Saturday, March 30, 2013

Now's the Time: Ken Peplowski with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra

Legend has it that the trajectory of jazz was altered when Benny Goodman's band performed at Carnegie Hall in 1938.  The concert supposedly legitimized the music.  I'm not convinced that's necessarily a good thing.  Ken Peplowski will assist the The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra in a "75th Anniversary Celebration" of the event on Thursday, April 4, at Helzberg Hall.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Westchase Grille, a Leawood restaurant that regularly featured live jazz, has closed.

*Joe Dimino recently interviewed bassist and composer Bill McKemy for his Neon Jazz program.

*The jazz scene in Kansas City is in the midst of a "relative calm," according to KCJazzLark.

*The Kansas City Star published a review of the Monterey Jazz Festival 55th Anniversary Tour performance at the Gem Theater.

*Here's a set of videos that document the Black House Collective's recent performance at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

*Jerry Dodgion, a veteran musician who's coming to town with Rob Scheps next week, is the subject of a feature by Joe Klopus. 

*Comment o' the Week: Cb- ... After a while, this becomes the case, no matter how much you love those tunes, it is still someone covering those artists' original work. I have simply come to the conclusion as an artist, to play more of my own music. I think that is a natural progression in modern jazz. At least it is what those above did.  Covering popular songs of the day is another matter. That has been don in every era. Remember Herbie Hancock doing it? Next Collective is doing a great job with the popular songs of their day. I think it is cool if that moves you.  But, in jazz, it does indeed come down to improvisation and the musical idiosyncrasies of the respective artists. There is no avoiding this paradigm, regardless the cyclical vehicle or song form we are discussing at the moment.  Just my $0.02. Peace, Cb

*Tweet o' the Week: Ambrose Akinmusire- Kansas City !!! #awwmannowitsgatestime

*From Pete Williams: Esteemed drummer Arnold Young plays at YJ's Snack Bar every Wednesday night, usually from 8 to 10, with guests TBD. Last night he played with Mark Southerland and myself.

*From Jim Mair: KCKCC Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combos 1 and 2 directed by Jim Mair with the KC High school all stars directed by Hermon Mehari.  Wednesday April 3, 7:00 to 8:30pm.  Unity on the Plaza. Spirituality and all that Jazz.  $7.  The multi-award winning KCKCC Jazz Ensemble will headline the evening.  This 17 piece big band directed by Jim Mair recently received #1 ratings at the KU and Pittsburg State Jazz Festivals.  The KCKCC Jazz Combo 1 and 2 also directed by Mair will also perform. These groups also received # 1 ratings at at KU and Pitt State.  Topping off the evening will be the most acclaimed trumpeter in our town, Hermon Mehari leading the Kansas City High  School Jazz All Stars. This group was hand selected from the very best high school players in the metro.

*From Chris Hazelton: Chris Hazelton's Boogaloo 7 will be making it's debut at the Kill Devil Club on April 12th from 10pm-1am.  The group will be focusing on funky dance grooves popular in the late 60's and 70's a la Lou Donaldson, Grant Green, Lonnie Smith, and will also have some original compositions and arrangements of recent pop tunes.  As of now, the entire repertoire is different from my trio except for one tune.  Here is the lineup: Nick Howell - Trumpet, Nick Rowland - Tenor Sax, Brett Jackson - Baritone Sax, Matt Hopper - Guitar, Kevin Frazee - Drums, Gary Helm - Congas & Percussion, Chris Hazelton - Hammond B-3 Organ

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, March 25, 2013

No Church in the Wild

I recently walked out on band during the first chorus of "Kansas City."  The Kansas City jazz musicians weren't catering to out-of-town basketball fans in a downtown bar.  They were playing for locals.  That's just not right.  Musicians can perform whatever they want, of course, but that doesn't mean I have to willingly endure it. 

I often find myself dodging gigs by locally-based musicians just because I know that I can't tolerate hearing their overly familiar renditions of classic compositions by Horace Silver, Wayne Shorter and Count Basie again. 

Acknowledging that it's 2013 is one way to avoid stagnancy.  In addition to a repertoire of worthy originals, Diverse plays a solid arrangement of a hit from Watch the Throne.  Phonologotron focuses on contemporary pop material.  Mark Lowrey plays an intriguing version of "Buildings and Mountains" by the Kansas City rock band the Republic Tigers.

It's an unhealthy sign that much of the positive attention the Next Collective is receiving is due to its contemporary song selection instead of the brilliant playing of its members.  Young musicians should perform material like "No Church in the Wild" as a matter of course. 

I have no intention of reviving the controversy associated with Benjamin Schwarz's controversial review of Ted Gioia's The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire.  Nor do I endorse a disavowal of the past.  Instead, I'm merely encouraging a handful of hidebound musicians to consider updating their songbooks.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Now's the Time: The Monterey Jazz Festival Tour

One of the best performances I've seen at the Gem Theater was a 2007 concert featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater and a band dominated by African musicians.  The versatile vocalist returns to the venue on Saturday, March 23, as part of the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour 55th Anniversary Celebration.  Bridgewater will perform with trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, saxophonist Chris Potter, pianist Benny Green, bassist and musical director Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash.  It's hard to imagine a stronger lineup.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*A contributor to UMKC's student newspaper reviewed a recital.   (Via Offstage.)

*A commentator admires the "seriously beautiful music" contained on Alaturka's new Yalniz album.

*A review of Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle's The Freedom of Expression at Nextbop notes that the album is "straight-ahead in the contemporary sense."  Another reviewer suggests that the project possesses a "combustible energy."

*The Kansas City Star offers a review of Randy Brecker's appearance with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra.  Anthony Rodgers also reviewed the concert.

*Bill Blankenship provides background on Bob Bowman, Todd Strait and other participants in the latest Topeka Jazz Workshop concert.  Chuck Berg reviewed the show.  (Via Offstage.)

*The man behind Phonologotron enjoys a current project.

*A writer for a British newspaper opines that Kansas City's "jazz district today is sadly a shadow of its former self."

*Here's the trailer for a new documentary about former Count Basie sideman Pauly Cohen.

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- I'm afraid you're just showing your ignorance. Yes, jazz in Kansas City is on the Kansas City. When you and Jazzlark write about how local artists are world class it's just sad. The artistic distance between Matt Otto and Chris Potter, or Mark Lowry and Brad Mehldau, is vast. Yes the scene is drastically improving, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that the music can compete on a national level. Go to New York for awhile and learn what good really is.

*Tweet o' the Week: Kevin Mahogany- Finished 5 nights at Birdland with 5 different bands!!

*From the Folly Theater: Eliane Elias will be backed by Marc Johnson and Mauricio Zottarelli at her concert on Saturday, April 13.

*From Ron Carlson: One update to the calendar. The Rob Scheps / Jerry Dodgion Quintet will now be playing the Blue Room on Friday, April 12th, so we have moved the Lucky Brewgrille date from Friday to Saturday, April 13th 7-10pm.  This will be a musical party event to close out Rob and Jerry's two week tour of the region.

*From Mike Metheny: The Metheny Music Foundation has awarded its first college scholarship. The news item can be found here. Since 2007 the Foundation has also been offering summer music camp scholarships to Lee's Summit students and will do so again in '13. Those winners will be announced in May.

*From the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra: The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra has an important concert coming up (Thursday, April 4th, 2013 – Muriel Kauffman Theatre/KCPA) which celebrates the 10th Anniversary Performing Arts Season by paying tribute to the “75th Anniversary” one of the most famous/important jazz events of all-time:  Benny Goodman’s historic 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert.

*From 12th Street Jump: This week we celebrate the music of Randy Brecker with our special guest, Randy Brecker himself!  The gang plays "So, What's Your Question" and reveals even more about this jazz great.

*From the American Jazz Museum #1: Jammin' at the Gem.  Saturday, March 23, 8 p.m.  The Gem Theater.  The Monterey Jazz Festival, the longest continuously-running jazz festival in the world, has presented nearly every major jazz star—from Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong to Esperanza Spalding and Trombone Shorty—since it was founded in 1958. World-renowned for its artistic excellence, sophisticated informality, and longstanding mission to create and support year-round jazz education and performance programs in local, regional, national, and international venues, Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour 55th Anniversary Celebration continues this commitment in 2013 with its third North American Tour. Featuring leading critically-acclaimed, GRAMMY®-winning jazz artists, the all-star band consists of bassist and musical director Christian McBride, vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, saxophonist Chris Potter, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, pianist Benny Green, and drummer Lewis Nash. Embracing the past, present, and future of jazz, Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour 55th Anniversary Celebration will perform an assortment of classic jazz repertoire and original compositions by band members.

*From the American Jazz Museum #2: Thursday, April 4.  6:00pm until 7:00pm.  Free Conversation with Jazz Violinist, Regina Carter in The Atrium - a special Take Five event! During Carter's visit, a variety of topics may be addressed. They may include how our history can inform our personal creative works and an exploration of jazz music. Yacouba Sissoko, a master Kora player, will join Carter.  Attendees are invited to attend the Blue Room performance by Matt Kane's KC Generations Quintet at 7:00 p. m. following this special Take Five event.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ballot Initiative

Could my steadfast belief that Kansas City's jazz scene is undergoing an artistic renaissance be little more than wishful thinking and provincial boosterism? 

The disconcerting results of the 7th Annual Jazz Critics Poll, the most comprehensive and authoritative year-end jazz album listing, continue to stick in my craw.  Dozens of prominent jazz critics cast votes for 421 albums.  Of the projects with Kansas City connections, only Unity Band by Pat Metheny was represented.  It placed #27.  Otherwise, albums released by Kansas City's jazz artists were ignored.

Even the sole participant from the Kansas City area opted not to include any locally-released titles among his ten picks.  (I wasn't included.  My selections are here.)

I'm not suggesting that the titles that received votes aren't worthwhile.  Yet is it really possible that 421 jazz albums are "better" than, say, the latest efforts by Deborah Brown or Matt Otto?   A great deal of the underrepresentation can be attributed to the fact that most albums by Kansas City's jazz artists are self-released.  That liability, combined with the usual group-think and bandwagoning among music critics, might help to explain the omissions. 

Three new albums by Kansas City artists- Tangos For 18th Street by Mark Lowrey, The Freedom of Expression by Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle and Yalniz by Alaturka are simply too good to be ignored. 

If none of these seemingly powerful releases develop grassroots followings and a critical buzz during the next nine months I may be forced to reassess my esteem for the music being created in Kansas City.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Now's the Time: Helen Gillet

Jazz.  Classical.  Pop.  Folk.  Chanson.  Helen Gillet does it all.  The regular visitor to Kansas City performs Friday, March 15, at the Brick.  The gig will feature "cello, loops, voice and the spontaneity of the unknown."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCJazzLark suggests that the People's Liberation Big Band is squarely in the tradition of Count Basie's bands.

*Marilyn Maye received another rave review in The New York Times.

*Howard University presented Bobby Watson with the Benny Golson Jazz Master Award last week.

*The anniversary of Charlie Parker's death is acknowledged by Tony's Kansas City.  (Warning: don't read the accompanying comments.)

*KC Metropolis published a review of Mark Southerland's collaboration with New Ear.

*Mark Edeleman takes note of a few of the city's jazz offerings.

*The name is Collective.  Black House Collective.  In a related post, Chris Burnett documents his work with the ensemble.  Another participant offers a "post-mortem".

*Last week I reported that Dave Douglas was giving a master class as Kansas City Kansas Community College on April 8.  He will also perform that night at the Blue Room.

*Lisa Engelken, a Kansas native and regular visitor to Kansas City, is seeking funding for her forthcoming Little Warrior album.

*Tweet o' the Week: Clint Ashlock- Midwest Shuffle is my favorite record of all time. Bobby. Time Will Tell.

*From Rob Scheps: The Rob Scheps/ Jerry Dodgion Quintet. Spring Tour 2013.  Rob Scheps - tenor sax & soprano sax.  Jerry Dodgion - alto sax & soprano sax.  Roger Wilder - piano.  Bob " Dwight" Bowman - acoustic bass. Brian Steever - drums.  Scheps & Dodgion are from New York, and the rhythm section is from Kansas City.  (Area dates are listed at the end of this Plastic Sax post.)

*David Basse provides new details about the forthcoming Joe Sample appearance: 12th Street Jump, public radio’s weekly jazz, blues and comedy jam will record a live performance by Jazz Crusaders founder, Joe Sample, at 7:30 pm, Tuesday, March 26 at the White Recital Hall…  Presented in partnership with KCUR-FM 89.3 and recorded for broadcast on 12th STREET JUMP’s 42-station network, tickets for this special performance are $10 in advance, $15 at the door…

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Review: BD Trio- Live 17.02.2013

In my unguarded moments I've been known to suggest that the jazz audience is as large as it's ever been.  In fact, I claim, millions of jazz fans are hiding in plain view.  One such contingent is devoted to the sound of jam bands.

Some projects make the connection particularly apparent.  Live 17.02.2013 by the BD Trio probably has more immediate appeal to fans of Phish than of Sonny Rollins.  The grouping of Luke Polipnick, Ben Leifer and Brandon Draper was recorded at Take Five Coffee + Bar on February 16. 2013.  The accompanying notes explain that "(t)his is an entirely improvised double set of music and the first time Brandon, Ben and Luke played together as a trio."

The peripatetic Draper is an astoundingly gifted and playfully hyperactive percussionist.  He's best known among Plastic Sax readers as a member of Alaturka.  The recording contains about 1:45 minutes of his prodigious playing.  He's never boring.  The contribution of Polipnick, a guitarist based in Omaha, contains a similarly broad array of textures.  Leifer is an elite player in a town full of monster bassists. My sole complaint with the recording is that my headphones and speakers don't convey the depth of Leifer's sound. 

As with any extended set of improvisations, there are a handful of segments in which the trio searches for new insights.  Such lulls only serve to make the extraordinary moments even more exciting.  The trio manages to catch several towering waves of inspiration.

Live 17.02.2013 is the first official release that takes advantage of the superb acoustics at Take Five Coffee + Bar.  There's plenty of ambient noise and lots of enthusiastic shouting from a voice that's familiar to anyone who's visited the Leawood establishment.  The free download is highly recommended to fans of Charlie Hunter, Marco Benevento, Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood and the individual participants.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Now's the Time: Matthew Rybicki

Bassist Matthew Rybicki performs in the Folly Jazz Series' annual "spotlight" concert on Saturday, March 9.  The embedded video and Rybicki's 2011 debut album Driven indicate that the New York-based artist favors a straight-ahead swing approach.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Tim Finn wrote an extensive profile of trombonist Carly Meyers.

*The Kansas City Star reviewed Mark Southerland's collaboration with New Ear.  A blogger also noted last weekend's event.

*Libby Hanssen documents the sacrilegious reunion of Jazz Discharge.

*KCJazzLark quotes jazz giants recalling Kansas City's illustrious jazz past.

*Joe Klopus previews Matthew Rybicki's March 9 concert at the Folly Theater.  The bassist will be accompanied by pianist Christian Sands, drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., trumper Stan Kessler and saxophonist Matt Otto.

*A doofus played selections by Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle and Alaturka on a program about Kansas City's music scene on KCUR's Up to Date last week.

*Here's footage of Tony Tixier performing with Diverse at a house concert on March 3.

*The Kansas City Business Journal reports that the Kill Devil Club is expanding to Louisville.

*Maye-den Voyage, Marily Maye's new show, opened in New York this week.

*Tweet o' the Week: kim horgan- @nelson_atkins listening to Black House Collective. Music is great. Love that its in the Ancient/Egyptian galleries. photo.

*Comment of the Week: Anonymous- How about 12th Street Jump? Its now their 4th year sending live Kansas City jazz on the radio waves to over 50 cities across the country every week!

*From Chris Hazelton: Cory Weeds, a fantastic saxophonist from Vancouver, will be joining my trio for these two: KCK Community College "Jazz by the Lake" Series, Thursday March 7th @ noon (and) Take 5 Coffee + Bar, Friday March 8th, 8-10pm.

*From Clint Ashlock: I'm writing to you as the acting artistic director of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra wanting to inform you that on Friday March 15th, jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker will be giving a masterclass at Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center, beginning at 3:00pm. You and your students are invited for this free event. I've been to a few of Randy's classes over the years and he is an excellent teacher. There are many concepts he's related that have directly helped my approach to playing the trumpet, and playing music in general. The kicker is that if you and/or your students are in attendance for the masterclass, you will also receive a free ticket (normally $40-50) to the concert that evening at 8:00 in Helzberg, which is being billed as "The Trumpet Summit" and will not only feature Randy, but each of the KCJO trumpet players. It should be a great program!

*From Jim Mair: Monday April 8.  Dave Douglas Master Class with drummer Rudy Royston.  10:00am till noon.  Free to KCKCC Students.  $5.00 admission to the general public.  Band Room at KCKCC.  Sponsored by The Kansas City Jazz Alliance and the KCKCC Music Club.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Review: Alaturka- Yalniz

The average age of Alaturka's audience at the Jazz Winterlude festival in January was about 65.  I heard the phrase "Turkish jazz" bandied about with suspicion before the band began playing and feared that outraged advocates of traditional swing would walk out during the first selection.  I underestimated both the audience's willingness to accept new sounds and the persuasive virtuosity of the members of Alaturka. 

The stellar set by string master Beau Bledsoe, saxophonist Rich Wheeler, bassist Jeff Harshbarger and percussionist Brandon Draper won over the entirety of the room.  The audience even demanded- and received- an encore.

Tamam Abi, Alaturka' 2010 debut release, was one of my favorite albums of 2010.  While the new release Yalniz is every bit the equal of its predecessor, it documents the band's rapid evolution. 

Not only is Yalniz less brash than Tamam Abi, the project includes vocals by Nihan Yesil.  The result is a sublime album that emphasizes the Turkish side of the Turkish-jazz equation.  Having already proven that their concept works, the members of Alaturka seems less intent on demonstrating their jazz chops than on developing new textures.  The opening track "Divane Aşık Gibi" is representative of the captivating album.

Alaturka's album release party for Yalniz is Sunday, March 10, at the RecordBar.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)