Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Star reports that a coalition of non-profit organizations in the Jazz District are requesting $7 million in additional funding from the city.

*KC Jazz Lark looks back at 2015.

*Rich Wheeler is quoted in an article about the closing of the current incarnation of the RecordBar.

*Hermon Mehari will lead a band at Noce Jazz Cabaret, new jazz club in Des Moines, on January 7.

*Tweet o’ the Week: St. Louis Jazz Notes- Updated today w/ 18 more lists! - Rounding up the "Best Jazz of 2015" lists: (link)

*Comment o’ the Week: KC Jazz Lark- Wow. Sure didn't see this coming. Thank you. And let me note that putting Joe Lovano with her group was all Deborah's brilliance. The festival just gave her the opportunity to do so.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Larry Kopitnik: The Plastic Sax Person of the Year

Larry Kopitnik has been one of the best friends to the Kansas City jazz community for several years.  A tireless advocate of Kansas City jazz’s past, present and future, Larry is a selfless promoter of the scene.  He’s one of those indispensable people without whom the entire infrastructure might crumble.  That’s why Larry is Plastic Sax’s 2015 Person of the Year.

Here’s a partial list of Larry’s contributions:

Blogger. Larry was partly motivated to found his Kansas City jazz blog KC Jazz Lark in 2009 to offer a tempered counterpoint to Plastic Sax. While Larry’s measured tone is usually diplomatic, he’s not afraid to point out uncomfortable truths or to offer strong opinions. 

Journalist. The weekly Jazz Beat column and occasional features Larry writes for The Pitch are essential reading.  He also recently became the editor of JAM, the distinguished magazine of the booster organization the Jazz Ambassadors.

Festivities.  Larry’s savvy oversight has made The Prairie Village Jazz Festival one of the highlights of the area’s arts calendar.  The brilliant pairing of Deborah Brown with Joe Lovano in 2014 reflects Larry’s daring approach to booking.

Photography. Larry is a fine photographer.  Many of his images serve as the default publicity shots for musicians and bands.

Support.  A lot of people talk about supporting live jazz.  Larry actually does it.  He’s one of the most attentive members of audiences at performances throughout the area.

Institutional Memory.  In previous decades, Larry served as the president of the Kansas City Jazz Festival and was the chairman of the Kansas City Jazz Commission.  He’s also an amateur historian.  The breadth of his knowledge allows Larry to provide invaluable context to current developments.

Sage.  Larry acts as a trusted advisor to musicians and venue owners.  As with the rest of Kansas City’s jazz community, they’re lucky to have him.

The previous recipients of Plastic Sax's Person of the Year award are Deborah Brown (2014), 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.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Now's the Time: BCR

Anyone who’s ever wanted to see Stan Kessler lip-sync is in for a treat.  Kessler and bandmates including Dwight Frizzell, Bill Dye and Randy Weinstein mug their way through a tune from a recently released BCR album in footage captured at the Grand Emporium in 1995.  BCR hosts an "ultra-flesh dance" party at Californos on Saturday, December 26.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Eddie Moore reports that his group’s third album will be issued by Ropeadope.

*KC Jazz Lark has a fevered holiday vision.

*Songs by Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle and Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 were featured on an episode of KCUR’s Up To Date last week.  Here’s the podcast.

*The jazz writer for The Pitch selects a few highlights of 2015.

*A recent Plastic Sax post seems to have enlivened Inside Jazz KC. 

*Four albums by Kansas City-related artists were among the 461 releases acknowledged by at least one of the 147 critics who participated in the 10th Annual Jazz Critics Poll.  The rankings included Karrin Allyson (#144), Prism Quartet (#182), Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle (#296) and Pat Metheny (#452).

*Tweet o’ the Week: Karli Ritter- Green lady lounge never disappoints! (Vine)

*Comment o’ the Week: Dean Minderman- "Blogging is harder than it looks."  Heh. QFT!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Concert Review: Brian Scarborough Quintet at Westport CoffeeHouse

I’ve been obsessed with Bob Brookmeyer’s Traditionalism Revisited since I purchased the CD at an estate sale for $1 in September.  The premise- a set of forward-thinking jazz musicians revisit the supposedly passé music of earlier decades- is made even more fascinating by the passage of time.  The music still sparkles 58 years after the 1957 session.

I felt as if I was listening to an updated version of Traditionalism Revisited at the Westport CoffeeHouse on Wednesday as the young trombonist Brian Scarborough led a band consisting of saxophonist Rich Wheeler, guitarist Danny Embrey, bassist Jeff Harshbarger and drummer Brandon Draper.

The willingness of four of the region’s elite musicians to back Scarborough reflects his substantial talent and enormous promise.  Like Brookmeyer, Scarborough is a scholarly trombonist with deep ties to Kansas City.

Just as Brookmeyer’s reverent approach to traditional jazz was invigorated by the work of cutting-edge musicians like Jimmy Giuffre on Traditionalism Revisited, Scarborough was provoked by the progressive playing of his more experienced colleagues on Wednesday.  The delectable tension between old and new impulses made the first half of Wednesday’s concert captivating.  A reading of Duke Ellington’s “The Petal of a Rose” was one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard in 2015, but the entire first set for an audience of two dozen was profound.

In his liner notes for Traditionalism Revisited, Nat Hentoff suggested that Brookmeyer wasn’t just another commonplace “parochial hipster.”  Neither is Scarborough.  The trombonist leads a similar band at Westport CoffeeHouse on Wednesday, January 20.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Now's the Time: Justin "Justefan" Thomas

Justin Thomas, the vibraphonist who works as Justefan, is participating in the Jazz Gospel Christmas Concert at Boone Tabernacle Church of God In Christ on Friday, December 18.  The rising star made significant contributions to the Chicago drummer Makaya McCraven’s In the Moment, one of the most interesting jazz albums of 2015.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The People’s Liberation Big Band’s final show at the current incarnation of the RecordBar attracted the biggest crowd I’ve encountered for the ensemble at the venue.  KC Jazz Lark documented the show.

*Joe Klopus previews the week’s events in his latest column.

*Jessie Riggins reviewed the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s most recent concert at Helzberg Hall.

*Eboni Fondren is among Joe Dimino recent interview subjects.

*Tweet o’ the Week: DalTee- Check Eddie Moore & the Outer Circle "@PLATINUMVOICEPR: What happened to jazz’s popularity in the black community?

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- Congratulations to Tim Whitmer. His concert series Spirituality and all that Jazz has run the first Wednesday of the month since 1994. Several hundred people attend every month. The audience may be dying off but numbers have remained consistent for 21 plus years. His Jazz Carol Fest and July Jazz Jam concert productions are consistently well attended and feature many musicians.

*From Lisa Engelken: It's all sort of sudden, but I was delighted when I was requested to perform at MOODS- an art gallery and performance space that is brand spankin' new, and is the hottest new addition to Northern Topeka (NOTO)'s Art District! This will be my first concert in Topeka-- and it's so close to where I grew up!  The Lisa Engelken Quartet in concert featuring: Joe Schoonover (gtr), Kurt Morrow (bass) & David Liston (drums). Saturday, December 19th! Two Sets: 8pm & 9:15pm. $10 in advance (highly recommended) / $15 at door.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Top Jazz-Related Stories and Trends of 2015

1. It was fun while it lasted.
The quantity and quality of the jazz performances that transpire in the Kansas City area dropped precipitously in 2015.  The shuttering of Take Five Coffee + Bar- easily the region’s best listening room- was the biggest blow.  Broadway Jazz Club (later Broadway Kansas City)- one of the city’s most visible jazz supper clubs- also failed to survive the year.  EBT, a fine dining establishment that featured jazz in its lounge, will close at the end of the month.  The RecordBar, a rock club that offered jazz twice a month, lost its lease.  It’s unclear if the monthly residency of the People’s Liberation Big Band will resume when the RecordBar reopens at a different location.

2. The notable exception.
The Green Lady Lounge continues to win.  There’s never a cover charge for the swanky jazz club’s ambitious slate of performances.  On Friday and Saturday nights the Green Lady Lounge is often filled with a few dozen people born after 1965. 

3. Bad vibes.
Greg Carroll, the longtime CEO of the American Jazz Museum who’s also an accomplished vibraphonist, resigned from the position in July. 

4. Alive and well.
The jazz booster organization Kansas City Jazz Alive continued to lobby for greater awareness and an enhanced appreciation of the city’s jazz scene through a comprehensive multi-media campaign.  The annual celebration at Charlie Parker’s grave- the culmination of Kansas City Jazz Alive’s efforts- attracted almost 200 people to Lincoln Cemetery in August.

The lack of national attention for the efforts of Kansas City artists remains disappointing.  Aside from a set of Chris Robinson’s capsule reviews of locally released albums published by Downbeat in 2013, almost none of the musicians regularly featured at this site (Bobby Watson excepted) receive exposure from outlets other than Plastic Sax, KC Jazz Lark, KCUR, The Pitch and The Kansas City Star

6. Screened.
While representatives of the Mutual Musicians Foundation announced that they had successfully initiated the implementation of a low-wattage radio station that’s expected to become operational in 2016, the institution was also the driving force behind the new Kansas City & All That Jazz documentary.  The fine program should serve as a valuable resource in classrooms.

7. Dillatronic
Much of the most compelling jazz created and performed in Kansas City in 2015 continues to draw heavily on R&B and hip-hop.  Musicians including Dominique Sanders, Eddie Moore and the members of Shades of Jade are inspired by J Dilla as well as by Charlie Parker.  The downside to the trend is that unadulterated R&B bands are increasingly assigned slots that were previously occupied by jazz musicians at venues including the Blue Room.

8. Hawkeyes and Billikens.
Fans of left-of-center jazz had to travel to Iowa City or St. Louis to hear performances by many touring jazz musicians who opted to pass over Kansas City.  Examples include Rudresh Mahanthappa, Dave Douglas and Evan Parker.  Take Five Coffee + Bar’s bookings of luminaries like pianist Myra Melford and trumpeter Avishai Cohen are unlikely to be picked up by another venue.

9. Blogging is harder than it looks.
Featuring interesting content from locally based musicians, Inside Jazz Kansas City was rolled out to great fanfare in July.  The blog’s most recent post is dated August 31.  Founded in 2007, Plastic Sax is at 1,400 posts and counting.

10. Deaf ears.
The paltry audiences at far too many artistically robust performances were discouraging.  The praise heaped on Kansas City's jazz musicians at Plastic Sax seems to be falling on deaf ears.

Plastic Sax conducted similar exercises in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Now's the Time: Mark Tonelli

I recently learned that guitarist Mark Tonelli is based in Kansas City.  His gig with a band led by Ron Carlson at the Art Factory on Friday, December 11, is one of his most prominent area appearances.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Star reports that EBT restaurant will close at the end of the month.  The establishment's lounge has long featured performances by many of Kansas City's most prominent jazz musicians.

*KC Jazz Lark assesses the “voids” in Kansas City's jazz scene.

*Bryan Hicks was the subject of a 50-minute interview on KCUR’s Central Standard program.

*Joe Klopus highlights a handful of forthcoming concerts.

*Julian Vaughn promoted his concert at the Gem Theater on a morning television program.  The Pitch recommends the show.

*Karrin Allyson was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Jazz Vocal Album for Many A New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein.

(Original image of an autographed studio wall at 90.9 The Bridge by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Plastic Sax's Favorite Albums and Performances of 2015

Favorite Albums by Locally Based Musicians
1. Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle- Live In Kansas City (Plastic Sax review)
2. Matt Kane & the Kansas City Generations Sextet- Acknowledgement (Plastic Sax review)
3. Dominique Sanders- A True Story Based On… (Plastic Sax review)
4. Matt Villinger- All Night (Plastic Sax review)
5. Mike Metheny- Twelve For the Road (Plastic Sax review)
6. Julian Vaughn- Limitless (Plastic Sax review)
7. Paul Shinn Trio- Easy Now (Plastic Sax review)
8. Michael Pagan, Bob Bowman and Brian Steever- The Ottawa Sessions (Plastic Sax review)
9. Ron Carlson- Kind Folk (Plastic Sax review)
10. OJT- New Standards for the Green Lady (Plastic Sax review)

Favorite Albums by Musicians From Elsewhere
1. Rudresh Mahanthappa- Bird Calls (Plastic Sax review)
2. Marc Cary- Rhodes Ahead, Vol. 2
3. Matthew Shipp Trio- The Conduct of Jazz
4. Charles Gayle Trio- Christ Everlasting
5. Donny McCaslin- Fast Future
6. Charlie Hunter Trio- Let the Bells Ring On
7. Myra Melford- Snowy Egret
8. Kamasi Washington- The Epic
9. John Scofield- Past Present
10. Orrin Evans- The Evolution of Oneself

Favorite Performances by Locally Based Musicians
1. Bobby Watson Quartet- Folly Theater (Plastic Sax review)
2. Peter Schlamb’s Electric Tinks- RecordBar
3. Lauren Krum with the Project H- Westport CoffeeHouse (Plastic Sax review)
4. Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle- Take Five Coffee + Bar (Plastic Sax review)
5. Jorge Arana Trio- Riot Room patio
6. James Isaac Quartet- Take Five Coffee + Bar (Plastic Sax review)
7. Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7- Green Lady Lounge
8. Jeff Harshbarger Quartet- RecordBar
9. Dojo- Green Lady Lounge (Plastic Sax review)
10. Shades of Jade- Coda (Plastic Sax review)

Favorite Performances by Musicians From Elsewhere
1. Mark Dresser, Myra Melford and Matt Wilson- Take Five Coffee + Bar (Plastic Sax review)
2. Avishai Cohen, Tal Mashiach and Nasheet Waits- Take Five Coffee + Bar (Plastic Sax review)
3. Diana Krall- Midland theater
4. Bill Frisell- White Theatre
5. Max Raabe & Palast Orchester- Helzberg Hall
6. Conrad Herwig’s Latin Jazz All-Stars- 18th & Vine Jazz and Blues Festival (Plastic Sax review)
7. Hot Sardines- Folly Theater
8. John Blevins and Drew Williams- Westport Coffeehouse (Plastic Sax review)
9. Trio Red- Blue Room (Plastic Sax review)
10. Earl Klugh- Folly Theater

Similar year-end listings were published at Plastic Sax in 2014 (albums and performances), 2013 (albums and performances), 2012, 2011 and 2010.

(Original image of Shades of Jade by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Now's the Time: Jessy J

Filled with gratitude for Plastic Sax’s efforts, appreciative members of Kansas City’s jazz community attempt to outdo one another every December by presenting the author of this site with lavish gifts.  Here’s a tip- all I want this year is Jessy J’s 2016 wall calendar.  The “limited edition” item is just $20 at the contemporary jazz saxophonist’s online store.  Better yet, you can have Jessy J sign it for me after her performance at the Gem Theater on Friday, December 4.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCUR published a lengthy review of the Count Basie Orchestra’s new Christmas album.

*A television station reports that Chris Hazelton’s gear was stolen.

*KC Jazz Lark notes the release of new albums by Ron Carlson, Mike Metheny and Michael Pagán.

*The Pitch recommends Ann Hampton Callaway’s appearance with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Dee Dee Bridgewater- How much do I love this poster?!?Thank you @TheFollyTheater Looking forward to next year!

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- Audience size is something worth talking about. Pretending it doesn't matter won't help anything. If the music isn't connecting with people we should acknoledge that and, as culture-makers, adapt. And by adapt I dont mean more Radiohead tributes and hip hop fusion. I think that people really want to believe that jazz hasn't become an academic music. But it has. We can argue about why (the Marsalis museum perspective, or the jock culture of college big band competitions, trotting out the race card, etc...) but the artists have ultimately let the music fade out of relevance. Instead of dealing with this issue, most jazz musicians chose to double down on fanaticism and view themselves as enlightened martyrs.

*From a press release: The People's Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City will end its seven and a half year run of monthly performances at the RecordBar on Sunday, December 6. The ensemble will document this final RecordBar performance with a live recording featuring compositions by band members Patrick Alonzo Conway, Brad Cox, Forest Stewart, Nick Howell, Matt Otto and Mark Southerland. Cover price at the door is $5. During the performance The People’s Liberation Big Band will also hold a fundraiser for the newly established New and Improvised Music Foundation of Kansas City. The New and Improvised Music Foundation of Kansas City is a non-profit corporation created for the purpose of helping musicians secure funding for creative music projects. As a result of its monthly RecordBar engagement, The People's Liberation Big Band has created more than sixty new original large ensemble jazz pieces over the past seven years, including large-scale work such as the ensemble's original film score for Battleship Potemkin, music for the one-act play Voyeur, and music for three short animated films by Vladislav Starevich. The group's December 6 RecordBar performance will feature such fixtures of the Kansas City jazz community as Roger Wilder, Matt Otto, Jeff Harshbarger and Rich Wheeler, as well as vocalist Shay Estes.

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has bee updated for December.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)