Friday, October 30, 2015

Now's the Time: Euge Groove

“Chillaxin’” is the quintessential smooth jazz song title.  The saxophonist and bandleader Euge Groove will likely perform the selection during his appearance at the Gem Theater on Thursday, November 5.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Pitch reports on the shuttering of Broadway Kansas City.  KC Jazz Lark ponders the closing.

*Natalie Gallagher documents a memorable night at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

*Joe Klopus decodes the “JazzAlice” project.

*KCUR featured a track from Ron Carlson’s new album in a Local Listen segment.

*The New York townhouse that was once Charlie Parker’s home is on the market for $9,250,000.  I wrote about visiting the site earlier this year.

*Hmph was interviewed on KCUR’s Up to Date program.

*Pat Metheny took the honors at the top guitarist in the Downbeat Reader’s Poll.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Brett Jackson- Live recording with the #boogaloo7 at the #greenladylounge tonight. Come lay down your best tracks with us!!

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- Maybe more people would come to these gigs if even the least little attempt was made to promote the show. Your review was the first I'd heard of it.

*From Michael Pagán: I am pleased to announce the residency of Thomas Knific in Kansas City next weekend. Tom is a seasoned  bassist who has performed with a long list of music luminaries. He is Director of Jazz Studies at Western Michigan University (in Kalamazoo)… He is an accomplished composer, performer, and master teacher… Knific will work with students in the jazz program of Ottawa university on Friday October 30 and perform at the Blue Room in Kansas City that night (8:30 PM) in a quartet led by Michael Pagán with clarinetist John Blegen and guitarist Rod Fleeman. On Saturday Oct. 31st, he will present a duo masterclass/concert with fellow bassist Bob Bowman (KC location TBA).

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Concert Review: John Gross at the Westport Coffeehouse

A Lee Konitz performance provided me with a transformative experience in March.  I hoped to bookend that highlight of 2015 with John Gross’ appearance at Westport Coffeehouse last week.

Gross, 71, is another saxophonist who communed with jazz giants as a young man.  The native Californian was once embedded in the West Coast cool jazz scene.  He later toured with several prominent big bands.  Gross is now based in Portland.

I hoped to hear Gross play like this.  Instead, Gross and saxophonist Matt Otto, a trombonist from Stevie Wonder’s touring band, guitarist Danny Embrey, bassist Ben Leifer and drummer Brian Steever played sleek post-bop.

Wednesday's elite lineup was virtually incapable of playing anything less than stellar.  Even so, the uncomfortably low turnout became an oppressive burden for both me and for the band .  I bailed after about 40 minutes of exquisite music.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Now's the Time: Tim Cunningham

The St. Louis based saxophonist Tim Cunningham performs at the Blue Room on Saturday, October 24.  Fans of Grover Washington, Jr. are in for a good time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Feast reports that the jazz venue Broadway Kansas City may soon become a Scandinavian restaurant.

*Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 and Molly Hammer are among the critic’s picks in The Pitch’s Best of Kansas City awards.  The Green Lady Lounge, Mark Lowrey and the 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival are among the reader’s picks.

*Mike Metheny created a video preview for his forthcoming album Twelve For the Road.

*The Count Basie Orchestra will release its first Christmas album on November 6.  Here’s a video trailer for A Very Swingin’ Basie Christmas.

*Christ Community is hosting the 2nd Annual Brookside Jazz Festival on November 7. 

*The Pitch recommends Ron Carlson’s series of gigs at the Art Factory.

*A critic for KCUR reviewed Hmph’s Headrush.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Leo Wadada Smith and Charles Tolliver.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Beth Hanson- Classy jazz joint with all the ambiance. #kansascity #vacation @ Green Lady Lounge (photo)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Album Review: Ron Carlson- Kind Folk

Ron Carlson’s new album Kind Folk is dedicated to Charlie Haden and Kenny Wheeler. 

The title track of the project would almost certainly have pleased both jazz legends.  The core band of saxophonists Rob Scheps and Roger Rosenberg, guitarist Carlson, bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Brian Steever interpret Wheeler’s composition with the elegant finesse associated with the late bassist and trumpeter.

Scheps and Rosenberg shine on John Abercrombie’s “Soundtrack” and Haden’s exquisite ballad “First Song.”  Rosenberg’s bass clarinet gives the latter selection an old world feel.

Kind Folk provides valuable documentation of the New York based Scheps’ annual collaborations with Kansas City jazz musicians.  The pairing of Bowman, a Kansas City institution in the midst of a late career renaissance, and the energetic young Steever, reflects Carlson’s savvy as a bandleader.

Three prominent Kansas City jazz vocalists- Shay Estes (“A Felicidade”), Angela Hagenbach (“Bye Bye Country Boy”) and Kathleen Holeman (“A Beautiful Friendship”)- are also featured on Kind Folk.

Carlson is content to let his consistently tasteful Kenny Burrell-style playing augment the contributions of his bandmates.  His thoughtful statement on “J.S.”, the album’s gorgeous closing track, lasts less than a minute.

In electing to act in a complementary role, Carlson has overseen the creation of a solid album of  mainstream jazz.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Now's the Time: Ryan Thielman

Kansas City has more excellent trumpeters than stages to properly accommodate them.  Ryan Thielman has a rare headlining gig at the Blue Room on Monday, October 19.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KC Jazz Lark suggests that the audience at last month’s Prairie Village Jazz Festival numbered 5,000 in the text accompanying a second photo set documenting the event,

*Michael Pagán is among Joe Dimino’s recent interview subjects.

*Ryan Heinlein was interviewed by Wichita’s NPR station.

*A blogger shares his notes about his favorite R&B and blues performances at the 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival.  A commenter disagreed with the plea for more jazz: "To much Jazz outside stage, needed more up beat music… Seemed like to much music for such a small attendance."

*A video for “Slow” provides another preview of Logan Richardson’s forthcoming album Shift.

*Angela Hagenbach is participating in the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition.

*Dominique Sanders has released X-Life, a collaboration with Leonard Dstroy that’s billed as “an amazing journey between Hip-Hop, Jazz, Soul, and R&B."

*Tweet o’ the Week: John Hilderbrand- A belated RIP to Larry Rosen. I was such a huge fan of GRP Records.

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous: I don't get it. Conrad Herwig is one heck of a trombonist but he is not going to sell a single ticket to the 18th and Vine Festival. Well, maybe one or two and thats a big maybe.

*From Ron Carlson: The new seven part Fall Jazz Series starts this week at The Art Factory!  The Art Factory is located at 5621 W 135th St in Overland Park, KS (at the SouthWest corner of 135th and Nall Ave).  Bob Bowman is featured on four of the seven events, each time with different groups.  The full calendar is available at The Art Factory.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Review: The 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival

I had low expectations for the 2015 edition of the 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival.  None of the headliners initially excited me and I was disappointed in the reduced number of stages.  Sometimes it feels good to be wrong.  Here’s a recap of three performances.

Conrad Herwig’s Latin Jazz All-Stars
Conrad Herwig represented the nicest surprise.  Until I saw the musicians climb the steps to the main stage I didn’t realize that the trombonist would bring almost his entire New York based band to Kansas City.  Only pianist Bill O’Connell didn’t make the trip.  Jo Ann Daugherty sat in with trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, saxophonist Craig Handy, bassist Luques Curtis, drummer Robby Ameen and percussionist Richie Flores.  The band previewed three selections from its forthcoming “The Latin Side of Horace Silver” album in a 90-minute set that made the $15 I paid at the gate seem like a steal.  Complete setlist: “Cousin Mary,” “Lonnie’s Lament,” “The Cape Verdean Blues,” “Naima,” “Song For My Father,” “Nutville.”

Dennis Winslett with Kahil El'Zabar
The only significant delay of the festival prevented me from seeing much of Kahil El’Zabar in the Blue Room.  I loved the mystical music I heard by the Chicago based percussionist and vocalist. 

Shades of Jade
The R&B crooner Dwele seemed more interested in talking than singing during his appearance on the main stage in front of the festival’s largest audience of more than 1,200.  Shades of Jade was far more compelling in an overlapping set for a few dozen people in the Gem Theater.  The Kansas City group appears to be fully committed to neo-soul, although Josh Williams J-Will played a few intriguing effects-laden trumpet solos.  Derek Cunigan’s vocals on “That One” were exquisite.

(Original image of Robby Ameen, Conrad Herwig, Alex Sipiagin, Craig Handy and Richie Flores by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Now's the Time: Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey

Aficionados of loud and adventurous jazz will be hopped up in midtown as Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey performs at Oddly Correct
on Friday, October 9, and Saturday, October 10.  Saxophonist Mark Southerland will join the Oklahoma based band at the intimate coffee house.  Plastic Sax interviewed JFJO’s Brian Haas in 2009.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival was previewed by Joe Klopus.  The Pitch’s Jazz Beat writer focused on Conrad Herwig’s appearance at the annual event.

*Jessie Riggins reviewed the opening concert of the Kansas Jazz Orchestra’s new season.

*Logan Richardson introduced his new album Shift in a four-minute EPK.

*KC Jazz Lark shared photos of last month’s Prairie Village Jazz Festival.

*Mark Lowrey was featured on KCUR’s weekly Local Listen segment.

*The Kansas City Star highlighted Vewiser Dixon’s plans for the area to the south of the Jazz District.

*A blogger recalled two Phil Woods concerts in Kansas City in a remembrence of the late saxophonist.

*A barbecue restaurant named 18th & Vine opened in Dallas this week.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Oddly Correct- 2 evenings with @jacobfredjazzodyssey coming up this weekend at our shop. Taste & see…

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Album Review: Matt Villinger- All Night

Peter Schlamb’s electrifying Tinks was Plastic Sax’s top album of 2014 by a Kansas City musician. 

The sonic innovation, emphasis on memorable compositions and an absence of prolonged solos made Tinks entirely refreshing.

All Night, the solo debut of keyboardist Matt Villinger, features Schlamb on vibraphone.  Recorded in the same Edwardsville, Illinois, studio as Tinks, All Night sounds like Tinks’ funkier sequel. 

Villinger evokes a young Bob James on the soulful opening track “Chillinger.”  “You’re the One for Me” is like an update of James’ “Angela,” the theme song for television’s “Taxi.”  Villinger also uses a vocoder on the title track, a midtempo song capable of resonating with Daft Punk fans.

Trumpeter Hermon Mehari is excellent throughout.  Hiis heavily processed solo on “Dart Bomb” is particularly thrilling.  Bassist Nick Jost and drummer Sean Mullins round out the band.

Following in Schlamb’s footsteps, Villinger recently moved from St. Louis to Kansas City.  All Night indicates that he promises to be a similarly constructive presence on the scene. 

(Original image of Louise Bourgeois' "Spider" by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Now's the Time: Kahil El'Zabar

Jazz purists might initially be alarmed when they first glance at the lineup of the American Jazz Museum’s 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival.  Blues and R&B acts make up a significant portion of the offerings.  A closer inspection reveals a handful of jazz-oriented gems.  I’m most enthused by the presence of Kahil El’Zabar.  The Chicago based percussionist is closely associated with his city’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.  El’Zabar is slated to perform with an ensemble led by Dennis Winslett.