Sunday, January 31, 2016

Jazz Evasion

During a discussion of the use of jazz in television commercials to promote a variety of unrelated products, a musician once suggested to me that jazz is capable of selling everything but itself. 

I recently learned that the word “jazz” is likely to be expunged from the name of a prominent area summer festival as part of a rebranding campaign.  A mainstream jazz artist hasn’t headlined at the festival in years.  Even so, the explicit shunning of the word is foolhardy.  Although practitioners of the form are often relegated to the bottom of the bills, popular events including the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival maintain “jazz” as part their names.

In New Orleans as in Kansas City, people like the concept of jazz even if they don’t necessarily want to listen to the music.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Now's the Time: Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell’s new album When You Wish Upon a Star will be released on Friday, January 29.  The groundbreaking guitarist will be joined by vocalist Petra Haden, violinist Eyvind Kang, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Kenny Wollesen in a performance in support of the new project at Atkins Auditorium at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on February 21.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner has been named as the new Executive Director of the American Jazz Museum.  A portion of the press release is posted below.  The editorial board of The Kansas City Star applauds the hiring.  Steve Kraske interviewed Kositany-Buckner for KCUR.

*Marcus Lewis is the subject of a lengthy profile by Joe Klopus.

*The Pitch notes the jazz bookings at Prohibition Hall.

*Joe Dimino’s recent Neon Jazz interviews include Matt Wilson and Harold Mabern.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Jermaine Reed- American Jazz Museum announced Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner as Executive Director today @americanjazzkc @repcleaver

*From a press release: The American Jazz Museum (AJM) announced today the appointment of Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner as Executive Director of the organization.  A seasoned nonprofit leader who has garnered numerous awards and recognition for her work, Kositany-Buckner accepts the position following a 25-year career with the Kansas City Public Library, where she rose from network administrator in the IT Department to Deputy Director… The announcement follows a comprehensive national search that included significant local stakeholder involvement and discussions with the leadership of some of the top music and African American cultural institutions in the U.S.

*From a press release: On Sunday, February 21, 2016, legendary jazz artists David Basse and Joe Cartwright will celebrate the release of their new CD Live at Pilgrim Chapel with a concert at Kansas City’s historic Pilgrim Chapel… If anyone embodies the sound and spirit of Kansas City, it’s Joe Cartwright and David Basse. Together and separately, the duo has become known over the past 40 years to represent a jazz musical tradition that began over 100 years ago... the recording would be simple- Joe on a keyboard and David’s vocals.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Album Review: Matt Hopper- First Love

Matt Hopper sounds like an old soul on his impressive debut album First Love.  The young Kansas City guitarist plays with the patience of a sage veteran who feels no need to prove himself.  Rather than peppering the project with flashy solos, Hopper emphasizes tasteful grooves.

Hopper is accompanied by two-thirds of OJT.  Organist Ken Lovern and drummer Kevin Frazee provide the same sort of prudent playing that’s heard at their frequent appearances as the unofficial house band of the Green Lady Lounge and on last year’s correspondingly conventional New Standards for the Green Lady album.

Hopper aligns himself with old-school guitarists like Kenny Burrell rather than modernists such as Bill Frisell on straight-ahead tracks like “Song For Wes” and “Darn That Dream.”

Even so, the album’s most distinctive song is one of the few selections that couldn’t be mistaken for something that was recorded fifty years ago.  Rather than paying tribute to past masters like Wes Montgomery, Hopper explores new terrain on the hauntingly beautiful “Set Your Fears Aside.” 

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Now's the Time: The Jazz Disciples

The Jazz Disciples return to the Blue Room on Saturday, Jan. 23.  The longstanding group of Kansas City musicians is led by the American Jazz Museum’s Gerald Dunn.  The ensemble is joined by saxophonist Dwight Foster and trombonist Jason Goudeau in the embedded video.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Chuck Haddix and Gerald Spaits discussed Jay McShann’s legacy on KCUR’s Up To Date.  KCUR’s weekly Local Listen segment featured McShann.  Champian Fulton paid tribute to the Kansas City icon.

*The Pitch touts a series of Brett Jackson performances at the Green Lady Lounge.

*John Hilderbrand acknowledges the twentieth anniversary of his Contemporary Jazz site.

*The Kansas City Star listed  Charlie Parker as one of the ten greatest Kansas Citians.

*Marilyn Maye plays Coachella (Valley).

*Tweet o’ the Week: Ça Va- Make reservations for Valentine's weekend! @KCTrumpeter will be setting the mood Thursday-Saturday. Email for details xo

*From Ron Carlson: Announcing a new organization to promote jazz music - the Kansas City Jazz Workshop.  The mission of the Kansas City Jazz Workshop is to offer jazz music concerts and clinics in order to promote, document and record expressions of this creative art form.  A concert series in March honoring Women in Jazz and several recording projects are underway.  For more information about the Kansas City Jazz Workshop, LLC, contact Ron Carlson at ronaldwcarlson(at)  The Kansas City Jazz Workshop presents a 2016 Women in Jazz Series at The Art Factory: March 4th, Alyssa Murray Trio; March 11th, Diana Herold Quartet; March 18th, Laura Caviani Duo.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Concert Review: The Jay McShann Centennial Birthday Bash at the Gem Theater

Frequent opportunities to catch Jay McShann playing in informal settings was one of the most delightful aspects of life in Kansas City in the 1980s and 1990s.  It’s odd but inevitable, consequently, that the last two prominent McShann-related events in the area have been orderly affairs.

The Gem Theater hosted Saturday’s Jay McShann Centennial Birthday Bash.  The public wake for the Kansas City icon was held at the same venue in 2006.  Last weekend’s concert featured three strong performances, a historic overview and a presentation to McShann’s family.

Although catching the entirety of the 35-minute opening set by a band led by pianist Joe Cartwright meant missing the conclusion of the Chiefs’ playoff game, most members of the audience of more than 400 were in their seats to hear the band that also included violinist Adam Galblum, guitarist Rod Fleeman, bassist Gerald Spaits and drummer Todd Strait.  Contributions from guest vocalists Duck Warner, Everette Freeman, David Basse and Lisa Henry provided the evening’s most faithful evocation of McShann’s earthy approach.

“They didn't leave me any blues up here at all,” Benny Green said at the top of his 40-minute solo appearance. The pianist’s elaborate playing was often antithetical to McShann’s style, but the incongruity was forgotten during a virtuosic 40-minute performance that included renditions of material by Cedar Walton and Horace Silver.

A rousing hour-long set by Bobby Watson’s big band provided an appropriate conclusion to the concert. 

Opening remarks by historian Chuck Haddix and a presentation by Ralph Reid of the American Jazz Museum (pictured) rounded out an event that served as a fitting if somewhat inhibited tribute to Hootie.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Now’s the Time: The Brian Scarborough Quintet

I raved about the Brian Scarborough Quintet’s outing at Westport CoffeeHouse last month.  A band led by the young trombonist returns to the listening room on Wednesday, January 20.  The ensemble will include Matt Otto and Jeff Harshbarger, elite musicians who are featured alongside Scarborough in the embedded video.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Steve Vockrodt wrote a thorough analysis of the latest funding initiative for the Jazz District for The Pitch.  A television report about the development suggests that "the historic Jazz District is in disrepair.” 

*Prohibition Hall, a new venue at 11th & McGhee, has jazz musicians booked on Wednesdays and Latin jazz and salsa bands booked on Thursdays through February.

*Mike Warren reviewed Mike Metheny’s Twelve For the Road album for KCUR.

*Jessie Riggins reviewed a Roger Wilder performance.

*Joe Klopus examines the week's jazz calendar in his latest column.

*KC Jazz Lark celebrates the 100th anniversary of Jay McShann’s birth.

*Paul Shinn has released the new album Into That Good Night.

*Vince Giordano and Molly Hammer are among Joe Dimino’s most recent interview subjects.

*Pat Metheny wrote a remembrance of his former collaborator David Bowie.

*Dogs, an album featuring Mike Dillon, Brian Haas, James Singleton and Johnny Vidacovich, will be released on Feb. 26.  Here’s ”Bongo Joe”.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Mark Peavy- @LynnHorsley “Cleaver testified…18th and Vine is the 3rd most recognized street in the U.S.” That’s ridiculous. Maybe 12th & Vine(& KC Wine)

*From a press release: The spring 2016 season of the JCCC Jazz Series will kick off Tuesday, March 1, with the Ben Leifer Quartet. The series, which showcases the talents of local jazz musicians, is free and open to the public. Performances will take place at noon on Tuesdays for seven consecutive weeks. They will be held in the Polsky Theatre of the Carlsen Center unless otherwise noted. March 1: Ben Leifer Quartet, Polsky Theatre; March 8: Megan Birdsall Quartet, Polsky Theatre; March 15: Kansas City Jazz Collective, Polsky Theatre; March 22: Bram Wijnands Trio, Polsky Theatre; March 29: Doug Talley, tenor saxophone and Rod Fleeman, guitar, Recital Hall; April 5: Charles Williams Trio, Recital Hall; April 12: Max Groove Trio, Polsky Theatre.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Concert Review: Mike Herrera, Ernest Melton and Houston Smith at the Blue Room

I often cringe when I hear the opening strains of “In a Sentimental Mood.”  The chestnut is played far too often.

Houston Smith’s statement on the Duke Ellington standard at the Blue Room last Monday, however, transcended cliché.  With accompaniment by pianist Everett Freeman, bassist James Ward and drummer John Kizilarmut, the 18-year-old dazzled on the familiar tune.

Smith is attending the Berklee College of Music.  He was featured alongside the teenage Ernest Melton and the relative veteran Mike Herrera at the “Sax Showcase.”  An audience of about 50 attended the first set.

Melton chose “Ruby, My Dear” as his feature ballad.  His slightly sour and willfully course tenor playing recalled John Coltrane's work on his seminal 1957 collaboration with Thelonious Monk.  Herrera opted for a rendition of “All the Things You Are” to highlight his more refined approach. 

The marked contrasts between the three intriguing saxophonists served as yet another persuasive example of the artistic vitality of the Kansas City jazz scene.

(Original image of Herrera, Ward, Melton, Houston and Kizilarmut, left to right, by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Now's the Time: Benny Green

I don’t know why Benny Green was selected as the featured guest artist for the Jay McShann Centennial Birthday Bash.  The New York based pianist plays more like Bud Powell than Hootie.  Even so, it will be nice to hear Green at the Gem Theater on Saturday, January 16.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Joe Klopus notes that there are "fewer places and opportunities to hear" jazz in Kansas City following a “few steps backwards” in 2015.

*KC Jazz Lark reviewed the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s Rhapsody.

*The Pitch recommends Roger Wilder’s appearance at a jazz vespers concert.

*The editorial board of The Kansas City Star questions the $7 million funding request from various institutions in the Jazz District.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Benny Green- Benny will take part in the centennial celebration of Jay McShann on Saturday January 16th at 7 pm at The Gem

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Album Review: The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra- Rhapsody

The recently released Rhapsody is the first of The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s albums to capture the ensemble’s expansive range and the authoritative voices of its members.  Earlier recordings emphasized the orchestra’s proficiency at rekindling the swinging Kansas City big band tradition.  The unflaggingly elegant Rhapsody documents the band’s impressive versatility.  

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Now’s the Time: Amber Underwood

Billed as a Kansas City Divas’ Night Out, Saturday’s show at the Blue Room features three accomplished vocalists.  Joined by flutist Amber Underwood, vocalists Eboni Fondren, Charlotte Fletcher and J. Love will sing popular R&B songs at the Blue Room on Saturday, Jan. 2.  Underwood's solo begins at the 2:40 mark in the embedded video.