Monday, September 29, 2014

Album Review: Shades of Jade- Fingerprinted Memories, Pt. 1

When I encountered Shades of Jade two or three years ago, I was thrilled that a group of Kansas City based musicians shared my passion for the forward-thinking jazz of artists like Christian Scott and Robert Glasper. 

Fingerprinted Memories, Pt. 1, the new album by Shades of Jade, makes good on the band's promise by melding the pleasing R&B groove of smooth jazz with post-bop sophistication.   Anyone who listens to D'Angelo's Voodoo and the 1980s output of Miles Davis will feel right at home with the project.

An energetic pulse is maintained even during the most rambunctious solos of trumpeter Josh Williams and his band mates.  The sinewy rhythm of "I Want My Money Back," the urgent melody of "Dynasty" and the experimental production of "Day Dreaming" are among the album's many highlights.

Fingerprinted Memories, Pt. 1 may not be the best jazz album released by area musicians in 2014, but it's almost certainly the most accessible. 

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Now's the Time: Andy Milne and Dapp Theory

Steve Coleman was awarded a "genius grant" by the MacArthur Foundation earlier this month.  Andy Milne, one of Coleman's longtime collaborators, will perform with his New York-based band Dapp Theory at the Blue Room from 9:30 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, September 27.  Milne did not play with Coleman during the saxophonist's memorable appearance at the Blue Room in 2009, a circumstance that makes Saturday's gig even more noteworthy. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Jorge Arana Trio was interviewed by The Pitch.

*KC Jazz Lark provides a second round of excellent photos of the Prairie Village Jazz Festival.

*Shades of Jades' Fingerprinted Memories, Pt. 1 has been released.

*Matt Kane reports on a forthcoming album featuring several of Kansas City's best-known jazz artists.

*The Pitch recommends Diverse's upcoming gig at Take Five Coffee and previews the Bridge Street Jazz and Food Fair in Smithville.

*The Education Department of the American Jazz Museum has a provided a list of supplemental activities at the 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival on October 11.  A couple highlights: a master class with Tivon Pennicott, 9:30-10:30 a.m. at the Gem Theater; a jazz film discussion titled Production Techniques in Early Jazz and African American Dance Films, 4:00-5:00 at the John H. Baker Film Collection room.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Matthew Shipp and Lonnie Smith for his Neon Jazz podcast.

*Tweet o' the Week: Ryan Heinlein- Reverbnation is a joke. Thought I would play nice and put a new song up there but they wanted $40 for an upgrade. No thanks! (cont.)

*From Take Five Coffee + Bar: So the first season of Take Five Coffee + Bar comes to a close this weekend. To ease the unease over the end of a time that has been almost magical for all of us involved, we've lined up four nights of music to blast good into the universe from 151st and Nall one more time. The next season will begin in mid-October, more about that at the bottom of all this. First, we want to thank you all for your support of live music in this part of the world. All together, we can grow the circle of people for whom live music matters. Most of all, we want to tell you about this ... Thursday, September 25, 7pm: The Peter Schlamb Quartet… Friday, September 26, 8pm: Bob Bowman with Todd Strait and Roger Wilder… Saturday, September 27, 8pm: Grisha Alexiev Quartet… Sunday, September 28, 7pm: Diverse… What's next? We don't know for certain what day the doors will open at Corbin Park (all depends on inspections and permits). We do know when we're going to invite the world in to see what we think a jazz coffee shop could be. You'll have a place to set your drink. Or your plate. We'll have more than twice the seating. There'll be comfy chairs right in front of the band. A real piano. A stone fireplace. A low stage large enough to hold a screaming big band. Still intimate, still your suburban oasis, still Take Five. The new address is 6601 W 135th St, Suite A-21, Overland Park, KS 66223…

*From Kansas City Kansas Community College: Mike Ning, nationally-renowned jazz pianist and adjunct music instructor at Kansas City Kansas Community College, kicks-off the first ever “Artist’s Series” at the newly launched “The Gallery.”… Ning will host an artist’s reception from 3 to 6 p.m. Sept. 25 at KCKCC’s “The Gallery,” 7250 State Ave., where he will play piano and speak about his work...  His show, “Celebration of Life! Coming to America /Goin’ to Kansas City!” is open from Sept. 22 through Oct. 3...

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Highland Cemetery

At the conclusion of the revitalized gravesite ceremony honoring Charlie Parker on August 30, Kent Rausch offered to provide a tour of nearby Highland Cemetery.  The founder and bandleader of the Vine Street Rumble Jazz Orchestra, Rausch is a leading historian of Kansas City's jazz heyday. 

Embarrassed that I'd never visited the graves of Bennie Moten and Julia Lee, I accepted Rausch's invitation.  Less than five minutes after departing Parker's grave at Lincoln Cemetery, I was looking at the new marker pictured above.  The engraved stone was installed by the people behind the Coda Jazz Fund earlier this year. 

Rausch recounted the story of Moten's shocking death and the huge turnout for his funeral.  "Moten Swing" is one of the recordings that first put Kansas City on the musical map.  Julia Lee's grave is just a few steps away.  Decades later, her risqué songs are still shocking.

Here's a map linking the two cemeteries.  Note that the entrance to Lincoln Cemetery is actually on Blue Ridge Boulevard.

(Original images by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Now's the Time: The James Isaac Group

There's a lot to like about the James Isaac Group.  The leader has distinguished himself in ensembles including Killer Strayhorn and the People's Liberation Big Band.  Bassist Jeff Harshbarger is one of Kansas City's most prominent musicians.  Multi-instrumentalist Scotty McBee plays in a wide variety of settings, including the Zappa-esque band Jazz Discharge that also includes Isaac and Harshbarger.  Yet it's the contribution of guitarist Mike Stover that makes the ensemble truly unique.  His opening solo on Joe Henderson's "Isotope" is real gone.  The James Isaac Group performs at Take Five Coffee + Bar on Friday, September 19.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The American Jazz Museum has unveiled the complete lineup of the 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival.

*Two benefits for the ailing Everette DeVan are scheduled at area clubs.  The first is Saturday, September 20, at the Blue Room.  Performers include Tim Henry, Charlie Gaschett and Ian Corbett.  The second is Monday, October 6, at the Phoenix.  Millie Edwards will perform.

*The Project H and Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle are featured by The Deli in advance of their appearances at the Ink Live Stage at the Plaza Art Fair this weekend.

*KC Jazz Lark published a gallery of photos documenting the Prairie Village Jazz Festival.

*The Pitch highlights a performance by the Matt Carrillo Group.

*A critic praises the throwback sound featured on the new single by Chris Hazelton's Boogaloo 7.

*Tweet o' the Week: Vintage Vinyl- Can't wait to see jazz legend Joe McPhee and Survival Unit III perform at Joe's Cafe (6010 Kingsbury Ave) this Friday

*From the American Jazz Museum: The American Jazz Museum and Kansas City Blues Society have partnered to target a promotion to the local blues community that highlights the appearance of Blues legend Lucky Peterson at Kansas City’s 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival on Saturday, October 11...  General Admission Tickets to the festival are only $25 each.  However, American Jazz Museum is offering ALL KCBS MEMBERS the price of $10 each for General Admission Tickets from now until October 11.

(Original image of an orange moon by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Concert Review: The 2014 Prairie Village Jazz Festival

Even with the addition of a nominal $5 cover charge, an artistically engaging edition of the annual Prairie Village Jazz Festival attracted an impressive crowd of several thousand people to Harmon Park on Saturday, September 6.  A few observations follow.

*The Project H's opening set showcased the band's exceptionally compelling compositions.  It was disquieting, however, to see almost no one bobbing their heads or tapping their feet to the band's soulful sound.

*Shay Estes began her outing with "September In the Rain," a possible allusion to Plastic Sax's infamous 2011 "I blame Shay Estes" post.  Rather than conjuring a tempest, Estes and a stellar band played under ideal conditions.  Residents of San Diego would have envied Saturday's weather.

*I took a two-and-a-half hour break from the festival in the late afternoon, but the echoes of Stephanie Moore's voice sounded splendid from a few blocks away.

*I no longer perceive the enormous vocal range and power I once associated with Kevin Mahogany but his exquisite taste and hometown pride haven't faltered.  Mahogany incorporated Ben Kynard's "Red Top" into a rendition of "Route 66" and performed a lovely version of Russ Long's "Save That Time." 

*Backed by saxophonist Joe Lovano, trumpeter Terell Stafford, pianist Richard Johnson, bassist Tyrone Clark and drummer Leon Anderson, headliner Deborah Brown said "this is my dream band right now."  Mine too.  After Lovano's stunning solo on his startling innovative arrangement of "Yardbird Suite," I turned from my spot a few feet from the stage to share my delight with others.  I was horrified to discover that three-quarters of the audience had abandoned the festival during the radiant performance by the jazz masters.  Steve Paul captured footage of the ostensibly repellent set.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Now's the Time: T.J. Martley

Other Kansas City based jazz artists may be more prominent, but T.J. Martley is almost certainly the area's biggest star on YouTube.  His tjjazzpiano instructional channel has racked up over a million views.  The pianist leads a jam session at the Blue Room on Monday, September 15.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Anita Dixon of the Mutual Musicians Foundation was interviewed by Joe Dimino for his Neon Jazz podcast.  The interview was also filmed.

*KC Jazz Lark praises and criticizes last month's jazz campaigns.

*A television station interviewed Kevin Mahogany at the Prairie Village Jazz Festival.  The Prairie Village Post provides a recap of the event.

*A music blog suggests that the new single by Chris Hazelton's Boogaloo 7 is "a freight train of real deal jazz."

*The Project H was featured on the Local Listen segment of KCUR's Up to Date program.

*Gerald Wilson, an occasional Count Basie collaborator, has died.

*Tweet o' the Week: Ryan Heinlein- Thought you should know that we are still not on the iTunes jazz charts. Our CD is still very good.

*From Chris Hazelton: New release!  “The Chartreuse Woman” b/w “The Grand Avenue Get-Down,” 7-inch 45rpm single.  Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 is a funky, organ-driven, soul-jazz group that focuses on grooves reminiscent of the late-1960’s Blue Note and Prestige recordings. These grooves have been the backdrop for what has become a weekly sensation at Kansas City’s Green Lady Lounge on Friday nights. The two Hazelton originals featured on this new 45rpm single are salutes to the hip venue the group calls home.
Street Date: October 17th, 2014.

*From Jim Mair: Kansas City’s own Kicks Band will be headlining a big band benefit later this month to support the Kansas City Kansas Community College Jazz Band.  The “Tea Dance” is from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 14 in the ballroom of the Historic Lake of the Forest Club House, 100 Lake Forest in Bonner Springs... Tickets are $15 per person; $25 per couple or $100 for a table of eight… Proceeds from the event will help with costs of the KCKCCC Jazz Band's upcoming trip to the 30th-annual Havana Jazz Festival this December…

*From the Project H: As you may know, we are fortunate enough to be a part of Matt Otto's "Jazz Underground" series at the Westport Coffee House. We generally play the first Thursday of every month. We figured that there is so much talent in Kansas City (jazz and beyond) that we would like to start working with other musicians in the scene that we might not normally get to work with. We are excited to announce that out the October 2nd show will feature Miss Kelley Gant!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Concert Review: The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra at Muriel Kauffman Theatre

An admirable idea was exquisitely realized at Muriel Kauffman Theatre on Thursday, September 4.  Eight locally-based musicians were showcased in The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra's "Kansas City is Jazz" concert. 

Hermon Mehari, Allison Burik, Steve Lambert, Megan Birdsall, Dan Thomas, Matt Otto, Al Pearson and Bobby Watson demonstrated their talents for an audience of over 1,000.  Their efforts ranged from pleasing to spectacular. 

The virtuosic work of Lambert, Otto and Thomas thrilled unsuspecting listeners.  Mehari soared over a lush rendition of Frank Foster's "Simone."  I was brought to the verge of tears by Al Pearson's feature on a rapturously beautiful version of Pat Metheny's "Always and Forever."  The flamboyant brilliance of Watson, not surprisingly, stole the show.

Sound issues sullied the efforts of Birdsall and Burik.  Their vocals were distorted and blurry in the back of the venue where I was one of a couple dozen people who had purchased the least expensive tickets for $31.  Artistic Director Clint Ashlock also sounded as if he was speaking through a walkie talkie.  The glitches were an exception in an otherwise flawless concert. 

The big band has assumed a slightly different tone under Ashlock.  Renditions of "One O'Clock Jump" and "Swingmatism" possessed a newly acquired sense of informality.

Lest club owners hire additional staff to accommodate fledgling fans of the featured musicians, they should know that a significant portion of the audience was in town for a Rotarian convention.  Mayor Sly James read a portion of a proclamation prior to the concert designating the date as Rotary Day in Kansas City. 

The good news?  Hundreds of people from around the world were exposed to the ongoing artistic vitality of Kansas City's jazz scene.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Now's the Time: Joe Lovano

Joe Lovano and Us 5 showcased material from Bird Songs, an audacious tribute to Kansas City's Charlie Parker, at the Gem Theater in 2011.  While Lovano will appear in support of the vocalist Deborah Brown at the Prairie Village Jazz Festival on Saturday, September 6, it's my understanding that the saxophonist will also play a selection or two from Bird Songs at Harmon Park.  Joe Klopus previewed the event.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Charlie Parker's daughter Kim was interviewed on local television programs here and here.  KCUR's Up to Date also spoke to Kim Parker.

*Steve Lambert performed during a television station's Parker-related segment.

*The Kansas City Star documented Friday's gravesite tribute to Charlie Parker.

*Paul Mesner and Elroy Hawkins spoke to a television personality about a Charlie Parker-themed puppet show.

*KC Jazz Lark looks forward to hearing Deborah Brown perform with Joe Lovano and Terell Stafford at this weekend's Prairie Village Jazz Festival.  The Prairie Village Post and The Pitch also previewed Saturday's event.

*"Firebird," a track from Chris Burnett's forthcoming album, is available at CD Baby.

*Shades of Jade's new single is titled "Where's My Tea."

*OJT's version of "I Kissed a Girl" is available at CD Baby.

*Steve Paul captured a portion of a performance featuring Mark Southerland and Hermon Mehari.

*Here are details on Everette DeVan Support Week.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Jimmy Cobb for his Neon Jazz podcast.

*Tweet o' the Week: T. White- Props to the @ESPN staffer responsible for pairing the Royals/Indians promo with Now's the Time by KC's own Charlie Parker. #BirdLives

*From Brad Cox: The People's Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City will celebrate the sixth anniversary of the "Jeff Harshbarger Presents" jazz series on Sunday, September 7 with an 8:00 pm performance at the RecordBar.  The night will feature a "year in review" of the band's 2013-2014 compositional output featuring works by Patrick Alonzo Conway, Brad Cox, Forest Stewart, Nick Howell, Matt Otto, and Gerald Spaits. Cover price at the door is $5.

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

(Original image of Saturday's ceremony at Lincoln Cemetery by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Album Review: The Project H- We Live Among the Lines

Become Light, the effervescent second album by The Project H, was Plastic's Sax's top release by a locally based ensemble in 2012.  The new album We Live Among the Lines is even better.

Without sacrificing its knack for crafting ingenious melodies, the Project H has evolved into a tighter and tougher band.  The solos on We Live Among the Lines are more direct and the rock elements have been been accentuated.  The exhilarating "A Bear's Cage" is among the tracks that prominently features distorted guitar and keyboards.  "Do It Up & Do It Right" finds the sweet spot between the classic R&B of the 1970s and contemporary groove-oriented ensembles.

We Live Among the Lines indicates that the members of the Project H- trumpeter Clint Ashlock, trombonist Ryan Heinlein, saxophonist Brett Jackson, guitarist Jeff Stocks, keyboardist Andrew Ouellette, bassist Dominique Sanders and drummer Matt Leifer- understand that musical daring and fun aren't mutually exclusive concepts. 

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)