Monday, July 8, 2013

Grading the 2013-14 Folly and Gem Seasons

While waiting in line outside the men's room during the intermission of Eliane Elias' concert at the Folly Theater three months ago, I overheard two older gentlemen discussing the announcement for the bookings that had just been made for the forthcoming season. 

"Mehldau?  Parlato?  Never heard of 'em," the first fellow said.  "I wish they'd book the good ones."

"Who are they supposed to get?" the second man said.   "All the good ones are dead."

Jazz presenters don't have it easy.  Joe Klopus analyzed the latest efforts of the staffs of the Folly Theater and the American Jazz Museum for The Kansas City Star last week.  My take follows.

Poncho Sanchez featuring James Carter
Gem Theater, September 6
Poncho Sanchez doesn't perform in Kansas City every year.  It just seems that way.  Yet September's appearance will be different.  The presence of the aggressive saxophonist James Carter adds another excellent showman to the high-energy bill.
Grade: B

Gretchen Parlato Quartet
Folly Theater, October 5 
Gretchen Parlato has become a star in the jazz world since she performed as a sideman in the band of David Binney at the Folly Theater in 2009.  She's an intriguing, forward-thinking talent.
Grade: B+

Kenny Barron Trio
Folly Theater, November 22
Kenny Barron, 70, is an impeccably sophisticated pianist.
Grade: B

Jonathan Batiste & Stay Human
Folly Theater, January 17
Look out, Wynton Marsalis- another handsome neo-conservative jazz musician from a prominent New Orleans family is hot on your heels.  I've yet to see the young pianist Jonathan Batiste.  My relatively low grade could be erroneous.
Grade: B-

Gem Theater, February 15
It's hard to argue with success.  Smooth jazz saxophonist Najee will almost certainly fill the 500-seat theater. 
Grade: B

Tierney Sutton Band
Folly Theater, March 7
An old-fashioned jazz singer, Tierney Sutton appeals to traditionalists. 
Grade: B-

Newport 60th Anniversary Tour
Gem Theater, March 22
I have a bias against jerry-rigged all-star ensembles.  There's really no reason a "60th anniversary tour" of the Newport Jazz Festival should exist.  Yet the lineup of clarinetist Anat Cohen, vocalist and pianist Karrin Allyson, trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Larry Grenadier guitarist Mark Whitfield, pianist Peter Martin and drummer Clarence Penn is truly exceptional.
Grade: A

Brad Mehldau Trio
Folly Theater, April 19
Pianist and composer Brad Mehldau is arguably the most important jazz-based artist under the age of 50. 
Grade: A

Curtis Fuller
Gem Theater, April 19
Curtis Fuller recorded two albums as a leader for Blue Note Records in 1957.  That small portion of his extensive discography alone merits a "Lifetime Achievement Concert."  An all-star band that includes Nathan Davis, George Cables, Abraham Laboriel, and Winard Harper makes the booking even sweeter.
Grade: B+

John Scofield Organic Trio
Folly Theater, May 10th
Überjam Deux, the title of John Scofield's latest album, serves as a reminder that the guitarist appeals to the jam band crowd.  People who follow Umphrey's McGee and occasional Scofield collaborators Medeski Martin and Wood will flock to 12th Street to hear the influential improvisor.
Grade: B+

Massey Hall 50th Anniversary
Gem Theater, May 17
Something's missing.  The American Jazz Museum notes that the concert will feature "Bill Charlap and his trio of Kenny Washington and Peter Washington performing with special guest Jon Faddis in celebration of the historic Massey Hall Concert."  The roles of Dizzy Gillespie (Faddis), Bud Powell (Charlap), Charles Mingus (P. Washington) and Max Roach (K. Washington) are ably covered.  But who's going to play Charlie Parker? 
Grade: B

I conducted similar exercises for the 2012-13 seasons here, the 2011-12 seasons here and here, the 2010-11 seasons here and here, for 2009-10 here and for 2008-09 here and here.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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