Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Lori Chandler of Take Five Coffee + Bar implores jazz musicians to "stop questioning the art form’s relevance" in her contribution to a "Kansas City Art Community's 15 Wishes For 2015" report compiled by C.J. Janovy.

*Alan Hoskins reports on the Kansas City Kansas Community College Blue Devil Jazz Band's trip to Cuba.

*KC Jazz Lark continues his year-end recap.

*Pam Hider Johnson remembers Horace Washington at KCUR's KC Currents.

*Dean Minderman has aggregated over 100 "Best Jazz of 2014" lists at St. Louis Jazz Notes.

*Tweet o' the Week: Ryan Heinlein- May start a handle called "jazz is the worst is the worst." @clintashlock @michaelshults are right. Joke or not time to stop selfdeprecation

*From a press release: The Celestial Strings of Michael O'Shiver, Harpist, performing with Guitarist Max Berry and The Consort Band.  Spirituality & All That Jazz.  Wednesday, January 7, 2015. Unity Temple on the Plaza.  $7.00.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Plastic Sax's Kansas City Jazz Playlist

I slapped together a four-hour playlist of Kansas City jazz on Spotify as I battle the flu.  Feel free to notify me of any egregious omissions or questionable sequencing choices.  I'll blame the oversights on the nasty bug.  Enjoy.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Now's the Time: The Louis Neal Big Band

The Louis Neal Big Band is one of Kansas City's most under-appreciated ensembles.  A new promotional video may help draw deserved attention to the group.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Tim Finn reports on Mark Lowrey's new album, the keyboardist's collaboration with Tech N9ne and a jazz-based benefit show on Saturday.

*Here's an advance peak at Dominique Sanders' new album.  Chris Mills of Demencha is driving the bandwagon.

*The Kansas City Star reviewed Karrin Allyson's concert at the Folly Theater.

*Steve Kraske chatted with Karrin Allyson on KCUR's Up to Date.  Recordings by the Project H, Peter Schlamb and the Jorge Arana Trio were featured on the program's year-end survey of the best music of 2014.

*KC Jazz Lark begins a recap of 2014.

*The Pitch recommends a couple jazz gigs.

*Vanguard Jazz Orchestra's Over Time: The Music of Bob Brookmeyer (#16) and the Pat Metheny Unity Group's Kin (#43) made the cut in the 2014 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Fred Hersch for his Neon Jazz podcast.

*Tweet o' the Week: Ryan Heinlein- It's festival submission season, followed by rejection letter season. Hopefully it's a shorter season than last year.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Top Jazz-Related Stories and Trends of 2014

1. Bird Is the Word
Two essential biographies of Charlie Parker- Stanley Crouch's Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker and Chuck Haddix's Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker were published.  The authors appeared together at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center in June. 

2. Blessed are the Peacemakers
The new jazz support organization KC Jazz Alive bridged various longstanding divides that had long separated several locally based entities.  KC Jazz Alive's efforts to revitalize the annual Charlie Parker graveside ceremony attracted a few dozen people to Lincoln Cemetery in August.

3. Bigger and Better
The new location of Take Five Coffee + Bar increased the venue's capacity without diminishing its charming atmosphere and excellent acoustics.  The opening of the Orion Room in the basement of the Green Lady Lounge is a similarly heartening development.  After opening in December of 2013, the Broadway Jazz Club presented live music throughout the year.

5. Jazz?
What constituted jazz in 2014?  My top albums list included titles some categorize as hip-hop and ambient music, so I'm not in a position to criticize Kansas City jazz venues and festival organizers for repeatedly booking reggae, R&B and Latin rock bands. 

6. Empty seats
It was extremely encouraging to witness packed houses at the Blue Room, the Green Lady Lounge and Take Five Coffee + Bar during compelling jazz performances.  It was not uncommon, however, to see empty seats outnumber bodies at other prominent bookings.

7. Passings
Horace Washington, a pillar of Kansas City's jazz community, died in October.  Dionne Jeroue, a young up-and-coming vocalist, died in March. (EDIT: We also lost Stephanie Bryan, a trombonist and all-around lovely person, this year.)

8. I Mean You
Hermon Mehari competed in the 2014 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition.

9. Lights, Camera Action!
Dave Rizer continued to document Kansas City's jazz scene with dozens of performance videos.  He's providing an invaluable service.

9. Bowman's back
The resuscitation of Bob Bowman's career is a godsend. 

10. Rekkids
Chris Hazelton released a 7" single and a host of Kansas City jazz artists released worthwhile recordings.

I conducted similar exercises in 2013, 2012 and 2011.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Now's the Time: The Christmas Gospel-Jazz Music Extravaganza

As Joe Klopus reports in his latest Jazz Town column, Jayne McShann and Bishop L.F. Thuston have organized a "Christmas Gospel-Jazz Extravaganza" that will be held at Boone Tabernacle Church of God in Christ on Friday, December 19.  Participating musicians include Book of Gaia, Gerald Dunn, the Louis Neal Big Band and Bobby Watson.  The embedded video captures Thuston preaching at the church.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCUR aired a five-minute feature about the Kansas City Kansas Community College Jazz Ensemble's trip to Havana.

*Mark Lowrey reports that he'll perform in a benefit concert with Bill McKemy on bass and John Kizilarmut on drums at the Living Room on Saturday, December 27, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.  $10 at the door.  All proceeds go to Holy Cross Elementary's music department.  Lowrey's new album Waltzes and Consolations will be released this week.   It was recorded live at the Majestic on September 8th with bassist Karl McComas Reichl and drummer Sam Wisman.

*KC Metropolis published a review of a "jazzy border war" event.

*The Pitch recommends New Jazz Order's appearance at Take Five Coffee + Bar.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Jack DeJohnette for his Neon Jazz podcast.

*Tweet o' the Week: Daniel Welch- #jazz deserves #monochrome @ Harling's Upstairs (photo)

*Comment o' the Week: Mike Metheny- Watching that great clip of Marilyn Maye brings to mind this question: Which of today's high profile musicians will be at, or near the top of their game -- and still relevant -- at age 86? It may be a case of apples and oranges, but either way, here's to longevity.

*From Take Five Coffee + Bar: Friday, December 19, 8pm: New Jazz Order Big Band Presents Ellington's Nutcracker Suite- Clint Ashlock and New Jazz Order performed Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite last year and the old coffee shop nearly burst at the seams with musicians, revelers and an enormous sound. This year, we have the space to present them properly – a full sixteen-piece big band of the Ellington style, packed with incredible players… $10 cover. Saturday, December 20, 8pm: Kessler-Embrey Conspiracy- Trumpeter Stan Kessler and guitarist Danny Embrey lead a powerhouse quartet – Jeff Harshbarger on bass, Todd Strait on drums… $5 cover. Sunday, December 21, 10am - 2pm: Sunday Jazz Brunch: TJ Martley- amazing pianist… No cover.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Deborah Brown: The Plastic Sax Person of the Year

The revelation struck me midway through Deborah Brown's exceptional headlining performance at the Prairie Village Jazz Festival in September.  Brown wasn't fortunate to share the stage with guest artists Joe Lovano and Terell Stafford. Instead, the prestigious jazz stars were privileged to share the stage with her.

Brown's regal presence and lustrous voice were similarly spellbinding at Helzberg Hall in the Kauffman Center for the Performance Arts on December 1.  She clearly relished performing on a stage commensurate with her talent in her hometown.

Several Plastic Sax reviews and editorials have referenced Brown's perplexingly low profile in Kansas City.  She may be better known in Amsterdam, Paris and St. Petersburg than in the city where she resides.  Yet with the possible exception of Bobby Watson, the globetrotting Brown is Kansas City's foremost international jazz ambassador among locally based musicians.

Her ongoing contributions and immense talent make the elegant artist Plastic Sax's Person of the Year of 2014.

In a freewheeling conversation at her home earlier this month, Brown lauded the revitalization of the local jazz scene.  When I suggested that she was the only Kansas City based artist I cared to hear scat, she immediately jumped to the defense of her hometown peers.

Even so, it's obvious that Brown possesses a unique voice that's further honed by her careful analysis of jazz history.  Brown speaks reverently of artists including Betty Carter.  Many admirers, myself among them, place Brown alongside Carter on their lists of the greatest jazz vocalists.

The previous recipients of Plastic Sax's Person of the Year award are Stan Kessler (2013), Doug and Lori Chandler (2012), Jeff Harshbarger (2011), Mark Lowrey (2010) and Hermon Mehari (2009).  Bobby Watson was named the Plastic Person Person of the Decade in 2009.

(Deborah Brown supplied the first image.  The second photo was taken by Plastic Sax at Helzberg Hall on December 1.)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Now's the Time: Marilyn Maye

Marilyn Maye will perform at Yardley Hall in a concert billed as "The Merriest" on Saturday, December 13.  The embedded video catches Maye in chatty form before she belts out a triumphant rendition of "Here's to Life."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Bob Bowman was interviewed by Joe Dimino for the Neon Jazz podcast.

*KC Jazz Lark reviews new albums by Bob Bowman and Tyrone Clark.

*Book of Gaia appeared on a local television program.

*The Pitch recommends Tyrone Clark's gig at the Blue Room.

*The blog of Mills Record Company touts a concert featuring the Jorge Arana Trio.

*Hermon Mehari shared a sample of last Saturday's performance at the Blue Room.

*The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra's OverTime: Music Of Bob Brookmeyer was nominated for a Grammy award in the category of Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.

*Tweet o' the Week: Green Lady Lounge- Jazz doesn't suck. Taking 25min set breaks and 10mins deciding what the next Jobim standard you're going to play sucks.

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- Nice to see Flying Lotus at the top of your list. Not my favorite of the year, but hats off to you and him for putting a needle in the arm of the current day jazz scene. (And aren't you an old dude? - ha!)

*From the American Jazz Museum: On Thursday, December 18, we will host the 7th Annual Musicians' Appreciation Day, in partnership with Truman Medical Centers, the Coda Jazz Fund, and Elder Statesmen of Jazz. Jazz musicians can take advantage of free health screenings and a mobile marketplace of fresh produce provided by Truman Medical Centers and enjoy a performance by Elder Statesmen of Jazz in the Blue Room.

*From the University of Kansas: The University of Kansas Jazz Ensemble I and the University of Missouri Concert Jazz Band will meet for two shows on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014 at The Blue Room in the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, MO… These unique concerts feature KU Jazz Ensemble I led by Dan Gailey, KU director of Jazz Studies, and MU Concert Jazz Band led by Dr. Arthur White, MU director of Jazz Studies.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Plastic Sax's Top Performances of 2014

Plastic Sax's Favorite Kansas City-Related Performances of 2014
1. Pat Metheny Unity Group- Topeka Performing Arts Center (Plastic Sax review.)
2. Deborah Brown- Prairie Village Jazz Festival (Plastic Sax review.)
3. Marcus Hampton- Gem Theater
4. The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra's "Kansas City is Jazz"- Muriel Kauffman Theatre (Plastic Sax review.)
5. Peter Schlamb Quartet- Take Five Coffee + Bar (Plastic Sax review.)
6. Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle- Green Lady Lounge
7. Vine Street Rumble- Celebration at the Station (Plastic Sax review.)
8. Matt Otto Quintet- Westport Coffee House (Plastic Sax review.)
9. Foundation 627 Big Band- Green Lady Lounge
10. Bob Bowman Quartet- Orion Room at the Green Lady Lounge (Plastic Sax review.)

Plastic Sax's Favorite Performances of 2014 by Artists From Elsewhere
1. Jessica Care Moore- The Blue Room
2. Miguel Zenón Quartet- The Blue Room (Plastic Sax review.)
3. Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola- The Brick
4. Tony Bennett- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
5. Ingrid Laubrock and Tom Rainey- RecordBar (Plastic Sax review.)
6. Regina Carter- Helzberg Hall (Plastic Sax review.)
7. John Scofield- Folly Theater
8. Brad Mehldau Trio- Folly Theater
9. Bill Charlap Trio with Jesse Davis, Jon Faddis and Bobby Watson- Gem Theater
10. Jaleel Shaw- Take Five Coffee + Bar

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Now's the Time: Chris Botti

Is Chris Botti a pop instrumentalist or a notable jazz musician?  Most members of the audience at Yardley Hall on Friday, December 5, probably won't care about such distinctions.  Sy Smith sings the Burt Bacharach melody "The Look of Love" in the embedded video.  She'll perform with the popular trumpeter and bandleader at the concert hall at Johnson County Community College.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Ryan Heinlein is featured in a compelling profile in The Pitch.

*KC Jazz Lark implies that his Magic Jazz Fairy is no longer necessary.

*Here's a clip from the forthcoming album by the Kansas City ensemble Forward.

*Chris Botti's upcoming appearance at Yardley Hall is acknowledged by The Pitch.

*Chris Burnett assesses the cultural relevance of jazz and lists his favorite albums of 2014.

*Tweet o' the Week: Reach- Thursday Night ::: The Project H ft. Reach. WCH Theater (4010 Pennsylvania). Hip Hop. Jazz. Show from 8-10. $5 cover.

*Comment o' the Week: Anonymous- That's a good list, but if it were me, I'd put Bob Bowman's new CD right at the top - check it out.

*From Take Five Coffee + Bar: Thursday, December 4, 8pm: Miguel Mambo DeLeon and Carte Blanc: Carte Blanc is Pat Conway on congas and other percussion, Alyssa Murray on piano, Steve Lambert on saxophone and Dominique Sanders on bass…$5 cover.  Friday, December 5, 8pm: Megan Birdsall: (S)he'll have a stellar band around her – Ben Leifer on bass, Steve Lambert on saxophone, TJ Martley on piano and John Kizilarmut on drums. $5 cover. Saturday, December 6, 8pm: Rich Wheeler Quartet: his quartet – kindred spirits and co-conspirators TJ Martley on piano, Bill McKemy on bass and Sam Wisman on drums.. $5 cover. Sunday, December 7, 10am - 2pm: TJ Martley: ... with bassist Andrew Stinson in a duo format… No cover.

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

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)