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.)

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