Friday, November 29, 2013

Now's the Time: Ernest Melton

During the first hour of the 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival on October 12, I asked Gerald Dunn, the American Jazz Museum's Director of Entertainment, for tips on any under-the-radar performances I might otherwise miss.  He suggested that I look into a kid by the name of Ernest Melton who was slated to perform with a youth band.  Gerald was right.  Melton, 17, floored me.  Melton's aggressive attack is showcased at the beginning of this new video.  Drummer Ryan Lee and keyboardist Eddie Moore sparkle throughout the footage. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Star's lengthy examination of the Jazz District's struggles and an in-depth look at the state of the American Jazz Museum were written by Mike Hendricks.

*KC Jazz Lark continues his invaluable "What the Jazz Museum Was Going To Be" series.

*A blogger notes that Chuck Haddix has unearthed two previously undiscovered recordings featuring Charlie Parker.  (Tip via Tony's Kansas City.)

*Kin (←→), a new album by the Pat Metheny Unity Group ( Metheny, Chris Potter, Antonio Sanchez, Ben Williams and multi-instrumentalist Giulio Carmassi), will be released by Nonesuch on February 4, 2014.

*The Pitch takes note of the physical release of Bobby Watson's Check Cashing Day.

*The Kansas City Star published a review of the Kenny Barron Trio's concert at the Folly Theater.

*The push behind the construction of a "Jazz Walk of Fame" seems to be gaining momentum.

*The Kansas City Star reports that the new executive director of the Lied Center is the former vice president of concerts and programming at Jazz at the Lincoln Center.

*An amusing moment at the 3:00 mark of a video produced by Pharrell William's "Other" channel- "I've been listening to- what's that show?- "Bird Flight" on the radio early in the morning. It's that radio show all about Charlie Byrd."

*Tweet o' the Week: Heinlein Music- 98.1 going to town on 18th & Vine right now. So far my favorite quote has been, "I've never been there but maybe 20 people have been there."

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous: I think it's a shame you feel the need separate the local from the touring. Hold everyone to the same standard and stop stacking the deck for local players. Of course if your standard is simply listing as many musicians as you can, by all means keep doing that.  Seriously, you mentioned seeing a dinner gig at the Majestic as one of your top shows? Gotta shoe-horn in Mark Lowry I suppose. The fact that you don't include dates is the big give away that you're just listing people. PLBB at the RecordBar? They play every month and their shows vary in quality depending on whose there and what the material was. Truly a facile and completely meaningless list.

*You can talk as much as you like as you're eating a $45 steak.

*From a press release: The University of Kansas School of Music proudly presents the 12th Annual Jazz Vespers concert at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 12, 2013 at the Lied Center of Kansas.  The concert will feature KU Jazz Ensemble I and Jazz Ensemble II, directed by Dan Gailey, KU director of Jazz Studies; KU Jazz Singers, directed by David von Kampen, D.M.A. student in composition; and KU Combo I, directed by Matt Otto, KU lecturer in Jazz Studies. Also featured will be KU professor of Film and Media Studies Chuck Berg, tenor saxophone; KU professor of saxophone, Vince Gnojek, saxophone; and KU School of Music dean Robert Walzel, clarinet. The program features jazz arrangements of holiday favorites by some of the most celebrated writers in jazz including Duke Ellington, Gil Evans and Ernie Wilkins. The program includes The First Noel; It Came Upon a Midnight Clear; The Little Drummer Boy; It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year; Winter Wonderland; Sugar Rum Cherry; Jingle Bells; and more.  Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for children, seniors and students. Tickets can be purchased at the Lied Center Ticket Office, by phone at 785-864-2787 or online at

*From Take Five Coffee: Friday, November 29, 8 pm:  Project H- Friday we host the huge ensemble sound of a septet that features all original compositions and ridiculous talent. Trombonist and composer Ryan Heinlein leads the way, pushing the swings on a jazz playground with his miscreant playmates - Clint Ashlock (trumpet), Dominique Sanders (bass), Andrew Ouellette (keys), Matt Leifer (drums), Jeff Stocks (guitar) and Brett Jackson (sax). It's like the Little Rascals with horns, sort of. $5 cover.  Saturday, November 30, 8 pm:  Sons of Brasil- Slip a little samba seasoning into your holiday feast! The Sons know how to heat up a cold night - Stan Kessler (trumpet), Danny Embrey (guitar), Greg Whitfield (bass) and Doug Auwarter (drums) are the absolute best around at what they do, and what they do is deliver spell-binding grooves in the Brazilian style $5 cover.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Best Jazz Performances of 2013

There's still plenty of live music to be experienced in 2013.  Logan Richardson is returning to Kansas City in a few weeks.  And I intend to make the Green Lady Lounge my home away from home in December.  Even so, 2013 has already been an immensely rewarding year for jazz fans.  Here are two lists of the performances I enjoyed most.

Locally-based musicians
1. The People's Liberation Big Band- RecordBar
2. Lisa Henry- The Conference Center at Kansas City Kansas Community College
3. Matt Otto/Ben Pinder Quartet- Westport Coffee House
4. Jeff Harshbarger Quartet- Take Five Coffee
5. The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra with Randy Brecker- Helzberg Hall
6. Rich Wheeler Quartet- Take Five Coffee
7. Vine Street Rumble- Gem Theater
8. Alaturka- Recital Hall at the Carlsen Center
9. Mark Lowrey, Bob Bowman and Sam Wisman- The Majestic
10. Andy McGhie Quartet- Prairie Village Jazz Festival

Touring musicians
1. Julian Lage and Jorge Roeder- Yardley Hall
2. Miguel Zenón and the Rhythm Collective- Blue Room
3. Kurt Elling- Gem Theater
4. Dave Douglas Quintet- Blue Room
5. Eliane Elias Trio- Folly Theater
6. Jerry Dodgion with Rob Scheps- Take Five Coffee
7. James Carter- Folly Theater
8. Caroline Davis- Green Lady Lounge
9. Kenny Barron Trio- Folly Theater
10. Kenny Garrett- Folly Theater

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Now's the Time: Kenny Barron

Were it not for some slight sonic distortion, the embedded video of Kenny Barron and Dave Holland playing Charlie Parker's "Billie's Bounce" might be my favorite thing on the internet.  Barron performs at the Folly Theater on Friday, November 22.  He'll be accompanied by bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Lee Pearson.  Joe Klopus' previewed the concert.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCPT uploaded an undated video profile of the Mutual Musicians Foundation to YouTube. 

*T.J. Martley and Gerald Spaits were interviewed by Joe Dimino for Neon Jazz.

*KC Jazz Lark shares illuminating source material as he reexamines the origins of the American Jazz Museum.

*The Kansas City Star reviewed Harry Connick's concert at the Midland theater.

*Chris Burnett reaffirms his commitment to the American Jazz Museum.

*Images of a graveside tribute of Bennie Moten are part of a slideshow of shots taken by photographers for The Kansas City Star.

*The physical edition of Bobby Watson's Check Cashing Day has a new street date of November 26.

*Tweet o' the Week: Ron Gutierrez- I am so, so pleased to announce this Friday's concert! After a few years of planning, the time has come!. (link)

*From Dan Thomas: Dan Thomas and Voyage will be presenting original music and some brand new music in remembrance of JFK at the Blue Room, 18th and Vine, on Nov 22nd from 8:30pm-12:30am.  The evening will mark the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination and we will provide some musical commentary on what he and his legacy has/can inspire us to do. Wayne Hawkins – Piano, Forest Stewart – Bass, Mike Warren – Drums.

*From a press release: Spirituality & All That Jazz.  Magical Musical Moments with vocalist Bukeka Shoals performing with Tim Whitmer & the Consort Band. Wednesday, December 4, 2013. 7 p.m. Unity on the Plaza. $7.

*From the American Jazz Museum: Join us on Thursday, December 19th, 2013 at the American Jazz Museum in the Blue Room for "KC MAD - Kansas City Musician's Appreciation Day!" It's free! Food and drink.  Truman Medical Centers to provide free assessment screening.  Artist career resources.  Live music by Elderstatesmen of KC Jazz from 5pm - 7pm.  Live music by Carl McComas Reichl from 7:30pm - 11pm.  More activities and items to be announced.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Frank Wess: Magic 101

Most outlets, Plastic Sax included, did a poor job of acknowledging the passing of Frank Wess.  The NEA Jazz Master died on October 30.  A meager post at an obscure jazz blog can't begin to do Wess justice, of course, but it's better than nothing.

Wess, a key component of the version of the Count Basie Orchestra that's most fondly remembered today, was born in Kansas City in 1922.  His flute solo begins at the 1:25 mark of the embedded video.

As I noted in a 2011 entry, Wess remained active.  Rather than listing a few of the hundreds of dates on which Wess applied his unflagging sense of swing, I'll focus on his spectacular new album Magic 101.

Recorded in 2011 and released in June, Wess is backed by pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Winard Harper on  the ballad-heavy recording.  An elegant take on "Easy Living" is among the tracks that make my knees buckle.

Wess' unaccompanied version of "All Too Soon" closes the album.  Hauntingly beautiful and unspeakably poignant, it serves as an apt summation of Wess' singular contribution.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Now's the Time: The James Ward Band

The James Ward Band, also known as JWB, returns to the Blue Room on Saturday, November 16.  As depicted in the embedded slide show, the smooth jazz ensemble frequently includes musicians who are familiar to mainstream jazz audiences.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The American Jazz Museum has a free iPhone app designed to let users "always know what is going on in The Blue Room at the American Jazz Museum and at the American Jazz Museum."

*KC Jazz Lark reviews the A Kansas City Trumpet Summit album.

*The Prairie Village Post reports that the 2013 edition of the Prairie Village Jazz Festival lost money.

*The Kansas City Kansan provides news of an Ahmad Alaadeen-related event.  A press release for the Kansas City Kansas Public Library's "Bop In the Dotte" program contains additional details.

*A Matt Carrillo gig at Take FIve Coffee + Bar is recommended by The Pitch.

*Here's the latest episode of 12th Street Jump's "Blues In the News".

*Tweet o' the Week: KCK Public Library- Join us for a free Kansas City Jazz Orchestra Concert and Barbecue Dinner! Reserve your tickets now. #bopinthedotte

*From Take Five Coffee: Friday, November 15, 8 pm: MBird- …So many evenings singer Megan Birdsall has delighted us with her interpretations of jazz standards, but the songbird has a rock side, too. Fronting her alter-ego quartet MBird - featuring Michael Andrew Smith (guitar), Ben Leifer (bass) and Matt Leifer (drums)… $5 cover.  Saturday, November 16, 8:45 pm:  Matt Carrillo Quartet- Sax man Matt Carillo is back in Kansas City for a brief visit, and we have him at Take Five for his debut performance in the city's finest listening room. Matt's saxophone artistry will be supported by bassist Micah Herman, Mark Lowrey on keys and Brad Williams on drums… EDIT- SUNDAY'S EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED Sunday, November 17, 7 pm:  Shults and Schlamb- …Peter Schlamb on the vibraphone and Michael Shults on saxophone… $3 cover.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Album Review: Karrin Allyson- Yultetide Hideaway

Hearing Karrin Allyson interpret familiar holiday material on her new Yuletide Hideaway album is revelatory. 

While jazz fans- particularly her advocates in her former base of Kansas City- have long extolled Allyson's voice, renditions of songs including "Winter Wonderland" and "Christmas Time is Here" cast Allyson in an entirely new light.  Allyson is a terrific pop vocalist. 

The format never strays from jazz, but Allyson keeps the focus on the songs.  Her scatting on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," for instance, is restrained.  The hitch in Allyson's voice adds just the right dollop of spice to moth-eaten fare that might otherwise seems trite.  In a similar fashion, Rod Fleeman's exquisite guitar work enhances each melody.  The result sounds more like Barbra Streisand than Ella Fitzgerald. 

It's difficult to imagine anyone not appreciating Allyson's light touch on Yuletide Hideaway.  The album deserves to become a perennial holiday classic.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Now's the Time: Jeff Harshbarger

Jeff Harshbarger, Plastic Sax's 2012 Person of the Year, leads a jam session Monday, November 11, at the Blue Room.  He performs with Alaturka in the embedded footage.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Frank Wess, a Kansas City native and one of Count Basie's primary collaborators in the "New Testament" band, has died.

*The Pitch reports on the traffic accident that damaged the Green Lady Lounge.

*A 38-word report from KCTV notes that "(a)n armed suspect went into the Blue Room."  (Via Tony's Kansas City.)

*Pat Metheny was voted into the magazine's Hall of Fame and named as the top guitarist in the Downbeat Reader's Poll.  The native of Lee's Summit is on the cover of the December issue.

*Greg Carroll was interviewed by a representative of Time Warner Cable.

*Recent performance photos of Kelley Hunt and the Messenger Legacy Band are shared by KC Jazz Lark.

*Tweet o' the Week: Pat Metheny- Hey Everyone - Click this link for a downloadable and printable schedule of the upcoming US tour: (link).

*Comment o' the Week: Brian- I play at Free State Brewery in Lawrence every Friday night. It's a great exercise in focus, humility and also a good spot to try out new ideas. Not to mention the steady income.

*Spotted at the site of the Kansas City Public Library: Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, Wednesday, November 20, 2013, 6:30pm @ Central Library… Biographer Terry Teachout sheds new light on this creative genius in a discussion of his new book about the grandson of a slave who wrote such classics as “Mood Indigo” and “Sophisticated Lady.”  Teachout, a Kansas City resident from 1975 to 1983, is the author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken, and the play Satchmo at the Waldorf. For The Wall Street Journal, he is drama critic and the author of “Sightings,” a column about the arts in America. He is the critic-at-large at Commentary, and writes the blog About Last Night.

*From Jim Mair: Don't miss Jazz by the Lake! This Thursday, November 7, 2013, at the Conference Center, Noon to 1:00. Come and enjoy Kansas City Swing with the Tommy Ruskin / Julie Turner Quartet (a Bop in the Dotte Preview).

*From Jim Mair: The Kansas City Kansas Community College Jazz Program will be displaying its jazz talents during an upcoming performance at the Green Lady Lounge. The showcase, which will feature the jazz band, jazz combos, vocal jazz ensembles and student jazz soloists, will be from 7 to 10 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Ave. in Kansas City. The concert will be free and open to the public.  “I attend performances at the Green Lady regularly. I simply talked to the owner, John Scott, and asked about our college ensembles performing there,” said John Stafford, director of Choral Music at KCKCC. “He placed us on a Monday night (when they’re usually not open) and is advertising the performance as a recital."

*From the American Jazz Museum: Convergence: Jazz, Films, and the Visual Arts, Grand Opening Reception and Keynote- Friday, November 8, 2013, 6 p.m.  A collaboration between the American Jazz Museum and the David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland, Convergence shines a light on more than 60 significant works of African American art that have a strong connection to the jazz aesthetic in combination with rare jazz film footage capturing the art as it evolved in the early part of the 20th century.  At our grand opening reception, you’ll enjoy live music and a keynote by Dr. Robert O’Meally of Columbia University. His talk, “Looking at the Music: Jazz and the Visual Arts,” considers jazz music as a model for the structures, rhythms, and colors of contemporary visual art. What does it mean to visualize jazz?

*From Take Five Coffee + Bar: Thursday, November 7, 7:30pm-9:30pm: UMKC Saxophone Studio- The saxophone studio at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance maintains a tradition of excellence established over the past several decades.  Formerly under the direction of Tim Timmons, the studio is in its first year under Zach Shemon of the world famous PRISM Quartet…  Friday, November 8, 8pm-10pm:  Philip Wakefield Trio- Drummer Philip Wakefield proves his versatility every month when he hosts Take Five's Open Mic, but with the room to himself, he'll swing you into a different orbit. In the company of guitarist Brian Ruskin and bassist Blake Hughes… $5 cover.  Saturday, November 9, 8:30pm-10:30pm:  The KC Sound- Steve Lambert on saxes and flute, Hermon Mehari on trumpet, Dominique Sanders on bass, Andrew Ouellette on piano and Brad Williams on drums… $5 cover. Monday, November 11, 7pm-9pm:  Interstring- Drummer Todd Strait will be back in town, and has reunited the legendary Interstring Quartet for this special Monday night performance. In addition to Todd, Interstring is Rod Fleeman and Danny Embrey on guitars and Bob Bowman on bass… $5 cover.

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Background Check

I've been looking at things all wrong.  For years I've pitied the jazz musicians and disdained the indifferent members of the audiences at the many dinner gigs around town.

During one such restaurant show last weekend, children played tag, talking heads bemoaned Obamacare on muted televisions and only a small percentage of the diners acknowledged the band.  And I finally realized that there's nothing wrong with that.

So what if the people at the table next to me loudly discussed the Chiefs' winning streak as I listened to a sensitive reading of "Body and Soul"?  There wasn't a cover charge.

I'm now glad these gigs exist.  Musicians get paid to hone their chops on standards.  And in exchange for ordering off the menu, I can listen to musicians play in a relaxed setting that usually contrasts greatly with their approach at jazz clubs.

Background music is underrated.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Now's the Time: David Basse

Kansas City jazz mainstay David Basse will be joined by bassist Curtis Lundy on Friday, November 1, at Take Five Coffee, on Saturday, November 2, at the Blue Room and on Sunday, November 3, at the Holyfield Winery.  The details are sketchy, but apparently a new album will be available at the performances.