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.)

Friday, November 30, 2018

Now's the Time: Adam Larson

The New York based saxophonist Adam Larson will perform at Green Lady Lounge on Sunday, December 2, and at Black Dolphin on Monday, December 3.  Larson’s fourth album Second City was released by Greg Osby’s Inner Circle Music label last year.  All of December’s bookings are compiled at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Ernest Melton participated in The Kansas City Star’s weekly Star Sessions on Monday.  Here’s his interpretation of “Christmas Time is Here”.

*Lonnie McFadden is featured on a 74-minute podcast hosted by Joel Nichols.

*A writer for Vogue characterizes Green Lady Lounge and the Mutual Musicians Foundation as “effortlessly cool” in a much-discussed travelogue.

*Tracks by Peter Schlamb and Logan Richardson were selected in a best-of-2018 show on 90.9 The Bridge.

*Tweet o’ the Week: GreenLadyLounge- Rain, shine or BLIZZARD Green Lady Lounge has Live Kansas City Jazz 365 days a year. Music starts at 6pm today with: Wire Town 6pm-10pm Followed by RSS Trio 10:30pm-2:30am

*From a press release for Jazz Carolfest at Community Christian Church: ...This year we will be celebrating the 23rd year of this annual tradition benefitting Week of Compassion on Sunday, December 2nd at 4:00 p.m… This year’s stellar performances will include the return of Millie Edwards, Diane “Mama” Ray and the 3 Trails West Trio along with the diverse and exceptional talents of Misha Roberts, Calvin Arsenia, Missy Koonce, Charles Williams, Terry Swope, Adam Bender, Jameson Mair & Victor & Penny! Also rounding out the show will be the return of the sensational house band with Jazz veterans Tim Whitmer, Rod Fleeman, Jurgen Welge, James Albright, Jim Mair, Stan Kessler & Chris Hazelton.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

EP Review: Peter Shlamb- Electric Tinks

I equated Kansas City jazz with Jay McShann when I came of age during the Reagan administration.  Kevin Mahogany seemed to personify the sound of the city in the ‘90s.  Bobby Watson dominated the decade after he returned to Kansas City in 2000 to become UMKC’s Director of Jazz Studies. 

The most compelling sound of the past few years is the amplified vibraphone played by Peter Schlamb.  His new EP Electric Tinks is a worthy successor to his stunning 2014 release Tinks.  It’s my understanding that Schlamb is joined by saxophonists Ben van Gelder, Matt Otto and Logan Richardson, trumpeter Hermon Mehari, bassist DeAndre Manning and drummer Ryan Lee on the 24-minute release, but Schlamb’s plugged-in tones that range from the grating buzz of a modem to the divine sound of a heavenly harp dominate the seven concise selections. 

“Skylar’s View” is among the tracks that mirror the futuristic sound of the Los Angeles based Brainfeeder camp more than the music of Watson, Mahogany or McShann, further evidence that everything’s up to date in Kansas City.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, November 23, 2018

Now's the Time: Thollem McDonas

The experimental keyboardist Thollem McDonas performs at YJ’s on Saturday, December 1.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar lists all of the area’s jazz performances.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The most recent round of ugly legal woes hobbling the Mutual Musicians Foundation are detailed by Mark Davis for The Kansas City Star.

*Laura Ziegler of UMKC reports on the installation of a new board of directors at the embattled American Jazz Museum.

*The inaugural edition of the Listening Room Recording Series is slated for 7 p.m. Sunday, November 25, at Black Dolphin.  A performance by Brian Baggett’s Dojo will be recorded for playback on Green Lady Radio (and possibly a release on vinyl).  The three-hour session that’s designed to capture a “live concert feel” is free and open to the public.

*Ernest Melton is featured by the Johnson County Library.

*The Joe Locke Trio featuring Pat Bianchi and Marvin “Smitty” Smith will perform at the Blue Room on Saturday, December 8.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Josh Hurst- I'm a late arriver to this one, but Logan Richardson's Blues People is one of the wildest, woolliest, and gnarliest jazz records of the year-- powerful in how it hauls well-trod conventions into the present day.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Album Review: Ernest Melton- The Time of the Slave Is Over

Ernest Melton has arrived.  After years of raving about the young Kansas City saxophonist without much tangible corroboration of my enthusiasm, I was beginning to think my advocacy was misplaced. 

The Time of the Slave Is Over- Melton’s second release of 2018- indicates that his potential has been realized.  Filled with righteous fury, the album acts as a dangerously disruptive undercurrent in the tranquil sea of civility that dominates Kansas City’s jazz scene.

Much like Blues People, the most recent statement by the divisive Kansas City saxophonist Logan Richardson, the unpolished The Time of the Slave Is Over is loud and abrasive.  There’s nothing polite or accommodating about the confrontational album.  Even the ballads possess lacerating edges.

The aggressive funk accents provided by bassist DeAndre Manning and drummer Brad Williams cause The Time of the Slave Is Over to resemble the brash work of the London based innovator Shabaka Hutchings more than the calibrated bop of the hometown hero Bobby Watson.  Melton has thrown down the gauntlet.  Will his peers in Kansas City accept the challenge?

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Now's the Time: trioKAIT

Kait Dunton, a Los Angeles based pianist and former member of Snarky Puppy, will perform with trioKAIT at Black Dolphin on Thursday, November 15.  The Kansas City Jazz Calendar lists all of the area’s jazz performances.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Star reports on the latest developments in the reorganization of the American Jazz Museum.

*Marilyn Maye’s concert at Yardley Hall was documented by Joe Dimino.

*Take Five Music Productions will present Thollem McDonas at YJ’s Snack Bar on Saturday, December 1.  A $10 donation will be requested at the door.  The New Jazz Order Big Band Reunion featuring Ellington's Nutcracker will transpire at the Martin Event Space in Martin City. on Sunday, December 9.  The cover charge for adults is $15.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Frank Boal- I hope I have the energy this international icon and legend has when I'm 90!! The incomparable Marilyn Maye!! What a show tonight at the Carlson Center on JCCC campus. Wow, just wow!! She performed for an hour and a half and brought the house down.

*From a press release: Internationally-recognized jazz leader Dan Thomas has been named Executive Director of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, the group’s Board of Directors has announced.  Thomas, who has called Kansas City his home for nearly 20 years, the last 18 of which he served as a faculty member and administrator leading the Jazz Studies program at UMKC’s Conservatory of Music, is a well-known performer, composer, recording artist, educator and jazz leader in Kansas City and internationally.

*From a press release: The Carlsen Center at Johnson County Community College will present the Angela Hagenbach Quintet on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. in Polsky Theatre.  Hagenbach has been a jazz icon on the Kansas City scene for nearly three decades... Performing with her on Dec. 2 are Roger Wilder, piano; Danny Embrey, guitar; Tyrone Clark, bass; and Michael Warren, drums.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Album Review: OJT- New Originals for the Green Lady

“Lamanai”, the stellar track that opens New Originals for the Green Lady, suggests that the Kansas City trio OJT has developed an intriguing new approach to organ jazz.  Organist Ken Lovern twines the styles of prog-rock keyboardists like Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson with the approaches of jazz giants such as Jimmy McGriff and Richard “Groove” Holmes.  Guitarist Brian Baggett and Kevin Frazee help Lovern gradually morph “Lamanai” from rock pomp into a Southern rock jam worthy of the Allman Brothers Band.

Alas, OJT backtracks from the bold opening salvo.   The subsequent selections on its fourth album New Originals for the Green Lady are in the established organ jazz traditions that range from vintage Jimmy Smith through John Scofield’s collaborations with Medeski Martin & Wood.  While not particularly innovative, the final seven tracks are unflaggingly groovy. 

It’s the kind of feel-good party music associated with Green Lady Lounge.  OJT honed the uncommon cohesion it demonstrates on New Originals for the Green Lady by playing at Kansas City’s most successful jazz venue every Wednesday for years.  On “Lamanai,” however, OJT transcends those influences to forge a fresh new sound, a breakthrough that the group would do well to pursue on its next recording.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, November 9, 2018

Now's the Time: Marilyn Maye

One of the most astonishing things about Marilyn Maye is that her current artistry is superior to her appealing performance in this 48-year-old television appearance.  Jon Niccum interviewed Maye for The Kansas City Star in advance of her appearance with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra at Yardley Hall on Sunday, November 11.  All of the area’s gigs are listed at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Brian Scarborough and Chris Hazelton chatted with Joe Dimino.

*A brief preview about Marilyn Maye’s forthcoming concert at Yardley Hall is among The Kansas City Star’s weekly concert recommendations.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Linda Bowlen- Our fundraiser @TheFollyTheater w/ @realOletaAdams has less than 50 seats remaining! Get online and get yours NOW! #Gospel #JazzLovers #KansasCity #philanthropy #fundraising #historicalplace

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Concert Review: Kamasi Washington at the Truman

 I thought I was about to attend a cosmic jazz recital as I paid $35 to enter the Truman on Monday, October 29.  Instead, I participated in a jam band jamboree. With two drummers, a hippie-chic aesthetic and a penchant for blustery solos, the groove-oriented seven-piece ensemble led by Kamasi Washington resembled the output of the elite jam-oriented group the Tedeschi-Trucks Band.  Rather than mirroring Derek Trucks’ evocation of guitarist John McLaughlin, saxophonist Washington roared like John Coltrane.

Uptempo selections elicited ecstatic dancing amid the audience of more than 500, while subdued material that sounded like heavily amplified variations of A Love Supreme induced peaceful meditation.  Even though it wasn’t quite what I expected, I admired almost everything I heard during the 75 minutes I spent at the show. The presence of keyboardist Brandon Coleman provided a sonic link to Washington’s more electronic-oriented compatriots Flying Lotus and Thundercat.  The cross-disciplinary bassist Miles Mosley anchored the band while the exaltations of vocalist Patrice Quinn aroused mass euphoria.

Cynics who insist that Kansas City is home to many saxophonists who are more technically accomplished than Washington are probably right.  So what? Washington has perfected a maximalist concept that renders scholastic aptitude irrelevant.  Monday’s concert proved that his status as the world’s most popular jazz musician under the age of 40 is entirely warranted.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Now's the Time: The United States Army Field Band

The United States Army Field Band begins a barnstorming tour of the area on Friday, November 2.  Various configurations of the ensemble will perform at the Lied Center, the American Jazz Museum, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the Kansas City VA Medical Center.  Details are available at the band’s site and at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*David Basse cites Steve Caporale, Sam Copeland, Matt Kane, Stephen Martin and Nate Nall as UMKC jazz study musicians to watch in a University News feature.

*Stan Kessler dropped knowledge on KCUR’s Up To Date this morning. 

*An All About Jazz review of Lonnie McFadden’s of Live at Green Lady Lounge suggests the album represents “pure jazz joy.”

*Leslie MacLean, Matt Kane and Ken Lovern were interviewed by Joe Dimino.  Dimino also documented a Halloween-themed concert by a band led by Peter Schlamb.

*New York Voices will perform at Community Christian Church on Tuesday, January 22.  The ensemble will also present a masterclass at Kansas City Kansas Community College on Wednesday, January 23rd.

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar contains a thorough listing of November’s jazz bookings.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Terry Teachout- Here's my insider's perspective: any jazz bassist who gets work is loose BY DEFINITION. I place in evidence this snapshot of myself when young at a Kansas City jam session: (photo)

*From a press release: On Thursday, November 8, at 8:30 p.m., the David Basse Trio will present a free concert with vocalist & pianist John Bauers at Knuckleheads Saloon.  John Bauers is a Kansas City native who has lived and performed in the New York area for over 30 years. John won an Emmy for his composing on “Mercerville” and has released five CDs as a pianist and vocalist. He is the front man for New York’s best little big band Swingadelic.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Concert Review: The Will Matthews Quintet at Open Spaces

I didn’t detect a trace of irony in Dan Cameron’s introduction for the Will Matthews Quintet’s performance at Swope Park on Saturday, October 20.  Cameron, the artistic director of the Open Spaces festival, insisted that “Kansas City is a jazz town.”  The ten people who showed up for the free show were outnumbered by Open Spaces staffers, volunteers and craft vendors. 

Matthews reminded the members of the intimate gathering that he’s played guitar with the Count Basie Orchestra for the last 22 years during a set that opened with an interpretation of “In a Mellow Tone.”  The sentiment expressed in the title of the Duke Ellington composition encapsulates Matthews’ accommodating swing.

Trombonist Louis Neal, keyboardist Matt Villinger and drummer Clarence Smith matched Matthews’ unhurried approach.  The woefully undervalued saxophonist Charles Perkins had other ideas.  Perkins’ intense evocation of Eric Dolphy averted any sense of routine complacency in the lightly attended but enormously satisfying outing.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Now's the Time: Kamasi Washington at the Truman

The condescending ways in which many jazz purists dismiss Kamasi Washington act as a contrary indicator of his artistic merit.  The saxophonist, bandleader and composer has cultivated an enthusiastic following among members of the indie-rock and hip-hop communities.  Washington’s appearance at the Truman on Monday, October 29, is the jazz event of the year for hundreds of people who have no interest in internecine jazz conflicts.  Hundreds of less contentious performances are listed at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The locally based pianist Addison Frei is a semifinalist in The Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition.

*Pat Metheny, pianist Gwilym Simcock, bassist Linda Oh and percussionist Antonio Sánchez perform with the San Diego Symphony on Saturday, October 27.  Metheny discussed the concert with George Varga of The San Diego Union Tribune.

*Here’s footage of Gamelan Genta Kasturi’s interpreting Sun Ra’s “Angels and Demons at Play” in Kansas City last weekend.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Dominique Sanders- Chicago!!!! Playing at Constellation Chicago with Logan Richardson 830pm show and 945pm!!! See you guys tonight!

*From a press release: The next event in Lori Chandler’s Take Five Music Productions- Tink or Treat: Peter Schlamb Electric Tinks CD Release Party: Peter is an outstanding vibraphonist from St. Louis who lives full time in Kansas City, but plays all over the world. His Electric Tinks project is a whole new twist on jazz featuring Peter on pedal-enhanced vibraphone. This event is a true party with a costume contest to boot. Opening support from DJ Reach and The Cur3.  Sunday, October 27 at the Brewhouse at Brewery Emperial. 7pm. $10 cover charge at the door.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Concert Review: Erykah Badu at the Sprint Center

Things began to look up when Erykah Badu fell down at the Sprint Center on Friday.  I sensed a glimmer of hope as the headliner continued singing while lying prone on the stage after tripping over the curtain that had been dropped shortly after her performance began at 11:40 p.m.

Up to that moment, my $46.50 ticket- the least expensive seat for the Fountain City Blues & Jazz Festival that was slated to begin at 8 p.m.- had purchased nothing but disappointment.  CeeLo Green’s set was discombobulated.  Goodie Mob was pedestrian, a “comedian” told recycled jokes and an R&B vocalist repeatedly shouted “f--- that n-----.”  The concert's promoter had the gall to announce his candidacy for the City Council of Kansas City in the midst of the mess.  When the restless audience of more than 4,000 took up a chant of “Badu” after 11 p.m., an emcees ridiculed them before snapping “calm down, god damn it.”

Only a miracle could had salvaged the debacle.  And that’s just what occurred.  Badu admitted that “I fell down for real” as stagehands helped her to her feet.  From that moment on, she and her large band were transcendent.

As she conducted the musicians with the severity of Buddy Rich, Badu sounded like Billie Holiday singing over a keyboard-dominated remix of Miles Davis’ 1972 album On the Corner.  Otherworldly versions of hits like “Window Seat,” “Didn’t Cha Know” and “On & On” were less neo-soul than 21st century jazz.  The spell was broken only when when the house lights were abruptly switched on in the middle of a song at 12:37 a.m.

“That was Satan himself” Badu suggested of a rare “bad groove” during her hour-long outing.  Perhaps.  Her appearance at the Sprint Center was a radiant slice of heaven during a night that was otherwise a heaping helping of concert-going hell.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Now's the Time: Erykah Badu at the Sprint Center

As an astute writer suggests in a concert preview for The Kansas City Star, Erykah Badu exemplifies the creative spirit of Billie Holiday.  Badu tops the bill of the Fountain City Blues & Jazz Festival at the Sprint Center on Friday, October 19.  The trumpeter Keyon Harrold is among the jazz-adjacent musicians accompanying Badu in the embedded video.  Dozens of additional weekend gigs are listed at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Hermon Mehari chatted with KCUR’s Chuck Haddix.

*The editorial board of The Kansas City Star suggests that the “status quo at the American Jazz Museum is unacceptable.”

*Seven minutes of footage of last night’s concert by Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom was shared by Steve Paul.

*Mike Corrigan's instrument and instrument repair business is the subject of a two-minute feature created by NBC News.

*John Kizilarmut was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*The season debut of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra was documented by Joe Dimino.

*Clint Ashlock is quoted in a The New York Times story about the mania surrounding Patrick Mahomes, the young quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs.

*Tweet o’ the Week: SpinningTreeTheatre- Jazz Great Angela Hagenbach Headlines Spinning Tree Sings! Cabaret Fundraiser. Mon Nov 12 @ 7:30pm, Just Off Broadway. Roger Wilder, Piano. Tyrone Clark, Bass. Michael Warren, Drums

(Original image of a men's bathroom in Arrowhead Stadium at Saturday's Ed Sheeran concert by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, October 15, 2018

Concert Review: The Vijay Iyer Sextet at the Gem Theater

At the outset of his performance at the Gem Theater on Sunday, Vijay Iyer told the 75 members of the audience that he had an out-of-body experience at the Mutual Musicians Foundation earlier in the day. For the next 90 minutes, my $20 ticket allowed me to travel over the moon and through the stars via the transporting sound of the all-star sextet led by one of the most decorated artists in jazz.

Initially slated to be held at the 8,000-seat Starlight Theatre as the third and final installment of the Open Spaces festival’s showcase concert series, weather considerations necessitated the change in location for the show’s headlining act. The brisk temperature and unrelenting precipitation were a blessing in disguise. Iyer drew about 250 people to his previous Kansas City appearance at the Folly Theater in 2012. A quintet led by Hermon Mehari opened Sunday’s show.

Profound, revelatory and experimental without ever seeming forced, the playing of keyboardist Iyer, Graham Haynes on flugelhorn and electronics, saxophonists Steve Lehman and Mark Shim, bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Jeremy Dutton evoked the 90-year-old recordings of Louis Armstrong’s band even during the most adventurous explorations. Footage of the year’s most exemplary concert of improvised instrumental music streams here and here.

(Original images by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Now's the Time: The Vijay Iyer Sextet

The Weekend, the signature event of the Open Spaces festival, consists of three concerts at Starlight Theatre.  Janelle Monáe and the Roots, the headliners of the first two shows, are depicted on a billboard on the east side of downtown Kansas City.  Vijay Iyer, the brilliant jazz artist who leads a sextet at the venue on Sunday, October 14, isn’t pictured.  Open Spaces provides few details about the pianist’s show, but Iyer’s site informs fans that he’ll be joined by an all-star band.  Graham Haynes will play cornet, flugelhorn and trumpet.  Saxophonists Steve Lehman and Mark Shim, bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Jeremy Dutton round out the lineup.  A complete survey of area jazz performances is available at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Now's the Time: Weekly News & Notes

*Tim Finn reports on Lori Chandler’s new Take Five Music Productions endeavor.

*Calvin Wilson wrote a profile of Doreen Maronde for KC Studio.

*The Marcus Lewis Big Band’s appearance at the Open Spaces festival was documented by David Basse for University News.

*Winners in The Pitch’s annual poll include Green Lady Lounge (Best Blues Venue, Best Jazz Venue and Best Nightclub), Molly Hammer (Best Jazz Artist), A La Mode (Best Jazz Band) and the Kansas City Kansas Street Blues Festival (Best Jazz Event).

*Tweet o’ the Week: Kauffman Center- Don't miss The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s season-opener “Autumn In New York” on Oct. 12 at the Kauffman Center. The performance will feature classic charts by Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, and more! Tickets: (link)

*From a press release: New Originals for the Green Lady is the fourth album length release by the Kansas City group OJT (organ jazz trio).  This release features original compositions by Ken Lovern and Brian Baggett and one completely improvised piece titled Back Yard Improv Jam.  New Originals is the follow up album to New Standards for the Green Lady, a 2015 release that gave the group’s unique organ jazz treatment to pop tunes of the last few decades.  OJT now makes a more unique and personal musical statement with a full length album of original music.  Both of these releases feature Ken Lovern on hammond organ, Brian Baggett on guitar, and Kevin Frazee on drums… New Originals will be available on November 7, 2018 in collectible green vinyl, traditional black vinyl, CD, and downloads… OJT plays at Green Lady Lounge every Wednesday and Saturday, so if you are in Kansas City there are plenty of chances to catch the group.

*From a press release: The Carlsen Center at Johnson County Community College presents its ninth year of Winterlude, spotlighting jazz in full-length evening performances. The 2018-2019 season kicks off with Marilyn Maye, “90 at Last,” featuring the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. in Yardley Hall… Local groups playing in the Winterlude series include: Angela Hagenbach Quintet: Dec. 2; Eddie Moore and Pamela Baskin-Watson: Jan. 20; Hot Club KC: Feb. 24; Cubanisms: March 17. These performances will take place at 7 p.m. in the Carlsen Center Polsky Theatre.

(Original image from a festival in Kentucky by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Concert Review: Ramsey Lewis and Urban Knights at the Folly Theater

Ramsey Lewis and Urban Knights got off to a rough start at the Folly Theater on Thursday, September 27.  Guitarist Henry Johnson, keyboardist Tim Gant, bassist Joshua Ramos and drummer Charles Heath stubbornly laid down an unrelenting funk groove as Lewis attempted to play a delicate improvisation on acoustic piano in an awkward interpretation of “Tequila Mockingbird.”  I feared that I’d spent $20 to watch an evening of musicians working at cross-purposes.

Even though the soul-jazz giant, 83, and his bandmates eventually found common ground in their 90-minute performance, Lewis’ unaccompanied playing on versions of John Coltrane’s “Dear Lord” and the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” provided the show’s most memorable moments.  Lewis’ unaccompanied excursions indicated that while his body may move slowly, his mind is as facile as ever.

After encouraging the audience of about 600 to clap along during the encore, Lewis jokingly snarled when they persisted.  His physical comedy was mirrored by the Urban Knights.  Each man elicited laughter at least once with amusing musical gags.  I’ve seen Lewis perform several times in recent years, but his usual closing flurry of the hits “Sun Goddess,” “Wade in the Water” and “The ‘In’ Crowd” never fails to give me goosebumps.  If Lewis returns to Kansas City in 2019, I’ll be there to greet him.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Now's the Time: John Petrucelli

John Petrucelli likens his sound to current jazz heavyweights like Donny McCaslin.  The lofty comparison isn’t unwarranted.  Petrucelli, the Director of Jazz at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma, demonstrates his brawny sound and big imagination on his new album Presence.  He’ll lead a band in the Orion Room at the Green Lady Lounge on Monday, October 8, and next door at Black Dolphin on Tuesday, October 9.  The saxophonist’s gigs are among the listings at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Lonnie McFadden’s Live at Green Lady Lounge was enthusiastically reviewed by Jazz Weekly.

*Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom will perform at Musical Theater Heritage on Tuesday, October 16.

*Kait Dunton, the former keyboardist for Snarky Puppy, will lead a trio at Black Dolphin on Thursday, Nov. 15.

*Joe Dimino shares glimpses of Stephen Martin’s recent performance at RecordBar.  He also chatted with Molly Hammer.

*The 56-page program for the 2018-19 season of the Folly Theater Jazz Series lists the lineups for the forthcoming concerts.  I’m republishing them as a public service.  Larry Carlton Quintet, October 12: Larry Carlton, guitar; Gary Novak, drums; Travis Carlton, bass; Bob Reynolds, saxophone; Mark Stevens, keyboard; The Yellowjackets, January 18: Russell Ferrante, piano; Will Kennedy, drums; Dane Alderson, bass; Bob Mintzer, tenor saxophone; Kandace Springs, February 15: Kandace Springs, keyboard/vocals; Chris Gaskell, bass; Connor Parks, drums; Kurt Elling Quintet, March 9: Kurt Elling, vocals; Stu Mindeman, piano; Clark Sommers, bass; Adonis Rose, drums; Joshua Redman Quartet, April 11: Joshua Redman, saxophone; Aaron Goldberg, piano; Reuben Rogers, bass; Gregory Hutchinson, drums; Arturo Sandoval, April 27: Arturo Sandoval, trumpet; John Belzaguy, bass; Tiki Pasillas, percussion; Michael Tucker, saxophone.

*A blogger documented an area performance by Lonnie Holley and Nelson Patton.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Gravy Jones- Jazz in the restroom at the Kansas City zoo is just perfect.

*Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated with October’s gigs.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Concert Review: Mezzo String at Polsky Theatre

Ryan Lee conducted a disheartening exercise at Mezzo String’s free noontime concert at Polsky Theatre on Tuesday, September 25.  Only a few hands went up when the bandleader asked which members of the audience of almost 100 were younger than 30.  A few more responded when asked if they were younger than 40.  About a dozen additional people acknowledged that they were in their forties.  Even though it’s held on the campus of Johnson County Community College, the Jazz Series attracts retirees rather than students.

And truth be told, Mezzo String’s highly refined chamber jazz is more likely to appeal to people with naturally gray hair than to students who opt to dye their hair purple.  Lee, one of Kansas City’s most dynamic drummers, seamlessly meshes jazz musicians and a string quartet in Mezzo String.  While he and his bandmates are young, their cultivated sound never threatened to unsettle even the most conservative old-timers in the audience.  Every one of the old folks was probably already familiar with the melodies on interpretations of “Lush Life” and “My One and Only Love.”  A reading of the former standard served as a vehicle for trumpeter Nate Nall, while the later selection was played by the ensemble’s string quartet and bassist Ben Leifer.

The tone of two or three original compositions matched the genteel sensibility.  Lee insisted that the three soloists “go wild” on an interpretation of Joe Locke’s “Her Sanctuary.”  The mandate pushed the straight-laced pianist Roger Wilder out of his comfort zone to excellent effect and allowed Nall and violinist Coleen Dieker to do what comes naturally to them.  Lee noted that he’d heard and participated in “a lot of great concerts” at Polsky Theatre.  He can add last week’s distinguished show to that list.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Now's the Time: Lonnie Holley

Lonnie Holley isn’t necessarily a jazz artist, but his new album Mith features contributions from the jazz-adjacent ensemble Nelson Patton and is imbued with an improvisatory spirit.  The celebrated eccentric who received a positive notice at Pitchfork today performs in Swope Park at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, September 29, as part of Open Spaces.  The free show is one of more than 30 of the day’s gigs listed at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Stan Kessler shares an anecdote about a celebrity encounter with Joe Dimino.

*Harry Connick Jr. will perform at the Midland theater on Wednesday, December 19.

*Tweet o’ the Week: The CUR3- The Mayor approves..... That's a Major 🔑 TheCUR3 is ready to take over! #God1st #Family #Music #Life #mayorofkansascity #Chicago #stlouis #kansascity(photo)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Concert Review: James D’s Nouveau Noir at Open Spaces

The first of two free musical performances presented by Open Spaces in Swope Park on the afternoon of Saturday, September 22, was promoted with a jazz hashtag.  Even though James D, a.k.a. James Christos, is a Kansas City rapper who once held next-big-thing status, I had no reason to doubt the categorization.  Christos is currently associated with the Mutual Musicians Foundation and the hallowed jazz institution’s low-power radio station KOJH.

A few minutes before the Nouveau Noir performance began, a woman at Christos' merch booth told me that if I liked jazz, I’d like the show.  I was further encouraged when jazz-oriented musicians including drummer Tyree Johnson took the stage.  I was let down.

The program Christo described as a “sound journey” was intended to convey the totality of the black American experience.  It included segments of African drumming, poetry, interpretive dance, R&B and an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.”  Yet it was mostly a vehicle for Christos’ rapping.  At one point in the 90-minute performance for an audience of 50, Christos introduced a selection as “a little bit of a jazzy thing.”  Nope.  He rapped that he was “feeling myself” over a neo-soul groove instead.

Misrepresenting music as “#jazz” is a minor infraction.  The inconsistent quality of the show was a more serious misdeed.  I’ve heard most members of the band play far more compelling music.  I’ve also witnessed Christos rap with stunning ferocity.  The overly solicitous Nouveau Noir review catered to the sorts of middle-aged do-gooders who proudly display “Celebrate Diversity” bumper stickers on their hybrid vehicles.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 21, 2018

Now's the Time: Ramsey Lewis

The embedded video documents an unbearably cringey television appearance by a band led by Ramsey Lewis.  An appallingly disrespectful and absurdly incongruous dance troupe shimmies through renditions of the crossover hits “The ‘In’ Crowd” and “Hang On Sloopy.”  Lewis and his Urban Knights ensemble perform at the Folly Theater on Thursday, Sept. 27.  The show is one of the evening’s 16 gigs listed at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*David Basse extols Stan Kessler in the University News.

*Millie Edwards was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Max Bennett, a jazz-oriented musician with ties to Kansas City, has died.

*Erykah Badu, an R&B star who channels Billie Holiday, headlines what’s billed as the Fountain City Blues & Jazz Festival at the Sprint Center on October 19.

*Tweet o’ the Week: FOX4 News- Family, friends hold vigil for young father killed last Friday night near 18th and Highland in Kansas City’s Jazz District (link)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)