Friday, May 31, 2013

Now's the Time: Tony DeSare

Readers of Plastic Sax are a cantankerous bunch.  The discourse following a post related to Jazz In the Woods last month quickly turned ugly

And to be sure, it's kind of a drag that smooth jazz artists from around the globe have usurped locally-based swing musicians at the annual event.  But there's no arguing with success.  Jazz In the Woods is the best-attended "jazz" event in the Kansas City area. 

Tony DeSare, a New York-based crooner, performs at Jazz In the Woods at 7:45 p.m. on Friday, June 14.  The embedded cover of a Journey ballad represents the sort of approach that should delight thousands of picnicking listeners next weekend. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The American Jazz Museum has unveiled the lineup for the 2013-14 season of Jammin' at the Gem.  It includes, Poncho Sanchez, Najee, the Newport 60th Anniversary Tour, Curtis Fuller and Bill Charlap.

*Leon Brady's new Kickstarter campaign is titled The Kansas City Percussion Project: Educating and Creating Musical Collaborations for Children and Seniors.

*Ryan Heinlein was interviewed by Joe Dimino of Neon Jazz.

*The history of The Pla-Mor is recounted by KCJazzLark.

*Nate Chinen provides insights into the interview he conducted with Pat Metheny and John Zorn.

*The one-time Oklahoman Champian Fulton recalls her relationship with Jay McShann in her entertaining blog.

*Ed Shaughnessy, a popular drummer who played with the likes of Count Basie,  has died.

*Tweet o' the Week: Dana A. Coleman- TODAY IN BLACK HISTORY: Andy Kirk was born on this date in 1898. He was an African American musician, composer…

*Comment o' the Week: Toby Tucker- Very well said Hap!

*From Jim Mair: Dan DeLuca lost his battle with Leukemia on Saturday May 25. Dan had an encyclopedic knowledge of the American Popular Songbook. He new the original changes of all the tunes but at the same time played very logical and inventive substitution chords which always kept things fresh. He could play in any key and transpose in a split second. He could carve any tempo with virtuosity and clarity. His bass lines rivaled the best bass players. In five years of playing with him every weekend I was never able to anticipate how he would end a song. Every tune became a lesson in harmony and melodic lines. He personally increased my repertoire by at at least 150 tunes. We would often segue tunes together for over an hour using hand gestures to signal the key we were moving to. Three fingers down meant three flats or the key Eb. Five fingers up meant five sharps or the key B etc. He loved Bill Evans and one of his most favorite compositions was The Bad and the Beautiful by David Raksin.  He was a quiet giant of the piano.

*From a press release: How many artists can claim praise like "punk rock provocateur," "jazz vibraphone visionary" and "percussion master" in the same sentence? There's only one: Texas-native Mike Dillon. Whether it's through his affiliation with artists like Les Claypool and Ani DiFranco, collaborations like Garage A Trois, The Dead Kenny Gs and Critters Buggin or bands he's fronted, including Billy Goat and Hairy Apes BMX, Mike D (as fans refer to him) has set his own standard going on 25 years now.  His current full-time focus, The Mike Dillon Band, is perhaps the perfect storm of all these past experiences. Dillon's manic creative energy has found a foil in three young New Orleans-based musicians. Carly Meyers on trombone provides melodic and harmonic counterpoint to Dillon's vibes and percussion as she feverishly whirls about the stage driving audiences into a frenzy. The rhythm section of guitarist/bassist Cliff Hines and drummer Adam Gertner turns on a dime from blinding punk rock assaults to deep funk go-go, skanked-out ska grooves to old school hip-hop beats with all points covered in between.  The band performs at the Brick in Kansas City on June 28. 

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Pat Metheny: An Appreciation

Only fools read the comments posted to YouTube.  I am what I am.

A testy exchange at the streaming video site has stuck with me.  A commenter suggested that Pat Metheny is under-appreciated.  How can the recipient of 19 Grammy Awards, someone replied, possibly be considered under-appreciated?

Grammy Awards are nice, but industry accolades shouldn't be mistaken for artistic commendations.  Many jazz classicists abhor Metheny's experimental streak.  His soothing contemporary jazz work is dismissed by fans of more experimental sounds.  Lots of rock fans disdain Metheny's penchant for quiet beauty. 

Metheny is one of the most misunderstood- and yes, under-appreciated- musicians of our time. 

From his game-changing 1976 debut as a leader to last week's release of an album documenting his interpretation of John Zorn's contemporary spiritual compositions, Metheny has continually defied expectations.

The native of Lee's Summit has constructed an army of robots, popularized futuristic world music, worked as a member of one of the most essential avant-garde jazz groups of all time and is responsible for impenetrable walls of noise.  The styles may vary, but everything he touches exudes Metheny's distinct sensibility.

Very few artists working in any genre possess a fraction of Metheny's range.  As an eclectic genius, Metheny is in a class with the likes of Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Brian Eno and David Bowie.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Now's the Time: The Black House Quartet

A recently completed opera project offered further evidence that the Black House Collective is one of Kansas City's most multifarious ensembles.  Four musicians affiliated with the collective- saxophonist Hunter Long, guitarist Jeff Stocks, bassist Andrew Stinson and drummer Matt Leifer- will return to their foundation in forward-thinking jazz on Saturday, May 25, at Take Five Coffee + Bar.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCJazzLark provides a then-and-now look at several historic sites in the jazz district.

*Burt Bacharach references Mary Lou Williams, Count Basie and Teddy Wilson in an interview published by The Pitch.  (Via Tony's Kansas City.)

*The 100th show of Joe Dimino's Neon Jazz features a dozen Kansas City artists.

*The Pitch's new jazz scribe previews a gig at the Blue Room featuring the Jazz Disciples and Book of Gaia.

*Nate Chinen interviewed Pat Metheny and John Zorn about Tap: The Book of Angels, Vol. 20.  Tom Moon also analyzed the project.  The album was released yesterday.

*The Marshall Democrat-News recaps last weekend's Bob James Jazz Festival.

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

*Tweet o' the Week: negroleaguesmusuem- Alex Bugnon just performed a soulful salute to the late Isaac Hayes! #nlbm

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- mmm Jazooo, what a F@#$ing joke.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Review: The Matt Otto Quartet featuring Alan Ferber at Westport Coffee House

I read a startling new interview with Don Was, the president of Blue Note Records, a few hours before I attended a performance at Westport Coffee House last Thursday.

In describing his vision for Blue Note, Was explained that he intends to avoid promoting what he characterized as "selfish music."  From The Philadelphia Inquirer story:  "It's music made by self-centered [expletives] who get up on stage and say, 'Check this out, look what I can do.' We're not interested in that. We're interested in generous music."

Under Was' tenure, Blue Note has released high-profile albums by Robert Glasper, José James, Aaron Neville and Gregory Porter.  These "groove"-based artists have little in common with the music presented Thursday by a band featuring the visiting trombonist Alan Ferber, saxophonist Matt Otto, bassist Jeff Harshbarger and drummer Brian Steever.

The audience of less than twenty consisted almost entirely of musicians, the significant others of musicians, journalists and a dorky jazz blogger.  Could the low turnout be a reflection of Was' assertion about "selfish" music?

I don't think so. 

I would have gladly paid the $10 cover just to see and hear the joy-infused interaction between Harshbarger and Steever.  Besides, Otto and Ferber are notably creative composers.  The original material they brought to the gig was filled with intriguing twists and turns.  Their playing was correspondingly exceptional.  My admiration of Otto's work is extensively documented at Plastic Sax.  Ferber co-led the 2009 album In the Paint with David Binney and was a member of Esperanza Spalding's band when she appeared at the Kauffman Center last year.  Those collaborations are indicative of the forward-thinking approach displayed Thursday.

While the two sets featured plenty of solos, few could have been mistaken for self-glorifying exhibitions of technical mastery.  The only moment that might have inspired the ire of Was came during a rendition of Charlie Parker's "Visa."  Ryan Heinlein, Stan Kessler and Michael Shults contributed to a lengthy round of solos.  While each effort was exceptional, the selfless theme that had preceded the closing selection was absent.

In addition to the R&B-oriented albums mentioned above, Was has overseen new releases by jazz giants including Joe Lovano and Wayne Shorter.  The music documented on those albums may be difficult, but it's hardly selfish.  Thursday's performance in Kansas City was worthy of that robust tradition.

(The People's Liberation BIg Band will perform Ferber's compositions on Sunday, May 19, at the RecordBar.  Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Now's the Time: C.J. Boyd

The itinerant bassist and composer C.J. Boyd isn't a jazz musician.  Yet material like "We Know Time" should resonate with advocates of Charles Mingus and Charlie Haden.  Boyd kicks off the two-day KC Psychfest at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 17. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCJazzLark endorses Kansas City's latest wave of jazz talent.

*(T)his is music that may sound little like anything he's done before, but is equally impossible to imagine coming from anyone but Metheny," John Kelman suggests in a review of Pat Metheny's Tap: Jon Zorn's Book of Angels, Vol. 20.  The album will be released May 21.

*The Examiner previews the Jazz In the Woods festival.

*The Kansas City Live Music Blog published photos of Shay Estes, Jeff Harshbarger, Mark Lowrey and the Project H performing Beck's Song Reader at the RecordBar.

*This year's, ahem, Jazzoo fundraiser features a DJ, dueling pianos, dance and rock bands, a blues act and the jazz-tinged "antique pop" of Victor & Penny.

*Tweet o' the Week: Hermon Mehari- Had a blast opening for @TalibKweli this weekend. Live video of "Blowthehorn" - Reach and the Buhs (video)

*Comment o' the Week: Geek- I'm a big fan Diana Krall but how is she able to draw 2500 people? How would you know who she is unless you listen to jazz. Is her music played on any Kansas City radio stations? Is it because of her looks or her associaiton with Elvis? Kenny G is a house hold name. So was Chuck Mangletony in the 70's....(just joking..he used to play with Blakey)  How is Diana Krall so familiar internationally yet Karrin Allyson, Eliane Elias, Carol DuBoc, Ann Hampton Callaway are unknown to the majority of people.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Borne Back Ceaselessly Into the Past

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby 

"Hip hop was not around in the 1920's," a reviewer sniffs in a dismissal of the soundtrack to the new film version of The Great Gatsby.  "They just ruined the film."

The use of contemporary popular music in a film that takes place in 1922 doesn't offend me.  I reckon that today's versions of the title character would listen to Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Kanye West.  Had the filmmakers elected to present a soundtrack that's true to the setting, however, some of the selections would likely have originated in Kansas City.

The Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra's swanky "Oriental Love Dreams" would complement a dance scene.  And hip attendees of Gatsby's parties would probably have been aware of Bennie Moten.  The rowdy rendition of "Evil Mama Blues" with Ada Brown evokes all kinds of unlawful sin.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Now's the Time: Cindy Bradley

Many of Kansas City's jazz musicians have tired of my churlish exhortations to document their work on video.  I had simple performance videos in mind, but the embedded Cindy Bradley clip has altered my expectations.  I now realize that slinky red dresses and assertive hair stylists are essential ingredients of a solid presentation.  Perhaps Bradley can give musicians in Kansas City a few style tips when she and Alex Bugnon appear at the Gem Theater on Saturday, May 18.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Joe Dimino posted new interviews with Jeff Harshbarger and Clint Ashlock at Neon Jazz.

*KCJazzLark alerts his readers to a BBC report about Herb Jeffries and shares a vintage photograph of the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*The Grand Marquis created a new Kickstarter campaign.

*Jeneé Osterheldt spoke to Fanny Dunfee, Ahmad Alaadeen's widow, about her new book of poetry.

*Diana Krall's concert at the Midland theater was reviewed by The Kansas City Star.

*A critic raves about a Kansas City-inspired band's performance at a British jazz festival.

*Tweet o' the Week: parkavepirate- Easy Listening Jazz is like the Kansas City Royals...unobtrusive and yet secretly enjoyable with no real threat.

*Comment o' the Week: Russell- Time is no longer linear anymore.. it's a retrovirus

*From Rob Scheps: Early Notice: The Rob Scheps / Jim O'Connor Quintet- Rob Scheps - tenor sax, Jim O'Connor - trumpet/ flugelhorn, Roger Wilder - piano, Bob "Dwight" Bowman - bass, Brian Steever - drums, makes its Kansas Debut in these shows: Thursday October 3, 2013- Jazz On The Lake, Kansas City Kansas Community College, 12 pm - 1 pm.  Friday October 11, 2013- Take Five Coffee Bar, 7 pm - 10 pm…  Jim O'Connor is one of the greatest jazz trumpeters I've ever heard.

*From Doug Talley: This Friday, May 10, 8:30pm, we'll be performing the music of Wayne Shorter at the Blue Room, 18th and Vine, KCMO.  Don't miss this opportunity to hear pianist Sean Giddings, Shawnee Mission Northwest graduate currently living in Texas. Doug Talley - saxes, Joe Parisi - trumpet and flugelhorn, Sean Giddings - piano, Tim Brewer - acoustic and electric bass, Keith Kavanaugh - drums and cymbals.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Album Review: Carol Duboc- Smile

Had it not been for the Sunday jazz concerts sponsored by Kansas City, Missouri, in the 1970s and 1980s, Plastic Sax probably wouldn't exist.   The free events served as my introduction to jazz.

One of the concerts that had the most influence on me took place across the street from my elementary school at Line Creek Park in 1977 or 1978.  I'd never heard anything quite like The Jeff Lorber Fusion.  The bassist's slap technique mesmerized me.  A guy by the name of Kenneth Bruce Gorelick may or may not have been in the band.  Everything about the gig knocked me out.

The young women I encountered in high school several years later dazzled me in entirely different ways.  One of them was named Carol Duboc.  She's since forged a career as a California-based songwriter and vocalist.  Smile, Duboc's new album, was co-produced by Lorber.  The project's smooth sound is highly recommended to fans of Brenda Russell, Michael Franks and Patti Austin.  Here's the sunny video for the title track.

While I'm tempted to ask Duboc if she attended that Lorber concert in the 1970s, I'm not sure I want to know the answer.  I walked to the show with my best friend Rob.  My appreciation of Lorber's performance- to say nothing of my relationship with Rob- might have been jeopardized had a blonde caught my eye that summer evening.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Now's the Time: Charles Williams

Who's in the mood for some grown and sexy music?  Pianist Charles Williams, a mainstay of Kansas City's jazz scene, performs the Stylistics hit "Betcha By Golly, Wow" in the embedded video.  He's accompanied by guitarist Rod Fleeman, bassist James Ward and drummer Mike Warren.  Williams and Fleeman will appear at Helzberg Hall on Friday, May 3, as members of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Tim Finn provides insights into Friday's performance of Beck's Song Reader by Mark Lowrey, the Project H, Jeff Harshbarger and Shay Estes.

*Kenny G will appear with the Kansas City Symphony on January 17-18, 2014.

*Craig Glazer lambasts the Jazz District as a "total and complete, unadulterated failure."

*Libby Hanssen reviewed concerts by Bobby McFerrin and Bach Aria Soloists.

*Here's a peek at Bobby Watson rehearsing with the Kansas City Ballet.

*Logan Richardson was a guest on an episode of the JazzWatch podcast.

*Joe Straws was featured in The Kansas City Star.

*Tweet o' the Week: mbirdmusic- Singing about Paris #paris #sprinbird #springtime #Bored Vine.

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- You say "anachronistic" like it's a bad thing ;)

*From a press release: Students in the KU School of Music Jazz Studies program received five awards from DownBeat magazine’s 36th Annual Student Music Awards.  Four students won awards in the following categories: Original Composition – Lead Sheet (undergraduate division), Original Composition – Orchestrated Work (graduate division) and Jazz Arrangement (graduate division).  David von Kampen, a doctoral student pursuing a music composition degree and previous DownBeat award recipient, was the recipient of two awards received top prize in the graduate division. He is the winner in the Original Composition -  Orchestrated Work category for “Soft Glow, Sharp Edges” and received an Outstanding Performance Award in the Jazz Arrangement category for “The Tourist.”  Clint Ashlock, pursuing a Doctorate of Musical Arts in trumpet, was named the winner of the Jazz Arrangement category (graduate division) for “Nebula.”  In the undergraduate division, Brock Chart (“Northern Lights”) and Devin Wright (“Imploding Man”) both received Outstanding Performance awards in the Original Composition – Lead Sheet category. Chart is a senior pursuing a bachelor degree in music composition, while Wright was a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in jazz studies in 2012.  All of the winning compositions and arrangements were written for and recorded by the top ensembles within the KU Jazz Studies Program:  Jazz Ensemble I, Combo I, and the Jazz Singers.  The program is under the direction of Dan Gailey, director of jazz studies at KU. Under Gailey’s leadership, the program has received 17 DownBeat awards since 1992.

*From Jim Mair: For most of the 700 musicians from three states, the 3rd Annual Kansas City Jazz Summit provided them with their first look at Kansas City Kansas Community College.  “It had a real impact on those who had never been here,” said Jim Mair, Director of Jazz Music at KCKCC and founder and organizer of the three-day Jazz Summit that attracted 35 middle school, high school and college bands from three states… The Summit was highlighted by the Kansas City Jazz Heritage “Basically Basie” competition won for the third straight year by Blue Valley Northwest High School. The championship was decided by members of the audience who were able to text their votes.  Mair said the 35 bands which competed came from as far away as Springfield and St. Louis in Missouri, Iowa and western Kansas and represented a 15 percent increase in participants. Participating bands included four college bands, Johnson County Community College, Penn Valley, Southwestern Iowa and Washburn University along with KCKCC.

*From a press release: The Heartbeat Next to My Heartbeat is a collection of writing over three years by Victoria “Fanny” Alaadeen. She chronicles the time she devoted as her husband’s full-time caretaker on a slow journey through cancer and shares the process of her recovery after his death. Fanny was wife, business manager, inspiration and personal savior to celebrated saxophonist and educator Ahmad Alaadeen… She lays bare the anguish of losing him through musings that she calls ”beats” – poem/essay hybrids that strike at the emotions like beats on a drum or the rhythmic pulsing of a heartbeat… The American Jazz Museum will host a book signing with Fanny Alaadeen and has selections of Ahmad Alaadeen’s discography available in the Swing Shop.  The Heartbeat Next to My Heartbeat is available through Fandeen publishing and the Swing Shop in the American Jazz Museum… and online at,, and

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)