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.)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Plastic Sax's Top Albums of 2014

Plastic Sax's Favorite Kansas City-Related Jazz Albums of 2014
1. Peter Schlamb- Tinks (Plastic Sax review.)
2. Pat Metheny Unity Group- Kin (Plastic Sax review.)
3. The Project H- We Live Among the Lines (Plastic Sax review.)
4. Diverse- Our Journey (Plastic Sax review.)
5. Jorge Arana Trio- Oso (Plastic Sax review.)
6. Frank Wess- Magic 201
7. Everette DeVan- For the Love of You (Plastic Sax review.)
8. J.E. Chapman- 364 Days (Plastic Sax review.)
9. David Basse- The Hero and the Lover… (Plastic Sax review.)
10. Shades of Jade- Fingerprinted Memories (Plastic Sax review.)

Plastic Sax's Favorite Jazz Albums of 2014 From Elsewhere
1. Flying Lotus- You're Dead!
2. Kris Bowers- Heroes + Misfits
3. Danilo Pérez- Panama 500
4. David Binney- Anacapa
5. Ambrose Akinmusire- The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier to Paint
6. Takuya Kuroda- Rising Son
7. Bohren & der Club of Gore- Piano Nights
8. GoGo Penguin- v2.0
9. Regina Carter- Southern Comfort
10. Oliver Lake Organ Quartet- What I Heard

Similar year-end listings were published at Plastic Sax in 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Now's the Time: Andy Kirk and His Twelve Clouds of Joy

Now's the time to go back in time.  The lively 1930s recordings of Andy Kirk and His Twelve Clouds of Joy are eternally engaging.  While much of the Kansas City band's discography may be purchased through dodgy European labels, a set of 11 tracks including "Dunkin' a Doughnut" is available as a free download at the Internet Archive.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Bobby Watson made an appearance on a local television program.

*The Kansas City Star documented the deterioration of Highland Cemetery.  Plastic Sax visited the cemetery in September.

*Hermon Mehari posted a clip of a recent performance to SoundCloud.

*The Pitch recommends Friday's offerings at the Green Lady Lounge.

*Tweet o' the Week: Ryan Heinlein- Great, Christmas jazz. Now we'll never make the iTunes charts

*From Chris Burnett: I am writing on behalf of Ms. Jayne McShann-Lewis, daughter of the late legendary pianist, Jay McShann.  Jayne is producing a Gospel-Classical-Jazz musical on Friday, December 19th.  She believes this musical to be the first of its kind produced in Kansas City.  Gospel-Classical-Jazz music will be performed together at this event, demonstrating the two genres have an inherent unity of history and sound. The event will also feature a panel discussion on the topic... Boone Tabernacle Church of God in Christ, 1317 E. 12th Street, Kansas City, MO 64106, 7pm. $15.

*From Jim Mair: The Kansas City Kansas Community College Jazz Ensemble has been given the distinct honor of being invited to perform at the 30th Annual Havana (Cuba) Jazz Festival December 16-22, 2014.  For the December 3rd Spirituality & All That Jazz program, they will be performing a complete dress rehearsal of their introduction of Kansas City Jazz to the islands... Unity Temple on the Plaza - 707 W. 47th Street…$7.00

(Original image of Highland Cemetery by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Concert Review: Bob Bowman at the Orion Room

The first set of Bob Bowman's album release party at the Orion Room in the basement of the Green Lady Lounge attracted a capacity audience on Thursday, November 20.  Dozens of longtime fans of the bassist and many of his fellow musicians filled the handsome room with a convivial atmosphere.

Bowman was supported by guitarist Danny Embrey, pianist Roger Wilder and drummer Todd Strait.  Vocalist Megan Birdsall joined the quartet for one selection.

Bowman's artistic and physical rejuvenation is one of the happiest recent developments on Kansas City's jazz scene.  The official function for the release of the album Songs for Sandra, consequently, doubled as a celebration of Bowman's vitality.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Now's the Time: Elliott Levin

Jazz bohemian Elliott Levin will appear at Take Five Coffee + Bar on Saturday, November 22, and at the RecordBar on Sunday, November 23.  A press release from the Johnson County venue suggests that "this will be some of the wildest, most intense music we’ve ever had at Take Five."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Wyandotte Daily reports that the owners of the Broadway Jazz Club are considering opening a second location in Kansas City, Kansas.

*A report on Bob Bowman's new album is the highlight of Joe Klopus' weekly column.

*Big crowds at Take Five Coffee + Bar and the Broadway Jazz Club are celebrated by KC Jazz Lark.

*The Pitch recommends Bobby Watson's gigs at the Broadway Jazz Club.

*Hermon Mehari's portion of the 2014 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition  begins at the 3:02:15 portion of a five-hour video.

*Chris Burnett posted tips he shares with his students.

*Chuck Berg reviewed a Topeka Jazz Workshop concert featuring Chuck Redd and Nicki Parrott.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Reggie Watkins for his Neon Jazz podcast.

*Tweet o' the Week: Green Lady Lounge- GreenLadyLounge wishes a very happy b-day to Tim Whitmer - Kansas City's beloved Jazz Pianist, Entertainer & Friend.

*Comment o' the Week: danasgoodstuff- Love her Southern Comfort album, more than anything else by her although I've long been aware that she could play some. Been very disappointed in the nonresponse to my post about it on my favorite jazz bulliten board

*From Take Five Coffee: It's our belief that presenting the full range of good jazz, from the most accessible to the most challenging, is the best way to honor the music's traditions and its possibilities. So when Jeff Harshbarger said Philly free jazz monster Elliott Levin would be in town and offered to bring him to Take Five, then added piano virtuoso Thollem McDonas to the mix, we made it the centerpiece of our weekend. Come see just how far out the music at Take Five Coffee + Bar can go… Saturday, November 22, 8pm… We suspect this will be some of the wildest, most intense music we’ve ever had at Take Five. Come with your ears wide open and prepare to be challenged. This is essentially Snuff Jazz — Jeff Harshbarger on bass, Mark Southerland on tenor sax and bags of tricks, and Brian Steever on drums — with two of the most powerful improvisational musicians walking the planet today. Elliott Levin, in from Philadelphia, plays tenor sax and flute and is a ferocious free jazz force. Pianist Thollem McDonas is simply traveling the world blowing up everyone’s idea of what can be done on a piano… $10 cover.

*From Broadway Jazz Club: Come see Bobby Watson, world-class musician, Grammy nominee, recent inductee into the Jazz Walk of Fame, and the 1st William & Mary Grant endowed professor of Jazz in the first of the BJC Signature Series events! Performing this night with Chris Clark, James Ward, and Mike Warren, it should prove to be a wonderful evening!  November 21, 2014, two shows, 6 & 9PM

*From the University of Kansas: The University of Kansas Jazz Ensemble I will perform with vocalist Deborah Brown at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014 in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.  Admission to the event is free, but tickets are required. Please call 816-994-7222 for tickets. The performance is sponsored by Reach Out Kansas, Inc. The University of Kansas Jazz Ensemble I and director Dan Gailey proudly present an evening of big band jazz featuring world renowned jazz vocalist Deborah Brown. In addition to arrangements featuring Ms. Brown, the ensemble will present the world premiere of Gailey’s composition New Kansas City Suite, commissioned by Reach Out Kansas, Inc. The world premiere of New Kansas City Suite features: Clint Ashlock, trumpet; Matt Otto, tenor saxophone; Danny Embrey, guitar; Jeff Harshbarger, bass; and Brandon Draper, drums.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Album Review: The Ben Markley/Clint Ashlock Quintet- The Return

The clarion call of an excellent trumpeter caught my ear as I wandered in downtown Kansas City a few years ago.  I traced the sound to a sidewalk cafe where the duo of Clint Ashlock and Mark Lowrey were playing tasteful swing.  I was reminded of the incident when I heard The Return, the fine new album by trumpeter Ashlock and pianist Ben Markley.  As might be expected of a pair of respected young musicians who double as jazz educators, Ashlock and Markley play an impeccable version of modern bop.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Now's the Time: Eboni Fondren

Eboni Fondren, one of Kansas City's finest jazz and pop vocalists, sang with the Salina Symphony in 2012.  She brought down the house with a rendition of Etta James' "At Last."  Fondren performs Friday, November 14, at Broadway Jazz Club and Sunday, November 16, at a jazz brunch at Chaz.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KC Jazz Lark lobbies for a large-scale jazz festival in Kansas City.

*Chicago's Marquis Hill surpassed musicians including Kansas City's Hermon Mehari to win the 2014 Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition.  The Kansas City Star sent a shout-out to Mehari.

*An appearance by Karl McComas-Reichl Trio is highlighted by The Pitch.

*A television station aired a brief report about the fundraising efforts of members of the Kansas City Kansas Community College's jazz band.  They're attempting to finance a trip to Cuba.

*Peter Hum interviewed Pat Metheny.

*Tweet o' the Week: Chris Hazelton- Okay lovers of 45s, trying to game plan the next release. Do you want more instrumental soul-jazz, soul with vocals, or straight up funk?

*Comment o' the Week: cB- The promoter cancelled the Beat Funktion concert due to poor advanced ticket sales.

*From Take Five Coffee: A trip to Brazil and a trip back in time mark the weekend ahead at Take Five Coffee + Bar as we present a feast of rhythms from far and wide… Friday, November 14, 8pm: Sons of Brasil. $5 cover… Saturday, November 15, 8pm: Clint Ashlock presents a tribute to The Jazz Messengers… $5 cover. Sunday, November 16, 10am - 2pm: Sunday Jazz Brunch: The Peter Schlamb Quartet… No cover.

*From the American Jazz Museum: Jazz Then and Now celebrates the evolution of jazz from its earliest beginnings to the modern-day period. The exhibition pays homage to local, national, and international jazz artists whose unique styles, musical achievements, and contributions helped to shape the music. Images and artifacts from the American Jazz Museum's collection are accompanied by images by present-day photographers and visual artists, video interviews, and poetry… (November 13) 6:00 pm - Bob Bowman performance. 6:40 pm - Jazz Then and Now exhibition reveal. 7:00 pm - Artists' Discussion…

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Concert Review: Miguel Zenón at the Blue Room

Identities Are Changeable, the ambitious new release by Miguel Zenón, is the sort of album that elicits more admiration than affection.  Laden with spoken word segments and complex big band arrangements, Identities Are Changeable is the musical equivalent of a coffee table book. 

An audience of about 50 heard a very different version of the new material at the Blue Room on Monday, November 3, the night before the album was officially released.  Zenón- one of the most celebrated jazz artists of our time- was joined by the eloquent Venezuelan pianist Luis Perdomo, Austrian bassist Hans Glawischnig and American-born drummer Eric Doob.

Pared down to their core essences, fresh compositions like "Through Culture and Tradition" were riveting.  The daring solos of the saxophonist struck me as the contemporary extension of Charlie Parker's innovations.  A companion insisted that Zenón was channeling Art Pepper.

We agreed that we were hearing one of the best performances of 2014.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Now's the Time: Beat Funktion

Swedish acid jazz band Beat Funktion will perform at the Gem Theater on Saturday, November 15.  The sextet's performance in the embedded video indicates that fans of the Headhunters and the Crusaders are in for a good time.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KC Jazz Lark documents the debut of the People's Liberation Big Band at Take Five Coffee + Bar's new location.

*Anita Dixon made a television appearance to promote the centennial anniversary of the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*Jazz students representing UMKC's Conservatory of Music and Dance perform at the 3:50 mark on a televised news program.

*"A Risk I Take" , another track from Chris Burnett's forthcoming album, is available at CDBaby.

*The Pitch cosigns Rob Scheps' latest barnstorming tour of the Kansas City area.

*Christ Community church hosts the Brookside Jazz Festival on Friday, November 7.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Bob Mintzer for his Neon Jazz podcast.

*Tweet o' the Week: Pete Weber- Bucky Pizzarelli and Ed Laub were excellent on our show, and incredibly great guys off stage. #jazz #guitar

*From Fanny Dunfee: Jazz musician, composer, educator Donivan Bailey has been selected as a Master educator in the Alaadeen Jazz Master/Apprentice Program for 2014/2015. Bailey has chosen and  begun work with his Apprentice Jarred Stangohr. The Master/Apprentice pair has established a learning agreement to guide their work together through the Apprenticeship Program with activities scheduled throughout the year, based on the Alaadeen Method Of Instruction™...  The 2013 Program sponsored Donivan Bailey and Dennis Winslett as Masters.

*From Johnson County Community College: Chris Botti, who won a Grammy in 2013 for best pop instrumental album, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, at Johnson County Community College… Tickets… are $120, $60 and $50… Botti is a multiple gold and platinum performer who has found a form of creative expression that begins in jazz and expands beyond the limits of any single genre. He has recorded and performed with artists who include Sting, Josh Groban, Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Bublé, Paul Smith, Joni Mitchell, John Mayer, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Frank Sinatra.

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Album Review: J.E. Chapman- 364 Days

J.E. Chapman's name may not ring a bell with many attentive observers of Kansas City's jazz scene, but the credits of his album 364 Days read like a regional who's-who.  The notable musicians contributing to the project include Clint Ashlock, Chris Burnett, Ryan Heinlein, Steve Lambert, the Leifer brothers, Hermon Mehari, Andrew Ouellette and Brian Steever.  In the tradition of grand-scale compositions by Gil Evans and Bob Brookmeyer, 364 Days is an admirably ambitious and entirely fetching work.  Chapman describes the big band suite as "21st century jazz compositions with reverence, respect, and homage to the past jazz composition masters."  I consider it a worthy sequel to Bobby Watson's swinging The Gates BBQ Suite.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Now's the Time: The Harlem Quartet

"Take the 'A' Train" is the rare jazz warhorse that manages to remain fresh no matter how often it's performed.  The Harlem Quartet's string version is entirely charming.  The ensemble is paired with Imani Winds at Yardley Hall on Saturday, November 1.  The second half the program features a new composition titled "Passion for Bach and Coltrane."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Pitch heralds the new version of Take Five Coffee + Bar.

*KC Jazz Lark reviewed albums by Diverse, the Project H and Shades of Jade.

*Pat Metheny won the Guitar category and the The Pat Metheny Unity Group took the honors in the Jazz Group and Jazz Album categories of the 2014 DownBeat Readers Poll.

*The Kansas City Star previewed a concert featuring Imani Winds and the Harlem Quartet.

*KCPT aired a nice feature on Brad Cox and Jennifer Owen.  (It starts at the 8:30 mark.)

*Joe Klopus previews Miguel Zenón's return to the Blue Room.

*Chris Burnett considers the concept of balance.

*Jack Wilkins is among Joe Dimino's latest interview subjects for Neon Jazz.

*Tweet o' the Week: Next On TCM- The jazz band's leader gets mixed up with gangster in '20s Kansas City. [Off topic: Go Royals!] #TCM

*From the KU School of Music: The University of Kansas Jazz Ensemble I will collaborate with the Kansas City-based group The Sons of Brasil for a special performance at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 5, 2014, at Lawrence Arts Center. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students… For this extraordinary concert event, KU faculty, current and former student composers have written new arrangements of selections from The Sons of Brasil’s catalog to include a big band…

*From Take Five Coffee + Bar: Here it is, the weekend we've been working toward for months, when we all get to find out together just how much musical energy the new Take Five Coffee + Bar can generate. We have three high-energy jazz performances, a showcase of the kind of fun you'll find nowhere else on the planet. This weekend is our statement, our offering, and our best explanation of why we love Kansas City and its jazz community most of all… Friday, November 31, 8pm: Parallax Costume Party. $5 cover… Saturday, November 1, 8 pm: The People's Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City. No cover. Inaugural Jazz Brunch, Sunday, November 2, 10am - 2pm: Jazz Brunch with the Mark Lowrey Trio. No cover for brunches.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Take Two of Take Five

An inconspicuous sign in an inviting cranny of the new location of Take Five Coffee + Bar provides welcome news for Kansas City's jazz scene.  The government-mandated plaque reads "maximum occupancy 189."

About 50 people heard pianist Roger Wilder, bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Brian Steever support New York-based saxophonists Roger Rosenberg and Rob Scheps during the first set of the official opening night of Take Five's spacious new location on Friday, October 24.  That number would have filled the previous locale.

"It feels like the old place gave birth to triplets," Scheps joked.

There's lots to love about the revamped Take Five.  The sound on Friday- especially the depth and richness of Bowman's bass- was superb.  The relaxed atmosphere of the old venue also survived the move. 

By doubling down on their daring investment in the area's jazz scene, proprietors Doug and Lori Chandler, Plastic Sax's People of the Year in 2012, continue to improve the quality of life of the area's jazz aficionados. 

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Now's the Time: Bucky Pizzarelli

Octogenarian guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and his musical partner Ed Laub will perform Sunday, October 26, at the Topeka Jazz Workshop and on Monday, October 27, at Broadway Jazz Club.  The latter show is a taping of 12th Street Jump.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Star elicits comments from Hermon Mehari about his participation in the upcoming Thelonious Monk competition.

*KC Jazz Lark documents the 18th & Vine Jazz & Blues Festival.  A 17-minute video captures many of the event's sights and sounds.

*The Pitch recommends a show at Take Five Coffee + Bar featuring Gerald Spaits' band.

*A major ticketing site posted an interview with Eddie Moore.

*Tweet o' the Week: ReallyRylie- Sitting in Music Appreciation of Jazz wanting to cry of boredom. Remember this: The Royals are in the World Series.

*From Broadway Jazz Club: 12th Street Jump, the public radio syndicated Jazz and Comedy program, will be recording their broadcast honoring the music of Bucky Pizzarelli with special guests Bucky Pizzarelli and Ed Laub!! After the live recording stay for Eboni Fondren and Two Guitars (Matt Hopper & Charlie Gatschet), who will play from 9pm-11pm... Ticket prices range from $15 - $25.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Horace Washington

Horace Washington died last week.  His friendly stage presence and penchant for danceable soul-jazz made him one of Kansas City's most popular musicians in the 1980s.  I last heard him with the Elder Statesmen of Kansas City Jazz at the Blue Room during the 18th & Vine Jazz & Blues Festival on October 11.  As a review in The Kansas City Star noted, he led the band in a lively rendition of Herbie Mann's "Memphis Underground."  Washington was last featured at Plastic Sax in 2011.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Now's the Time: Phillip Johnston

Phillip Johnston, the founder of the Microscopic Septet, will perform at Helzberg Hall on Sunday, Oct. 19.  Wordless!, a collaboration with graphic novelist Art Spiegelman, is a "multimedia presentation with new original music." 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Hermon Mehari is one of 13 musicians who will participate in the semifinals of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition in New York on November 8.

*The Kansas City Star reviewed the 18th & Vine Jazz & Blues Festival.

*A television station broadcast a five-minute preview of the 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival.  CJ Janovy of KCUR captured a rendition of "Kansas City" at the event.

*The Pitch recommends Harold O'Neal's return to the Blue Room.

*KCPT provides a seven-minute overview of the recent Charlie Parker Celebration.

*OJT was featured on KCUR's Local Listen segment.

*A revival of the 1959 jazz musical "The Nervous Set" is previewed by The Kansas City Star.

*A blogger notes that Lalah Hathaway performed for over 5,000 people on Sunday.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Phil Woods for his Neon Jazz podcast.

*Tweet o' the Week: Clint Ashlock- KC, if you're going to the K tonight, get there early and hang with New Jazz Order in the Outfield at 5:00! #TakeTheCrown @Royals #kcjazz

*From Gerald Spaits: Saturday October 25th, Passit Productions and Take Five Coffee Bar will feature Jazz bassist Gerald Spaits in an evening of his own compositions. Gerald, known for backing up many of KC jazz greats will step into the role of composer and bandleader for a very special one-time performance. Joining Gerald on the new stage will be: Dave Chael on sax. T.J. Martley on grand piano. Brian Steever on drums.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Concert Review: The Andrew Ouellette Trio at Westport Coffee House

I've heard Andrew Ouellette perform straight-laced mainstream jazz and wild-eyed music with adventurous ensembles, but until Thursday I'd never attended one of his gigs as a leader. 

I was curious to see where the keyboardist would plant his musical flag as he collaborated with bassist Zach Beeson and drummer Brian Steever at the superb venue below the Westport Coffee House.

The selections performed during the first set are revealing.  In addition to at least one original composition, the trio played renditions of Harry Warren and Al Dubin's "September in the Rain," John Lewis' "Milestones," Brad Mehldau's "When It Rains," Milton Nascimento's "Cravo e Canela" and the unhappy ballad "Some Other Time."

The mix of standards, a show tune, a Brazilian number and a piece by a new jazz leader indicate that Ouellette embraces a wide range of styles. 

Steever, one of Kansas City's most excitable drummers, was as active as Ouellette was reserved.  Positioned between the very different men, Beeson ably connected their disparate styles for an audience of less than 10.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Now's the Time: Lalah Hathaway

Lalah Hathaway, one of the headliners of the American Jazz Museum's festival in 2010, headlines a free concert in the Power & Light District on Sunday, October 12, a day after the 2014 edition of the 18th & Vine Jazz & Blues Festival.  She and the jazz band Snarky Puppy won a Grammy Award in January for "Something," the song in the embedded video. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KC Jazz Lark documented the final night of the original location of Take Five Coffee + Bar.  The venue will reopen in a larger space later this month.

*100 Years of Jazz is a new site promoting The Art of Kansas City Swing: An International Jazz Education Festival at the Mutual Musicians Foundation in 2015.

*Kristin Shafel Omiccioli reviewed the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra's most recent concert.

*The Kansas City Star reviewed Marilyn Maye's collaboration with the Kansas City Symphony.

*Shades of Jade was featured on KCUR's Local Listen segment.

*The Pitch touts this weekend's 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival.

*Joeless Shoe posted a "track rundown" of the band's new album Midsole.

*The Columbia Business Times published a love letter to the city's We Always Swing Jazz Series.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Ted Nash for his Neon Jazz podcast.

*Tweet o' the Week: American Jazz Museum- Great weather for a festival ... (link)

*From Fanny Dunfee: The year after Alaadeen passed, I wrote a book of poems titled "The Heartbeat Next To My Heartbeat." On October 25th, I am pleased to be part of Homegrown Reads, the Local Author Fair at the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library, South Branch, 3104 Strong Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas, from 1pm to 4:30pm… In addition to "The Heartbeat Next To My Heartbeat" I will have all of my books available for purchase including "Dysfunctional, life journeys of a second generation jazz musician," "The Rest Of The Story, Jazz Improvization and History" and "Alaadeen, The Complete Song Book."

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Jazz for a Rainy Afternoon

The Jazz for a Rainy Afternoon compilation was one of the bestselling jazz albums of 1998.  I was reminded of the concept's enormous appeal during Kansas City Kansas Community College's Jazz at the Lake series last Thursday.

After surviving a white-knuckled drive through a torrential downpour and locating an alternate way into the campus after finding that high water had closed the primary entrance, I felt as if the college's lodge-like conference center was a jazz Valhalla.

The noontime set by vibraphonist Peter Schlamb, guitarist Ron Carlson, bassist Greg Clinkingbeard and New York-based drummer Grisha Alexiev might have sounded overly polite in a conventional jazz venue, but the homey setting amid an audience of about 40 made the performance seem unusually meaningful.

Carlson referenced the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" in his clever introduction to "Autumn Leaves," one of three selections that featured saxophonist Jim Mair.  Schlamb's playing on an interpretation of John Coltrane's "Central Park West" was gorgeous. 

Alexiev's vigorous effort kept the ballads from becoming treacly.  He added thunder to renditions of Milt Jackson's "Bags' Groove" and Sam Rivers' "Beatrice."

Let it rain.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Now's the Time: The Fred Hersch Trio

The 2014-15 season of the Folly Jazz Series opens Saturday, October 4, with a trio led by pianist Fred Hersch.  Joe Klopus previewed the concert.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*After Anita Dixon of the Mutual Musicians Foundation recounted her recent trip to Copenhagen to meet members of the Ben Webster Foundation, a panel addressed the top of "How Kansas City Relates To Its Jazz Legacy" on KCUR's Central Standard program.

*KC Jazz Lark admires the atmosphere at the Green Lady Lounge during the Foundation 627 Big Band's weekly Sunday performances.

*The Kansas City Star and The Pitch reviewed of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band's concert at Harrah's casino.

*KCPT provides footage Bobby Watson's birthday celebration at the Blue Room.

*UMKC keeps tabs on Michael Shults' career.

*Contrary to published reports, neither The Bad Plus nor Roscoe Mitchell will perform at the Blue Room on Friday, Oct. 3.

*Chris Burnett ponders the art of jazz.

*Tweet o' the Week: LarryvilleLife- Out here at the Lied with these bigwigs to see Wynton. Too bad we can't enjoy a nice cocktail with our pricey tickets! @liedcenterks

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated with a full slate of October gigs.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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.