Sunday, January 29, 2017

Janelle Monáe to Headline the American Jazz Museum's Festival on Memorial Day Weekend

Janelle Monáe will be a headliner at a three-day festival hosted by the American Jazz Museum on Memorial Day weekend.

Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, the institution’s Executive Director, recently shared the big news with a group of Rotarians.  At the 10:00 mark in the embedded video, Kositany-Buckner reveals that “one of the people who are acting in Hidden Figures” will perform at the revived event.  She's correct to characterize Monáe as “a huge, huge headliner.”

The native of Kansas City, Kansas, hasn’t appeared in the area since a concert at the Uptown Theater on November 15, 2013.  The show attracted a less-than-capacity audience of 1,800, but Monáe’s star has risen further in the last three years. 

Monáe may not perform jazz, but the era in which jazz artists headlined popular, ticketed “jazz” festivals in the United States is over.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Now's the Time: The Marcus Lewis Big Band

The big band led by trombonist Marcus Lewis is slated to return to the Blue Room at the American Jazz Museum on Monday, January 30.  Lewis introduces the members of the ensemble in the embedded clip.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCPT produced a seven-minute segment about Eddie Moore.

*Tweet o’ the Week: ARC Music- ALERT: Dino Massa Kansas City Quintet's "Echoes of Europe" All About Jazz review is publishing on Jan 26.

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- Say what??? Checking the calendar, I see that the Roger Wilder quartet was at the Blue Room last Thursday. I've never been less that thoroughly impressed with any group that Roger is leading. He's so hip, it ought to be against the law! Your dismissive review of his quartet's performance makes me question whether I want to continue reading this blog.

*From a press release: The Birth of the Cool was released in mid-February 1957 as a compilation LP by Capitol Records. the selections come from recordings made by Miles Davis, Max Roach, Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz and others in 1949-50. While these tracks had been previously issued as 78 rpm singles, the LP release gave a name to a movement of young musicians who were playing this new "cool" style of bebop… The band for this presentation at the American Jazz Museum includes:Hermon Mehari - trumpet, Marcus Lewis - trombone, Forest Stewart - horn, Bill McKemy - tuba, Dan Thomas - alto sax, Todd Wilkinson - bari sax, Phil Dunlap - piano, Jeff Harshbarger - bass, Todd Strait - drums. Pianist Phil Dunlap will give a short talk on the history of Birth of the Cool during the program. Feb. 16, Gem Theater. Tickets $5 student/$10 general admission. Reception at 6:00 p.m., performance at 6:30.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, January 22, 2017


 I was pleased with my plan when I left home last Thursday evening.  The idea of hitting a jazz show at the Blue Room after hearing poet Hanif Abdurraqib speak at the Black Archives seemed sound. 

I was wrong.  The author’s electrifying reading made the jazz performance seem grotesquely banal.

Although he employed the cadences associated with jazz poetry, Abdurraqib didn’t make any references to the music.  Instead, his poems mentioned contemporary pop culture icons like Beyoncé, Big Freedia and Kanye West.  He addressed topics like the devastating consequences of the heroin epidemic, the violent action in the pit at punk rock shows and the emotional impact of racial profiling. 

Transfixed by Abdurraqib’s candor, the high school and college students who dominated the audience of about 50 snapped their fingers in appreciation.

One block away at the Blue Room, a mannerly quartet played elegant readings of Miles Davis and John Coltrane compositions for a handful of middle-aged jazz fans.  Courtly rather than contentious, the performance possessed none of the immediacy of Abdurraqib’s poetry.

I’d initially hoped that the poet would join me at the Blue Room.  I'm glad he didn’t show up.  Abdurraqib chronicles the most vibrant aspects of American life.  There was nothing worthy of his consideration at the Blue Room.

(Original image of Abdurraqib at the Black Archives by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Now's the Time: Stan Kessler and Todd Strait

Stan Kessler and Todd Strait, mainstays of the Kansas City Jazz Calendar, give a compelling clinic on the subject of time in the embedded video.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCUR reviewed Echoes of Europe, the new album by the Dino Massa Kansas City Quintet.

*Ramsey Lewis' concert at the Gem Theater was reviewed by The Kansas City Star.

*Lisa Henry and Ryan Lee discussed the impact of the church on their music with Tim Finn of The Kansas City Star.

*The festival formerly known as Jazz in the Woods is returning to a smooth jazz format in 2017.  Organizers recently made an initial lineup announcement.

*Brian Ellison interviewed Ramsey Lewis for KCUR.

*Jessie Riggins examined the spring jazz calendar.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Moi- Last night I waited on Marilyn Maye and she ordered an apple martini with Citron and called me Honey all night

*From a press release: On Saturday, January 21, 2017, the David Basse-Joe Cartwright Septet, which includes musicians from the UMKC Jazz Studies Program, will present Step-Buddy-Be-Bop at 8:00 p.m. at the MTH Theater…  Originally from St. Louis, Bernard “Step Buddy” Anderson was a colorful jazz figure who helped to change the course of jazz. A multi-instrumentalist, Buddy introduced trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie to Charlie Parker… We celebrate the Kansas City jazz tradition with the music of the David Basse-Joe Cartwright Septet, and the photography and memorabilia of Bernard “Step Buddy” Anderson… Reserved ticket seats are $20.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Concert Review: Paula Saunders at First Baptist Church

I have an extremely low tolerance for nostalgia.  After Paula Saunders repeated an assertion that the music of earlier eras was superior to the music of today, I walked out on her appearance in the Jazz Vespers series at First Baptist Church last Sunday.  If she didn’t believe in the essential vitality of her renditions of standards, why should I?  Deborah Brown, Karrin Allyson and Marilyn Maye are among the vocalists with area ties who specialize in making decades-old songs seem crucial.  Saunders used her lovely voice to mimic her favorite interpretations of familiar songs including “All of Me,” “Fly Me To the Moon” and “Summertime” in the first 30 minutes of her outing.  Admirable support from keyboardist Desmond Mason, bassist Blair Bryant and drummer Justin McCoy couldn't convince me to stick around.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Now's the Time: The Sextet

There’s a new band in town.  The Sextet plays its first area show at the Tank Room on Friday, January 13, since bandleader Robert Castillo relocated the un-Googleable “groove jazz” ensemble from Portland to Kansas City.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Joe Klopus scrutinized the week in jazz in his latest column.

*Monique Gabrielle Salazar reviewed Megan Birdsall's new Americana album.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Jack Shafer- From Nat Hentoff I learned Charlie Parker's love of country music. He loved the stories.

*Comment o’ the Week: Chris Burnett- Thanks for the note about the release of "Echoes of Europe"!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Ready For Eddie

Jazz has returned to the heart of the Country Club Plaza.  The newly opened upscale restaurant Eddie V’s features jazz musicians in its cocktail lounge seven nights a week.

I recently monitored the scene while savoring a couple $11 mulled beverages.  The chatter of patrons who didn’t seem to know or care that a band was playing was disruptive, but the sound was excellent otherwise.  One graceful couple took advantage of the dance floor.  The trio of prominent musicians deviated from a pleasing selection of standards to accommodate a request for a Billy Joel song.

Aside from the incompatible blues-rock that was piped in during the band’s break, every element of the experience validated my investment in the pricey drinks.  I intend to made a beeline for Eddie V’s the next time expendable money is burning a hole in the pocket my dress slacks.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, January 6, 2017

Now's the Time: Ramsey Lewis

Ramsey Lewis, the octogenarian who is one of the most notable crossover artists in the history of jazz, returns to the Gem Theater on Saturday, January 14.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

 *Mike Warren reviewed A La Mode’s new album C’est Si Bon for KCUR.

*Jeff Harshbarger, Hermon Mehari and Dominique Sanders contributed year-end top music lists to The Kansas City Star.

*The Dino Massa Kansas City Quintet’s Echoes of Europe was released on January 2.

*Bob Bowman now has a proper website. 

*Dean Minderman compiled a thorough collection of ”Best Jazz of 2016” lists.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Matt Hopper- My trio has moved to Monday's at @GreenLadyLounge 6-10pm. New year & new tunes!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, January 1, 2017


I’ve resolved to become fluent in Spanish for years.  It hasn't happened.  Accordingly, the following jazz-oriented New Year’s resolutions may be little more than wishful thinking.

Jazz and cocktails.  Jazz listening rooms may be scarce in Kansas City, but plenty of jazz musicians find work providing background music in cocktail lounges.  I’ll attempt to overcome my bias against these settings. 

Back to the future.  My left of center inclinations can be a liability in a town that prizes mainstream swing.  I intend to give straight-ahead players more equitable coverage in 2017.

Ballyhoo.  My assumption that everyone with a passing interest in jazz in Kansas City has stumbled across Plastic Sax may be mistaken.  Although it’s against my nature, I resolve to promote Plastic Sax more diligently.

Grooming.  Plastic Sax was the first site in Kansas City to compile a thorough list of jazz-related links when it was founded in 2007.  It’s been some time since I culled the dead, dormant and extraneous links in the column to the right.

Running total.  My compulsion to publish attendance figures continues to irritate musicians and venue owners.  I’ll consider playing down unflattering turnout figures.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)