Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ain't Misbehavin'

Michael Shults made a reasonable request in his thoughtful response to a recent Plastic Sax post that linked to Natalie Gallagher’s story about Eddie Moore.
Great article on Eddie and I have really liked Natalie's writing on jazz for the Pitch! What's with every single music critic's obligatory preamble about how nobody's actually listening/the crowds are sparse at jazz-oriented gigs, though? Can we put a moratorium on this angle for awhile? Lookin' at you too, Bill.
Shullts isn’t the only person who objects to this recurring story line.  The appeal merits a detailed response.

The official narrative constructed by the staffs of tourism bureaus and public officials- most of whom I've never encountered at a jazz performance- is that Kansas City’s populace is obsessed with jazz.  The fallacy is perpetuated by jazz educators (lookin’ at you too, Michael) and enthusiasts wearing rose-colored glasses.

Regularly attending attend rock, hip-hop, pop, classical and R&B shows provides “music critics” with the benefit of context.  Natalie and I mention the poor attendance and audience indifference at jazz gigs because it's shocking.  We generally don’t encounter empty rooms and disinterested listeners elsewhere.

Jazz isn’t being singled out.  My review of Kanye West's 2013 concert at the Sprint Center was a lead item at aggregators like the Huffington Post, Reddit and the Drudge Report because I observed that the arena was only a quarter full. 

It was a tantalizing story when less than 5,000 people purchased $44.50-$125 tickets to see Yeezy.  It's also a story when less than 200 people paid $10-$50 to attend a well-promoted concert by the leading jazz luminary Julian Lage at the 1,050-seat Folly Theater last weekend. 

I’ve attended several jazz gigs by Kansas City musicians in 2015 at which the audience numbered less than ten.  It breaks my heart.  And for the hundredth time- these observations aren’t a reflection of the quality of the music.

I have no intention of glossing over the discouraging reality that so few people in Kansas City currently share our passion for this music.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Now's the Time: Ann Hampton Callaway

Ann Hampton Callaway will join the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra at Helzberg Hall for the big band’s annual holiday concert on Tuesday, December 8.  The diva demonstrates her cabaret side in the embedded video.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Eddie Moore is the subject of a lengthy profile in The Pitch.

*KC Jazz Lark touts the new issue of JAM magazine.

*The Kansas City Star reviewed Diana Krall’s return to the Midland theater.

*Libby Hanssen reviewed Julian Lage’s concert at the Folly Theater.

*The Pitch recommends New Jazz Order’s weekly gig at the Green Lady Lounge.

*Joe Dimino’s recent interview subjects include Michael Carvin.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Brett Jackson- Recording today at the immaculate @strangelandhq for @krizzkaliko. Keep your ears and eyes peeled…(image)

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- My favorite part of her last KC appearance was getting to see Anthony Wilson join Matt Otto for a killer show at the Westport Coffee House. It would be nice to hear that again.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Video Review: Kansas City & All That Jazz

As “Kansas City & All That Jazz” aired on KSHB on September, a friend who listens primarily to punk rock sent me an enthusiastic series of  texts about the broadcast.  He loved the documentary and admitted that most of the information it imparted was new to him. 

The 55-minute program has been sitting on my DVR since the initial broadcast but I only recently got around to watching it.  “Kansas City & All That Jazz” is a slick if somewhat dry effort that tracks the development of Kansas City jazz.  A heavy emphasis is placed on the role played by the Mutual Musicians Foundation.  The production values are first-rate and the pacing is commendable.

Ken Burns-style pans over sepia-toned photos are interspersed with interviews with Bobby Watson, Chuck Haddix, Sonny Gibson, Anita Dixon, Jamey Aebersold, Dr. Larry Ridley and James Hathaway.  Musicians featured in a jam session at the Foundation include Ryan Thielman, Ernest Melton, DeAndre Manning, Chris Clarke and Lonnie McFadden.

Devoted readers of Plastic Sax are unlikely to learn anything new, but “Kansas City & All That Jazz” is essential viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in the history in jazz or in the cultural significance of Kansas City.

The production doesn’t appear to be available for purchase (it would have made a great holiday gift), but the documentary certainly merits more than 600 views at YouTube.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Now's the Time: Diana Krall

I adored Diana Krall’s concert at the Midland theater in 2013.  Her roots in jazz were implied rather demonstrated.  The interpretation of her husband’s exquisite ballad “Almost Blue” in the embedded video is indicative of Krall's sophisticated adult pop.  She returns to the Midland on Saturday, November 21.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Joe Klopus’ latest column for The Kansas City Star focuses on Julian Lage’s upcoming concert at the Folly Theater.  The Pitch also recommends the show.

*Shades of Jade created a video for “That One.”

*Steve Waugh of the Topeka Jazz Workshop was featured on Talk About Topeka.

*Pat Metheny trainspotters are excited about the possibility of a new band lineup.

*Scott Yanow is among Joe Dimino’s most recent interview subjects.

*St. Louis Jazz Notes reports that Stanley Clarke and Eliane Elias will perform separate concerts in the Lou on Saturday.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Jack Childress- The Green Lady Lounge is playing jazz tonight.

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- Glad to see Drew bringing some interesting stuff to KC. The local guys are too busy keeping their stuff boring so they can play at the Green Lady.

From a press release: To celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of Frank Sinatra, the Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors (KCJA) is sponsoring a gala at the Uptown Theatre on December 12. The Dave Stephens Band is the music headliner. The Jazz Ambassadors will honor Mayor Sly James as the 2015 Kansas City Jazz Ambassador of the Year… Mayor Sly James was chosen the Kansas City Jazz Ambassador of the Year for his unequaled Ambassadorship to jazz and Kansas City… Many have heard the mayor’s “jazz chops” as he’s taken the mic around town… This event will raise funds to support the Kansas City jazz community. The mission of the 31-year-old nonprofit Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors is to promote Kansas City jazz, and raise funds to support Kansas City jazz musicians, jazz initiatives, and jazz education.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Concert Review: John Blevins and Drew Williams at the Westport CoffeeHouse Theater

Drew Williams offered heartfelt thanks to the family and friends who attended his showcase at Westport CoffeeHouse Theater last Wednesday. 

The body language of at least a couple members of the audience indicated they’d didn't care for egghead jazz.  Seated between the only two of 30 people that didn’t seem to have a personal connection to the former Kansas City resident, I adored the nerdy sounds.

The ambitious concert began with a 40-minute set of Williams’ compositions.  Many of the arrangements performed by an octet resembled Sun Ra-penned pep band fight songs for a mathlete team. 

Williams occasionally looped his bass clarinet.  The contributions of guitarist Jeff McLaughlin and drummer Nathan Ellman-Bell were also intriguing.  Although the musicians’ intense concentration on sheet music detracted from the presentation, Williams’ bold experimentation resulted in one the most exciting jazz-based performances I’ve heard in Kansas City in 2015.

A subsequent quintet interpretation of material from the New York based trumpeter John BlevinsMatterhorn album was almost as engaging.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Now's the Time: Julian Lage

Julian Lage, 27, one of the most important musicians of his generation, will return to Kansas City for a concert on Saturday, November 21.  He’ll be joined at the Folly Theater by bassist Orlando Flemming and Kenny Wollesen, a drummer best known for his work with Bill Frisell and John Zorn.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Gerald Spaits was interviewed by Natalie Gallagher in advance of his Sax and Violins show at the Westport Coffeehouse.

*Joe Dimino’s recent interviews include chats with Matt Villinger and Chris Hazelton.

*Hermon Mehari was featured by a design studio.

*The Pitch notes that Kevin Mahogany will be in town this week. 

*Will Matthews was highlighted on KCUR’s Local Listen. 

*The Kansas City Star reports that a memorial to Rowena Stewart, the founding executive director of the American Jazz Museum, will be held at the Blue Room on Thursday, November 12.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Dominique Sanders- In January of this year i dropped my debut album!!! Haven't heard it yet check it out! Music with no boundaries. (link)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Album Review: Mike Metheny- Twelve For the Road

Mike Metheny is very smart.  He’s also extremely funny.  It’s difficult to discern, consequently, if the press release that accompanies his new album Twelve For the Road is meant to be taken seriously.
My checkered career as a jazz soloist can be seen in two parts.  Part one: I’m getting away with this mostly because of my Pat connection- along with the support of some very talented colleagues and equally generous listeners- and part two: because the vote is in on part one, it seems like a good time to try something different.
With all but one of the ten selections consisting only of Metheny on keyboards, Twelve For the Road is not a “jazz” album.  Instead, much of the project resembles electronic space music in the vein of Steve Roach and Tangerine Dream.  Almost all of it is closer in spirit to the classical composer Erik Satie than to the jazz trumpet star Clifford Brown.

Is Metheny trolling?  I don’t think so.

As someone who occasionally enjoys listening to the syndicated radio program “Hearts of Space” and who frequently uses Satie’s “GymnopĂ©dies” to calm himself, I’m not unaccustomed to the approaches Metheny employs on the album.

Much of Twelve For the Road possesses an ominous edge.  Guitar-like wailing makes “Catharsis” the album’s most conspicuously aggressive selection.  “Ostinato,” a comparatively conventional track, contains intriguing pairings of textures.  The odd lilt of “Carousel” evokes Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Metheny breaks out his signature flugelhorn only on the lush “Home.”  The closing selection “Amen” seems to allude to Bill Evans “Peace Piece.”

The unconventional approach of Twelve For the Road is decidedly offbeat, but it results in one of Metheny’s most artistically and emotionally compelling albums.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Now's the Time: John Blevins

John Blevins is touring in support of his new album Matterhorn.  The New York based trumpeter will lead a band at the Westport Coffeehouse on Wednesday, November 11.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Chris Robinson reviewed Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle’s Live in Kansas City.

*Danny Alexander wrote a thoughtful review of a new album by Johnny Hammil’s Gav7d.

*Natalie Gallagher dares to dig into the BCR archives.

*The Jorge Arana Trio created a video for “Crime of Passion Fruit.”

*The Ptich recommends a Megan Birdsall gig.

*A writer for The New York Times ponders the baseball and jazz connections between New York and Kansas City.

*Chris Burnett elucidates a friendly World Series wager made by the American Jazz Museum and the Louis Armstrong House Museum.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Darcy James Argue- Congratulations to Kansas City for recapturing the coveted Jazz Capital of the World title for the first time since 1936.

*I apologize for not updating the Kansas City Jazz Calendar for November.  I’ll get to it this weekend. 

*From Gerald Spaits: Sax and Violins, A Double Quartet… featuring: Gerald Spaits on Bass, Charles Perkins: alto sax, Bass Clarinet, Rich Wheeler: Soprano sax, Tenor sax, Brian Steever: drums and percussion (and) Strings: Adam Galblum : violin, Matthew Bennett: violin, Chisitine Grossman: viola, Justin Cowart: cello. This concert features original music of Gerald Spaits as well arrangements of Thelonious  Monk, Duke Ellington, the Beatles and more… I've brought this particular group together to explore new possibilities in combining different genres of music in an improvising setting… The strings are not just added to the jazz quartet for background but are interactive within the ensemble… 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 18, 2015, Westport CoffeeHouse Theater. $10.00.

(Original image of Ron Carlson's band by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sheet Music

You can take the boy out of Kansas City, but you can’t take Kansas City out of the boy.  A recent visit to Powell’s Books in Portland allowed me to acquire a few out-of-print books related to Kansas City jazz at reasonable prices. I regret not adding the pictured tome to my collection.