Thursday, March 30, 2017

Now's the Time: Donny McCaslin

Donny McCaslin is on a roll.  The New York based saxophonist’s 2015 album Fast Future and Blackstar, his surprise collaboration with David Bowie that was released in 2016, are among the most bracing albums of the last two years.   The astounding performance in the embedded video reveals why his appearance at the Folly Theater on Friday, April 7., is likely to be a highlight of the 2017 jazz calendar.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Karrin Allyson will perform a free concert during Topeka’s Sunflower Music Festival on Monday, June 12.  Her tour itinerary also includes a date at the Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival on Friday, May 26.

*Stereogum included Hermon Mehari’s debut album in a roundup of compelling new jazz releases.

*Steve Lambert performed the National Anthem prior to a game in the men’s basketball tournament at the Sprint Center last weekend.

*Chris Burnett examines his artistic process.

*An Oakland outlet profiled Angela Wellman, a musician once based in Kansas City.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Hermon Mehari- "Bleu" debuts on @billboard Jazz Charts at #22: … #billboard #billboardjazz #bleu

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- Thank you for doing this for so many years.

*From a press release: In celebration of Women in Jazz Month, Pablo Sanhueza has invited Jackie Zamora to join the KC Latin Jazz All-Stars at the Blue Room. Jackie is a lead vocalist with the New Mexico Latin Jazz Orchestra... The evening will feature pieces co-arranged by Ms. Zamora… Sponsored by the American Jazz Museum, and led by Pablo Sanhueza, The Kansas City Latin Jazz All-Stars has delivered authentic, traditional dance floor latin music for fourteen years… Free admission, all-ages show. Thursday, March 30, 2017 7pm

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Confessions of a Jazz Blogger

A prominent member of Kansas City’s jazz community recently asked to meet with me.  I’ve created a crib sheet that lays out a few of my core beliefs to make our forthcoming discussion more efficient.

1. Jazz isn’t inherently superior to other forms of music.  I spend at least as much time listening to hip-hop as jazz.

2. Professed jazz advocates who wax poetic about “America’s classical music” and “America’s gift to the world” are either hucksters or dolts.

3. Pleas for jazz education leave me cold.  All forms of music are equally accessible in 2017.  Nothing prevents those who prefer Ed Sheeran and Future from listening to or aspiring to be Brad Mehldau and Ambrose Akinmusire.  People aren’t consuming jazz simply because the music doesn’t move them, not because they don’t understand it or are unaware of its existence.

4. I’m rarely more distressed than when I’m attending a jazz performance that doesn’t appeal to me.  Bad punk rock can be enormously entertaining.  Poorly rendered jazz is insufferable.

5. A member of my immediate family has suggested that my presence acts as a deterrent to younger and more fashion-conscious people who might otherwise frequent jazz clubs.

6. I’d rather read old newspapers at home than attend a reverent tribute concert.

7. Plastic Sax is partly intended to share the good news about Kansas City’s jazz scene.  I’ve failed in that mission.  Attendance at jazz events continues to decline.  Meanwhile, lip service about the city’s jazz legacy is louder than ever.

8. Jazz musicians can be their own worst enemies.  Between unseemly album covers, self-defeating sheepishness, misguided decisions to boycott streaming services and infighting with one another (not to mention initiating feuds with jazz bloggers), it’s a wonder that interest in their music isn’t even lower.

9. The words “workshop,” “clinic,” “pedagogy” and “adjudicate” make my eyes glaze over.

10. Why do I persist?  I’ve posted almost 1,500 times at Plastic Sax in the past 11 years.  I continue to believe that documentation is important.  Besides, no other outlet is covering the scene in a way that reflects my perspective.  I respect the music far too much to treat it like a hothouse flower.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Now's the Time: Sherry Scott

Sherry Scott, a member of an early incarnation of Earth, Wind & Fire, will sing at the Blue Room on Saturday, March 25.  She battles an inattentive crowd in the embedded video.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The American Jazz Museum has modified the price of tickets to its forthcoming Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival.  Single day tickets were originally $50.  Prospective attendees now have an option to buy $25 main stage tickets and $15 passes to the Blue Room for each day.

*Joe Klopus considered the week in jazz.

*George Benson and Kenny G will perform at Muriel Kauffman Theatre on May 24.

*Hermon Mehari’s Bleu and Iberica, a collaboration between Matt Otto and Alaturka, were released last week.

*Jessie Riggins reviewed the Jazz 100 concert at Yardley Hall.

*KCUR aired a segment on Everette DeVan last week.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Brian Scarborough- Just caught Jazz 100 with @DaniloPerezJAZZ and company. Great music with an incredible lineup! Thanks for stopping in KC! #jazz

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Concert Review: Jazz 100 at Yardley Hall

I entered Yardley Hall with a chip on my shoulder on Sunday.  The promotional campaign for the "Jazz 100" concert at Yardley Hall exasperated me.  Instead of highlighting the names of the participants, the front of a postcard mailing for the event read "celebrating 100th birthdays of Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Mongo Santamaria and Thelonious Monk.”  Other marketing efforts for the final event of the Jazz Winterlude festival also treated members of the all-star band as irrelevant afterthoughts.

I didn’t buy a $30 ticket to honor the dead.  Instead, I was eager to hear the vivacious work of the all-star band assembled by pianist Danilo Pérez.  Vocalist Lizz Wright, saxophonist Chris Potter, trumpeter Avishai Cohen, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, bassist Ben Street, percussionist Roman Diaz and drummer Adam Cruz played as if they were eager to prove that vibrant jazz wasn’t exclusive to the previous century. 

The extended duet between Perez and Cohen that opened the concert dispelled my concerns.  Rather than attempting to evoke Gillespie, Cohen played in the meditative style documented on his most recent album for the ECM label.  His bandmates were similarly unburdened by the format.  Wright sounded nothing like Fitzgerald when she applied her gorgeous voice to selections including the obscure civil rights song ”It’s Up To Me and You”.

Perez’s solo rendition of “‘Round Midnight” contained none of Monk’s idiosyncrasies.  Even if Diaz wanted to approach Santamaria faithfully during his turn in the spotlight, there was no way the band would have allowed it.  The only familiar arrangement of the 90-minute concert was assigned to “Well, You Needn’t”, but Potter’s extended solo pushed well beyond John Coltrane's exploration.

With the exceptions of Street and Cruz, each member of the band had at least one such opportunity to display their core strength.  Rather than clashing, consequently, the radically mismatched frontline of Potter, Cohen and Gordon provided engaging variety.  Anyone in the audience of more than 500 who had hoped to revisit the 1950s was almost certainly disappointed.  I walked out of Yardley Hall on cloud nine.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Now's the Time: Dianne Reeves

The seasoned vocalist Dianne Reeves returns to Kansas City for a concert at the Gem Theater on Saturday, March 25.  Her most recent album includes covers of songs associated with Fleetwood Mac, Marvin Gaye and Bob Marley.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Dick Hawk, the jazz enthusiast who owned the Gaslight Grill, has died.

*The announcement and subsequent retraction that Janelle Monaé would be the primary headliner of the KC Jazz & Heritage Festival occurred on February 22.  A statement issued by the American Jazz Museum that day suggested that "(i)t is the Museum's hope to announce the new headliner in the next 3 weeks."  That was three weeks ago today.

*Saxophonist Tivon Pennicott is in town and is sitting in at a few gigs this week.

*DownBeat magazine covered the celebration of Pat Metheny at last weekend’s Alternative Guitar Summit.

*Tweet o’ the Week: KC Parks Board- #KCParks Board approves agreement with @americanjazzkc for Jazz & Heritage Festival on The Paseo from Truman to 19th on #MemorialDayWeekend

*From a press release: The American Jazz Museum is thrilled to welcome nationally acclaimed Louisiana pianist, Jon Batiste, to accept its 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award. The ceremony will take place in the Gem Theater on Friday, April 7, 2017, at 8:00pm... Batiste is currently the house bandleader on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert... Batiste’s significant strides in jazz at such a young age place him in historic company with other acclaimed artists, like Charlie Parker, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald…  During the ceremony, several notable local musicians will perform to honor Batiste… Tickets are $45 for the Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony…

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Theater Review: Live Bird at the Green Lady Lounge

Charlie Parker was resuscitated at the Orion Room of the Green Lady Lounge for about an hour last Friday.  Unfortunately, the jazz legend didn’t have anything new to say.  Jeff Robinson fully inhabits the character of the troubled genius in his one man show Live Bird.   Yet the lack of dramatic tension in the narrative vignette and the bromidic accolades about Kansas City’s jazz heyday are uninspiring.  The show becomes fully engaging only when Robinson picks up a saxophone.  Four patrons took in the play that was given an inadvertently appropriate soundtrack by the jazz band playing upstairs.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Now's the Time: Jazz 100

The good news: an all-star band consisting of vocalist Lizz Wright, saxophonist Chris Potter, trumpeter Avishai Cohen, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, pianist Danilo Perez, bassist Ben Street, percussionist Roman Diaz  and drummer Adam Cruz will perform at Johnson County Community College on Sunday, March 19.  The bad news: the concert is billed as "Jazz 100," a "celebration of the centennial birthdays of Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Mongo Santamaria and Ella Fitzgerald."  The embedded video indicates that the musicians are capable of transcending the dubious concept.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Jessie Riggins critiqued the appearance by Cyrus Chestnut and Warren Wolf at the Folly Theater.

*The week in jazz is surveyed by Joe Klopus.

*Alaturka’s concert at Polsky Theatre was reviewed by Mike Alley.

*Oleta Adams duets with José James on the closing track of his new album Love in a Time of Madness.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Shireen- Got a free ticket to listen to the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra perform at the Kauffman Center tonight. Amazing!!!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Just Another Night

Inspired after updating The Kansas City Jazz Calendar, I went club-hopping along the 18th Street corridor last Thursday.

The outing began at the Blue Room, where the visiting guitarist Anthony Wilson was sitting in with a group led by saxophonist Matt Otto.  Although there was no cover charge, only about 20 people heard Wilson do things with his instrument that may never have been done before. 

My admiration for Otto’s art is well documented, including a rave review for his latest album a few weeks ago.  Vocalist Shay Estes’ impressive delivery of “Old Devil Moon” evoked Marilyn Maye. 

While it was tempting to stick around for the second set, I was eager to check out the scene at Madrigall, the Oak Street venue that’s weathered various incarnations in recent years.  Kurt Wheeler’s band played for about 15 people in the first half of a double bill topped by Robert Castillo’s group.  Wheeler’s quintet sounded like a hard-bop ensemble that had been binging on dusty albums by fusion groups like Spyro Gyra. 

I took a seat in a low slung chair that might have been described as “mod” in 1973.  The orderly rows of throwback furniture caused Madrigall to resemble the world’s most fashionable bus station.

The doorman was flummoxed by my quick exit.   I’d paid $7 to hear only 20 minutes of Wheeler’s band.  I didn’t tell him that I was headed to the nearby Green Lady Lounge, the upscale jazz emporium that never charges a cover.

Danny Embrey, a guitarist capable of putting a scare into Wilson, was in the midst of fearsome solo as I entered.  Powered by drummer Todd Strait, Embrey, second guitarist Brian Baggett and organist Ken Lovern provided a rambunctious soundtrack to the revelry of a few dozen patrons.

My energizing 90-minute outing further verified Kansas City’s reputation as a stronghold of immensely talented but woefully under-appreciated jazz musicians.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Now's the Time: Cyrus Chesnutt

Cyrus Chestnut has replaced Aaron Diehl as the featured pianist for Saturday’s concert at the Folly Theater.  While both men are devoted to honoring the jazz tradition, the pianists have substantially different musical (and sartorial) styles.  Chestnut demonstrates his bluesy approach in the embedded video.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Hermon Mehari’s solo debut album Bleu will be released on March 17.

*Joe Klopus examines the week’s jazz events for The Kansas City Star.

*Project H is on the lineup of NextBop’s “Jazz For the Masses” party in Austin.

*A blogger shared a wishlist of compatible artists capable of attracting the large audiences that would justify the $50-per-day entry fee of the American Jazz Museum’s forthcoming festival.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Roach Ellington- SHAME on KC JAZZ folks lying on Janelle Monae

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated for March.

*From a press release: The University of Kansas School of Music presents the 40th Annual KU Jazz Festival concerts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4 in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union. This year’s featured guest artist is guitarist Anthony Wilson… The March 3 concert features Wilson with the award-winning KU Jazz Ensemble I and the KU Jazz Festival All-Star Band… The March 4 concert will present Wilson in a small group setting, including leading a KU/Kansas City-based version of the acclaimed Anthony Wilson Nonet. KU faculty members Matt Otto, T.J. Martley, Danny Embrey, Jeff Harshbarger and Brandon Draper and graduate teaching assistant Chuck MacKinnon will perform with the nonet, along with Kansas City musicians Brett Jackson, Marcus Lewis and Zak Pischnotte. Opening the concert will be the Matt Otto Combo, the top small group within the KU Jazz Studies Program… Tickets for each concert are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $10 with a KU ID.

*From a press release: In their most recent project, Save Art has partnered with instrument builder Mike Corrigan and members of the New Orleans jazz community to produce a first-of-its-kind trumpet handcrafted with materials sourced from building affected by natural disasters, gentrification and housing redevelopment projects in New Orleans… The trumpet will begin a nationwide museum tour kicking off in Kansas City, the home of the American Jazz Museum.  Corrigan discussed the project with a television personality.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)