Thursday, March 29, 2018

Now's the Time: Denise Thimes

Denise Thimes was a headlining act at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York earlier this month.  The St. Louis vocalist performs at the Blue Room on Saturday, March 31.  A multitude of additional gigs are listed on the Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Project H was featured on KTGB’s Eight One Sixty program.

*KCUR reported on Kansas City’s promotional efforts related to UNESCO’s "Creative City of Music" designation.

*A party for the “official launch” of the low-power radio station KOJH will be held at the Mutual Musicians Foundation on Sunday, April 1.

*Bobby Watson will perform the National Anthem at Kauffman Stadium prior to the Kansas City Royals’ first home game.

*Tweet o’ the Week: wisonsinsane- Can't decide what is worse: A soft jazz band playing live in the Concourse of the Kansas City airport. Being inside the Kansas City airport.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Album Review: Jeff Shirley- Point of the Story

Point of the Story, the new album by Jeff Shirley, is impeccably tasteful.  It’s a shock, consequently, when a bit of grit is introduced on the eleventh track.  “Gerkin’s Sister Temple” adds six-minutes of left-of-center edginess to a 75-minute document that otherwise glides right down the center of jazz’s mainstream lane.

Shirley is a young Kansas City guitarist in the tradition of past masters like Joe Pass and Kenny Burrell.  He’s joined by the correspondingly elegant band of pianist Roger Wilder, bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Matt Leifer.  Ryan Thielman contributes flugelhorn flourishes to three tracks.

Conservative but never cautious, Shirley plays with a graceful confidence that makes Point of the Story a straight-ahead jazz fan’s delight.  The sole frustrating aspect of the project is that a couple tracks fade out just as they’re heating up, a dilemma that will likely be rectified during the release party for the album at Black Dolphin on Saturday, April 14.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Now's the Time: Natalie Bates

Since powering the youth band that’s captured in the embedded video performing a rendition of the big band standard “Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing),” drummer and bandleader Natalie Bates has become an established component of Kansas City’s jazz scene.  She leads a group at Green Lady Lounge on Sunday, March 25.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar lists a multitude of additional gigs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Jessie Riggins asks “where are the younger audiences” as she laments the “small audience size” in her review of a Matt Otto concert at Polsky Theatre.

*The Lenexa Art Fair will double as a jazz festival.  The lineup for the May 12 event: Brian Scarborough Quartet, 10 a.m. - noon; Brad Allen Trio, noon - 1:30 p.m.; Brian Ruskin Quartet, 2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.; Herschel McWilliams Quintet, 4 p.m. - 5:25 p.m.; Heat Index, 5:45 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

*Max Groove was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Tweet o’ the Week: HOKNetwork- Excited to work with #KansasCity leaders and community on the revitalization of the 18th & Vine Historic District, renowned as a cradle of jazz and center of African-American culture (link).

*From a press release: The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra (KCJO), the region’s most prominent big band that strives to preserve the rich heritage of Kansas City jazz, is performing in its first international trip in two European cities. First, the KCJO will perform, May 9-10, 2018, at the Hannover Enercity Swinging Jazz Festival in Hannover, Germany. After the jazz festival concludes, the KCJO will travel on to Szczecin, Poland to perform in a smaller concert May 11-12, 2018… Other performers representing Kansas City will be Karla Bauer… and Greg Carroll.... To ensure the spiritual background of this event is not forgotten, an Ascension Day service will be held with a choir under the director of Karla Bauer... The festival was visited by more than 40,000 people in 2017, making it one of the largest open-air music festivals in Europe.

(Original image of the site that once housed Jardine’s jazz club by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Album Review: The Project H- Everyday, Forever

Everyday, Forever, the fourth album by The Project H, comes with strings attached.  The signature components of the Kansas City instrumental band’s sound- bold horns, sturdy melodies and unwavering grooves- are supplemented by a string quartet on half of the album’s ten tracks.

The strings add subtle shadings to “Black Swan,” provide a rhapsodic introduction to “The Company You Keep” and help make “Ripple Effect” one of the most animated tracks in the Project H’s catalog.

Jazz enthusiasts will be thrilled by Everyday Forever’s soaring solos.  A few highlights: bandleader and trombonist Ryan Heinlein’s engaging statement on “Black Swan,” saxophonist Brett Jackson’s aggressive attack on “Don’t Call It That,” vibraphonist Peter Schlamb’s fiery guest appearance on “Planet Smasher” and bassist Andrew Stinson’s thorough domination of “Table Scraps.”

Yet the Project H’s emblematic good-time vibes are the most appealing aspect of Everyday, Forever.  Accessible but smart, the ensemble remains an elite party band for bacchanalian revelers as well as for members of Kansas City’s intellectual elite.

The Project H’s second and third albums were reviewed at Plastic Sax in 2012 and 2014.  Everyday, Forever will be released on March 23.  The band will celebrate the project at the Westport Coffee House on Wednesday, April 4.  A trio led by Mark Lettieri of Snarky Puppy will also perform.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Now's the Time: Amber Underwood

At the conclusion of the embedded footage of Amber Underwood performing at Black Dolphin, a woman in the audience yells something like “yeah, you do it, girl!”  Anyone with an affinity for soul-infused jazz in the vein of Hubert Laws will likely share her enthusiasm for Underwood’s sound.  The Kansas City flautist returns to Black Dolphin on Friday, March 16.  Dozens of the weekend’s additional gigs are compiled at the Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Trevor Turla, a senior in UMKC’s Jazz Studies program, shares interesting insights into his prospects as a jazz musician in Kansas City with the student newspaper.

*Peter Schlamb created an amusing music video for the new track “Skylar’s View.”

*The Anat Cohen Tentet will perform at the Gem Theater on Saturday, April 7.  Tickets are available here.

*Lonnie McFadden chatted with KCUR’s Chuck Haddix.

*Footage of a Tiny Desk concert featuring Logan Richardson and his band is slated to be uploaded by NPR on April 23.

*Ryan Heinlein was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Steve Kraske interviewed two members of the Hot Sardines for KCUR.  Jessie Riggins reviewed the band’s concert at the Folly Theater.

*Clint Ashlock and Jo Ann Daugherty made a television appearance to promote last weekend’s concert by the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Jeff Shirley- March 30th - Album release!! April 13th - Release party/concert at Black Dolphin, 9PM, with Bob Bowman, Roger Wilder and Matt Leifer!!

*Comment o’ the Week: Anonymous- Interesting, Otto and Cardenas are the only musicians known internationally......

*From a press release: CinemaKC, a non-profit film organization which spotlights films and filmmakers in the Kansas City area, will partner with sponsor KC Film Office at VisitKC, to present a series of classic feature films that were filmed in the region, with Kansas City locations, cast and crew.  The screening series will be a reunion of personnel who worked on the projects, as well as an opportunity to introduce new audiences to the big-screen experience… The first film in the series, Kansas City... will screen on Sunday, June 10, 2018 at 3:30 PM at the beautiful Screenland Medallion Theater...  Prior to the screening, at 2:15pm, VIP ticket holders will enjoy live jazz music at a VIP jazz reception, co-sponsored by KC Jazz ALIVE and General Admission $10 – Open Forum, Screening and Q&A afterwards.  VIP $25 – VIP Jazz Reception, Open Forum, Screening and Q&A.

*From a press release: Artists Recording Collective (ARC) recording artist, Christopher Burnett has announced that his working Christopher Burnett Quintet (CbQ) comprised of Kansas City-based professional musicians will be going into the studio to record in the fall of 2018. He said this new recording project initiative corresponds with the ensemble’s monthly first Saturday residency at Black Dolphin… (Burnett) will manufacture a limited edition run of heavy-vinyl LP records for audiophiles who'd like to have a physical product.”

(Original image of Magnavox manual by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Concert Review: The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra at Helzberg Hall

A wondrous rendition of Carla Bley’s “Who Will Rescue You?” at Helzberg Hall on Friday was a pivotal step in the evolution of The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra.  Bley’s 1990 composition can hardly be considered cutting-edge, but the inclusion of the subversive blues in the ensemble’s “Lady Be Good: Celebrating Women in Jazz” program signals the willingness of Clint Ashlock, the organization’s Artistic Director and Conductor, to advance the group’s repertoire.

Women were partly or wholly responsible for each of the evening’s selections.  The commendable theme led to a vibrant reading of Mary Lou Williams’ “Roll ‘Em,” Brad Gregory’s thrilling tenor saxophone solo on Melba Liston’s arrangement of “Let’s Get Down” and a rhapsodic flugelhorn feature by Ashlock on Maria Schneider’s chart for “My Ideal.”  No one near me in the least expensive $25.25 seats amid the audience of about 900 flinched at the concert’s edgiest moments.

Guest artist Jo Ann Daugherty contributed to several selections.  It’s not a slight to the orchestra to suggest that the pianist's absorbing playing on the original composition “Elsewhen” featuring only the pianist, bassist James Albright and drummer Sam Wisman was a highlight.  Given the program’s theme, it would be negligent to fail to note that every member of the orchestra is male.  The strength of the program reinforced the injustice of the discrepancy.

The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra has had three distinct phases since its debut in 2003.  The big band began as a hard-charging swing ensemble in the tradition of the Count Basie Orchestra under the direction of co-founder Jim Mair.  The sound of the group shifted when Kerry Strayer, an acolyte of Gerry Mulligan and Bob Brookmeyer, succeeded Mair.  Friday’s impressive concert indicates that Ashlock is committed to fulfilling the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s mission statement of “celebrating the past (and) embracing the future.”

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Now's the Time: The Hot Sardines

The Hot Sardines return to the Folly Theater on Friday, March 9.  The New York based hot jazz group first performed at the venue in 2015.  Last year, the Hot Sardines served as a headlining act at the ill-fated Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar lists 19 additional jazz gigs in the area on Friday.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Business Journal reports on an initiative intended to make the Jazz District more accommodating to new businesses.

*Joe Klopus interviewed members of the Hot Sardines in a preview of the band’s March 9 concert at the Folly Theater.

*The Kansas City Star follows up on the Zhou Brothers investment in the Jazz District.

*Sharon Valleau informed Plastic Sax that “Carol Comer is scheduled to be honored at the Blue Room on Monday, March 12th.”

*High school student Evan Kappelman was named a member of the Bands of America National Jazz Band.

*Jerry McEvoy lobbies for new jazz venues in the Jazz District in a letter published by The Kansas City Star.

*Jon Batiste’s March 9 concert at the Madrid Theatre has been canceled due to “scheduling issues.”

*Tweet o’ the Week: KC Library- The next listening party with @KCJazzOrch is March 12 at Central Library. (link).

*Comment o’ the Week: Christopher Burnett- Hear, hear! I must be slipping (to slightly relentless...) because I missed this post entirely.

*From a press release: Special guests Clay Jenkins and Gilbert Castellanos will headline the KU School of Music’s 41st Jazz Festival held on Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3. The festival will include evening concerts on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union… Following the evening concerts, the music continues with After Hours Jazz Sessions hosted by the Matt Otto Quintet and featuring special guests.

*From a press release: Women have always played and continue to play a significant role in developing Jazz music… The American Jazz Museum takes pride in shining the light for their tremendous contributions to the music by paying tribute through the presentation, Women in Jazz 2018. Also, it honors them by collecting items that chronicle their lives and careers the Women in Jazz Collection... Women in Jazz 2018 will present performances in the Blue Room featuring local, regional, and national female artists. All month long, musicians will present innovative performances and selections that showcase the contributions of women to the jazz genre. Sunday, March 18th at 4:00 pm we will present a concert Women in Jazz 2018: Woman’s World featuring Deborah Brown, Marlene Rosenberg, Pam Watson, and Argarita Palavicini.

*From a press release: The American Jazz Museum together with Kansas City’s own renowned Jazz artist Deborah Brown is launching an initiative to showcase Kansas City Jazz and artists Internationally… Jazz from Kansas City with Love: The Cradle of Swing and Bebop promotes and showcases Kansas City… We are thrilled to announce that Jazz from Kansas City with Love will launch in Szczecin, Poland at the Szczecin Jazz 2018 Festival... The Festival takes place the first week of March with performances by Deborah Brown and Hermon Mehari on March 5… These artists will also be performing in other jazz clubs across Poland and Germany throughout the week.

*From a press release: “Women in Jazz” will be featured in two free events at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) on Wednesday, March 28: 12 p.m. – Carolyn Glenn-Brewer will give an illustrated talk on the history of women in jazz. 5:30 p.m. – The documentary film “The Girls in the Band” will be shown.  Both events will be held in the CoLab, room 100, located in the OCB building on JCCC’s Campus.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Tuned In and Turned On

I quit playing the online trivia contest HQ.  Rarely making it past the seventh round frustrated me.  I’ve switched to a more gratifying game.  When I tune in to Green Lady Radio through my computer or phone, I attempt to identify each artist before checking the screen.  I win even when I guess incorrectly.

The playlist of Green Lady Radio reflects the mainstream sound that dominates Kansas City’s jazz scene as it mirrors the music that’s performed at Green Lady Lounge and Black Dolphin.  The free streaming service is uncomplicated.  There’s no skipping or fast-forwarding options.  Every listener experiences the same music at the same time.

Hearing tracks outside of the album context leads to revelations.  I’ve gained new appreciation for Paul Shinn’s compositional craftsmanship, Clint Ashlock’s clarion trumpet work and Chris Burnett’s tart tone.  A certain pianist pops up so frequently that the service could be dubbed Roger Wilder radio.

As at Black Dolphin and Green Lady Lounge, there’s little room for avant-garde freak-outs or noisy experiments.  Matt Otto and Steve Cardenas are responsible for Green Lady Radio’s wooliest moments.  While HQ bestows cash prizes to winners, Green Lady Radio doesn’t offer a financial incentive.  Listening is its own reward.

(Screenshot of Green Lady Radio's mobile app by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Now's the Time: Jo Ann Daugherty

Jo Ann Daugherty will contribute to The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s “Lady Be Good: Celebrating Women In Jazz” concert at Helzberg Hall on Friday, March 9.  She demonstrates her talents as a pianist and bandleader in the embedded footage from last year’s Chicago Jazz Festival. The Kansas City Jazz Calendar lists about 20 additional gigs that day.