Monday, March 31, 2014

Jazz at Massey Hall

I spent the past several days in Toronto.  I didn't hear a note of jazz while in Canada, but I dutifully made a pilgrimage to Massey Hall.   The venue's primary connection to Kansas City, of course, is the famous Jazz at Massey Hall concert that took place on May 15, 1953.  Charlie Parker played the plastic sax that's now housed at the American Jazz Museum during his historic summit with Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach. 

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Star published a review of Wycliffe Gordon's appearance with The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra.

*Hermon Mehari, Plastic Sax's 2009 Person of the Year, was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Charlotte Street Foundation.

*Crossroads KC has booked Trombone Shorty on June 17 and the Pat Metheny Unity Group with Bruce Hornsby on July 26.

*Road trip?  The Wayne Shorter Quarter- the legendary saxophonist, Danilo PĂ©rez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade- will perform in Omaha on April 2.

*Last minute gig announcement: Todd Strait, Pete Rende, Jeff Harshbarger and Matt Otto will perform Wednesday, March 26, at Westport Coffee House.

*KCJazzLark provides a positive report about full clubs with diverse audiences.

*Chris Burnett announces the personnel of his new band.

*Tweet o' the Week: Green Lady Lounge- The Orion Room @ Green Lady Lounge: a 2nd Jazz stage n lower level w Knabe Baby Grand & house drums. Great listening rm opening n April.

*From a press release: Enjoy the multi-faceted music of the Kansas City Kansas Community College Jazz program with the award-winning KCKCC Jazz Ensemble, Vocal Jazz 1, the Bebop Combo as well as the relaxing rhythms of the Latin Band under the tutelage of Jurgen Welge. The KCKCC Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Jim Mair, has earned the distinct honor of performing at the 30th Annual Havana (Cuba) Jazz Festival in December 2014 and the Vocal Jazz 1 Ensemble, directed by John Stafford, will be performing in April at the New York City Jazz Festival at the Lincoln Center…. Spirituality & All That Jazz. 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, April 2. $7.00

*From a press release: Community Christian Church… is pleased to host the inaugural presentation of the very first Big Band Boogie Bash,  with Tim Whitmer presenting the one and only Vine Street Rumble Jazz Orchestra, as they honor the legacy of Kansas City’s “Golden Era” of world renowned Jazz, on Sunday, March 30, 2014, at 4:00 p.m. The Vine Street Rumble performs exclusively the same exciting music that made Kansas City “the” place to be in the 1930’s, 40’s and beyond… Standards by Count Basie, Bennie Moten, and Mary Lou Williams/Andy Kirk, and many other “Big Band” impresarios will suffuse the performances by the VSR personnel, which includes: Kent Rausch (Musical Director), Mike Hererra (Alto Sax), Steve Lambert (Tenor Sax), Brett Jackson (Tenor Sax), Carl Bender  (Baritone Sax), Jay Sollenberger  (Trumpet), Barry Springer  (Trumpet), Al Pearson (Trumpet), Dan Strom (Trombone), Jason Goudeau (Trombone), Rod Fleeman (Guitar), Walter Bryant (Piano), Jeff Harshbarger (Bass), Jurgen Welge (Drums), with highlight participation by Tim Whitmer on the piano.  Tickets are $10 (prior to the concert), $15 (at the door).

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Concert Review: Regina Carter at Helzberg Hall

During her concert Sunday at Helzberg Hall, Regina Carter told the audience of about 600 that she had conducted a genealogical search at  Carter learned that she was 73% West African and 27% Finnish.

I couldn't help but think about my bloodlines as Carter focused on evocative material from her lovely new album Southern Comfort.  Country music played in my home as I grew up.  I loved it then just as I love it now.  My primary exposure to jazz was Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and occasional pop hits by the likes of Stanley Clarke and Weather Report.

It wasn't until a coworker lent me a dusty copy of Vassar Clements' Hillbilly Jazz that I realized my affection for country and my nascent passion for jazz could be reconciled.

The violinist's exploration of country and other sounds of the South on Southern Comfort- a tribute to the music she associates with her paternal grandfather- follows Carter's investigation into African music.  She promoted the related Reverse Thread project in Kansas City last year.

Southern Comfort occasionally resembles polite NPR bumper music.  I'd hoped that Carter would cut loose Sunday.  Instead, she and a stellar four-piece backing band maintained the album's serene tone.  Aside from a couple loud outbursts by drummer Alvester Garnett, the musicians were exceedingly polite.  The outstanding guitarist Marvin Sewell acted as if the ceiling would cave in if he played too loudly.  Accordionist Will Holshouser and bassist Chris Lightcap performed with similarly light touches. 

Cajun, gospel and folk selections were enchanting.  Cater took daring liberties with "Honky Tonkin'." (I'm not sure Hank done it that way.)  The song that sent me into the deepest reverie, however, was an instrumental version of Gram Parson's "Hickory Wind".  It was the single best thing I've heard in 2014.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Now's the Time: Wycliffe Gordon with The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra

Wycliffe Gordon will perform with The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra at Helzberg Hall on Friday, March 21.  The embedded video is an excellent four-minute distillation of the accomplished trombonist's allure.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Eddie Moore interviews Dominique Sanders in a 16-minute video.

*The UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance received a $500,000 donation from Sid and Carole McKnight.

*Pat Metheny was featured on the radio program Here and Now.

*Joe Klopus focuses on Saturday's Newport Jazz Festival: Now 60 concert at the Gem Theater in his The Kansas City Star column.  The Pitch also recommends the all-star bill.

*Joe Dimino posted three separate interviews with Chuck Haddix, Shirazette Tinnin and Russ Nolan.

*Chris Burnett's SoundCloud account remains active.

*Marc Myers reports on the death of Med Flory, one of the principal members of Supersax, the Charlie Parker-oriented band that also featured Ronnell Bright.

*Tweet o' the Week: Steven Lambert- #broadwayjazzclub March 26th, I'll be recording a LIVE album! Come be part of the magic, if you dare! Eight pm!

*From a press release: After taking a break from an extensive musical career of 43 years, renowned Kansas City performer Ida McBeth has decided to make the Broadway Jazz Club her new home. Mcbeth will be performing at the Broadway Jazz Club on March 29 (6:30-9pm), April 19 (6-9pm), and May 3 (6-9pm). She will perform exclusively at the club twice a month. Future dates will be announced as they approach.  "I'm hoping that they're ready for me because I'm ready for them. I want to hug every last one of them, I wish I could!" says Ida McBeth as she discusses her dedicated fan-base and the upcoming dates at the club. McBeth is ready to entertain fans at the Broadway Jazz Club with well-loved songs from her discography as well as various selections from traditional jazz musicians. McBeth will be accompanied by her band of several years…

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Bright Side

Ronnell Bright once got my weekends started. 

The pianist, perhaps best known as Sarah Vaughan's longtime pianist, had an early 1990s residency at the hotel near the Plaza that's currently branded as Best Western's Seville Plaza Hotel.

Surrounded by tourists and businesspeople, I'd relax in the lounge as Bright played sterling renditions of jazz standards and original material like "Sweet Pumpkin".

It was a tough gig, but Bright handled the challenges associated with performing for largely indifferent audiences with grace.  Bright left Kansas City long ago, but many of Kansas City's best jazz pianists continue to toil in similar environments.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Now's the Time: Book of Gaia

Book of Gaia, the ensemble fronted by Pamela Baskin-Watkins, Nedra Dixon and Angela Hagenbach, revives the neglected tradition of jazz showmanship associated with artists including Lambert, Hendricks & Ross.  The vocal trio performs at The Broadway Jazz Club on Friday, March 14.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCUR reports that Ginny Coleman, the longtime cohost of the station's "Just Jazz" program, has died.

*KC Jazz Lark offers a history lesson about the Sunset Club.

*The Topeka Capital-Journal suggests that the city is a hotbed of jazz this month.

*The Pitch recommends Ida McBeth's forthcoming gig at the Blue Room.

*Tweet o' the Week: Bob McWilliams- Ticket giveaways galore from 9 to 11 tonight on #MyKPR for @PatMetheny plus @jaleelshaw and @dave_douglas at KU Jazz Fest.

*From Alaadeen Enterprises: Charts of Alaadeen's original compositions are now available for instant download. Richard White, Alaadeen's son and CEO of 'ASR Records, is responsible for this latest advancement in preserving Alaadeen's legacy.  Go to Alaadeen to download your favorite Alaadeen tune.  When you place your order, a link is sent to download and print your PDF files…

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Concert Review: The Pat Metheny Unity Group at the Topeka Performing Arts Center

Shortly before Saturday's concert by the Pat Metheny Unity Group began, a representative of the Topeka Performing Arts Center encouraged the few dozen people who had purchased $35 balcony tickets to move to one of the many open seats near the stage.  I kicked myself for splurging on a $55 ticket an hour earlier. 

All such earthly considerations were forgotten when the music began.

My vantage point allowed me to pick up on nuances that had previously eluded me.  Metheny's comping is almost as inventive as his solos.  Saxophonist Chris Potter's lustrous tone is achieved in part through perfect posture.  Bassist Ben Williams has a great smile.  Drummer Antonio Sanchez is equal parts brainiac and athlete.  Because he was positioned behind Sanchez on the crowded stage, I couldn't see multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Giulio Carmassi. 

As I predicted in my harsh review of the group's new release Kin, the compositions that sound bombastic on the album proved to be transcendent in a live setting.  What I didn't anticipate was my cathartic reaction to the serenity of "Born."  Potter's statement on the devastatingly beautiful ballad left me convinced that it's one of Metheny's strongest compositions.

The enchanting solo guitar pieces that opened and closed the 135-minute concert were highlights.  Also beyond compare: Metheny's duets with each member of the band, the aggressive harmolodics of Song X's "Police People" and the preposterously brilliant flourishes from the Orchestrion.

A friend suggested after the concert that Metheny is "the Mozart of our time."  I don't disagree.  So where was everybody?  The audience of less than 400 didn't fill a fifth of the venue.  Then again, Metheny's recent concerts at the Folly Theater (2012), Liberty Hall (2011) and the Uptown Theater (2010) didn't come close to selling out either. 

One of the picket signs held by the infamous Topeka-based agitators outside the venue referenced Revelations.  Here's a more pertinent passage from Luke: "No prophet is accepted in his own country."

Bill Berg also reviewed the concert for The Topeka Capital-Journal.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Now's the Time: Turtle Island Quartet

Turtle Island Quartet has been breaking down musical boundaries for almost thirty years.  The daring string quartet will perform a program of John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix compositions at Polsky Theatre on Sunday, March 9.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The return of Bobby Watson's Horizon to the Blue Room is documented by KC Jazz Lark.  A critic in the Twin Cities also reviewed a performance by the band.

*Chris Burnett is one of two men strolling through the Jazz District in "Forgotten Prosperity", a compelling video that features the voice of Count Basie.  (Tip via Tony's Kansas City.)

*Joe Klopus takes note of this weekend's performances by Tierney Sutton and the Pat Metheny Unity Group in his latest column.

*Steve Kraske interviewed Laili Biali on KCUR's Up To Date.

*For those who have yet to see it- here's a documentary about the Rizer family's connection to Kansas City jazz.  It features Dave Rizer and was filmed by Joshua Rizer.  (Reminder via Sam Wisman.)

*Tweet o' the Week: Tierney Sutton- HEY KANSAS CITY !!!THIS FRIDAY MAR 7 TSBand will be at The Lovely Folly Theater.LET US MANIFEST AN EARLY SPRING…

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated.

*From a press release: 12th Street Jump, public radio's weekly jazz, blues and comedy jam, takes its hour long variety show to the Broadway Jazz Club, 3601 Broadway in Kansas City, beginning Wednesday, March 5. The nationally-syndicated radio show kicks off its new location with a tribute to composer/arranger Quincy Jones featuring special guest Horace Washington.  "We're excited to be back live," commented 12SJ co-host Pete Weber. "We started that way five years ago down at the Mutual Musicians Foundation. It's our favorite format-- playing in a club for jazz both here in KC and wherever the show is broadcast. And this one's got great food, too."  12th Street Jump performances are set for 7:30 to 9:00pm every other Wednesday at the Broadway Jazz Club.

*From Take Five Coffee + Bar: Thursday, March 6, 7 pm:  Jeff Harshbarger Trio with a Special Guest- If you've been following our programming, you know we had a "secret special guest" show last December, which turned out to be Logan Richardson. This date with Jeff Harshbarger (bass), Roger Wilder (keys) and Mike Warren (drums) will again cause jaws to drop in the coffee shop… $10 cover. Friday, March 7, 8 pm:  Steve Lambert Quartet with Peter Schlamb- Unquestionably one of the best young sax players in the city, Steve Lambert brings vibraphonist Peter Schlamb, bassist Seth Lee (who just won the Alaadeen Award of Excellence) and drummer Matt Leifer to knock your socks off… $5 cover. Saturday, March 8, 8 pm:  Brandon Mezzelo Quartet- Coming to you all the way from Springfield, Mo., this will be Brandon's second performance at Take Five. The fist one was outstanding, so if you missed it, don't make that mistake twice. Brandon (sax) will be playing with none other than Ken Lovern (Hammond B3 organ), Kevin Frazee (drums) and Myles Gorham (guitar)...

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book Review: Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker

After reading Chuck Haddix's Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker, I waited a few months before picking up Stanley Crouch's Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker.

I feared the books would be overly similar.  In spite of a shared subject, the concurrent works couldn't be more different.

Haddix's biography serves an as invaluable instruction manual for fans interested in retracing Parker's footsteps in the Kansas City area.  Crouch seemingly intends to write a comprehensive cultural history of the United States during the first half of the 20th century. 

By employing the ubiquitary Parker as his lead character, Crouch is able to examine subjects ranging from railroads to the adaptation of horses by Native Americans.  Musicians including Roy Eldridge, Jay McShann, Gene Ramey and Buster Smith merit detailed analysis.  Each of Crouch's digressions is fascinating.  Crouch is seen by many as an oppressively conservative observer of contemporary culture.  His championing of the disruptive brilliance of Parker, consequently, is exceedingly fascinating. 

The masterfully written Kansas City Lightning concludes in 1940 when Parker is just 20, meaning that fans can look forward to additional volumes about Parker from Crouch.  I can't wait.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)