Sunday, June 29, 2014

Concert Review: The Matt Otto Quintet at the Westport Coffee House

After watching the first several selections of the NBA draft on Thursday, I turned off ESPN and headed to the Westport Coffee House. 

A band led by saxophonist and composer Matt Otto featured saxophonist Michael Shults, keyboardist T.J. Martley, bassist Ben Leifer and drummer Ryan Lee in the venue's weekly Jazz Underground series.

As the quintet performed exquisitely crafted and immaculately rendered jazz for an audience of about 20, it struck me that each man would rank highly on a hypothetical draft board of Kansas City jazz musicians.

Like Chris Bosh, Otto is a multifaceted talent.  Shults is a creative playmaker akin to Steve Nash.  The cerebral Martley is the Shane Battier of the local jazz scene.  Leifer and Lee are tremendous individual talents, but much like Marcus and Markieff Morris, they're most valuable as members of the same team.

I apologize to all five deserving lottery picks and to all 15 Plastic Sax readers for my blundering analogies.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Now's the Time: Jackie Allen

My Favorite Color, the tenth album by the Nebraska-based vocalist Jackie Allen, includes material by composers ranging from George Gershwin to Jimi Hendrix.  Allen will perform at the Green Lady Lounge on Tuesday, July 1.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KC Jazz Lark reports on last week's Jazz Blogger's Tour of Kansas City.

*Hermon Mehari is part of the Kansas City Area Development Council's delegation in New York  to sell  "national lifestyle, travel, food and entertainment media" on the allure of Kansas City.

*Candace Evans' gig at Zona Rosa is recommended by The Pitch.

*The Kansas City Star reviewed performances by the duo of Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola and Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey.

*The Pitch reports on the young couple who hope to restore the castle-like structure in the Jazz District.

*The Preservation Hall Jazz Band will perform at the VooDoo Lounge at Harrah's Casino on September 26.

*Joe Dimino of Neon Jazz interviewed Washington D.C. musician Lenny Marcus.

*Tweet o' the Week: Dennis P. Owens- A giant almost sat down in front of me. Jazz in the Woods

*Comment o' the Week: Chris Hazelton- The fact that they had anything even slightly resembling straight-ahead jazz is an improvement upon the last several years of this festival.

*From the American Jazz Museum: (Everette) DeVan recorded his latest studio album late last year, but his health slowed progress toward its release... He will celebrate the release of For the Love of You at The Blue Room on June 27th with a special guest lineup of performers who joined him on the album — drummer Danny Rojas, guitarist Matt Hopper, saxophonist Ian Corbett, and vibraphonist/AJM CEO Greg Carroll. The CD and other merchandise will be available for purchase at the show.

(Original image of Stanley Crouch and Chuck Haddix at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center on June 19 by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Concert Review: Jazz in the Woods

I want my money back.

In a noble but flawed effort to present as many musicians associated with Kansas City's jazz scene as possible while still attracting a large audience, organizers of the Jazz in the Woods festival apportioned tiny time slots to four opening acts for Saturday's headliner Mindi Abair, a smooth jazz and pop star from California.  The intention was commendable, but the result was extremely frustrating.

The published schedule- "6:20 - 7:20 PM Angela Hagenbach/Lauren Braton, 7:45 - 8:45 PM Bobby Watson/Eldar, 9:10 - 10:25 PM Mindi Abair"- led me to believe that the opening sets would feature collaborations.

I was wrong.

Bobby Watson played for 30 glorious minutes and Eldar Djangirov was on stage for about 25 impressive minutes.  Both men employed guitarist Rod Fleeman, but otherwise each man brought his own band.

Backed by Fleeman, pianist Joe Cartwright, bassist Tyrone Clark and drummer Mike Warren, Watson performed three selections- his original composition "Sweet Dreams," Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" and Duke Pearson's "Jeannine."  Each piece was better than the last.  Watson ran out of time just as he and his band were getting properly warmed up.

Eldar Djangirov was supported by Fleeman, saxophonist Jim Mair, bassist Gerald Spaits and drummer Todd Strait.  The highlight of his unnaturally abridged set, however, was an unaccompanied version of "Take the 'A' Train."

With the exception of drummer Doug Auwarter, Angela Hagenbach and Lauren Braton used the same band as Djangirov.  Each charming vocalist sang for about 30 minutes.

The event may have been free, but the opportunity for a priceless collaboration was lost.

(Original images by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Now's the Time: HoraceScope

Horace Silver died yesterday.  Two of the beloved musician's connections to Kansas City come immediately to mind.  The late trumpeter Carmell Jones, a native of Kansas City, Kansas, recorded with Silver on classic albums including Song For My Father.  In recent years, HoraceScope, a band led by Plastic Sax's 2013 Person of the Year Stan Kessler, has kept Silver's music alive in Kansas City.  HoraceScope performs a rendition of "The Outlaw" in the embedded clip.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Details about the Mutual Musicians Foundation's “Jazz: No Language Required Bloggers Tour" are available here.  KC Jazz Lark opines on the event.

*The Kansas City Star notes the new legal status of The Ship.

*Doug Talley reports that The Chess Players: The Music of Wayne Shorter, his quartet's fifth album, will be released on June 21.   The band performs at Zona Rosa on Thursday, June 19, at Take Five Coffee + Bar on Saturday, June 21, and at the Blue Room on July 5.

*The Pitch recommends Brian Steever's gig at Westport Coffee House.

*Clint Ashlock posted another interesting entry to his blog.

*Earlier this week, Chris Burnett advised Plastic Sax that "(w)e are going into the studio this morning. We will begin recording my new CD."

*Todd Wilkinson uploaded a 53-minute video of a 1998 Boko Maru performance at Fedora's to YouTube.

*KCUR offers a timeline of the Black Archives of Mid-America.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Tampa-based vocalist for his Neon Jazz podcast.

*Tweet o' the Week: Ryan Heinlein- Wow! @PorchFestKC was wonderful. Highlight of the year for us. It was everything we love about our city. Thank you for having us!

*Comment o' the Week: Gary- it's a weekly hour but below it states the event is 7:30-9, the time must fly!

*From a press release: This summer nineteen University of Kansas students will share their extraordinary talents on the international stage when they embark on a whirlwind European tour.  In early July, KU Jazz Ensemble I will play eight shows in eleven days, with dates in France, Germany and Switzerland - including appearances by invitation at two of the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals - the Montreux Jazz Festival and the Jazz À Vienne Festival. The ensemble and its director, Dan Gailey, will be joined on all performances by two very special guests - celebrated Kansas City-based jazz vocalist Deborah Brown and Steve Leisring, world-renowned trumpeter and KU faculty.  Local audiences can preview selections from the repertoire for the European dates at a special kick-off concert at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 3 at the Lied Center of Kansas, sponsored by the KU School of Music and the Lied Center of Kansas. The event is free and open to the public. No tickets are required…

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Concert Review: Pharoah Sanders at Blues Alley

Delighted to discover that Pharaoh Sanders was performing at Blues Alley during the weekend I was in Washington D.C., I bought a ticket to the final set of his engagement in the hope that the legendary saxophonist might be inspired to play longer.

Although his appearance lasted just 70 minutes, everything else exceeded my expectations.  Sanders and his band-  pianist William Henderson, bassist Nathaniel Reeves and drummer Joe Farnsworth- worked in the mystical, trance-inducing style associated with the output that immediately followed his stint as a member of John Coltrane's band.

With his colorful dashiki and distinguished white hair, Sanders resembled a great statesman.  He moved with the cautiousness of a septuagenarian and sat when he wasn't soloing, but Sanders played with the tremendous fire and intellectual acuity documented on albums like 1969's Jewels of Thought.

Blues Alley is a listening room with about 250 good seats.  The vigilant staff disallowed members of the near-capacity audience to create any distractions.  And with the hefty price tag- $40 per person plus a $12 minimum- fans were focused on the captivating music.

Sanders' outing may have been brief, but I'll thinking about it for a long time.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Now's the Time: Trombone Shorty

After returning from Jazz Fest last year, an associate breathlessly told me about a discovery he made while in New Orleans.  A young guy named Trombone Shorty, he said, was the most exciting musician he heard on his vacation.  It broke my heart to tell him that Trombone Shorty was already a familiar face in Kansas City.  The bandleader returns to Crossroads KC on Tuesday, June 17.  Joe Klopus previewed the show.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Ship, long a shadowy refuge of fortunate insiders, has gone legit.  The jazz-friendly West Bottoms venue at 1217 Union Avenue is now "generally open for business Tuesday-Saturday 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. with occasional closings on the weekends for private events."  Live music "Pleasure Cruises" begin at 10 p.m. on Thursdays.  The Project H is featured this week.

*The Pitch has posted the ballot for its 2014 Pitch Music Awards.  The nominees for best jazz ensemble are Chris Hazelton's Boogaloo 7, Eboni and the Ivories, Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle, the Peter Schlamb Quintet and Project H.  The nominees for best jazz solo artist are Brett Jackson, Hermon Mehari, Matt Otto, Megan Birdsall and Shay Estes.

*The Pitch calls radio program 12th Street Jump "a weekly hour of bad jokes and exceptional jazz."

*Tweet o' the Week: Coleman Hawkins Jazz- “@theprojecth: Project H is nominated for a @TheFastPitch music award again. Go vote!” Come out and see them Friday night downtown #stjomo

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- 'free' means we don't really have to give a sh*t about it.. i'm here for the booze and to schmooze with my boss and his cronies" and commenter 1021, you forgot to add "hordes of affluent mostly white people' f*cking hipsters and their irony..

*From Michael Pagán: The newly assembled Mike Pagán Big Band will perform Saturdays June 14th and July 12th, 2pm-5pm at Piropo’s Piano Bar. The 18-piece ensemble will feature some of the premier jazz musicians of the region playing new, never-before-heard music. Wait till you see and hear who's in this band! There is a jazz jam session at Piropo's every Saturday that has been going for over a year. Piropo’s is located in the Briarcliff Village Shopping Center, 4141 N. Mulberry Drive, KCMO.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Jazz Lobbyists

I'm visiting one of the tens of thousands of fledgling politicians, lobbyists and bureaucrats in our nation's capitol. 

While the young adults have bright futures, the high cost of living and the low salaries that accompany entry-level positions in Washington D.C. limits their current cash flow. 

The conditions have created a perfect storm for Jazz In the Garden at the National Gallery of Art.  The most recent event in the free Friday night concert series drew an overflow audience of more than 2,000.  Every patch of the sculpture garden was claimed.  Juanita Williams, a R&B-oriented vocalist not unlike Kansas City's Millie Edwards, performed this weekend. 

As the photo indicates, the audience wasn't particularly attentive, but the mere fact that thousands of fresh-faced people rally around a series that's billed as jazz is encouraging. 

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Now's the Time: Bobby Floyd

Keyboardist Bobby Floyd will perform in a band led by guitarist Will Matthews at the Blue Room on Saturday, June 7.  The Columbus-based musician is flanked by the public television personality known at the Piano Guy in the embedded video. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*In another discerning editorial, KC Jazz Lark raises questions about the scope of a new locally-based jazz organization.

*The "Jazz Bloggers Tour of KC" featuring an appearance by author Stanley Crouch is scheduled for June 19-20.  A link is not available.

*Josh Williams' jazz mentorship efforts are documented in an article in The Kansas City Star.

*The Pitch touts an appearance by Will Matthews at the Blue Room.

*Clint Ashlock muses about the creative process.

*The Topeka Capital-Journal surveys the town's summer concert offerings.

*Tweet o' the Week: Steven Lambert- Great shot of the 627 Big Band from @GreenLadyLounge. Every Sunday from 9-12 see you there! #kcjazz (photo)

*From Brad Cox: The People's Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City performs Sunday, June 8th at the RecordBar. The band will play new instrumental compositions by Matt Otto and Nick Howell, and will be joined by guest vocalist Shay Estes for new compositions by band leader Brad Cox.

*From a press release: The Summer Sounds of the Caribbean & Kansas City. Scott Prebys, Steel Drummer/Percussionist with Special Guest Rod Fleeman, Guitar featuring the Tim Whitmer & The Consort Band... Spirituality & All That Jazz, Unity on the Plaza, Wednesday, June 4.

*From a press release: Heartland Films, Inc. announces the world premiere of its newest documentary film “One” at the 10th Anniversary of the KC Fringe Festival. Sue (Vicory)’s previous feature documentary film, “Kansas City Jazz & Blues; Past, Present & Future,” will also screen at the festival…

*From a press release: Anyone ever wishing to visit the intriguing country of Cuba, Kansas City Kansas Community College is offering a once in a lifetime opportunity.  The KCKCC Jazz Band will be performing in the 30th Annual Havana Jazz Festival Dec. 16-22 and members of the community are invited to go along… A complete and comprehensive itinerary can be found on-line (here)  

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated for June.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Concert Review: Ingrid Laubrock and Tom Rainey at the RecordBar

I stood in mud for 11 hours with 50,000 people at Rockfest on Saturday.  Attending the heavy metal blowout makes me as happy as a pig in slop.  Experiencing amplified, regimented music as part of a vast throng is liberating.

On Sunday I sat amid an audience of 20 for a set of acoustic, improvised jazz performed by saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and drummer Tom Rainey.

Rather than militant blast beats, Rainey's imaginative playing didn't include a single repeated pattern during the 40-minute opening set.  Laubrock was similarly ingenious on tenor and soprano.  Compared to the previous day's offerings, the New York-based duo's free jazz was entirely soothing. 

I was so relaxed that I went home early to bask in sweet avant-metal dreams.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)