Monday, February 27, 2017

Concert Review: Alaturka at Polsky Theatre

Tenor saxophonist Rich Wheeler opened Alaturka’s concert at Polsky Theatre on Sunday with an incantation that resembled an adhan, the Islamic call to worship.  His conjuring was an exceedingly welcome sound to adherents of the Kansas City based Turkish jazz group.

Alaturka commanded an inordinate amount of coverage at Plastic Sax in the first half of this decade.  Yet the innovative band has been out of commission lately.  Aside from a mention in a review of a 2016 Brandon Draper album, Alaturka hasn’t been cited at this site in a couple years.  About 100 people purchased $20 tickets to attend Sunday's reunion. 

Wheeler’s playing evoked Pharoah Sanders by way of Joe Henderson.  Beau Bledsoe wielded a Turkish oud with his customary fastidiousness.  Bassist Jeff Harshbarger contributed a smoky pulse that contrasted with Brandon Draper’s peripatetic percussion.  The addition of violinist Zsolt Eder on a few intriguing selections transformed Alaturka into a chamber music group. 

Bledsoe joked that he and his colleagues no longer resemble the men in the dated publicity photo on the cover of the program.  Their visages may have changed since the formation of the band in 2007, but the men in Alaturka sound as magnificent as ever.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Now’s Not the Time: Janelle Monáe

The ordinarily forsaken office of the Kansas City jazz blog Plastic Sax has been inundated with inquiries from people who don’t know Ben Webster from Bruno Mars.  Hours after announcing that hometown hero Janelle Monáe would be the primary headliner of its new festival, the American Jazz Museum was forced to issue a retraction.  A press release from the institution insists that "we would never intentionally release false information... The museum takes full responsibility for what happened."  I've been unable to explain the baffling blunder to the associates who have turned to me for insights.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*As first reported by Plastic Sax last month, The Pitch has confirmed that Janelle Monáe will headline the American Jazz Museum’s Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival in May.  Trombone Shorty, John Scofield, Regina Carter, Brandy and the Hot Sardines are among the additional headliners.  Details were published by The Pitch today.  EDIT- From an American Jazz Museum press release dated February 22: This morning we were very proud to announce the Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival. Unfortunately, we must retract the statement of Janelle Monae performing at the Jazz Festival. Janelle was not confirmed for the event and was incorrectly advertised.

*Jazz vocalist and social activist Barbara Dane performed at the Folk Alliance conference in Kansas City last week.

*Bird lives?

*Tweet o’ the Week: Mena May- @robertglasper I'm sitting in the audience  at the Folly theater with my jaw wide open! #signothetimes  #genius 😘❤️#love

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Dominique Sanders in the Spotlight

Less than 18 hours after flying high at a concert with the jazz titan Robert Glasper for an audience of hundreds at the Folly Theater, Dominique Sanders had a soft landing at the Green Lady Lounge on Sunday afternoon.  The Kansas City based bassist excelled during a lightly attended matinee show as a member of the Paul Shinn Trio.  The setting may have been less momentous, but Sanders demonstrated the formidably versatile talent that helped land him Saturday's prestigious gig. 

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Now's the Time: Robert Glasper

In a preview for Robert Glasper’s concert at the Folly Theater on Saturday, February 18, a writer for The Kansas City Star suggested that the native Texan is "the most important jazz musician of his generation."  While he’s best known for his forays into funk and R&B, the embedded video demonstrates Glasper’s sensitivity in more conventional jazz modes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The smooth jazz artist Richard Elliot and the Celtic rock band the Elders are the headliners of the 2017 edition of Jazz in the Woods.

*Joe Klopus previewed Robert Glasper’s concert at the Folly Theater.  Also, the venue initially indicated that Glasper would be accompanied by saxophonist Casey Benjamin, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Mark Colenburg.  Instead, he’ll be joined by bassist Brandon Owens and drummer Damion Reid on Saturday.

*The Kansas City Star posted a photo gallery of jazz-related images.

*Tweet o’ the Week: American Jazz Museum- Spent the afternoon at Roasterie cupping a new coffee blend for the Museum ☕️

*From the American Jazz Museum: Celebrate birthdays of local and national jazz musicians with the American Jazz Museum on Friday, February 17, 2017 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm. This month celebrates the contributions of local musicians Myra Taylor and Ben Kynard through musical performance and unveils a mini-poster exhibition about our honorees. Join us for cake, music, dancing, and a celebration of Kansas City's unique jazz sound! The program is free and open to the public, and will take place in the Gem Theater…

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Spring Fever

Bobby Watson and Deborah Brown, the King and Queen of Kansas City's jazz scene, are dropping new albums.

Watson’s Made In America, slated to be issued by Smoke Sessions Records on April 21, is billed as "a musical portrait gallery of nine influential African-Americans."  The saxophonist is accompanied by pianist Stephen Scott, bassist Curtis Lundy, and drummer Lewis Nash on the thematic recording.

Brown’s Kansas City, Here I Come, a project recorded last year in Poland with a string section and guest vocalist Kevin Mahogany, is apparently out now.  The American album release show is at the Blue Room on March 11. 

These two albums, along with the recent release of Matt Otto’s Reunion and the Dino Massa Kansas City Quintet’s Echoes of Europe, reflect the ongoing artistic vitality of the area’s jazz community.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Now's the Time: Bruce Barth

Bruce Barth, an accomplished mainstream pianist based in New York City, will perform at the Blue Room on Saturday, February 11.  In addition to contributing to Karrin Allyson's 2006 album Footprints, Barth has played on recordings by the likes of Terence Blanchard, René Marie and Luciana Souza.  Barth will be joined by bassist Dave Baron and drummer Montez Coleman at the Blue Room.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*UMKC recognized Hermon Mehari as an “outstanding” alumnus.

*The Ensemble of Irreproducible Outcomes released Silo City: 20 September 2016 last week.

*From Brian Scarborough: I have been named one of three finalists for the International Trombone Association’s J.J. Johnson Jazz Trombone Competition.  This summer, I will travel to Redlands, California for the live finals round at the 2017 International Trombone Festival.

*A television news team reported on the fire that tore through the Jazz District last week.  The Kansas City Star provided additional information on the status of the damaged buildings.

*Joe Klopus previewed a forthcoming Pieces of a Dream concert at the Gem Theater.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Sigrah- Whiskey neat and jazz in a dark KC club with @onhellmusic and @nataliehandslol this is vibes

*From Paul Shinn: We've got a nice run of shows coming up… I've moved back to KC for a month from Colorado until I'll be moving to NYC Feb. 26th… We will have some new original music to play for you all that we recorded in December of 2016. This music was recorded in a quintet format along with Logan Richardson on saxophone and Gabriel Mervine on trumpet… February 16th--Blue Room; February 17th & 18th--Majestic Restaurant; February 19th 2:30-5:30pm --Green Lady Lounge.

(Original image of a fire-damaged building in the Jazz District by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Album Review: Matt Otto and Andy Ehling- Reunion

The reticent Kansas City musician Matt Otto continues to verify his rarefied talent.  Reunion, the new album he co-leads with the Bay Area saxophonist Andy Ehling, is sublime. 

As on their 2008 album Returning, the duo successfully updates the deceptively transgressive West Coast sound associated with Jimmy Giuffre. 

Thorny tracks including “Twain” and “Lenigh” intimate dissonance, but the insistence of a stalwart rhythm section prevents the saxophonists from venturing too far afield. 

The grooves laid down by bassist Ben Leifer and drummer Brad Williams could be mistaken for the work of internationally acclaimed tandems like Harish Raghavan and Nasheet Waits.  Playing a Fender Rhodes, the New York based keyboardist Leonard Thompson adds complementary splashes of impressionistic colors.

Subtly luminous, Reunion may be even more remarkable than Soliloquy, the excellent album Otto released in 2016.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Now's the Time: The Creighton Organization

Thousands of people know the Creighton Organization only as the conspiracy of jazz cats who entertain passersby on 18th Street during warm First Fridays celebrations in the Crossroads District.  The organ ensemble led by Dave Creighton will play a more orderly gig at The Ship on Wednesday, February 8.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Blue Room has seemingly shifted to a no cover policy for weekend shows by locally-based musicians.

*All About Jazz reviewed Dino Massa Kansas City Quintet’s Echoes of Europe.

*A television station shared a document indicating that officials at Kansas City International Airport are “(w)orking on a plan to bring live jazz performances to the terminals in conjunction with Big 12 Basketball Tourment.”

*Tweet o’ the Week: Marcus Lewis- Thanks to all who came out and showed love last night! We really need a super rich person to fund a tour! LOL…

*Comment o’ the Week: Jeremy- Thanks for the heads up about "The Birth of Cool." I just bought a ticket, and it'll be my first time at The Gem. I wish that it was on a weekend night, but it sounds good enough for the drive from Topeka.

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated with all of the February gigs that have been posted by area venues as of 8 a.m. on February 1.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)