Sunday, December 30, 2018

Concert Review: Steve Cardenas at Black Dolphin

The band dropped out as Matt Otto took a solo on a bracing version of Ornette Coleman’s “Congeniality” at Black Dolphin on Thursday.  The saxophonist’s statement was so enthralling that even an offensively inattentive person at the bar fell silent.  Otto’s incandescent statement was the standout moment of the 80-minute opening set of an ensemble led by the New York based guitarist Steve Cardenas.  He was accompanied by Otto, trumpeter Dave Scott, bassist Ben Leifer and drummer Marty Morrison.  A full house of about 100 attended the free show.  Otto’s solo was the most blatantly adventurous outburst of the set, but Cardenas’ thoughtful solos intimated similarly knotty concepts. Video snippets of the show were captured by Joe Dimino and Plastic Sax.

Setlist: Spring (Matt Otto), Congeniality (Ornette Coleman), Song For Janie (Dave Scott, title uncertain), Subconscious-Lee (Lee Konitz), New Moon (Steve Cardenas), Rhythm-a-Ning (Thelonious Monk).

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, December 28, 2018

Now's the Time: Dave Stephens

The manic showman Dave Stephens headlines the New Year’s Swingin’ Eve at Union Station party on Monday, December 31.  The show is one of more than a dozen New Year’s Eve jazz performances listed on The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City bassist Ron Roberts died after being struck by a car in Lexexa on December 18.

*Harry Connick’s concert at the Midland theater was reviewed by The Kansas City Star.

*Lonnie McFadden is the subject of short video feature created by high school students.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Ink Kansas City- Want to ring in the new year with some live music? Our music critic @phinnagain has handpicked his Top 5 concerts in the metro for New Year's Eve. From gothic rock to Afro-Latin jazz to a festive "boogaloo", there's a lil' something for everyone! (link)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Top Jazz-Related Stories and Trends of 2018

1. Exhibit Closed
As the saying has it, this is why we can’t have nice things.  Ongoing disarray at the American Jazz Museum has substantially reduced the quality of life for dedicated music enthusiasts in Kansas City.  Not only does the institution no longer present an annual outdoor festival or book touring artists at the Gem Theater, the current programming at the museum’s nightclub is comparatively unimaginative.

2. Cracks In the Foundation
The legal travails and infighting at the Mutual Musicians Foundation acts as an ominous cloud over the entire Jazz District.  Pass the Tylenol.

3. No News is Bad News
Jazz coverage in Kansas City suffered several big hits in 2018.
Joe Klopus’ longstanding weekly Jazz Town column for The Kansas City Star was discontinued.  Metropolis, a publication subsidized by arts organizations, went belly-up.  The dedicated Kansas City jazz historian Larry Kopitnik stepped down as editor of Jam magazine.  The content and publication schedule of the periodical has suffered accordingly.  Plastic Sax is the sole local outlet offering regularly updated commentary and analysis of Kansas City’s jazz scene.

4. The Elephant In the Room
The most pressing issue on Kansas City’s jazz scene is the unabated erosion of support among the general public.  A cover charge of more than $10 attached to a jazz gig by an instrumental, improvisation-based Kansas City jazz ensemble not named the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra is the equivalent of cement shoes in a mob hit.

5. Wide Open Spaces
A de facto jazz festival took place in Kansas City this year.  Almost no one showed up.  The city-sponsored Open Spaces festival boasted an extensive jazz component.  Yet less than 25 people were present at each of the several free performances I attended.  Along with the Roots and Janelle Monaé, the Vijay Iyer Sextet headlined the festival.  Less than 75 people paid the $20 cover charge to hear Iyer’s auspicious New York based band.

6. Fists of Fury
Kamasi Washington’s concert at the Truman provided an accounting of precisely how many people in Kansas City will pay to see a jazz show by a touring jazz instrumentalist who isn't appearing under the aegis of an established concert series.  Far and away the most popular and critically acclaimed jazz artist of the decade, Washington drew 500 people to the downtown concert venue.

7. If a Jazz Album Was Released in a Forest
Another year passed without any national recognition for a Kansas City artist other than Logan Richardson or Pat Metheny.  To the best of my knowledge, not a single album other than Richardson’s Blues People that’s listed on Plastic Sax’s Favorite Kansas City Albums of 2018 revceived notice in a prominent national publication.

8. Glimmers of Hope
It’s not all bad.  The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra performed a few dates in Europe with Deborah Brown.  The Green Lady Lounge, Kansas City’s most popular jazz club, continues to thrive with a winning formula of offering mainstream jazz without a cover charge.  KC Jazz Alive sponsored a residency by saxophonist Tivon Pennicott in a series of performances billed as the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival.  The Marcus Lewis Big Band caught the attention of a few local pundits by bringing a pair of rappers into the fold.  “Bambu,” a funky track by Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7, racked up more than 200,000 streams on Spotify.  The bookings of touring artists at the 1900 Building, Black Dolphin and at various locations used by Take Five Productions partly filled the void created by the retreat of the American Jazz Museum.

9. An Unsung Loss
The death of Luqman Hamza, one of Kansas City’s most respected veteran jazz musicians, was virtually unnoticed.

10. It’s a Date
The Kansas City Jazz Calendar was resurrected in 2018.

(Original image of a jazz performance at the Open Spaces festival by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Now's the Time: Steve Cardenas

Steve Cardenas usually returns to his old stomping grounds in Kansas City during the holiday season.  The New York based guitarist will perform at Black Dolphin on Thursday, Dec. 27.  The selection featured in the embedded video is from Cardenas’ vinyl-only 2018 release Charlie & PaulThe Kansas City Jazz Calendar compiles all of the area’s listings.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The  David Basse Trio and Amber Underwood were featured on KCUR’s Up To Date program.

*Jay Sollenberger and Sam Wisman were interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Bonobo Bonobo, Mike Dillon’s latest album, will be released on Friday.

*Saturday’s holiday concert by the Marcus Lewis Big Band is previewed by The Kansas City Star.

*A press release provides details about Feelin’ Good, an album by a vocal ensemble at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Union Station KC- Less than two weeks remain to NYE and tickets are selling at a record pace for New Year's Swingin' Eve at historic Union Station! It's another certain sellout so secure your tickets now and guarantee your place at the hottest NYE party in KC

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Plastic Sax’s Favorite Albums and Performances of 2018

Favorite Albums By Kansas City Artists
1. Logan Richardson- Blues People (Plastic Sax review)
2. Peter Schlamb- Electric Tinks (Plastic Sax review)
3. The Project H- Everyday, Forever (Plastic Sax review)
4. Ernest Melton- The Time of the Slave Is Over (Plastic Sax review)
5. Stephen Martin- Vision (Plastic Sax review)
6. Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7- The Basement Beat (Plastic Sax review)
7. Lonnie McFadden- Live at Green Lady Lounge (Plastic Sax review)
8. Stan Kessler- Skywatcher (KCUR feature)
9. OJT- New Originals for the Green Lady (Plastic Sax review)
10. Marcus Lewis Big Band- Brass and Boujee(Plastic Sax review)

Favorite Albums By Artists From Elsewhere
1. Dave Holland- Uncharted Territory
2. Ambrose Akinmusire- Origami Harvest
3. Cécile McLorin Salvant- The Window
4. Vincent Peirani- Night Walker
5. Brad Mehldau- After Bach
6. Sons of Kemet- Your Queen Is a Reptile
7. Nicole Mitchell- Maroon Cloud
8. Andrew Cyrille- Lebroba
9. Matthew Shipp- Zero
10. Kamasi Washington- Heaven and Earth

Favorite Performances By Kansas City Artists
1. The Project H- Westport Coffee House
2. Hermon Mehari Quintet- Gem Theater
3. Lonnie McFadden- Black Dolphin
4. Mezzo String- Polsky Theatre (Plastic Sax review)
5. Will Matthews Quintet- Swope Park pavillion (Plastic Sax review)
6. Marcus Lewis Big Band- RecordBar
7. Vine Street Rumble- Californos
8. We the People- RecordBar
9. Charles Williams Trio- First Baptist Church (Plastic Sax review)
10. Ernest Melton, DeAndre Manning and Brad Williams- Blue Room

Favorite Performances By Artists From Elsewhere
1. Erykah Badu- Sprint Center (Plastic Sax review)
2. Vijay Iyer Sextet- Gem Theater (Plastic Sax review)
3. Ryan Keberle & Catharsis- Black Dolphin (Plastic Sax review)
4. Anat Cohen Tentet- Gem Theater (Plastic Sax review)
5. Uriel Herman Quartet- Black Dolphin (Plastic Sax review)
6. Ehud Ettun and Henrique Eisenmann- 1900 Building (Plastic Sax review)
7. Bill Frisell, Thomas Morgan and Rudy Royston - 1900 Building (Plastic Sax review)
8. Cyrille Aimée- Folly Theater (Plastic Sax review)
9. L.A. Swing Barons- Californos (Plastic Sax review)
10. Kamasi Washington- The Truman (Plastic Sax review)

Plastic Sax conducted similar exercises in 2017, 2016 (albums and performances), 2015, 2014 (albums and performances), 2013 (albums and performances), 2012, 2011 and 2010.

(Original image of Eddie Moore, Chalis O’Neal and James Ward by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Now's the Time: Julian Vaughn

The Kansas City bassist Julian Vaughn headlines the Gift of Christmas concert at the Gem Theater on Saturday, December 15.  The show is one of 25 of the date’s gigs listed on The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Logan Richardson’s Blues People is selected as the third best jazz album of 2018 by The New York Times’ Giovanni Russonello.

*Violinist Regina Carter is nominated for a Grammy Award for a solo on Karrin Allyson’s new album.  The Count Basie Orchestra’s All About That Basie is nominated for the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.  The complete list of nominations is here.

*Molly Hammer appeared on a television morning show.

*David Basse hails the Jazz Studies program at UMKC for the institution’s student newspaper.

*A press release touts Anita Dixon’s efforts as a cultural heritage strategist.

*The Marcus Lewis Big Band, the Project H and Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 are among the best music of 2018 selections made by the staff of radio station 90.9 The Bridge.

*Chris Burnett lists his favorite albums of 2018.

*Marc Myers takes note of World Gardens, the latest album by the Italian pianist Roberto Magris that features Dominique Sanders, Brian Steever and Pablo Sanhueza.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Lee Rice Epstein- Yesterday, I was going to make an ironic joke about how outré a Count Basie album would be in 2018, and today I saw the Grammy noms, so that's a wrap, folks.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Album Review: Michael Pagán and Greg Carroll- 2+2

The collaboration between vibraphonist Gary Burton and pianist Chick Corea is one of the most spellbinding partnerships in jazz.  Greg Carroll and Michael Pagán conjure similarly appealing- albeit considerably less adventurous- magic on their new album 2+2.

Pagán, one of Kansas City’s most formidable pianists, teaches at Ottawa University.  The fine vibraphonist Carroll is the former CEO of the American Jazz Museum.  Carroll adds marimba, drums and percussion accents to 2+2.  Bass and additional keyboards are provided by Pagán.

The formalists play with assured elegance on graceful tracks like “Hawk Watcher” and “Oak Tree.”  The enchanting spell is broken only on the cringeworthy closing selection “Now’s the Time: To Pay For Jazz.”  Assuming jive voices, the men demand that the people of Kansas City “stop forgetting about the jazz.”  It’s a grating conclusion to an otherwise stately recording.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Now's the Time: The Joe Locke Trio

The ensemble performing at the Blue Room on Saturday, December 8, may be named the Joe Locke Trio, but a fair number of the people in the club will be most excited to catch Marvin “Smitty” Smith.  The venerable drummer will demonstrate his mastery of his instrument with the noted vibraphonist Locke and organist Pat Bianchi.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar lists all of December’s gigs.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City jazz historian Larry Kopitnik and The Kansas City Star’s Mark Davis discussed the travails of the Mutual Musicians Foundation with KCUR’s Steve Kraske.

*Ernest Melton was interviewed by Joe Dimino.  Dimino also shared footage of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s holiday concert.

*Snarky Puppy will perform at Muriel Kauffman Theatre on June 11, 2019.

*A Bay Area musician is seeking funding for a project titled Visions of Kansas City.

*Tweet o’ the Week: KPGZ-lp 102.7FM- More variety on the radio starts this weekend! If you like good jazz, you'll want to check out Neon Jazz with Joe Dimino. Sundays at 7pm on 102.7FM #CommunityRadio #KearneyMO #ClayCountyMO #KPGZ #Jazz #SmallTownBigSound

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Zero Tolerance for Silence

My feelings are hurt.  Pat Metheny, the Lee’s Summit native who created the intoxicating music that served as a primary gateway drug into my unhealthy obsession with jazz, hasn’t performed inside the city limits of Kansas City in more than six years.  Although he tours relentlessly in a variety of configurations, Metheny repeatedly snubs Kansas City.  I blame Topeka.  Less than 400 people attended a 2014 concert by the Pat Metheny Unity Group at the 2,400-capacity Topeka Performing Arts Center.  (By point of comparison, I reviewed a sold-out Metheny concert at a 2,800-capacity Italian venue in 2010.)  He hasn’t been back since.  Not only does Metheny’s prolonged absence since the Topeka debacle reflect poorly on the greater Kansas City area, it’s compelled me to consider a trek to the comparatively cosmopolitan metropolis of Savannah, Georgia, in March.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)