kansas City's jazz elite.  His band will include Otto, Harshbarger, Draper and T.J. Martley.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The invaluable new site Bobby Watson Speaks contains "Deleted Scenes from A Candid Conversation with Bobby Watson."

*In a damning editorial, KC Jazz Lark characterizes initial plans for the 18th & Vine museum complex as "an oasis ringed by blight."

*Jazz Tokyo offers a seemingly comprehensive look at Chuck Haddix's biography of Charlie Parker.

*A site dedicated to the genealogy and a forthcoming reunion of the Moten family is of interest to Kansas City jazz fans. Here are the pages for Bennie and Buster Moten. (Tip via KC Jazz Lark.)

*Downbeat reviewed Bobby Watson's Check Cashing Day.

*A Ted Talk given by Harold O'Neal two months ago is online.

*A preview of a concert featuring Bram Wijnands notes the Dutchman's interesting biography. Chuck Berg reviewed the performance in Topeka.

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

*Tweet o' the Week: Brian Scarborough- @theprojecth sounded great tonight out at Take Five. Phenomenal playing and writing. Glad I made it out. #kcjazz

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- I wouldn't say nobody wants the AJM, but currently it is less than impressive. I like the Blue Room (part of the AJM) and go once or twice a month. I haven't been in the museum for about three years as there's not much new. I wish the museum would do more special events combining education and performance…

*From Take Five Coffee + Bar: (O)ur December is fierce.  Every date but one features an out-of-town artist… We've dubbed it "Homecoming Month".  Friday, December 6, 8 pm:  Brian Scarborough Quintet- Kansas City native composer and trombonist Brian Scarborough is back home from his studies in Chicago and he's bringing a ferocious quintet to take over Take Five: Jeff Harshbarger on bass, Matt Otto on saxophone, TJ Martley on keys and Brandon Draper on drums. $5 cover.  Saturday, December 7, 8 pm:  Clint Ashlock with Ben Markley- Denver pianist Ben Markley… will perform Saturday. Coming down from the mountains with Ben that night is saxophonist Josh Quinlan, instructor of Jazz Studies at the University of Colorado. A powerhouse threesome of Kansas City talent will help us welcome the guests from the west - trumpeter Clint Ashlock, drummer John Kizilarmut and bassist Ben Leifer. $5 cover.

*From a press release: Spirituality & All That Jazz. First Wednesday of every month. Unity Temple on the Plaza Tickets at the door only - $7.00. Children under 16 free. Wednesday, December 4, 2013: Magical Musical Moments with vocalist Bukeka Shoals and Tim Whitmer & The Consort Band. Wednesday, February 5, 2014: The incomparable Joe Cartwright, Pianist with Tim Whitmer & The Consort Band.

*From a press release: Kansas City’s newest jazz destination, The Broadway Jazz Club, officially opens its doors to the public on Friday, Dec. 6 with a grand opening celebration from 4 p.m. – 1 a.m. and an encore celebration scheduled Saturday, Dec. 7 from 9 p.m. – 1 a.m. The Broadway Jazz Club is proud to create a destination that is celebrating and reviving Kansas City’s musical roots and rich jazz heritage. The weekend will also introduce the complete menu offerings prepared by The Broadway Jazz Club Chef Richard Martin. Friday, Dec. 6: The Broadway Jazz Club will kick its grand opening into full swing with a full night of live music featuring the Dan Doran Band, a high energy, local KC jump blues and jazz band. A special happy hour with drink specials is planned from 4 – 8 pm. Saturday, Dec. 7: The local jazz celebration continues at The Broadway Jazz Club on Saturday night with the musical talents of local songstress Megan Birdsall from 9pm – 1 am. 

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Album Review: Bobby Watson- Check Cashing Day

Decades removed from a significant place in the cultural mainstream, an alarming proportion of jazz has grown appallingly obsequious.  It's remarkable, consequently, when a prominent jazz artist incorporates explicit social commentary into his or her music.

Check Cashing Day, the latest album by Bobby Watson, is certain to upset some listeners.  Watson's political stance, combined with his formidable artistic aptitude, make Check Cashing Day one of the most important jazz albums by a Kansas City-based artist in recent years.

The daring project contains spoken word segments by poet Glenn North that directly address the political undercurrent that's fueled much of Watson's work.  In his famous 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. suggested that "we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check."  North and Watson take the concept figuratively and literally.  "The bill is up to four trillion dollars now and man, it's way past due," North implores.  "What do I have to do to get my forty acres and a mule?"

Reparations, ongoing racial disparities and unfulfilled promises are recurring themes.  Yet on "Revival (Ovedia)," North implies that spiritual redemption can be found at a jazz club at 18th & Vine.  A person who overheard me listening to Check Cashing Day protested that North's contribution to the album is "corny."  Heard out of context, the spoken word segments might be off-putting.  Within the framework of the entire album, however, North's work is powerful.

Most of the instrumentals are the sort of memorable hard bop compositions that have become Watson's trademark.  The opening track "Sweet Dreams," for instance, exemplifies Watson's gift for melody and love of swing.   The core "I Have a Dream Project" band- trumpeter Hermon Mehari, pianist Richard Johnson, bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Eric Kennedy- sparkle throughout.  "Seekers of the Sun (Son)," a track featuring vocalist Pamela Baskin-Watkins, resembles a vintage Lonnie Liston Smith selection.  Horace Washington and Karita Carter also make valuable contributions. 

The momentous album may irritate a few of Watson's longtime fans, but the achingly beautiful and momentous Check Cashing Day is an essential addition to Watson's esteemed discography. 

(Original bleary image of Bobby Watson by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Now's the Time: Ernest Melton

During the first hour of the 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival on October 12, I asked Gerald Dunn, the American Jazz Museum's Director of Entertainment, for tips on any under-the-radar performances I might otherwise miss.  He suggested that I look into a kid by the name of Ernest Melton who was slated to perform with a youth band.  Gerald was right.  Melton, 17, floored me.  Melton's aggressive attack is showcased at the beginning of this new video.  Drummer Ryan Lee and keyboardist Eddie Moore sparkle throughout the footage. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Star's lengthy examination of the Jazz District's struggles and an in-depth look at the state of the American Jazz Museum were written by Mike Hendricks.

*KC Jazz Lark continues his invaluable "What the Jazz Museum Was Going To Be" series.

*A blogger notes that Chuck Haddix has unearthed two previously undiscovered recordings featuring Charlie Parker.  (Tip via Tony's Kansas City.)

*Kin (←→), a new album by the Pat Metheny Unity Group ( Metheny, Chris Potter, Antonio Sanchez, Ben Williams and multi-instrumentalist Giulio Carmassi), will be released by Nonesuch on February 4, 2014.

*The Pitch takes note of the physical release of Bobby Watson's Check Cashing Day.

*The Kansas City Star published a review of the Kenny Barron Trio's concert at the Folly Theater.

*The push behind the construction of a "Jazz Walk of Fame" seems to be gaining momentum.

*The Kansas City Star reports that the new executive director of the Lied Center is the former vice president of concerts and programming at Jazz at the Lincoln Center.

*An amusing moment at the 3:00 mark of a video produced by Pharrell William's "Other" channel- "I've been listening to- what's that show?- "Bird Flight" on the radio early in the morning. It's that radio show all about Charlie Byrd."

*Tweet o' the Week: Heinlein Music- 98.1 going to town on 18th & Vine right now. So far my favorite quote has been, "I've never been there but maybe 20 people have been there."

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous: I think it's a shame you feel the need separate the local from the touring. Hold everyone to the same standard and stop stacking the deck for local players. Of course if your standard is simply listing as many musicians as you can, by all means keep doing that.  Seriously, you mentioned seeing a dinner gig at the Majestic as one of your top shows? Gotta shoe-horn in Mark Lowry I suppose. The fact that you don't include dates is the big give away that you're just listing people. PLBB at the RecordBar? They play every month and their shows vary in quality depending on whose there and what the material was. Truly a facile and completely meaningless list.

*You can talk as much as you like as you're eating a $45 steak.

*From a press release: The University of Kansas School of Music proudly presents the 12th Annual Jazz Vespers concert at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 12, 2013 at the Lied Center of Kansas.  The concert will feature KU Jazz Ensemble I and Jazz Ensemble II, directed by Dan Gailey, KU director of Jazz Studies; KU Jazz Singers, directed by David von Kampen, D.M.A. student in composition; and KU Combo I, directed by Matt Otto, KU lecturer in Jazz Studies. Also featured will be KU professor of Film and Media Studies Chuck Berg, tenor saxophone; KU professor of saxophone, Vince Gnojek, saxophone; and KU School of Music dean Robert Walzel, clarinet. The program features jazz arrangements of holiday favorites by some of the most celebrated writers in jazz including Duke Ellington, Gil Evans and Ernie Wilkins. The program includes The First Noel; It Came Upon a Midnight Clear; The Little Drummer Boy; It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year; Winter Wonderland; Sugar Rum Cherry; Jingle Bells; and more.  Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for children, seniors and students. Tickets can be purchased at the Lied Center Ticket Office, by phone at 785-864-2787 or online at

*From Take Five Coffee: Friday, November 29, 8 pm:  Project H- Friday we host the huge ensemble sound of a septet that features all original compositions and ridiculous talent. Trombonist and composer Ryan Heinlein leads the way, pushing the swings on a jazz playground with his miscreant playmates - Clint Ashlock (trumpet), Dominique Sanders (bass), Andrew Ouellette (keys), Matt Leifer (drums), Jeff Stocks (guitar) and Brett Jackson (sax). It's like the Little Rascals with horns, sort of. $5 cover.  Saturday, November 30, 8 pm:  Sons of Brasil- Slip a little samba seasoning into your holiday feast! The Sons know how to heat up a cold night - Stan Kessler (trumpet), Danny Embrey (guitar), Greg Whitfield (bass) and Doug Auwarter (drums) are the absolute best around at what they do, and what they do is deliver spell-binding grooves in the Brazilian style $5 cover.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Best Jazz Performances of 2013

There's still plenty of live music to be experienced in 2013.  Logan Richardson is returning to Kansas City in a few weeks.  And I intend to make the Green Lady Lounge my home away from home in December.  Even so, 2013 has already been an immensely rewarding year for jazz fans.  Here are two lists of the performances I enjoyed most.

Locally-based musicians
1. The People's Liberation Big Band- RecordBar
2. Lisa Henry- The Conference Center at Kansas City Kansas Community College
3. Matt Otto/Ben Pinder Quartet- Westport Coffee House
4. Jeff Harshbarger Quartet- Take Five Coffee
5. The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra with Randy Brecker- Helzberg Hall
6. Rich Wheeler Quartet- Take Five Coffee
7. Vine Street Rumble- Gem Theater
8. Alaturka- Recital Hall at the Carlsen Center
9. Mark Lowrey, Bob Bowman and Sam Wisman- The Majestic
10. Andy McGhie Quartet- Prairie Village Jazz Festival

Touring musicians
1. Julian Lage and Jorge Roeder- Yardley Hall
2. Miguel Zenón and the Rhythm Collective- Blue Room
3. Kurt Elling- Gem Theater
4. Dave Douglas Quintet- Blue Room
5. Eliane Elias Trio- Folly Theater
6. Jerry Dodgion with Rob Scheps- Take Five Coffee
7. James Carter- Folly Theater
8. Caroline Davis- Green Lady Lounge
9. Kenny Barron Trio- Folly Theater
10. Kenny Garrett- Folly Theater

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Now's the Time: Kenny Barron

Were it not for some slight sonic distortion, the embedded video of Kenny Barron and Dave Holland playing Charlie Parker's "Billie's Bounce" might be my favorite thing on the internet.  Barron performs at the Folly Theater on Friday, November 22.  He'll be accompanied by bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Lee Pearson.  Joe Klopus' previewed the concert.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCPT uploaded an undated video profile of the Mutual Musicians Foundation to YouTube. 

*T.J. Martley and Gerald Spaits were interviewed by Joe Dimino for Neon Jazz.

*KC Jazz Lark shares illuminating source material as he reexamines the origins of the American Jazz Museum.

*The Kansas City Star reviewed Harry Connick's concert at the Midland theater.

*Chris Burnett reaffirms his commitment to the American Jazz Museum.

*Images of a graveside tribute of Bennie Moten are part of a slideshow of shots taken by photographers for The Kansas City Star.

*The physical edition of Bobby Watson's Check Cashing Day has a new street date of November 26.

*Tweet o' the Week: Ron Gutierrez- I am so, so pleased to announce this Friday's concert! After a few years of planning, the time has come!. (link)

*From Dan Thomas: Dan Thomas and Voyage will be presenting original music and some brand new music in remembrance of JFK at the Blue Room, 18th and Vine, on Nov 22nd from 8:30pm-12:30am.  The evening will mark the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination and we will provide some musical commentary on what he and his legacy has/can inspire us to do. Wayne Hawkins – Piano, Forest Stewart – Bass, Mike Warren – Drums.

*From a press release: Spirituality & All That Jazz.  Magical Musical Moments with vocalist Bukeka Shoals performing with Tim Whitmer & the Consort Band. Wednesday, December 4, 2013. 7 p.m. Unity on the Plaza. $7.

*From the American Jazz Museum: Join us on Thursday, December 19th, 2013 at the American Jazz Museum in the Blue Room for "KC MAD - Kansas City Musician's Appreciation Day!" It's free! Food and drink.  Truman Medical Centers to provide free assessment screening.  Artist career resources.  Live music by Elderstatesmen of KC Jazz from 5pm - 7pm.  Live music by Carl McComas Reichl from 7:30pm - 11pm.  More activities and items to be announced.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Frank Wess: Magic 101

Most outlets, Plastic Sax included, did a poor job of acknowledging the passing of Frank Wess.  The NEA Jazz Master died on October 30.  A meager post at an obscure jazz blog can't begin to do Wess justice, of course, but it's better than nothing.

Wess, a key component of the version of the Count Basie Orchestra that's most fondly remembered today, was born in Kansas City in 1922.  His flute solo begins at the 1:25 mark of the embedded video.

As I noted in a 2011 entry, Wess remained active.  Rather than listing a few of the hundreds of dates on which Wess applied his unflagging sense of swing, I'll focus on his spectacular new album Magic 101.

Recorded in 2011 and released in June, Wess is backed by pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Winard Harper on  the ballad-heavy recording.  An elegant take on "Easy Living" is among the tracks that make my knees buckle.

Wess' unaccompanied version of "All Too Soon" closes the album.  Hauntingly beautiful and unspeakably poignant, it serves as an apt summation of Wess' singular contribution.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Now's the Time: The James Ward Band

The James Ward Band, also known as JWB, returns to the Blue Room on Saturday, November 16.  As depicted in the embedded slide show, the smooth jazz ensemble frequently includes musicians who are familiar to mainstream jazz audiences.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The American Jazz Museum has a free iPhone app designed to let users "always know what is going on in The Blue Room at the American Jazz Museum and at the American Jazz Museum."

*KC Jazz Lark reviews the A Kansas City Trumpet Summit album.

*The Prairie Village Post reports that the 2013 edition of the Prairie Village Jazz Festival lost money.

*The Kansas City Kansan provides news of an Ahmad Alaadeen-related event.  A press release for the Kansas City Kansas Public Library's "Bop In the Dotte" program contains additional details.

*A Matt Carrillo gig at Take FIve Coffee + Bar is recommended by The Pitch.

*Here's the latest episode of 12th Street Jump's "Blues In the News".

*Tweet o' the Week: KCK Public Library- Join us for a free Kansas City Jazz Orchestra Concert and Barbecue Dinner! Reserve your tickets now. #bopinthedotte

*From Take Five Coffee: Friday, November 15, 8 pm: MBird- …So many evenings singer Megan Birdsall has delighted us with her interpretations of jazz standards, but the songbird has a rock side, too. Fronting her alter-ego quartet MBird - featuring Michael Andrew Smith (guitar), Ben Leifer (bass) and Matt Leifer (drums)… $5 cover.  Saturday, November 16, 8:45 pm:  Matt Carrillo Quartet- Sax man Matt Carillo is back in Kansas City for a brief visit, and we have him at Take Five for his debut performance in the city's finest listening room. Matt's saxophone artistry will be supported by bassist Micah Herman, Mark Lowrey on keys and Brad Williams on drums… EDIT- SUNDAY'S EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED Sunday, November 17, 7 pm:  Shults and Schlamb- …Peter Schlamb on the vibraphone and Michael Shults on saxophone… $3 cover.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Album Review: Karrin Allyson- Yultetide Hideaway

Hearing Karrin Allyson interpret familiar holiday material on her new Yuletide Hideaway album is revelatory. 

While jazz fans- particularly her advocates in her former base of Kansas City- have long extolled Allyson's voice, renditions of songs including "Winter Wonderland" and "Christmas Time is Here" cast Allyson in an entirely new light.  Allyson is a terrific pop vocalist. 

The format never strays from jazz, but Allyson keeps the focus on the songs.  Her scatting on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," for instance, is restrained.  The hitch in Allyson's voice adds just the right dollop of spice to moth-eaten fare that might otherwise seems trite.  In a similar fashion, Rod Fleeman's exquisite guitar work enhances each melody.  The result sounds more like Barbra Streisand than Ella Fitzgerald. 

It's difficult to imagine anyone not appreciating Allyson's light touch on Yuletide Hideaway.  The album deserves to become a perennial holiday classic.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Now's the Time: Jeff Harshbarger

Jeff Harshbarger, Plastic Sax's 2012 Person of the Year, leads a jam session Monday, November 11, at the Blue Room.  He performs with Alaturka in the embedded footage.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Frank Wess, a Kansas City native and one of Count Basie's primary collaborators in the "New Testament" band, has died.

*The Pitch reports on the traffic accident that damaged the Green Lady Lounge.

*A 38-word report from KCTV notes that "(a)n armed suspect went into the Blue Room."  (Via Tony's Kansas City.)

*Pat Metheny was voted into the magazine's Hall of Fame and named as the top guitarist in the Downbeat Reader's Poll.  The native of Lee's Summit is on the cover of the December issue.

*Greg Carroll was interviewed by a representative of Time Warner Cable.

*Recent performance photos of Kelley Hunt and the Messenger Legacy Band are shared by KC Jazz Lark.

*Tweet o' the Week: Pat Metheny- Hey Everyone - Click this link for a downloadable and printable schedule of the upcoming US tour: (link).

*Comment o' the Week: Brian- I play at Free State Brewery in Lawrence every Friday night. It's a great exercise in focus, humility and also a good spot to try out new ideas. Not to mention the steady income.

*Spotted at the site of the Kansas City Public Library: Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, Wednesday, November 20, 2013, 6:30pm @ Central Library… Biographer Terry Teachout sheds new light on this creative genius in a discussion of his new book about the grandson of a slave who wrote such classics as “Mood Indigo” and “Sophisticated Lady.”  Teachout, a Kansas City resident from 1975 to 1983, is the author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken, and the play Satchmo at the Waldorf. For The Wall Street Journal, he is drama critic and the author of “Sightings,” a column about the arts in America. He is the critic-at-large at Commentary, and writes the blog About Last Night.

*From Jim Mair: Don't miss Jazz by the Lake! This Thursday, November 7, 2013, at the Conference Center, Noon to 1:00. Come and enjoy Kansas City Swing with the Tommy Ruskin / Julie Turner Quartet (a Bop in the Dotte Preview).

*From Jim Mair: The Kansas City Kansas Community College Jazz Program will be displaying its jazz talents during an upcoming performance at the Green Lady Lounge. The showcase, which will feature the jazz band, jazz combos, vocal jazz ensembles and student jazz soloists, will be from 7 to 10 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Ave. in Kansas City. The concert will be free and open to the public.  “I attend performances at the Green Lady regularly. I simply talked to the owner, John Scott, and asked about our college ensembles performing there,” said John Stafford, director of Choral Music at KCKCC. “He placed us on a Monday night (when they’re usually not open) and is advertising the performance as a recital."

*From the American Jazz Museum: Convergence: Jazz, Films, and the Visual Arts, Grand Opening Reception and Keynote- Friday, November 8, 2013, 6 p.m.  A collaboration between the American Jazz Museum and the David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland, Convergence shines a light on more than 60 significant works of African American art that have a strong connection to the jazz aesthetic in combination with rare jazz film footage capturing the art as it evolved in the early part of the 20th century.  At our grand opening reception, you’ll enjoy live music and a keynote by Dr. Robert O’Meally of Columbia University. His talk, “Looking at the Music: Jazz and the Visual Arts,” considers jazz music as a model for the structures, rhythms, and colors of contemporary visual art. What does it mean to visualize jazz?

*From Take Five Coffee + Bar: Thursday, November 7, 7:30pm-9:30pm: UMKC Saxophone Studio- The saxophone studio at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance maintains a tradition of excellence established over the past several decades.  Formerly under the direction of Tim Timmons, the studio is in its first year under Zach Shemon of the world famous PRISM Quartet…  Friday, November 8, 8pm-10pm:  Philip Wakefield Trio- Drummer Philip Wakefield proves his versatility every month when he hosts Take Five's Open Mic, but with the room to himself, he'll swing you into a different orbit. In the company of guitarist Brian Ruskin and bassist Blake Hughes… $5 cover.  Saturday, November 9, 8:30pm-10:30pm:  The KC Sound- Steve Lambert on saxes and flute, Hermon Mehari on trumpet, Dominique Sanders on bass, Andrew Ouellette on piano and Brad Williams on drums… $5 cover. Monday, November 11, 7pm-9pm:  Interstring- Drummer Todd Strait will be back in town, and has reunited the legendary Interstring Quartet for this special Monday night performance. In addition to Todd, Interstring is Rod Fleeman and Danny Embrey on guitars and Bob Bowman on bass… $5 cover.

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Background Check

I've been looking at things all wrong.  For years I've pitied the jazz musicians and disdained the indifferent members of the audiences at the many dinner gigs around town.

During one such restaurant show last weekend, children played tag, talking heads bemoaned Obamacare on muted televisions and only a small percentage of the diners acknowledged the band.  And I finally realized that there's nothing wrong with that.

So what if the people at the table next to me loudly discussed the Chiefs' winning streak as I listened to a sensitive reading of "Body and Soul"?  There wasn't a cover charge.

I'm now glad these gigs exist.  Musicians get paid to hone their chops on standards.  And in exchange for ordering off the menu, I can listen to musicians play in a relaxed setting that usually contrasts greatly with their approach at jazz clubs.

Background music is underrated.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Now's the Time: David Basse

Kansas City jazz mainstay David Basse will be joined by bassist Curtis Lundy on Friday, November 1, at Take Five Coffee, on Saturday, November 2, at the Blue Room and on Sunday, November 3, at the Holyfield Winery.  The details are sketchy, but apparently a new album will be available at the performances.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

 *Karrin Allyson and David Basse are releasing albums during the next week.  The release date for the "physical" edition of Bobby Watson's Check Cashing Day is November 12.

*Chuck Haddix is interviewed by Joe Dimino.  Haddix and Bobby Watson will reprise their concert/book talk at the Jeannette Nichols Forum on November 6.

*Libby Hanssen recounts the excitement of a People's Liberation Orchestra gig at the RecordBar.

*A critic compares and contrasts biographies of Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch, Gary Giddins and Chuck Haddix.

*The Pitch recommends a gig by New Jazz Order.

*Jon Poses takes note of A Kansas City Trumpet Summit.

*Here's the latest episode of 12th Street Jump's "Blues In the News."

*Tweet o' the Week: Kelly Ludwig- Chuck Haddix signing his great new book about Charlie Parker (just for you, Christy) #charlieparker (Instagram)

*Comment o' the Week: KC Jazz Lark- Wow. I am honored and humbled. Sometimes people who read our occasional disagreements ask me if we get along. I am always delighted to tell them we're friends.

*From a press release: Kansas City’s community jazz scene revives with former Jardine’s General Manager, Pat Hanrahan, in Midtown this Nov. with the opening of The Broadway Jazz Club, located at 3601 Broadway Avenue. The location operated as a speakeasy during the peak of the city’s jazz age, and is across the street from the historic Ambassador Hotel, where legendary jazz performers like Marilyn Maye once performed.  Near the Country Club Plaza and not far from the performing arts venues downtown, the Broadway Jazz Club is in the heart of the Broadway Arts District, offering a rich, historical context to enjoy live jazz five nights a week. The new venue establishes a community-oriented jazz destination that is accessible, relaxed and centered around Kansas City’s tremendous jazz reputation with local musicians.  The management team, led by owner and entrepreneur Neil Pollock, includes Hanrahan as General Manager and Steve Wachsberg with operations… ollock, a lifelong connoisseur of jazz, always dreamed of opening his own jazz club in Kansas City, famous for its jazz heritage… Broadway Jazz Club boasts a diverse, active lineup of the city’s most talented jazz musicians five nights a week for jazz lovers of all ages to enjoy. Each night will feature different styles of jazz, including rhythm and blues on Tuesdays, pianists on Wednesdays, live trios on Thursdays and five- to six-piece bands with live vocalists on Fridays and Saturdays. Additionally, Broadway Jazz Club will feature a jazz pianist during a daily happy hour. Operating times include Tuesdays – Thursdays from 4:00 p.m. – midnight, Friday from 4:00 p.m. – 1:30 a.m. and Saturday from 6:00 p.m. – 1:30 a.m.  Broadway Jazz Club will also operate as a full-service bar and restaurant, seating up to 120 guests with a total capacity for 160, with plans to announce its full menu closer to opening.

*From Connie Humiston: November 3rd, 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. ~ American Jazz Museum.  Benefiting the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.  Brunch with Millie Edwards & Herman Mehari. Stroll through the Museum exhibits. Mark Lowrey performing in the Blue Room. Host: Larry Moore, KMCB news anchor. $50 (a portion is tax-deductible).  Museum admission included.

*From Rob Scheps: Our next Project in Kansas City and the Midwest is a stellar quartet.  Featuring Eliot Zigmund, the drummer in the Bill Evans Trio with Eddie Gomez for 4 years, Eliot is one of the living greats of jazz percussion.  Fridays April 4 and 11, 2014 (at) Lucky Brewgrille, and Friday April 18, 2014, (at) Take Five Coffee Bar.

*From Jim Mair: It might sound cliché, but the latest invitation for the Kansas City Kansas Community College music program is truly a “once in a lifetime experience.”  The KCKCC Jazz Band has been invited to perform at the 2014 Havana International Jazz Festival in Havana, Cuba. The festival is Dec. 17 to 22, 2014. Jim Mair, professor of music and director of instrumental studies at KCKCC, said the band was invited based on its long reputation as one of the premiere community college jazz ensembles in the nation.  “This will truly be a life-changing experience,” Mair said. “Some of the students are very excited. Others have not yet absorbed what this means. This is a very exciting opportunity.”…  Mair said a 19-piece jazz band will travel to Cuba, either through Miami, Fla. or Cancun, Mexico…  With plans already in the works to travel to Cuba next year, Mair said the next step is to begin raising the approximately $60,000 it will take to get the jazz band to Cuba.  Mair said he would like to open the trip to people within the Wyandotte and Kansas City area community. He said to take people with the jazz band would serve as a cultural exchange, exposing as many people as possible to Cuba. Those who are interested in traveling with the jazz band are responsible for their own expenses and travel costs…“I would like to make it a community effort. Anyone who wants to go, who likes to travel can go,” he said. “This is a special circumstance to visit a country not many have been able to experience before.”

*From the American Jazz Museum: Friday Nov 1- Michael Carvin Experience w/ Jansen Cinco, Yayoi Ikawa, Keith Loftis $15.  Saturday Nov 2- CD Release Party! David Basse Featuring Curtis Lundy $15.

*From Take Five Coffee + Bar: Friday, November 1, 8pm - 10pm:  David Basse-Curtis Lundy Quartet.  We are honored to have Kansas City legend David Basse in for an intimate performance and CD release party at Take Five. As a singer and drummer, Basse has performed all over the world with jazz luminaries such as Jay McShann, and his voice is heard far and wide every week as he hosts the "12th Street Jump" on KCUR and "The Jazz Scene" on Kansas Public Radio… $15 cover. Saturday, November 2, 8pm - 11pm:  Jeff Harshbarger Quintet - Jazz in the Jungle Afterparty… Harshbarger is joined by saxophonists Rich Wheeler and Matt Otto and guitarist Brian Baggett, and drummer Brian Steever… Sunday, November 3, 7pm - 9pm:  Chilliott… Join us Sunday evening for Chilliott, a three-piece groove oriented fusion band featuring Charlie Harris on bass, Elliott Stevens on percussion and BJ Presnell on banjo.. If you like Bela Fleck, you won't want to miss this show.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, October 28, 2013

KC Jazz Lark: An Appreciation

My words surprised me.

"That blog is one of the best things to have happened to Plastic Sax," I told a friend over lunch last week.

I was referring to KC Jazz Lark, the "other" Kansas City jazz blog.  I'd never articulated Plastic Sax's relationship with KC Jazz Lark in those terms.  Plastic Sax had been around for two years when the man behind KC Jazz Lark began publishing his thoughts in 2009.  By creating something for Plastic Sax to push against, KC Jazz Lark provided this site with fresh inspiration. 

While we both champion of few of the same things- Bobby Watson, the People's Liberation Big Band, Take Five Coffee + Bar among them- KC Jazz Lark and I observe the jazz scene from different vantage points.  KC Jazz Lark loves swing.  I'm partial to experimental sounds.  As an optimist, KC Jazz Lark views a few dozen people in a jazz club as proof of the music's viability.  I see the same crowd as Floor Left Row GG at a concert at the Sprint Center.  While I'm prone to hyperbole, KC Jazz Lark is consistently reasonable.

Yet he's hardly a delusional cheerleader.  KC Jazz Lark regularly examines unfortunate realities from his redoubtable perspective as one of the region's most trustworthy banks of institutional memory. 

I'll almost certainly continue to squabble with KC Jazz Lark.  Even so, I'm proud to share a space with the excellent historian, gifted photographer and passionate advocate of Kansas City jazz.  I'm even happier to acknowledge that the man behind KC Jazz Lark is my friend.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Now's the Time: The Project H and Chris Hazelton's Boogaloo 7

The final show of the Black Lab New Music Festival features The Project H and Chris Hazelton's Boogaloo 7 at Paragraph Gallery on Saturday, October 26.  The Project H is seen and heard to good effect in a 2012 performance at KJHK.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Matt Jones, the owner of the Phoenix, suggests that "“(i)t’s tough around Kansas City to be a jazz guy."

*A report in The Kansas City Star indicates that the Broadway Jazz Cafe "will offer live music five nights a week."

*Chuck Haddix was interviewed by KCPT about his his biography of Charlie Parker.  Here's footage from Haddix's reading at Unity Temple.

*NPR interviewed Stanley Crouch about his new biography of Charlie Parker.

*The Pitch recommends Friday's performance by the Jazz Disciples with Lisa Henry.

*The Kansas City Star offers a review of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra's appearance at Helzberg Hall.  KC Metropolis' analysis of Saturday's concert is here.

*Kevin Mahogany recalls the time he spent at Baker University.

*Here's a new episode of 12th Street Jump's"Blues In the News."

*Joe Dimino interviewed Chicago-based trumpeter Marquis Hill.

*Tweet o' the Week: Anton Donaldson- Kansas City jazz legend Lonnie McFadden. #jazz #kansascity (Vine)

*Comment o' the Week: Timothy- If its not a greasy sound it must have been recorded at Soundtrek. No disrespect to Soundtrek but it is a notoriously polite sound. Maybe I'm wrong. Tim

*From Jim Mair: The Kansas City Kansas Community College Jazz Program will present a showcase at the Green Lady Lounge on Veteran's Day, Monday, November 11th from 7pm to 10pm.  Showcase will feature Jazz Band, Jazz Combos, Vocal Jazz Ensembles and Student Jazz Soloists. The showcase is free of charge and open to the public.

*From Take Five Coffee + Bar: The power this weekend at Take Five Coffee + Bar comes from the depths- two outstanding shows led by two of the city's premier bassists. Come get that feeling down in your bones. Friday, October 25, 8pm: Ben Leifer's Plus Minus: Among his many ensemble affiliations, Ben Leifer is part of the trio, Diverse, that originally opened up Take Five to the idea of a coffeehouse hosting live jazz. Having him back in the room, leading a terrific quartet he calls Plus Minus, is a long-awaited treat: Andrew Ouellette on keys, Matt Hopper on guitar, and John Kizilarmut on drums. $5 cover. Saturday, October 26, 8pm:  Bill McKemy Quartet: As a composer, leader and sideman, bassist Bill McKemy has been tearing up the Kansas City jazz scene for years and continues to deliver surprises at every turn. In front of his own quartet of equally imaginative and powerful players - Brian Baggett on guitar, Rich Wheeler on tenor and Sam Wisman on drums - he'll take over Take Five this Saturday, much to our delight. $5 cover.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Album Review: A Kansas City Trumpet Summit

A void that remains unfilled was created when KCUR's weekly show "Just Jazz" ended its long run in 2005.   Co-hosts Ginney Coleman and Ruth Rhoden valued swing above all else.  Their unwavering advocacy of locally-produced mainstream jazz is sorely missed.

The women would have almost certainly championed A Kansas City Trumpet Summit as one of the most important albums to emerge from the regional scene in years.  Gorgeous even on the uptempo selections, the project is unflaggingly tasteful.

The showcase for Stan Kessler, Hermon Mehari and Mike Metheny doesn't feature fiery battles.  Instead, it's an elegant exercise in cooperation.  Pianist T.J. Martley, bassist Gerald Spaits and drummer Brian Steever provide support.

The liner notes of the CD indicate the order of solos, but anyone who's logged much time in Kansas City's jazz venues won't need to consult them.  Each man has a clearly defined approach.  (The distinction is made even clearer when Metheny picks up his EVI.)

The playing is uniformly impeccable.  In fact, the absence of grit is a bit disarming.  The flawless sheen of the production may disappoint anyone who prefers a greasier sound.  Even a version of Jimmy Smith's "Back at the Chicken Shack" is as clean as a whistle.  The production and the material align on the ballads.  The Metheny feature "For Parkville," the album's closing track, is rapturously beautiful.

It's a shame that Ginney and Ruth aren't around to broadcast the good word. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Now's the Time: The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Chorale Le Chateau

The combination of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Chorale Le Chateau at a gospel-themed concert at Helzberg Hall on Saturday, October 19, promises to be potent.  Joe Klopus implores people who attend only attend jazz concerts when they involve Wynton Marsalis to expand their palates in his weekly column.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Joe Dimino interviews Abel Ramirez for his Neon Jazz program.

*The Kansas City Star published a review and a report about the 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival.

*KC Jazz Lark ponders the public's perception of the Jazz District.

*Stanley Crouch promoted his new biography of Charlie Parker on PBS.  (Tip via Tony's Kansas City.)

*Lee Hartman reviewed a performance by the People's Liberation Big Band.

*A van owned by trumpeter George Robinson was stolen

*The Pitch recommends Parallax's performance at Take Five Coffee + Bar.

*The Black House Collective shares another round of photos documenting its new music festival.

*The $14 million National Blues Museum opens in St. Louis next year.

*Tweet o' the Week: ashley- At the 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival with my grandma..

*From Mike Metheny: It's always a pleasure (and a challenge!) to be on the same stage with such outstanding musicians as Stan Kessler (tpt), Hermon Mehari (tpt), TJ Martley (p), Gerald Spaits (b) and Brian Steever (dr). And how's this for a bona fide Kansas City Trumpet Summit: the equally outstanding Clint Ashlock (tpt) will be a special guest during each set at the Blue Room on Saturday, Oct. 26, 8:30-12:30. (That's Clint's photography on the cover of the new CD that will be available at the gig.) Hope to see you there!

*From a press release: Annual birthday bash celebrating & featuring Tim Whitmer with party revelers the Wild Women of Kansas City, guitarist Rod Fleeman & the Consort Band. Wednesday, November 6, 2013. 7:00 p.m.  Unity Temple on the Plaza.  $7.00. Children under 16 free.

*From 12th Street Jump: This week on 12th Street Jump we celebrate the birthday of Lee Konitz with our special guest Rob Scheps. The gang sees "Who's Got the Blues" in South Bend, IN and offers a little help to the President.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Restaurant Review: Smooth J Cafe

What's a restaurant review doing on a jazz blog?  Well, what's in a name?

The "J" in Smooth J Cafe stands for "Jazz."  The proprietors of the establishment in a Johnson County strip mall recently opened a restaurant that, in their words, "combines their love of cooking with their love of smooth jazz music."

And sure enough, songs dominated by treacly soprano sax and cloying acoustic guitars played softly in the background of the tidy room during my initial visit last week.  The ostensibly soothing sounds may have helped me keep my composure during a needlessly convoluted ordering process.  The embedded photo shows that the menu is posted on a wall several feet to the left of the order counter.  As with a couple subsequent customers, I had to shuffle back and forth to make my decision.

I ended up having a polite employee make my selection for me.  She recommended a "Rhythm Section" sandwich and cheesy corn casserole.  While a tad skimpy for the price ($8.50 including a side order and a cookie), the sandwich was tasty.  The casserole was delicious.

In spite of a full parking lot that happens to be the original site of the Corporate Woods Jazz Festival, only a few customers walked through the door during my 40-minute visit.  The nearby Garozzo's and Chipotle were packed.  That may change Friday, October 18, when Heat Index performs at Smooth J Cafe from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

While I may not make a special trip to Smooth J Cafe for a sandwich, the addition of a consistent live music lineup- along with the cheesy corn casserole- would keep me coming back for more.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Now's the Time: Bobby Lyle and Peabo Bryson

A rewarding weekend is on tap for aficionados of commercial jazz and vintage slow jams in Kansas City.  Highlights include keyboardist Bobby Lyle, one of many artists slated to perform in a tribute to the late George Duke on the main stage of the 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival on Saturday, October 12.  Vocalists Peabo Bryson and Kansas City's Ron Gutierrez will entertain at the KC Live! stage in the Power & Light district on Sunday, October 13.  Lyle and Bryson appear together in the embedded video.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

*Critics at The Pitch named Jeff Harshbarger, Plastic Sax's 2011 Person of the Year, as the Best Local Musician.  They awarded Take Five Coffee + Bar with the prize of Best Suburban Oasis.  Owners Doug and Lori Chandler were Plastic Sax's 2012 People of the Year.  The publication's readers- presumably fans of Tim Whitmer's Saturday afternoon gigs- voted The Phoenix as the Best Jazz Venue.

*Joe Klopus previews Saturday's 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival in his weekly column.

*KC Jazz Lark considers the unusual challenges faced by the organizers of 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival.

*A man has been charged with assault in connection to last month's shootings near 18th & Vine.

*Libby Hanssen reviewed Gretchen Parlato's concert at the Folly Theater.

*The Pitch recommends Brian Haas' performance Sunday, October 13, at the RecordBar.

*Howard Reich raves about Bobby Watson in The Chicago Tribune.

*Matt Otto and a cat issue a "30 day long tone challenge."

*"Kansas City Swing", a new play set in 1947 Kansas City, opens in New Jersey this week.

*Former Kansan Lisa Engelken's new album Little Warrior was reviewed by a California-based publication.

*Comment o' the Week: Gary- Went to Take Five Saturday night and heard James Isaac Group. Thanks for the tip, Plastic Sax.

*Tweet o' the Week: Follow dw6 and JAG- Spoken to some great musicians so far in KC! Spent some time at the American Jazz Museum and now we're about to interview Bobby Watkins!

*From a press release: The Jazz Program at Kansas City Kansas Community College will present their first concert of the season West Wyandotte Library on Wednesday, October 9th at 6:30pm. Directed by Jim Mair and John Stafford II, the concert will feature the KCKCC Jazz Band, Latin Band, Jazz Combos and Vocal Jazz Ensembles.  Open to the public, there is no charge although donations for student travel opportunities will be accepted.

*From Take Five Coffee + Bar: This weekend at Take Five Coffee + Bar we're offering the power and passion of high-flying ensembles featuring some of the best trumpet artistry you'll find anywhere… Friday, October 11, 8pm:  The Rob Scheps/Jim O'Connor Quintet.  Saxophonist Rob Scheps finds a way to ramble through Kansas City a couple of times a year... Trumpeter Jim O'Connor, his guest on this tour, has... a deep list of credits... The crew behind these two are some of KC's best: Roger Wilder on piano, Bob Bowman on bass and Brian Steever on drums. $5.  Saturday, October 12, 8pm:  The Hermon Mehari Trio with Anthony Saunders...  Featuring Ryan Lee on drums and Andrew Ouellette on keys, this show will also showcase Hermon's special guest, vocalist Anthony Saunders... $5 cover.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)