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.)

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