Sunday, June 30, 2013

Chasin' the Bird

As someone who didn’t grow up in a jazz-friendly home, I’m fascinated by the paths of discovery that led other people to the music.  Stanley Clarke’s "School Days" and the free Sunday concert series once sponsored by Kansas City gave me the bug.

I know several people who were led to jazz through the music of Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears.  The tangential connection between jazz and that form of rock engendered my curiosity about the 1970s band Chase.

“We like jazz and we like rock, so we do both,” bandleader Bill Chase says before this performance of the band’s biggest hit.

Prominent Kansas City trumpeter Jay Sollenberger joined Chase in 1973.  He sat in with Hard@Play, a self-described “classic rock with horns” band, at a free concert early Friday evening.   The band played first-rate renditions of material by the likes of Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, the Ides of March, Al Green and Earth, Wind & Fire.

Will Hard@Play's performance lead anyone in the audience of about 300 to jazz?  You never know.

(Original image of Hard@Play by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Now's the Time: The Mike Dillon Band

Content advisory: Mike Dillon's introduction to a "weird punk rock song" and a "punk rock hip hop" selection is laced with profanity.  Even after the music begins at 1:18, his lyrics contain off-color content.  Dillon's current quartet featuring trombonist Carly Meyers returns to the Brick on Friday, June 28.  The band may not swing, but I contend that these musicians demonstrate the inventive spirit, if not the fundamental framework, of jazz.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Over twenty years after releasing her debut album, former Kansas City resident Karrin Allyson received the “Rising Female Vocalist” award from Downbeat magazine last week. 

*KC Jazz Lark hopes for a more ambitious jazz festival at 18th & Vine.

*Here’s a taste of Michael Shults and Peter Schlamb performing at Take Five Coffee + Bar earlier this week.

*Ben Sidran will be featured on December 15 as part of the 2013-14 Season at the White Theatre.

*The Pitch highlights this weekend’s “Trumpet Summit” starring Mike Metheny, Stan Kessler and Hermon Mehari.

*Bebopifed reports that the Alan Ferber Nonet was awarded a grant by Chamber Music America.  Ferber recently played a series of gigs with Matt Otto in the Kansas City area.

*Tweet o' the Week: Christian McBride- I got to open for Mr. Bland at the Kansas City Jazz Festival in 2011. It was a great honor to be in his presence and see him perform.

*Via Smooth J Cafe’s Facebook account: We are so pleased to announce that Julian Vaughn, Top 20 Billboard recording artist and smooth jazz legend, will be performing at our Grand Opening on July 30th! Attendance is by invitation only but we have reserved a limited number of invitations for guests who visit our web page and sign up for pre-opening offers. We can't invite everyone (the fire department won't let us pack too many people into the restaurant) so if you haven't signed up you should do so now! You do not want to miss this show! Most important, we want to meet you and welcome you to our new restaurant!

*From Brad Cox: The People's Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the "Jeff Harshbarger Presents" jazz series on Sunday, July 7 with an 8:00 pm performance at the RecordBar (1020 Westport Rd, Kansas City, MO). The first set of the night will feature a "year in review" of the band's 2012-2013 compositional output, including excerpts from Patrick Alonzo Conway's music for Voyeur, a short play written with Heidi Van. The second set will feature PLBB's "greatest hits" of the previous five years. Cover price at the door is $5.  As a result of its monthly RecordBar engagement, The People's Liberation Big Band has created more than fifty new original large ensemble jazz works over the past five years, including large-scale work such as the ensemble's original film score for Battleship Potemkin.  The group's July 7 RecordBar performance will feature such fixtures of the Kansas City jazz community as Roger Wilder, Matt Otto, Jeff Harshbarger and Rich Wheeler, as well as guest vocalist Shay Estes.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Album Review: Pat Metheny- Tap: John Zorn’s Book of Angels, vol. 20

Tap: John Zorn’s Book of Angels, vol. 20 is almost certainly the most surprising collaboration of 2013.  Pat Metheny and John Zorn don't travel in the same circles.  Yet for a subset of people who have followed the careers of both men, the pairing represents the fulfillment of an implausible dream. 

The project doesn't disappoint. 

None of Tap's six tracks is representative of the entirety of the album, but the arc of "Sariel" is indicative of Metheny's ambition.  After an acoustic opening, the 11-minute piece takes on a prog-rock undercurrent before dissolving in grungy chaos.  Although it represents something entirely new, "Sariel" contains echoes of the pastoral beauty of Bright Size Life, the reassuring grooves of Offramp and the walls of noise on Zero Tolerance for Silence

The complexities of Tap will take time to fully absurd and process.  For the time being, however, it's my top album of 2013.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Now's the Time: Ryan Lee

Although he's been demonstrating a multiplicity of talents for some time, Ryan Lee continues to startle me every time I see him manning the keyboards rather than a drum kit.   The superb musician directs the jam session at the Blue Room on Monday, June 24.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*"Kansas City, this home to jazz with institutions and a tradition other cities can envy, is mired in minor festivals," KC Jazz Lark suggests in a powerful new post.

*The Kansas City Star reports that the Smooth J Cafe in Overland Park will have a smooth jazz theme.

*Here's footage of Winard Harper jamming at the Mutual Musicians Foundation earlier this month.

*Logan Richardson's talent as an actor is displayed in a clip from a new film.

*Tweet o' the Week: kellyurich- Jazz in the Woods cancelled. If you're a hipster you will have to find another place to pretend to like jazz music.

*Comment o' the Week: Tony DeSare- Lol, I would have expected exactly this reaction from the Journey cover from the jazzerati. You would have been slightly better off posting this one probably.

*From a press release: Alaadeen Enterprises (AEI), the non-profit education organization founded in 1998 by the late Ahmad Alaadeen – jazz musician and educator – plans to re-launch its jazz educational initiative on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 (his 79th birthday) at 11 AM at the Mutual Musicians Foundation, where he started his career as a Kansas City jazz musician.  The purpose of this event is to highlight AEI, its vision, and plans; to introduce its new Executive Director, Dennis J. Winslett, and to announce its major educational initiatives, including its Bird House Fellowship Program, which will develop a select group of music students through a comprehensive arts and humanities curriculum in workshops scheduled throughout the year, based on the Alaadeen Method of Instruction™…  The event is free to the public and is intended to attract local media coverage, to engage the broader jazz and arts community, and to launch a comprehensive strategic plan to revive jazz education in Kansas City.  The event will feature tributes from some of Kansas City’s most prominent jazz musicians and educators, who were taught and/or influenced by Ahmad Alaadeen, including Kevin Mahogany, Dennis Winslett, Logan Richardson, Bobby Watson, and more.  Several of their students, representing three generations of Kansas City jazz musicians, will perform Alaadeen's original compositions….

*From Michael Shults: (W)anted to tell you about a new project I'm working on, playing duets with Peter Schlamb.  Our first gig is Sunday (June 23) at Take Five at 7 PM. We'll do some originals by Peter and I, probably cover "Vaal" from Logan Richardson's album "Ethos", and some standards. It's definitely at the experiment stage right now, but it's a lot of fun and I think alto+vibes is a really unique sonority.

*From Kerry Strayer: Because of health concerns related to my cancer treatments I will not be able to appear with Barissentials this Friday, June 21, 2013 at Take 5 from 8-10pm.  However the band will appear with tenor saxophonist Steve Lambert subbing for me. I may stop by and sit in on a few tunes if I feel up to it but I will not be able to play the entire gig.  Please support the band and the venue. I hope I feel well enough to stop by and hope to reschedule this date at another time.

*From Mike Metheny: A KC Trumpet Summit at The Blue Room with: Stan Kessler, Hermon Mehari & Mike Metheny, featuring: TJ Martley, piano, Gerald Spaits, bass, Brian Steever, drums,  Saturday, June 29, 2013, 8:30pm - 12:30am.

*From Jazz Winterlude: Here's news: Jazz Winterlude and the JCCC Performing Arts Series invite you to two jazz performances in June: The Tyrone Clark Trio will perform on Monday, June 24 at noon to 1:00 p.m. in the Regnier Center Atrium on campus. On Wednesday, June 26, Gerald Spaits and Charles Perkins will perform from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in that space. The concerts are free, and Cafe Tempo will offer a free drink to those who purchase an entree (delicious!) between noon and 1:00 p.m. on those days. Join us for some fun!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Reappraising Jazz in the Woods

It's time to repent.  After thoroughly enjoying myself Friday at Jazz in the Woods, I realized that I need to come clean about my longstanding affection for the festival.

I witnessed the inception of Jazz in the Woods in the 1980s when drummer Vince Bilardo played swing-oriented jazz with locally-based musicians at the east side of the parking lot that now houses Garozzo's on College Boulevard.  As the festival began to shun Kansas City's jazz musicians in favor of more marketable artists, I aimed ridicule and scorn at the organizers of Jazz in the Woods.  Yet I continued to show up every year and never failed to have a good time. 

Friday's presentation was no exception.  Tony DeSare, a hybrid of John Pizzarelli and Michael Bublé, interpreted standards by Irving Berlin and Cole Porter in addition to covering songs by Prince, Bruce Springteen and Jerry Lee Lewis.  Alas, he didn't play the Journey song that ignited a storm of incendiary fury at Plastic Sax a couple weeks ago.  Greg Adams and East Bay Soul were fantastic in Adams' third appearance at Jazz in the Woods.  The former member of Tower of Power led a large band through funk and R&B classics like "The World Is a Ghetto" and "What's Going On."

It's worth noting that well over half of the people within 100 feet of the stage were black.  The demographics belie Johnson County's reputation as a bastion of white exclusivity and offers an answer to the oft-asked question about what became of the black audience for jazz.   Factoring in both age and race, the audience of over 5,000 at Friday's event was the most diverse I've encountered in 2013.  Aside from bored teenagers and disgruntled old folks who'd apparently expected to hear the sounds of Stan Kenton, everyone seemed to be wearing a smile.

My favorite jazz albums of 2013 include thorny efforts by the likes of Rudresh Mahanthappa.  I acknowledge that most people don't want to subject themselves to that sort of noise.  In fact, I've come to an even more divisive yet meaningful realization.  Snobbish dismissals of smooth jazz are, at best, elitist.  At worst, such derision contains shades of unintentional racism.  I intend to cleanse myself of this socially acceptable yet unflattering bias. 

After Friday's positive experience, I was looking forward to relaxing to the smooth jazz sounds of Julian Vaughn and Peter White at Jazz in the Woods the following night.  I was crestfallen when the event was rained out.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Now's the Time: The Coleman Hawkins Jazz Festival

Many of Kansas City's most accomplished musicians will travel north on I-29 this weekend to perform at the Coleman Hawkins Jazz Festival.  A preview of the annual event is included in Joe Klopus' latest column.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Bob Barry, the man with the disruptively loud camera at events hosted by the American Jazz Museum, is  featured in The Kansas City Star.

*Boulevard Brewing will donate a portion of sales of its KC Pils brand to the American Jazz Museum.

*KC Jazz Lark takes another fascinating then-and-now look at the Jazz District.

*"All For a Song" is a musical about the late Myra Taylor.

*A jazz novice reports on the scene at Harling's during a performance by New Jazz Order.

*A writer for The Pitch highlights a forthcoming gig by the Rich Wheeler Quartet.

*Clint Ashlock is blogging.

*Tweet o' the Week: HappyInBag- Mark Lowrey, Bob Bowman and Sam Wisman are paying tribute to Mulgrew Miller at @TheMajesticKC . #kcjazz

*Comment o' the Week: KC Jazz Lark- Actually, I had several commentators and media sources in mind when writing the Kansrocksas comments. I was even thinking back to the 1980s, when a movie on jazz played for one night at The Bijou Theater, then in Westport Square. A then-music columnist for the KC Star wrote that few people showed up, proving nobody attends jazz events in Kansas City anymore (I'm paraphrasing). I wrote a letter to the editor, which The Star published, responding that maybe the sparse crowd proved nothing more than jazz fans don't see a lot of movies at The Bijou. Equating failed events to jazz is dead dates back a long time.

*From Jim Mair: The 12th annual week long Kansas City Jazz Camp held on the beautiful campus of Kansas City Kansas Community College wrapped up on Friday June 7 with a stellar final concert.  55 students, ages 11 to 71 from as far away as St. Louis along with a star studded faculty which included NPR Radio Host, Ludwig clinician and North Dakota Governor's Award winner percussionist Scott Prebys, Missouri Governor's Award winner and Kansas City Jazz icon Everette Devan, Kansas Governor's Award winner and Selmer saxophone clinician Doug Talley, three time Grammy nominee guitarist Rod Fleeman, and Kansas City's most versatile bassist, a master of all styles James Albright.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Concert Review: The New Vintage Big Band at the Brooksider Bar & Grill

I began to detect the invigorating sound of The New Vintage Big Band from over half a block away as I walked toward the Brooksider Bar & Grill last Wednesday.  The sound of a big band thrills me so much that it took all of my willpower to avoid the urge to accost passerby on the sidewalk who were ignoring the music.

"Where are you going?" I wanted to ask.  "How can you possibly discount that sound?"

Once seated inside the Brooksider, I spotted about 30 people who shared my enthusiasm.  Even with multiple large-screen televisions airing a Royals game and an NHL playoff match, these dedicated listeners remained mesmerized by the band.  A few of the sports bar's other patrons managed to ignore the band in spite of its volume.

The current edition of New Vintage is a nice mix of established veterans (including Jeff Hamer and Rob Whitsitt), young up-and-comers (including Brett Jackson and Dominique Sanders) and several guys unfamiliar to me.   A powerful solo by saxophonist David Freeland on "A Night In Tunisia" was very impressive. 

The band used to play on the first Wednesday of each month at BB's Lawnside BBQ.  I assume that it occupies the same slot at the Brookside establishment.  I'm counting on someone from the band to confirm my hunch in the comment section of this post.

The New Vintage Big Band was last featured at Plastic Sax in 2009.   The ensemble's Always and Forever album is available at Spotify.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Now's the Time: The Winard Harper Sextet

The mainstream jazz drummer Winard Harper returns to the Blue Room on Friday and Saturday, June 7-8. The New York-based Harper plays straight-ahead jazz with African embellishments.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The 2013 edition of the Coleman Hawkins Jazz Festival includes Matt Otto, Stan Kessler with Kathleen Holeman, the Doug Talley Quartet and the Wild Men of Kansas City.  The free event takes place June 14-15 at Coleman Hawkins Park in St. Joseph, Missouri.

*The headliners of the fourth annual Jazz Winterlude are Terri Lyne Carrington and Arturo Sandoval.  The festival at Johnson County Community College is January 24-25.

*Deborah Brown was interviewed by Joe Dimino of Neon Jazz.

*Michael Pagán praises the Green Lady Lounge.

*Beau Bledsoe offers a fascinating peek behind the curtains at Fado Novato's successful fundraising campaign to finance an extended trip to Portugal.

*Jim Mair has been recognized for his work at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

*Hermon Mehari provides background about a young musician in legal trouble.  (Via Tony's Kansas City.)

*KC Jazz Lark commends the vitality of Kansas City's jazz scene while taking an apparent swipe at the author of this blog.  Noting the cancelation of Kanrocksas, my good friend implies that had the festival been a jazz-oriented event, I would be "wetting myself" in a rush to "morbidly declare jazz is dead."  The failure of the rock/hip hop/EDM-oriented Kanrocksas to sell 25,000 advance tickets at $200 a pop bears no relationship to the "lively but peaceful" status of a handful of small-capacity jazz venues.  I reject the notion that I "hold the mortality of jazz to a different standard."  Just last night, almost 2,000 fans paid $40 each to hear the XX- a band with rock, hip hop and EDM elements- perform at the Uptown Theater.  The harsh reality is that far less than 2,000 people will attend jazz live jazz performances in the Kansas City area during the first ten days of June.

*In response to the previous Plastic Sax post about Charlie Parker, T.J. Martley kindly reminded the excitable author of this blog of his video transcription of "Little Willie Leaps."

*UMKC's Jazz Camp is June 23-27.

*Dean Minderman of St. Louis Jazz Notes analyzes the outstanding 2013-14 season of Jazz St. Louis.  Highlights include Rudresh Mahanthappa, Joe Lovano's Us Five and the Bad Plus.

*Here's a promotional video for the Parkville River Jam, Jazz, Blues and Fine Arts Festival.

*Tweet o' the Week: Kyle Broussard- If @jpwayman post 1 more time about jazz in the woods I am un-following him.

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- I made it 90 seconds before I turned it off, but that's because I was distracted, shoving needles in to my gonads and extinguishing cigarettes on my forearm.  (A less acerbic discussion is taking place here.)

*Clint Ashlock reports that his gig at Take Five Coffee + Bar this Saturday, June 8, features "a new project called Forward."  The band includes Ashlock, Ryan Lee, Michael Shults, Andrew Ouellette and Karl McComas-Reichl "doing all original stuff."

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 2, 2013


When national sports broadcasts originate in Kansas City, the coverage invariably includes a shot of the mural on the south side of the Power & Light district that features a rendering of Charlie Parker.  The attempt to provide viewers with a bit of local flavor is commendable.

Yet the reality "on the ground"- in the parlance of television journalists- in Kansas City emits a rather sour note.  Parker may be one of Kansas City's most famous sons, but I'm willing to wager that only a tiny percentage of area residents who see his image employed as parking lot cue or as part of a mural have heard his music.
Parker may even be falling out of favor among musicians.  It's entirely possible that I'm missing out on nightly revivals of Parker's music, but the last time heard a performance of a full Parker composition- rather than partial quotations- was in March.  Unfortunately, other than suggesting that everyone get a load of this, I don't have any solutions.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)