Sunday, August 26, 2018

Concert Review: Lonnie McFadden's "Charlie Parker: Past, Present & Future" at the Gem Theater

Kansas City’s top entertainer oversaw a jubilant tribute to Kansas City’s most famous son at the Gem Theater on Sunday.  In many ways, Lonnie McFadden’s "Charlie Parker: Past, Present & Future" presentation was a McFadden Brothers concert with an extra helping of chatter and contributions from two auspicious guests.  Most members of the audience of more than 400 wouldn’t have had it any other way at the momentous event.

McFadden, the man known as “Mr. Kansas City,” is a jazz saxophonist, tap dancer and Las Vegas-style showman.  He was joined by his brother, trumpeter Ronnie McFadden, and a core band of pianist Andrew Ouellette, guitarist Matt Hopper, bassist DeAndre Manning and drummer Tyree Johnson.  The 100-minute show featured appearances by Kansas City’s grand master Bobby Watson and the New York based saxophonist Tivon Pennicott.

McFadden insisted that he’s a dedicated Parker scholar in a lengthy appreciation at the start of the culmination of the fifth annual Charlie Parker Celebration.  He may have felt the extended commentary was necessary because the show didn’t feature a single Parker composition or any attempts to recreate Parker’s sound.

If McFadden’s verbal acclamations represented the “past” portion of the show’s title, the vital music defined the “present.”  The McFaddens stepped aside to allow Pennicott to showcase his imposing technique on “Lush Life” and his original “Never Been.”  Watson sounded as magnificent as ever on his compositions “Sweet Dreams” and “Wheel Within a Wheel.”  McFadden’s duet with his daughter Chloe on “Unforgettable” and a tap dance routine with Ronnie were sure-fire audience pleasers.

McFadden insisted that the “future” component of the show’s title was represented by the comparatively young musicians Hopper, Johnson, Manning and Ouellette.  While they played flawlessly, none of them has yet revealed an intention to become a transgressive innovator in the tradition of Parker.  Area jazz fans will need to wait for Logan Richardson’s return to Kansas City on September 8 to hear a truer representation of Parker’s futuristic vision.

Setlist: Birdland, A Night in Tunisia, Never Been, Lush Life, Cherokee, Sweet Dreams, Wheel Within a Wheel, tap dancing, Unforgettable, Kansas City

(Original images by Plastic Sax.)

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