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