Monday, April 29, 2013

Album Review: Matt Kane Trio- Suit Up!

First impressions in jazz aren't very reliable.  I spent the first ten minutes of my initial audition of Suit Up!, the new album by the Matt Kane Trio, wondering why another relatively young musician would choose to make an anachronistic organ trio album.

Hip details soon began to grab my attention.  Not only is the trio of drummer Kane, organist Kyle Koehler and guitarist Dave Stryker extraordinarily tight, all three men contribute sly flourishes that give the recording a covert layer of depth. 

"I wanted a response from the folks, wanted them to party and have fun and groove but at the same time I wanted to play music I loved with great players," Kane writes in a blog post about the making of Suit Up!.

The range of the album is revealed by its opening and closing tracks.   Suit Up! begins with Pat Metheny's persuasive melody "John McKee" and ends with a funky rendition of Earth, Wind & Fire's "That's the Way of the World."  The two most interesting tracks, however, are Ahmad Alaadeen's "Big Six" and "21st Century Ragg."  As Chuck Haddix documents in the liner notes, Kane honed his chops in Kansas City with the McFadden Brothers, Ida McBeth and Alaadeen before relocating to New York. 

Suit Up!'s most challenging selections, "Big Six" and "21st Century Ragg" allow Kane to reaffirm his Kansas City roots and remind listeners of Alaadeen's greatness.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Now's the Time: The Gerald Clayton Trio

Joe Klopus is correct when he implies that Gerald Clayton is at the center of the jazz mainstream in his preview of Clayton's appearance at the Blue Room on Saturday, April 27. While Clayton's fine new album Life Forum contains many unconventional textures, it has a conservative core.  Kansas City's Logan Richardson briefly appears at 1:36 mark of the embedded video.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Mike Shanin interviewed Tommy Ruskin and Julie Turner for KCPT.

*A television station aired a two-minute feature about Vine Street Rumble.

*Denyce Graves' visit to the Mutual Musicians Foundation is documented by KCJazzLark.

*KCPT, Kansas City's public television station, is acquiring radio station KTBG.  The report in The Kansas City Star indicates that KCPT intends to retain the current AAA format.  Even so, a bit of speciality jazz programming doesn't seem unlikely.

*A remastered version of Chris Burnett's 1999 album Time Flies is now available.

*The Telegraph recalls Kansas City's jazz heyday in a preview of the Cheltenham Jazz Festival.

*Tweet o' the Week: St. Louis Jazz Notes- Dan Thomas and Voyage playing Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4 at Robbie's House of Jazz (link)

*Comment o' the Week: Anonyomous- I share your enthusiasm for Jerry Dodgion. It was a very good show! I hope he makes it back to KC soon.

*From Jim Mair: The 3rd annual Kansas City Jazz Summit takes place April 24,25,26 on the campus of Kansas City Kansas Community College.  34 bands from 5 colleges and 29 middle and high schools from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.  Performances begin daily at 8:30am and conclude at 5:00pm.  Highlights include Wednesday night with a  Big Band extravaganza featuring  the KCKCC Jazz Ensemble and the New Vintage Big Band 7:00pm (donations accepted) in the KCKCC PAC.  Thursday includes the Kansas City Jazz Heritage "Basically Basie" competition.  The competing bands choose three Count Basie tunes and try to replicate the sound, style and the joy of the Basie band.  The top two bands will have a playoff at 5:00pm. Audience members will be able to influence the outcome of the finals by texting their vote for the  winning band...

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Review: Jerry Dodgion at Take Five Coffee + Bar

A quintet fronted by saxophonists Jerry Dodgion and Rob Scheps thrilled me on Thursday, April 11, at Take Five Coffee + Bar.  Here are ten takeaways from Thursday's show.
  • Dodgion, 80, can do a deeper knee squat than I.
  • Dodgion is still in possession of his cool West Coast chops.
  • When feminists decry "the cult of masculinity so prevalent in jazz" , they undoubtedly have guys like Scheps in mind. 
  • Bassist Bob Bowman has been no better than great the past several times I've heard him.  He was exceptional Thursday.
  • Scheps noted that Bowman and Dodgion last shared a bandstand 37 years ago as members of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra.
  • A copy of Roger Wilder's news CD at my table (it wasn't mine) drew excited attention from every jazz fan who spotted it. 
  • I've said it before and I'll say it again- Brian Steever is among the most visually entertaining drummers in jazz.
  • It doesn't make any sense, but the acoustics at Take Five Coffee + Bar are the best of any jazz venue in the Kansas City area.
  • The core audience of about two dozen jazz fans didn't make a peep.  Even the non-jazz customers who popped in and out of the coffee shop were respectful of the performance.
  • Dodgion's statement on "It Was a Very Good Year" was one of the best things I've heard in 2013.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.  From left to right: Roger Wilder, Jerry Dodgion, Brian Steever.)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Now's the Time: Eric Harland's Voyager

In the immortal words of Lucy van Pelt, there are "five good reasons" to be in the audience at the Gem Theater on Saturday, April 20.  Rather than consisting of the components of Lucy's cartoon fist, those reasons are drummer Eric Harland, guitarist Julian Lage, pianist Taylor Eigsti, saxophonist Walter Smith III and bassist Harish Raghavan.  Members of Harland's Voyager, the five men are among the most acclaimed young(-ish) musicians in jazz.  Joe Klopus highlighted Voyager's appearance in his weekly column.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The "civil and gentle" Green Lady Lounge is featured in a 90-second promotional video.

*The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra and Bobby Watson's 18th & Vine Big Band are praised by KCJazzLark.

*Roger Wilder reports that his new album will be available later this week.  (Tip via Rick Hellman.)

*A 2012 conversation between Michael Shults and Sam Wisman is streaming in perpetuity.

*Tony Botello casts a cynical eye at development in the Jazz District.

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

*Tweet o' the Week: Brian Scarborough- Next month I will be recording a quintet album of new original music w/ Matt Otto, Danny Embrey, Jeff Harshbarger, & Brandon Draper #kcjazz

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- I'm afraid you'll have to define offering "something to the discourse." I'm pretty sure I was pointing out that the previous post was just an irrelevant digression into someone's boring political views. I attack someone personally because this is the internet and that's what it's for. I bet you secretly like Jazz in the Woods. I bet you like to sit outside in the park and listen to music. I bet you don't care that it sucks because it's easy to ignore and you can distract yourself with the nice scenery, delicious snacks, and pleasant people. I bet you're like that. And it makes me sick.

*From Ryan Heinlein: Some of Kansas City's finest musicians will tackle the newest offering from recording artist, Beck. In lieu of an album, CD or digital download, Beck has released twenty new songs strictly in sheet music format. It is up to the performer to read, learn and interpret the music. Beck will not be recording or releasing these songs…  The following musicians will be performing "Song Reader." Mark Lowrey, Shay Estes, Jeff Harshbarger, Matt Leifer, Jeff Stocks, Dominique Sanders, Ryan Heinlein, Clint Ashlock, Brett Jackson and Bill McKemy.  Mark Lowrey & The Project H Present: Song Reader, 20 New Songs by Beck with special guests Shay Estes and Jeff Harshbarger.  Friday, May 3rd.  Record Bar. $10 cover, ages 18+.  The Project H 10:30pm.  Song Reader 11:30pm.

*From the Kansas City Public Library: Beginning with their regular gig in the Plantation Grill at Kansas City’s Muehlebach Hotel, the Coon-Sanders Nighthawk Orchestra in the 1920s took the Midwest, and then the entire nation, by storm. UMKC jazz expert Chuck Haddix follows the rise and fall of the band that had hit recordings like “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” “When You’re Smiling,” “The Flippity Flop,” “Kansas City Kitty,” “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” “Harlem Madness,” and “What A Girl! What A Night!”  Sunday, April 21, 2013.  2:00pm @ Central Library.  RSVP now!

*From the American Jazz Museum: The American Jazz Museum is pleased to announce the debut performance of internationally renowned jazz great, Bobby Watson’s new “I Have A Dream Band” project in residence at the Blue Room on the corner of historic 18th & Vine in Downtown Kansas City.  Watson’s new band will be performing both, Friday, May 17th and Saturday, May 18th in the Blue Room. Admission is $20 ($15 Students/Seniors) with an 8:30 pm show time each evening. Bobby Watson’s “I Have A Dream Band” features the artistry of Glenn North (spoken word); Hermon Mehari (trumpet/flugel horn); Curtis Lundy (bass); Richard Johnson (piano); Eric Kennedy (drums); and, alto saxophonist, Watson.

*From the American Jazz Museum #2: The American Jazz Museum and MCC Penn Valley are pleased to announce the 2013 18th & Vine/MCC Penn Valley Jazz Festival will be held April 18, 19 and 20 at the historic Gem Theater.  The 2013 festival features performances by middle school, high school and college jazz ensembles ranging from combo groups to large big bands.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Concert Review: The Eliane Elias Trio at the Folly Theater

Eliane Elias, one of the world's foremost practitioners of Brazilian jazz, slipped off her black high heels as she took a seat at the piano on the stage of the Folly Theater on Saturday.  The subtle gesture reflected the tenor of her concert for an audience of over 700.   Elias' performance was a pleasing combination of studied elegance and earthy rambunctiousness. 

Elias, 53, has been impressing fans for decades.  She recounted how Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, musical giants of her native Brazil, invited her to join them on an international tour when she was 17. 

"I learned the Brazilian bossa nova from the creators," Elias said.

She would later note that her forthcoming tribute to Chet Baker is her 23rd album as a leader.  Along with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Mauricio Zottarelli, Elias played a mix of instrumental and vocal material Saturday.  

Elias exhibited her lush sensibility on the sensual "B Is For Butterfly."  An exuberantly extravagant pianist, Elias is predisposed to florid embellishment.  Just when Elias' airy excursion threatened to fade into the ether, she circled back to the pragmatic foundation constructed by Johnson and Zottarelli.  The playful "Bowing to Bud," another original selection, further demonstrated Elias' formidable skill as a composer.

Explaining that she was suffering from  bronchitis and laryngitis, Elias apologized for the the quality of her singing.  Yet the additional huskiness in her voice enhanced the achingly romantic "Fotographia."  A joyous rendition of "Isto Aquí O Que É" seemed to illuminate the Folly with the warm glow of South American sunshine.  The illusion wouldn't have been possible without the melodic bounce provided by Johnson.  His sound became a prominent force in jazz when Johnson became the final bassist in the Bill Evans Trio.  After Evans died in 1980, Johnson forged an impressive career as a solo artist and as a valued collaborator.  He and Elias are married. 

Johnson's unaccompanied version of "Nardis" served as an exemplary demonstration of the profoundly emotive capacity of his instrument.  The bassist's roots in American jazz contrasted with Zotttarelli's emphasis on the rhythms of his native Brazil.  Rather than resulting in a rhythmic jumble, the juxtaposition gave the trio an intriguing tension.   Perhaps aware that he'd be given an extended solo near the conclusion of the concert, Zottarelli played with selfless precision. 

Zottarelli's thunderous showcase brought a handful of people to their feet, but the swing-based rendition of the familiar melody of "Desafinado" that concluded the second set was the clear favorite of the audience.  Elias wore her shoes as she and her bandmates took a well-deserved bow. 

Here's Libby Hanssen's review of the concert for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Now's the Time: Jerry Dodgion

Kansas Citians have four more chances to catch Jerry Dodgion on the current barnstorming tour put together by Rob Scheps.  Dodgion and Scheps appear Thursday at Take Five Coffee + Bar, Friday at the Blue Room, Saturday at Lucky Brewgrille and Sunday at Murray's Tables & Tap.  Dodgion, 80, played on a host of classic albums including Wes Montgomery's Goin' Out of My Head (1966), Herbie Hancock's Speak Like a Child (1968), Bob James' Three (1976) and Gerald Wilson's New York, New Sound (2003).  He takes a bluesy solo as a member of the Thad Jones Orchestra at the 10:25 mark of the embedded video.  (Dodgion's appearances are among Joe Klopus' top picks of the week.)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The 2013 lineup for the Jazz In the Woods festival has been announced.  Greg Adams and East Bay Soul, Tony DeSare and Marc Antoine will perform on Friday, June 14.  Peter White, Julian Vaughn, the David Wells/Chris Geith Project and Vincent Ingala will perform on Saturday, June 15.

*Joe Dimino of Neon Jazz interviewed Stan Kessler.

*Breakthrough, the new album by the Eldar Djangirov Trio, was released this week.

*Matt Kane writes about Ahmad Alaadeen, Take Five Coffee, Ben Leifer, Hermon Mehari, Roger Wilder, Steve Lambert and his favorite spots in Kansas City in an entertaining blog post.

*Joe Chambers' appearance with the 18th & Vine Big Band is documented by KCJazzLark.

*The Kansas City Star offers reviews of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra's tribute to Benny Goodman's Carnegie Hall concert and the Dave Douglas Quintet at the Blue Room.

*Brandon Draper's weekly gig at the Kill Devil Club is the subject a four-minute video.  (Via Offstage.)

*Frank Driggs' collection of jazz photos has been donated to Jazz at Lincoln Center.  Driggs and Chuck Haddix cowrote Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop: A History.  (Via Steve Paul.)

*A critic characterizes The Freedom of Expression by Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle as an "auspicious debut."

*Tweet o' the Week: Lauren Paasch: have you ever seen an 80 year old jazz musician cuter than jerry dodgion? i doubt it #fact #oldpeopleareadorable

*From Brad Cox: I wanted to let you know that the next People's Liberation Big Band show at the RecordBar will take place Sunday, April 14. We have a lot of new music to try out. I mean there's really a lot. I'm not too sure of the proper unit of measure, but I'm pretty sure it is either a sh#t ton, or a metric ton, whichever is greater. We will also be joined by guest vocalist Shay Estes, which is always a treat.

*From Neill Smith: I am super excited to announce that we are starting a music appreciation night starting this Sunday at The Riot Room! Each week will feature a different guest DJ playing their personal music collection + from midnight to close you can get all the PBR you can drink for $10!  The series begins April 15.  Hermon Mehari is the guest DJ on May 26.

*From Johnson County Community College: A protégé of the legendary jazz master Dizzy Gillespie, (Arturo) Sandoval has evolved into one of the world's most acknowledged guardians of jazz trumpet and flugelhorn as well as a renowned classical artist, pianist and composer. He will appear as part of the college's annual Jazz Winterlude festival (on) Saturday, Jan. 25 (in) Yardley Hall.

*From Ron Carlson: Saturday, April 13th @ Lucky Brewgrille, 7-10 pm. Rob Scheps (sax), Jerry Dodgion (sax), Bob Bowman (bass), Ron Carlson (guitar), Brian Steever (drums).  Sunday, April 14th @ Murray's (12921 State Line), 6-9pm. Rob Scheps (sax), Jerry Dodgion (sax), Roger Wilder (piano), Ron Carlson (guitar) then a regular schedule of Fridays at Lucky Brewgrille and Saturdays at Murray's with my trio format and featuring great local musicians!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Simple Beauty of Regina Carter and Yacouba Sissoko

Note the beatific countenance of Regina Carter.  I can't imagine anyone not being elevated to a similar state when they hear jazz violinist Carter and master kora player Yacouba Sissoko perform. 

About fifty people attended a free talk and demonstration about Carter's Reverse Thread project at the American Jazz Museum on Thursday, April 4. 

Carter proudly spoke of the degree in pedagogy earned by her grandmother in 1915.  After mentioning her interactions with members of the large community of African immigrants in her hometown of Detroit, she and Sissoko discussed the versatility of Malian musicians.  The pair have a unique sibling-like bond.

"I believe I was led to him," Carter said.

They also offered insights into their instruments.  Carter called her violin "my Walmart special."  Sissoko confessed that he uses "fishing lines" as his kora strings in the United States.  Working with African musicians like Sissoko, Carter said, allowed her to "learn to let the simple beauty shine."

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Now's the Time: Joe Chambers

Joe Chambers has worked with the likes of Eric Dolphy, Charles Mingus, Sam Rivers, Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter. At the Blue Room on Saturday, April 6, the veteran drummer will perform with Kansas City jazz giant Bobby Watson and the 18th & Vine Big Band.  Chambers is captured working with Harold Land, Bobby Hutcherson, Stanley Cowell and Reggie Johnson in the undated video.  Joe Klopus previewed the week's top jazz shows.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Pat Metheny's recording of John Zorn's Tap: The Book of Angels, Vol. 20 will be released May 21.

*KCJazzLark considers the ongoing evolution of Kansas City's jazz scene.

*A critic for The Guardian lauds a recent London performance by Bobby Watson.

*Hunter Long provides an update on the Black House Collective's ambitious new project.

*Eldar's recent activities are monitored by Pamela Espeland.

*"Kansas City's signature art form continues 'The Long Goodnight' as jazz becomes just another dead language they teach at UMKC, like Latin or American Literature," Tony Botello suggests in a Jardine's-related post.

*Joe Sample's conversation with Steve Kraske is archived here.

*Comment o' the Week: Thomas- We're not playing with musicians in mind. We're playing for the people that paid to get in and are spending their hard earned money. The guy who writes our check prefers it that way.

*Tweet o' the Week: Classic Las Vegas- Its 1965 in #Vegas and if you want to know how hot a ticket Sinatra with Count Basie at the Sands was, read this. (newspaper clipping).

*From a press release: Since her emergence onto the adult contemporary/urban jazz scene in the early 2000s, Carol Duboc has generously shared her wisdom and insight about love and romance in song-via both compelling original material and uniquely stylized covers of pop classics, as on her most recent recordings Songs For Lovers (2008) and Burt Bacharach Songbook (2009).  On her multi-faceted new album Smile, the sultry singer and songwriter-who penned songs for top pop/R&B artists like Patti Labelle, Chante Moore, Stephanie Mills and Jade before emerging as a solo artist-goes deeper emotionally than ever before…  Duboc co-produced Smile (and co-wrote all but one of its songs) with GRAMMY® nominated keyboardist, recording artist, composer and producer Jeff Lorber…  (Here's a music video for "Smile", a track from the forthcoming album.)

*From Jim Mair: One of Kansas City’s best known and most popular pianists, Tim Whitmer, will headline the last in the 2012-13 “Jazz by the Lake” series at Kansas City Kansas Community College Thursday, April 4.  The director of the “Spirituality and All That Jazz” programs at Unity on the Plaza, Whitmer will perform from noon-1 p.m. in Conference Center adjacent to the Campus Lake on the KCKCC campus at 7250 State Avenue.  Whitmer will be joined by Grammy-nominated guitarist Rod Fleeman and James Albright on bass with jazz saxophonist and KCKCC Jazz Band Director Jim Mair expected to make cameo appearances. “A toe-tapping great time,” promises Mair. The performance is open to the public without charge.   Light lunch is served.

*From Jim Mair #2: One of the most important trumpet players/composers in the world will present a master class at KCKCC in the band room.  (Dave Douglas) will also be joined by drummer Rudy Royston.  Monday April 8. 10am till noon.  $5.00 admission.

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Put It Where You Want It

I felt an incongruous sensation as I left White Recital Hall on Tuesday.  It's a feeling I associate with abbreviated sets at rock festivals, canned hip-hop performances and uninspired outings by country stars.  I'd been had.

I paid $16.50 at the door with the expectation that I'd experience a proper performance by Joe Sample.  I was wrong.  The influential musician was participating in a taping of 12th Street Jump. The previous 12th Street Jump events I'd attended were free.  I interpreted the $16.50 charge for Tuesday's program as an indication that Sample would give an additional performance apart from his role in the radio show.  Nope.

The five selections that featured Sample- "Put It Where You Want It," "Nica's Dream," "It Happens Every Day," "Street Life" and a blues vamp- lasted no more than 25 minutes.  Although the support provided by the house band of Joe Cartwright, Tyrone Clark and Mike Warren was solid and Sample's playing was engaging, I was counting on a separate set.  Besides, 12th Street Jump's comedic segments were something I had to endure rather than enjoy.  Comparable variety shows like NPR's A Prairie Home Companion, Whad'ya Know? and television's The Colbert Report don't appeal to me either.

The rare sour experience served to remind me that the quality-to-cost ratio on tap on Kansas City's jazz scene is exceptional.  First-rate free events- Jazz Winterlude, the Prairie Village Jazz Festival and twice-weekly gigs at the Blue Room among them- abound.  Cover charges for performances by the region's elite musicians rarely exceed ten dollars.  Even the most expensive tickets- $50 for the American Jazz Museum's Jammin' at the Gem series and $40/$50 for the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra- give patrons a tremendous bang for their bucks.

Even though I won't get my $16.50 back, the imprudent investment I made in 12th Street Jump has provided me with a new appreciation of the ongoing bargains enjoyed by Kansas City's jazz fans.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)