Sunday, July 29, 2018

Grading the 2018-19 Folly Season

Familiarity breeds contempt.  Six of the seven artists featured in the 2018-19 season of the Folly Jazz Series have already appeared in Kansas City at least once in the last five years.  The exception is the Yellowjackets, a group that performed at the Folly Theater three times in the previous decade.

Given the vast universe of thrilling talent, it’s frustrating that area jazz promoters tend to limit their bookings to a short list of two dozen acts.  The repetition is made even more painful by the struggles of the American Jazz Museum.  The institution’s concerts at the Gem Theater seem to be a thing of the past.

There’s a reason for the repetition.  The cautious nature of the  jazz offerings for the Folly Theater’s 36th season increases the likelihood of a 37th season.  My dream lineup consisting of the likes of Lakecia Benjamin, Mary Halvorson, Dave Holland, Shabaka Hutchings, Charles Lloyd, Pat Metheny and Matthew Shipp might bankrupt the series.  I’ve made every effort not to let my disappointment in who’s not playing unfairly impact the grades of the actual bookings.

Ramsey Lewis and Urban Knights
September 27
Ramsey Lewis has done it all in an audacious career of more than sixty years.  He’s a master of bop, pop, soul-jazz and funk.  The octogenarian will be joined by guitarist Henry Johnson, keyboardist Tim Gant, bassist Joshua Ramos and drummer Charles Heath during his third concert in Kansas City in 21 months.
Grade: A

Larry Carlton Quintet
October 12
Every committed Steely Dan enthusiast is familiar with Larry Carlton’s distinctive guitar work.  His impeccable playing will be supported by saxophonist Bob Reynolds, keyboardist Mark Stevens, drummer Gary Novak and Carlton's son Travis on bass.
Grade: C

The Yellowjackets
January 18
The audience for smooth jazz in Kansas City remains substantial.  The four aces in The Yellowjackets are likely to draw a healthy crowd.

Kandace Springs
February 15
Nancy Wilson, 81, doesn’t get around much anymore.  Kandace Springs has filled the void.  She’s carved out a similarly elegant space in the realm of supper club soul. 
Grade: B+

Kurt Elling Quintet
March 9
Kurt Elling is the preeminent jazz vocalist of the new millennium.
Grade: A

Joshua Redman Quartet
April 11
Joshua Redman’s Still Dreaming, an homage to his father Dewey Redman’s collaboration with Ornette Coleman, is one of the most engaging jazz albums of 2018.  Alas, the saxophonist isn’t bringing the left-of-center musicians featured on the project to the Folly.  Instead, he’ll be accompanied by the sublime trio of pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson.
Grade: A-

Arturo Sandoval
April 27
The respect commanded by the storied Cuban defector Arturo Sandoval is reflected by the presence of Alejandro Sanz, Pharrell Williams, Ariana Grande and Josh Groban on the trumpeter's latest album.
Grade: B

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Now's the Time: The Music of Bennie Moten

The Jackson County Historical Society, the Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors and the Mutual Musicians Foundation are hosting an event billed as Bennie, Basie, and Bird: An Evening of KC Jazz at the Foundation on Saturday, July 28.   While “live performances with original and contemporary arrangements of their classics” are promised, details on precisely who will be interpreting the music of Bennie Moten, Count Basie and Charlie Parker aren’t available.  Perhaps my skepticism makes me an insolent heretic, but I don’t intend to fork over the $35 price of admission until I know which musicians are participating.  A multitude of other options are listed at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Joe Klopus scrutinizes the 2018-19 season of the Folly Theater’s jazz series for The Kansas City Star.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Carl Kincaid- Celebrating some of my favorite KC musicians in my favorite KC band at my favorite KC club. Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo Seven’s new record “The Basement Beat” Release Party in the Black Dolphin Room at Kansas City’s legendary Green Lady Lounge. Check Sunflower Soul Records! (photos)

*From a press release: Lonnie McFadden presents "Charlie Parker - Past, Present & Future" starring Bobby Watson, Tivon Pennicott and Ronald McFadden. Saturday, August 25; Gem Theater. Lonnie has produced an incredible, high energy evening of song and dance with a strong group of some of the very best jazz musicians Kansas City has to offer. The show honors Charlie “Yardbird” Parker... Mr. Kansas City himself, Lonnie McFadden, has created a show that will have you on your feet and celebrating the music and stories of Kansas City's own jazz legend, Charlie "Yardbird" Parker.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Album Review: Chris Hazelton's Boogaloo 7- The Basement Beat

I mumbled something about New York, Puerto Rico, salsa, soul and the 1960s when Steve Kraske asked me to define boogaloo in an on-air discussion about Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7’s The Basement Beat on KCUR’s Up to Date program three weeks ago.  I cited Cardi B’s current boogaloo-based hit “I Like It” as a relevant entry point for curious listeners.  Vibrant The Basement Beat selections including the celebratory boogaloo “Tru-Galú” and soul-jazz workouts like “Fryin’ Pan” may be several production tweaks removed from the rapper’s summer smash, but they’re every bit as fun as “I Like It.”  Hazelton’s band hosts an album release show at the Black Dolphin on Sunday, July 22.

(Original image captured on the Brooklyn Bridge by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Now's the Time: Kandace Springs at the Sprint Center

Unsuspecting pop fans are in for a treat at the Sprint Center on Friday, July 20.  Punctual devotees of Hall & Oates and Train will take in an opening set by Kandace Springs.  The elegant artist working in the tradition of Nancy Wilson will return to Kansas City on February 15 for a headlining concert at the Folly Theater.  Both bookings are listed on The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*An event billed as A Yardbird Homecoming is slated for Friday, August 3.  A complete collection of the Dial Records catalog amassed by DeBorah "Dee" Williams will be displayed in the atrium of the American Jazz Museum.  Williams, Jayne McShann and Jermaine Reed will speak.  Jason Goudeau’s Little Big Band will perform.

*The Marcus Lewis Big Band created a music video for “All Day”.

*Stephen Martin was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*The editorial board of The Kansas City Star questions why “Kansas City is striding boldly back into the concert game” after the financial debacle that followed last year’s Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival.

*Details about next month’s Charlie Parker Celebration continue to be added to the event’s site.

*Tim Whitmer & the KC Express, the Wild Women of Kansas City, B.M.W. and J Love provide the jazz component of the ninth annual Phoenix Fest at The Phoenix on Saturday, July 28.

*The Kansas City Star reports that the Wheatley-Provident hospital building in the Jazz District is slated for renovation.

*The 2018 edition of New York’s annual Charlie Parker Festival includes performances by Charles Tolliver, Gary Bartz, the Bad Plus and Catherine Russell.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Terra Brister- “Yes the community is safe, it’s the people that come into the community that are not safe!” -Jazz Museum, Kansas City

*From a press release: KC Area Youth Jazz is pleased to announce the addition of Media Relations Expert and Kansas City area Radio and Television Personality, Joel Nichols as an official Spokesperson, Concert Emcee, and Media Consultant.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Concert Review: Henrique Eisenmann and Ehud Ettun at the 1900 Building

Members of an audience of about 70 laughed as if Henrique Eisenmann had delivered the punchline of an implausible joke when the pianist explained that he and bassist Ehud Ettun were performing Israeli jazz at the 1900 Building on Saturday, July 7.  There was nothing comical about the exquisite 90-minute performance by the Brazilian born, New York based Eisenmann and the Israeli bassist Ettun.  Although I paid $25 to enter, the recital had all the trappings of a private event.

In addition to resonant echoes of Ettun’s home in Jerusalem, the show included impeccable interpretations of material by the Brazilian icons Milton Nascimento and Hermeto Pascoal and the American bassist Steve Swallow.  Eisenmann also attempted to translate the sound of the African mbira to piano on the percussive “Afro-Latidos.”  The show included two demonstrations of what is either a nifty parlor trick or the inception of a vital new genre when Eisenmann added composed melodies to recordings of poems recited by a Peruvian child and an Israeli poet.

Gasps of horror filled the room when Eisenmann disclosed that he’d spent much of the past year battling cancer.  He indicated that he was optimistic about the outcome.  His family, friends and the extended jazz community need him.  Liberated from the mandate to perpetually swing, he and Ettun are forging vital new sounds. 

Aside from three people I recognized as regulars at Kansas City jazz performances, no one in the room probably had any way of knowing that Israeli jazz is- as Eisenmann put it after the concept was openly mocked- “a thing.”  In fact, my favorite performances of improvised music in 2018 have been rendered by a group led by the Israeli clarinetist Anat Cohen at the Gem Theater (Plastic Sax review), a quartet fronted by the Israeli pianist Uriel Hermann at Black Dolphin
(Plastic Sax review), and now, Henrique Eisenmann and Ehud Ettun at the 1900 Building.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Now's the Time: For Now

For Now proves that there’s plenty more where Snarky Puppy came from.  Like the celebrated arty jazz-pop ensemble Snarky Puppy, For Now is a product of the music program at the University of North Texas in Denton.  Composer and vocalist Isabel Crespo takes the lead in the embedded For Now video.  Her band performs at Black Dolphin on Friday, July 13.  Details are available at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Vijay Iyer Sextet is slated to headline the Open Spaces festival at Starlight Theatre on Sunday, October 14.  Janelle Monáe and the Roots top the bill on the two preceding days.

*Brandon Draper is the subject of a feature on KCUR.

*Jim Mair chatted with Joe Dimino.

*Saxophonist Michael Eaton will perform John Coltrane's 1967 album Stellar Regions at Californos on Friday, August 3.  He’ll be joined by guitarist Seth Davis, bassist Jeff Harshbarger and drummer John Kizilarmut.  The cover charge is $10.

*The 2018 edition of the Columbia Experimental Music Festival has a few noteworthy bookings of interest to aficionados of adventurous jazz.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Kansas City, MO- “The Weekend will be stacked with high profile performances, particularly headliners @JanelleMonae, @theroots, and @vijayiyer, who is one of the biggest names in contemporary jazz.” - @OpenSpacesKC artistic director Dan Cameron

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Album Review: Stephen Martin- Vision

The jazz bro woo-cry is a repellent element of many jazz performances.  Yet I find myself involuntarily yelping the enthusiastic shout of appreciation every time I listen to Vision, the thrilling debut album by the Kansas City saxophonist Stephen Martin that will be released on July 27.

The playing of Martin, pianist Matt Villinger, bassist Karl McComas-Reichl and drummer John Kizilarmut isn’t gratuitously flashy.  Instead, exceptional group dynamics and uncommonly smart choices elicit my grating blurts of joy. 

Vision is particularly intriguing in the wake of the “new” John Coltrane album.  Give or take 18 months, the approach documented on the 1963 recording Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album serves as the foundation of Vision.  Rather than attempting to expand or update Coltrane’s sound, Martin’s quartet pays commendable homage to some the most renowned American music of the 20th century.

Villinger plays a fervent McCoy Tyner to Martin’s persuasive Coltrane.  The pianist stands out on uptempo selections including a raging version of Charlie Parker’s “Segment.”  While it doesn’t challenge convention or break new ground, Vision is among the most praiseworthy mainstream acoustic jazz albums to be made by a Kansas City artist in years.  Woo!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Now's the Time: Béla Fleck and the Flecktones

Victor Wooten’s outing at the Madrid Theatre in 2017 was one of the year’s most energetic jazz-adjacent performances in Kansas City.  (Plastic Sax reviewed the concert.)  The audacious bassist returns to Kansas City on Monday, July 9, as a member of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones for a show at the Uptown Theater.  The concert is one of hundreds of gigs listed at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Logan Richardson’s Blues People is the surprising but entirely worthy headliner of the 2018 edition of The Prairie Village Jazz Festival.  Molly Hammer, the Enormous Guitar Project, the Kessler-Embrey Conspiracy, Victor & Penny and Shawnee Mission East Blue Knights round out the lineup.

*As Plastic Sax first reported on May 2, the 2018-19 season of the Folly Jazz Series consists of concerts by Ramsey Lewis, Larry Carlton, the Yellowjackets, Kurt Elling, Joshua Redman and Arturo Sandoval.  The unnamed “mystery artist” at the venue’s site is Kandace Springs.

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated with July’s bookings

*Tweet o’ the Week: Terry Teachout- Bill Watrous, R.I.P. The first world-class jazzman with whom I ever played, he was a supreme virtuoso and a true artist. This performance dates from around the time he came to Kansas City and appeared with my college jazz band. It suggests his quality: (link).

*From a press release: The Charlie Parker Celebration returns and will celebrate its 5th anniversary… (O)ne of this year’s Artist-in-Residence is Lonnie McFadden, a singer, trumpeter and tap dancer… Joining McFadden as an Artist-in-Residence will be Grammy winner Tivon Pennicott. Both will participate in many of this year’s feature events and the jazz crawl (20+ performances at 14 jazz clubs or venues during the 10-day event)… Tickets will range from free to modestly priced.

*From a press release: Leaving for Europe on July 3, KU Jazz Ensemble I will perform at three of the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals: the 52nd Annual Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, 38th Annual Jazz A Vienne in France and 48th Annual Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy. The group will also play in Italy at Scarperia Jazz Festival in Florence as well as performances at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory of Music in Milan and shows in Stresa and Torino.  (Deborah) Brown will perform with the jazz ensemble throughout Europe.

*From a press release: Pat Metheny has been elected into the prestigious Royal Swedish Academy of Music. Founded in 1771 by King Gustav III, the Royal Swedish Academy of Music is one of the Royal Academies in Sweden. The academy's purpose is to promote art music and musical life… (T)he 20-time GRAMMY® Award winner kicks off a 24-city European tour this week with Antonio Sanchez, Linda May Han Oh, and Gwilym Simcock, followed by a U.S. tour this fall.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Down(beat) and Out

Kansas City’s jazz scene doesn’t fare well in Downbeat’s 66th Annual Critics Poll.  Four artists received votes in the instrumentalist categories: Bobby Watson (12th place, alto saxophone), Pat Metheny (13th place, guitar, and 16th place, miscellaneous instruments), Logan Richardson (6th place, rising star- alto saxophone) and Mike Dillon (2nd place, rising star- vibraphone).  The late Bob Brookmeyer took 10th place on the Hall of Fame ballot.  No albums by Kansas City musicians are among the 104 releases receiving votes, nor is there any mention of notables including Peter Schlamb, Hermon Mehari, Marilyn Maye, Julian Vaughn, the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, Matt Otto or Deborah Brown.  What gives?

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)