Monday, March 30, 2015

Concert Review: The Lee Konitz and Dave Douglas Quintet at the Jazz Standard

Lee Konitz accidentally spat on my plate of shrimp and grits at the Jazz Standard a couple weeks ago.  And I ate it.

By arriving an hour before showtime at the New York City venue last week, I secured a $35 seat at a table next to the stage during the legend's four-night stand. Sitting within a few feet of Konitz was a mixed blessing.

The saxophonist, 87, initially appeared to be in a contrary mood.  He blew a ripe raspberry after the first selection.  I saw the spray hit my plate and felt the moisture on my hands and face.

After Konitz apologized, trumpeter and bandleader Dave Douglas joked that Konitz was hitting on me. 

Douglas’ silly inference seemed to infuriate Konitz.  Rather than taking his anger out on me, Konitz cross-examined a Japanese journalist who was taking notes and photos.  Konitz’ playing and attitude warmed up as the 60-minute set progressed.  He also become increasingly assertive. 

Every solo by Douglas, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Ches Smith was transformed into a duet as Konitz added sly embellishments on saxophone or sang over each statement.

Konitz’ vocalese was unusual.  Instead of scatting or enunciating lyrics, Konitz sang wordless prayers.  His incantations felt holy. 

Konitz eventually felt lively enough to tell an unfortunate joke.

“What did Barack Obama say before he left the room?” Konitz asked.  “I’ll be white black.”

The format was far more mainstream than the exploratory sounds Douglas employed at the Blue Room in Kansas City in 2010 and 2013 and that Konitz applied to a 2006 concert with Bill Frisell at the Folly Theater.  In baring both his mind and soul on standards, Konitz offered something far more valuable than fashionable sounds.

The Konitz-enhanced meal, incidentally, was delicious.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Now's the Time: Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester

When the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts polled audiences about potential bookings in 2010, I responded with a list of artists I'd like to hear at the beautiful new building.  My suggestions included Ornette Coleman, Charlie Haden, Keith Jarrett, Sonny Rollins and Cassandra Wilson. 

What was I thinking?

Kansas Citians would rather buy tickets to concerts by the likes of Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester.  The German retro-swing band will knock ‘em dead at Helzberg Hall on Tuesday, April 7. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KC Jazz Lark buries the lead in a significant post about a jazz booster organization.

*Steve Paul lobbies against a proposed funding cut for the American Jazz Museum in an editorial in The Kansas City Star.

*Mike Corrigan’s (B.A.C.) Horn Doctor business was featured in a jazz-oriented profile by The Kansas City Star.

*Chris Burnett considers the promotion of jazz performances.

*The Pitch recommends a performance by Candace Evans.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Rudresh Mahanthappa- Bird Calls CD Release show tonight at @JazzStandardNYC. Sets at 7:30 and 10 PM. (link)

*Comment o’ the Week: Cb- I really dig Noah Preminger's music, HIB. He's from the east coast, correct?

*From Michael Shults- Saturday night March 28th I'm giving a lecture recital on the music of Bobby Watson at 7 PM at Take Five… I'll be analyzing and performing six of Bobby's compositions… several of these tunes were the songs that got me hooked on jazz as a teenager. It's also an all-Watson era UMKC alumni band: Clint Ashlock on trumpet, Andrew Ouellette on piano, Matt Leifer on drums and Ben Leifer on bass. I think for all of us it's a way to pay some small tribute to a man who had a profound influence on us and who, oh by the way, happens to be one of the greatest living composers of American art music. After the lecture recital, we'll take a break and Brett Jackson will join us for a tribute to the Jazz Messengers.

*From Take Five Coffee: Friday, March 27, 8pm: Sons of Brasil-
The Sons bring the samba, the bossa, and a host of other propulsive musical styles from Brazil and other cultures of Latin America. $5.  Saturday, March 28- 7pm: Michael Shults Lecture Recital: The work of Bobby Watson, 8pm: Music of the Jazz Messengers- Trumpeter Clint Ashlock leads a high-powered ensemble...  $5 cover.  Sunday, March 29, 10am - 2pm: Sunday Jazz Brunch: Gerald Spaits with Rod Fleeman and Paul Smith. No cover.

*From a press release: Enjoy the multi-faceted music of the Kansas City Kansas Community College Jazz program with the award-winning KCKCC Blue Devils Jazz Orchestra and vocal Jazz ensemble The Standard.  Wednesday, April 1, 2015.  Unity Temple on the Plaza. $7.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Concert Review: The Noah Preminger Quartet at 55 Bar

After taking in two hours of arias at Carnegie Hall, I wasn’t up for a musical nightcap at another pricey and formal venue during a brief visit to New York City last week.

I longed for something gritty and informal.  I found it at 55 Bar in Greenwich Village.  Noah Preminger led a quartet in a fierce performance that matched the ambiance of the dark and dingy basement venue.

About 25 people heard the tenor saxophonist, trumpeter Billy Buss, bassist Kim Cass and drummer Ian Froman open the second set with a harmolodic fury capable of startling Ornette Coleman.

Preminger’s intensity validated his status as one of the most exciting young saxophonists of the new millennium. 

Buss demonstrated why he beat out Kansas City’s Hermon Mehari in taking second place at last year’s Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition.  Cass and Froman went full throttle for much of the 45-minute set.

I’m pleased that the majority of Kansas City’s young jazz musicians are mindful of the mainstream tradition.  I’d be even happier if a few of them revealed an affinity for the adventurous likes of Coleman and Don Cherry.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Now's the Time: Jason Jackson

Trombonist Jason Jackson is the featured guest on saxophonist Rob Scheps' latest barnstorming tour of the Kansas City area.  The New York based trombonist and the saxophonist will perform with different combinations of locally based musicians in the noontime Jazz by the Lake series at Kansas City Kansas Community College and at the Majestic on Thursday, April 2, and at Lucky Brewgrille on Friday, April 3. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Project H recorded an Eight One Sixty session for radio station KTBG.

*KC Jazz Lark assesses the positive contributions of the American Jazz Museum.

*Chris Burnett highlights upcoming events at the American Jazz Museum.

*Jerry Bergonzi is among Joe Dimino’s recent interview subjects.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Ghosts of Venice- When the afterparty is a 6am jazz club. Kansas City, I love you @ The Foundation Room (photo)

*Comment o’ the Week: Gary- I hope Lowrey plays Rockfest with Tech N9ne. Still I'd most likely not attend.

*From Bob McWilliams: KPR is airing an in studio concert by Horacescope this Thursday at 9:06 pm and again Sat. at 2:06 p.m. KPR in KC area is KANU FM 91-5 in Lawrence.

*This week’s edition of Confirmation is two days early.  Now’s the Time will appear a day late.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Concert Review: Dojo at the Green Lady Lounge

I attended the first set of a performance by Dojo last week partly because I was curious to discover how loud it would get at the Green Lady Lounge.

The decibel level- potent but not painful- was just right.

Brian Baggett shredded.  An appealing combination of Grant Green, Allan Holdsworth and Eddie Van Halen, the guitarist is a technical monster.

I already knew that Baggett was a master musician, but the fluidity of bassist Chris Handley floored me.  Ridiculously accomplished, Handley’s playing was almost as speedy as Baggett’s.  Drummer Luke Stone rounded out the ensemble.

As suggested in Plastic Sax’s review of Dojo’s 2013 album Road Trip, the trio plays propulsive fusion.  Here’s representative footage from a January show at the Green Lady Lounge.

About 25 people attended the set.  That’s not bad for a Tuesday night.  Even so, I know that there are thousands more fusion and metal fans in the area who would lose their minds if exposed to Baggett’s aggressive attack with Dojo.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Now's the Time: Terri Lyne Carrington

I was disappointed by Terri Lyne Carrington’s perforrmance at the (sorely missed) Jazz Winterlude festival 15 months ago.  The drummer’s all-star band seemed tentative, and in spite of the billing of the concert, Carrington didn’t really dig into her excellent Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue album.  A post at Carrington’s Facebook account suggests that Lizz Wright, Tia Fuller and Helen Sung are among the prominent musicians that will join her at the Gem Theater on Saturday, March 14.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Almost every aspect of a new video created by Ryan Lee is extraordinary.

*Albums by the ensembles led by Paul Shinn and Steve Lambert are reviewed by KC Jazz Lark.

*Mark Lowrey discussed his contribution to Tech N9ne’s forthcoming album with Tim Finn.

*The Kansas City Star reviewed Bill Frisell’s appearance at White Theatre.  Steve Kraske recently interviewed Frisell.

*KCUR aired a segment about Millie Edwards.

*The Pitch recommends an appearance by Stephanie Moore at the Broadway Jazz Club.

*A report on KCUR explores the 18th Street corridor.

*Joe Dimino’s recent Neon Jazz interview subjects include Oliver Lake and David Amram.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Deborah Love- Diva orchestra at the Blue Room in KC on 18th and Vine. All women.(photo)

*From Take Five Coffee: Friday, March 13, 8pm: Adam Schlozman Trio- Adam Schlozman is a guitarist on a mission. Come see him lead his own trio with bassist Joel Stratton and drummer Matt Leifer. $5 cover.  Saturday, March 14, 8pm: Shay Estes & Friends- With her trademark style – a little bit whimsical, a little bit wild… $5 cover.  Sunday, March 15, 10am - 2pm: Sunday Jazz Brunch: Gerald Spaits with Mark Lowrey- Bassist Gerald Spaits hosts our jazz brunch Month of Sundays in March… This… No cover.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Album Review: Victor & Penny and Their Loose Change Orchestra- Live at the Living Room Theatre

My initial reaction when I first encountered Victor & Penny at The Brick four or five years ago was crass.

“I could sell that,” I thought.

I knew that the beautiful woman and the extraordinary guitarist performing the Great American Songbook would appeal to the moneyed country club set and to young fans of folk revivalists like Mumford & Sons.

The new album Live at the Living Room Theatre showcases an expanded version of the ensemble.  Saxophonist James Isaac and bassist Rick Willoughby, men admired for their contributions to Kansas City’s jazz community, join Erin McGrane and Jeff Frelin under the banner of the “Loose Change Orchestra.”

The core duo doesn’t categorize its music as jazz.  Instead, they’ve deftly sidestepped the issue of genre by using the term “antique pop.” It makes sense- Victor & Penny apply the same Tin Pan Alley treatment to contemporary material like Howard Iceberg’s “Indiscreet” as they give to Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To.”

The premise would be overly cute if the musicians weren’t outstanding. Frelin and Isaac are virtuosos.

The new album isn’t the work that’s going to make Victor & Penny stars, but it’s an excellent calling card that should allow the ambitious duo to advance its career.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Now's the Time: Diva

Diva, a New York based ensemble billed as “America’s most entertaining, liberated big band,” will perform two sets at the Blue Room on Saturday, March 7. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Chris Burnett lobbies against a proposed reduction in city funding for the American Jazz Musuem.  Greg Carroll spoke to a television reporter about the cuts.

*The Mutual Musicians Foundation will host a Women’s Jazz Weekend later this month.

*The Pitch recommends a concert featuring Millie Edwards.

*Joe Klopus previewed Bill Frisell’s forthcoming concert at White Theatre.

*Clint Ashlock offers insights into his writing process.

*Rudresh Mahanthappa was interviewed by Joe Dimino.  Anita Dixon of the Mutual Musicians Foundation spoke to Dimino about her plans for a low-watt radio station.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Chris Hazelton- I'm all for making a joyful noise unto the Lord, but can we put some tambourine regulations in place? #churchproblems #findthebeat

*From Take Five Coffee + Bar: Friday, March 6, 8pm: Marcus Lewis Band- Marcus Lewis is a tremendous force on trombone, whether fronting his own big band or backing the likes of Janelle Monae… Andy McGhie on saxophone, Peter Schlamb on vibraphone, Karl McComas-Reichl on bass and Ryan Lee on drums. $5 cover.  Saturday, March 7, 8pm: BCR- …They call what they do “future-primitive jazz” and it’s a big, colorful and adventurous show you don’t want to miss. $10 cover.  Sunday, March 8, 10am - 2pm: Sunday Jazz Brunch: Gerald Spaits with Charles Perkins and Harry Miller- …No cover.  Sunday, March 8, 7pm - 9pm: Jeff Harshbarger and a Super Secret Guest Artist- Bassist Jeff Harshbarger is bringing a secret guest for a special show… $10 cover.

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Album Review: Bob Bowman- Songs for Sandra

Do you want to make me cry?  Cue up “What’ll I Do?,” the standout track on Bob Bowman’s Songs for Sandra album.

Knowing the project is a tribute to Bowman’s late wife renders Karrin Allyson’s distraught vocals all the more devastating.  While a few selections on the recording are overly polite, much of Songs for Sandra is similarly profound.

The opening track, a sensitive reading of “The Very Thought of You,” sets the tone.  The offhanded brilliance and subtle genius of Bowman’s playing reflect his quiet demeanor.  The gorgeous performances on the Danny Embrey composition “Another Time” are also exquisite. 

In addition to the appearances by Allyson and Embrey, the album released last December includes contributions from Laura Caviani, Rod Fleeman, Todd Strait, Roger Wilder and Eliot Zigmund.

An invaluable document, Songs for Sandra substantiates Bowman’s status as one of the most respected components of Kansas City’s jazz scene.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)