Sunday, December 29, 2019

Bobby Watson: The Plastic Sax Person of the Decade

The Bobby Watson era in Kansas City is almost over.  The hometown hero transformed the area’s music scene soon after becoming the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2000.  He stepped down this year.

Watson shaped the sound of the city in his own sonic image through his persuasive personality and his astounding talent during his twenty-year tenure.  The dominant sound on Kansas City’s jazz scene will continue to be a variation of the style he characterizes as post-Motown bop for the foreseeable future.

Watson was named the Plastic Sax Person of the Decade in 2009.  He would have earned the same designation in 2019 even if he’d restricted his activities to teaching.

Yet he’s toured incessantly and made dozens of stellar local performances.  Recent additions to his discography include Check Cashing Day (2013), Made in America (2017) and Bird at 101 (2019).  One of his signature compositions is titled “In Case You Missed It,” but Watson’s profound impact on Kansas City is impossible to overlook.

(Original image of Watson by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, December 27, 2019

Now's the Time: Max Groove

Holiday celebrants at the Green Lady Lounge will ring in 2020 to the swinging sound of the Max Groove Organ Trio on New Year’s Eve.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*A library’s jazz program was documented by Joe Dimino.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Chris Burnett- Thanks @BJJansen and @424Lounge The LHS students from the jazz band and an alumnus who now attends Washburn University sat in. They had fun and did really well.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Album Review: Eldar Djangirov- Letter to Liz

I hadn’t realized Bill Evans’ “Waltz for Debby” is a seasonal song in the tradition of “Silent Night.”  And did you know “It Might as Well Be Spring” conveys the somber sentiment of the “What Child Is This”?  Eldar Djangirov’s persuasive Letter to Liz challenges conventional assumptions about jazz standards.  Released without advance notice three days ago, the solo piano album by the former Kansas City resident opens with an interpretation of “Amazing Grace.”  Djangirov’s tender approach to the hymn sets a contemplative tone.  Letter to Liz contradicts Djangirov’s reputation as an excitable pianist prone to excess.  He lets loose only on the final track, an appropriately rousing version of Art Tatum’s “Tiger Rag.”  “Waltz for Debby” and “It Might as Well Be Spring” may not really be holiday songs, but Djangarov’s heavenly release acts as a refreshing balm amid the clamor associated with the final days of December.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Now's the Time: Dave Scott

The New York based trumpeter Dave Scott returns to his old stomping grounds for a couple appearances including a headlining show at RecordBar on Sunday, December 29.  His new album In Search of Hipness is one of the most intriguing releases of the year by a jazz musician affiliated with Kansas City.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Rashida Phillips is the new Executive Director of the American Jazz Museum.  A press release is excerpted below.

*The impetus behind Musicians Appreciation Day is addressed by Gerald Dunn in Luke Martin’s feature for KCUR.

*A performance by Marcus Lewis’ Brass & Boujee is among The Kansas City Star’s lastest concert recommendations.

*Pat Metheny received a honorary degree from the University of Missouri on December 14. (Video stream.)

*Smoke Jazz Club created a promotional video for the recently released Bird at 100 album featuring Bobby Watson.

*Kent Rausch chatted with Joe Dimino.

*Steve Kraske shared a holiday song by Karrin Allyson on KCUR’s Up To Date.

*Harold O’Neal announced the release of his next album.

*Tweet o’ the Week: American Jazz Museum- This Wednesday at 7:00 pm Kansas City Jazz Academy student combos are showcasing their talents on the Gem Theater stage. Check out the link below for more info!

*From a press release: The American Jazz Museum Board of Directors has named Rashida Phillips as the Museum’s executive director, beginning January, 2020. Phillips, an active performer and jazz vocalist, will be leaving her post as senior director, community ventures at the Old Town School of Folk Music, in Chicago, Ill., where she oversees the school’s community-based education programs.  Phillips was born and raised in St. Louis. Her previous experience includes director of education and youth initiatives at the Chicago Humanities Festival, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, the Merit School of Music, and the Chicago Children’s Museum. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and a Master’s in Jazz Studies from Rutgers University…. Ralph Caro, who has served in the interim executive director position since March 2019, will assist Phillips with the transition.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Logan Richardson: The Plastic Sax Person of the Year

The most encouraging moment of 2019 on Kansas City’s jazz scene transpired at the Ship on September 11.  Several dozen people in their twenties and thirties were transfixed by a band led by Logan Richardson.  As the saxophonist, vibraphonist Peter Schlamb, bassist Dominique Sanders and drummer Ryan Lee locked in on a mesmerizing groove, the sort of rarified sound associated with the innovative jazz hubs of Chicago, Los Angeles and London made an all-too-uncommon appearance in Kansas City.  Long based in Europe, Richardson seemed to spend more time in his hometown in 2019.  He elevated the playing of his contemporaries in his public performances in Kansas City.  He also contributed to Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s Grammy nominated Ancestral Recall album and released the bold track “Her” on December 13.  Plastic Sax has documented Richardson’s ascent for more than ten years.  His designation as the Plastic Sax Person of the Year is overdue.

The previous recipients of Plastic Sax's Person of the Year award are Peter Schlamb (2018), John Scott (2017),  Eddie Moore (2016), Larry Kopitnik (2015), Deborah Brown (2014), Stan Kessler (2013), Doug and Lori Chandler (2012), Jeff Harshbarger (2011), Mark Lowrey (2010) and Hermon Mehari (2009).  Bobby Watson was named the Plastic Sax Person of the Decade in 2009.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Now's the Time: Stanley Clarke

Plastic Sax might not exist without Stanley Clarke.  The bassist’s 1976 radio hit “School Days” enlarged the ears of the author of this blog when he was a child.  The Church of Scientology of Kansas City hosts a free concert by Clarke and Mark Isham on Tuesday, December 17.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Church of Scientology of Kansas City is presenting a free concert by Stanley Clarke and Mark Isham on Tuesday, December 17.  The posted show time is 7 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

*Stephen Martin shared insights into Kansas City’s jazz scene with Live Jazz KC.

*Tim Finn reviewed a concert by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

*The Kansas City Star previewed the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s annual holiday concert.

*Matt Villinger’s “Blue Trance” was hailed as one of the best tracks of 2019 on an episode of the Eight One Sixty radio show.

*Bill Frisell will return to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on March 4, 2020.  (Tip via PF.)

*Tweet o’ the Week: Dominique Sanders- If Spotify went up to 1$ per spin most of the ppl crying would still only come out with 1,200$ at the end of the year

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Plastic Sax’s Favorite Albums and Performances of 2019

Favorite Albums by Kansas City Artists
1. The Sextet- Among Friends (KCUR audio feature.)
2. Matt Villinger- All Day (Plastic Sax review.)
3. Adam Larson- Listen With Your Eyes (Plastic Sax review.)
4. Jay McShann- Live in Tokyo 1990 (KCUR audio feature.)
5. Wing Walker Orchestra- Hazel (Plastic Sax review.)
6. Norman Brown- The Highest Act of Love (Plastic Sax review.)
7. Julian Vaughn- Supreme (Plastic Sax review.)
8. Dave Scott- In Search of Hipness (Plastic Sax review.)
9. Myers Swingset- The State of This City (Plastic Sax review.)
10. Karrin Allyson Sextet- Shoulder to Shoulder: Centennial Tribute to Women’s Suffrage (Plastic Sax review.)

Favorite Albums by Artists From Elsewhere
1. The Art Ensemble of Chicago- We Are On the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration
2. Flying Lotus- Flamagra
3. Kris Davis- Diatom Ribbons
4. Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan- Epistrophy
5. Laura Jurd- Stepping Back, Jumping In
6. G. Calvin Weston- Dust and Ash
7. Matana Roberts- Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis
8. Jaimie Branch- Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise
9. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah- Ancestral Recall
10. Terri Lyne Carrington- Waiting Game

Favorite Performances by Kansas City Artists
1. Logan Richardson’s Blues People- Capsule (Plastic Sax review).
2. The Sextet- RecordBar (Instagram clip.)
3. Bobby Watson & Horizon- White Recital Hall (Plastic Sax review.)
4. Jerry Hahn and Danny Embrey- Recital Hall at the Carlsen Center
5. Matt Otto Quartet- Black Dolphin (Plastic Sax review.)
6. Ben Tervort’s Classically Trained- Westport Coffee House (Plastic Sax review.)
7. Rod Fleeman and Gerald Spaits- Green Lady Lounge
8. Brian Scarborough Quintet- RecordBar (Plastic Sax review.)
9. Peter Schlamb Trio- Capsule (Plastic Sax review.)
10. Guitar Elation- Green Lady Lounge (Instagram clip.)

Favorite Performances by Artists From Elsewhere
1. Aaron Parks’ Little Big- Blue Room (Plastic Sax review.)
2. Ehud Ettun and Henrique Eisenmann- 1900 Building (Plastic Sax review.)
3. Tatsuya Nakatani and Assif Tsahar- 1900 Building (Plastic Sax review.)
4. Snarky Puppy- Muriel Kauffman Theatre (Plastic Sax review.)
5. Stefon Harris & Blackout- Folly Theater (Plastic Sax review.)
6. Ryan Keberle & Catharsis- Mod Gallery (Plastic Sax review.)
7. Der Lange Schatten- Blue Room (Plastic Sax review.)
8. The Chicago Plan- Blue Room (Plastic Sax review.)
9. Tatsuya Nakatani- The Ship (Plastic Sax review.)
10. Joshua Redman Quartet- Folly Theater (Plastic Sax review.)

Plastic Sax conducted similar exercises in 2018, 2017, 2016 (albums and performances), 2015, 2014 (albums and performances), 2013 (albums and performances), 2012, 2011 and 2010.

(Original image of the Peter Schlamb Trio at Capsule by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Now's the Time: The Messthetics

Many longtime associates of the man behind the curtains at Plastic Sax know that the pursuit of a viable fusion of punk and jazz is his white whale.  The Messthetics, the trio of guitarist Anthony Pirog and Fugazi’s rhythm section of Joe Lally and Brendan Canty, come tantalizingly close to achieving a convincing version of that seemingly incongruous synthesis.  Messthetics performs at RecordBar on Tuesday, December 10.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Chris Hazelton chatted with a Canadian journalist.

*The Kansas City Star previewed concerts by Julian Vaughn, the Messthetics and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

*Wynton Marsalis spoke to Patrick Neas in advance of his concert at the Midland theater.

*Wing Walker Orchestra’s Hazel and Joyce DiDonato’s Songplay, albums with ties to Kansas City, are among the 272 titles given a Best Albums of 2019 designation by Downbeat magazine.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Karen Abrams- Hit up a bit of the black music scene at 18th & Vine in Kansas City - jazz, blues and trap music bar/ Raiders Party in one block. Tomorrow is a BBQ spot. Weirdly dope so far.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Concert Review: Logan Richardson’s Blues People at Capsule

“Charlie Parker was trap.”  The declaration was among the provocative statements made by Logan Richardson during a bracing performance at Capsule on Thanksgiving.  An audience of about 60 at the free show heard Richardson, vibraphonist Peter Schlamb, bassist Dominique Sanders and drummer Ryan J. Lee honor the most important musician from Kansas City by advancing Parker’s innovations.  Defiant, confrontational and extremely loud, the plugged-in quartet ingeniously transferred Bird’s vision to a futuristic- and yes, trap-informed- setting.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, November 29, 2019

Now's the Time: Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, the band led by the world’s most famous living jazz musician, returns to the Midland theater on Thursday, December 5.  Vocalist Denzal Sinclaire, pianist Dan Nimmer and baritone saxophonist Paul Nedzela are featured on Carlos Henriquez’s arrangement of “We Three Kings” in the embedded video.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Star noted that Logan Richardson plays on one track of Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s “Ancestral Recall,” a project nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.

*KCUR lists Logan Richardson’s show at Capsule in its weekly arts newsletter.

*The Kansas City Star recommends Matt Villinger’s show at the Blue Room.

*Joe Dimino shares footage of a Kansas City Jazz Orchestra outreach event.

*JazzTimes lists 18 places “where you can find the historical documents of jazz.”  Kansas City institutions don’t make the cut.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Community Christian Church- Join host Tim Whitmer for Community Christian Church's 24th annual Jazz Carol Fest on Sunday, December 8 at 4 p.m. We have a great lineup featuring Kansas City's premier vocalists, including headliner Molly Hammer! Tickets are on sale now!

*From a press release:...Charlie Parker will be honored throughout 2020 with a worldwide celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of his birth (August 29, 1920)... (The) centennial will include a host of major initiatives including exciting new music releases, a tribute tour, festivals and events, prestigious exhibitions, special partnerships, a unique graphic novel, exclusive collectible art, and a myriad of independent appreciations and concerts.

Parker’s longtime label Verve Records… will kick off the yearlong celebration this week with a limited edition vinyl pressing of the rare 12” LP, The Magnificent Charlie Parker, an exclusive release for Record Store Day’s Black Friday… Verve/UMe plan to celebrate Parker with several releases throughout 2020…

Bird’s incredible legacy and immortal music will soar throughout the year with a variety of festivals, concerts, events and an exciting tribute tour.  Sanctioned by the Estate of Charlie Parker, “Fly Higher: Charlie Parker @ 100” features acclaimed co-musical directors Rudresh Mahanthappa (alto saxophone) and Terri Lyne Carrington (drums) as they celebrate the jazz master, one of the most innovative and influential artists in modern musical history and examine his impact in pop, hip-hop, rap, rock and jazz.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Concert Review: Bobby Watson Tribute Concert at White Recital Hall

Mitch Butler dulled the luster of the Bobby Watson Tribute Concert at White Recital Hall before the first note was played on Tuesday, November 19.  The Assistant Teaching Professor at UMKC and the director of one of the two student bands on the bill revealed that additional tributes to Watson would take place on February 28 at Grand Street Cafe and on April 14 at the Folly Theater. 

Most of the friends and family of the three dozen students performing at the concert didn’t flinch.  As one of the dedicated Bobby Watson enthusiasts among the audience of 400 who paid $8 to attend the event in honor of the man who transformed the Kansas City jazz scene during his recently concluded 20-year tenure as the William and Mary Grant/Missouri Distinguished Professor in Jazz Studies at UMKC during the past 20 years, I was startled by the unceremonious tone of Butler’s significant announcement. 

I was still processing the news when the UMKC Jazz Ensemble directed by Aryana Nemeti tore into Rob McConnell’s arrangement of “Just Friends.”  Watson and members of Horizon joined the big band on separate selections.  Witnessing the young men in the trumpet section smile appreciatively as Terell Stafford soloed and guitarist Zak Jonas react to pianist Benny Green’s deft comping with awe was delightful.

A performance by Horizon- this edition of the fabled group consisted of Watson, Stafford, Green, bassist Carroll Dashiell and drummer Victor Lewis- followed.  The good cheer and comradery among the five men was matched by their jubilant form of hard bop.  Knowing that nothing was likely to top Horizon’s 35-minute outing, I left at intermission.  (Horizon setlist: Country Corn Flakes, Heckle and Jeckyl, Falling In Love With Love, E.T.A., outro theme)

(Original image of Benny Green, Carroll Dashiell, Terell Stafford and Bobby Watson by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Now's the Time: Charles Williams

Charles Williams delivers a gospel selection at a Sunday morning worship service in the embedded video.  Eddie V’s will provide an entirely different setting for Williams’ trio on Sunday, November 24.  Details about the in-demand musician’s additional gigs this weekend are here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Ryan Heinlein surveys Kansas City’s jazz scene in Libby Hanssen’s feature for The Pitch.

*On the Lam, a 2010 recording by Todd Wilkinson & The Goombahles, was recently released.

*Joe Dimino documented a performance by Matt Kane and interviewed Jason Goudeau.

*Pat Metheny’s album From This Place will be released by Nonesuch Records on February 21.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Kansas City Latin Jazz Orchestra- Envienos sus consultas acerca de nuestros programas y actividades juveniles (conciertos y clases) para el verano de 2020. Envíe un correo electrónico a nuestro director ejecutivo a para obtener información.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Album Review: The Myers Swingset- The State of This City

The provocative title of The State of This City, the new album by the Myers Swingset, demands a forthright reckoning.  Pianist and bandleader Jackie Myers, saxophonist Mike Herrera, bassist Sam Copeland and drummer Jim Lower provide a high-definition aural snapshot of the music most commonly performed in Kansas City jazz clubs.

Myers’ 2018 album The Instrumental One is an uncommonly hazy document, but the Texas transplant and the three stalwarts of Kansas City’s scene offer a buttoned-down form of jazz on The State of This City.  The album may be unapologetically mainstream, but strong melodies and unfailingly swinging arrangements deter tedium.

Myers is the least assertive member of quartet.  Her largess allows Herrera to sound like one of Cannonball Adderley’s worthiest disciples.  His contribution to the funky “Song for Lydia” is particularly rewarding.  Copeland’s heartfelt bowed solo on “Ice Elation” is a thing of beauty.  Lower is unleashed on “Modal Logic.”  And Myers earns bonus points for the ingenious title of “Ernestly Melting”.

The audience at the live recording is the most troubling aspect of The State of This City.  The lackluster response of what seems to be a couple dozen people at the Green Lady Lounge Black Dolphin sounds as if hostages are being forced to applaud at gunpoint.  Their timidity belies the setting.  Local audiences demand expertly performed straight-ahead jazz.

The State of This City doesn’t contain a single surprise or unexpected turn.  Uniform consistency is also precisely what’s prized at Kansas City’s ballyhooed barbecue restaurants.  It’s indicative of the conservative nature of the region.  The jazz scene looks and sounds much different elsewhere, but adherence to convention and dedication to decorum continue to define the state of this city.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Now's the Time: Jason Marsalis

Jason Marsalis, the younger brother of Branford, Wynton and Delfeayo, performs at the Blue Room on Saturday, Nov 16.  The vibraphonist evokes Milt Jackson in the embedded clip.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Adam Galdblum was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*The State of This City, a new album by the Myers Swingset, was released last week.

*Vewiser Dixon shares his plans for the Jazz District with The Kansas City Star.

*Tweet o’ the Week: 20sJazz- Bennie Moten was born today in Kansas City, Missouri in 1894. Considered the creator of the Kansas City sound, the pianist and bandleader began his recording career playing a regional interpretation of New Orleans jazz with a stomping beat.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Album Review: Matt Villinger- All Day

I still recall the intense look of concentration on the face of Matt Villinger at a 2017 concert by Thundercat.  I reckoned he was simply enjoying the bassist’s groundbreaking combination of jazz, funk and electronic music.  The release of All Day reveals that the Kansas City based musician was plotting an uprising.  Villinger’s second solo album equals- and may even surpass- the quality of Thundercat’s acclaimed 2017 release Drunk.  Joined by vibraphonist Peter Schlamb, trumpeter Hermon Mehari, bassist Nick Jost and drummer Zach Morrow, the keyboardist and vocalist doubles down on the brash sound of his 2015 album All Night.  The hyper-aggressive form of fusion foments a restorative sense of contentedness.  The counterintuitive effect should make All Day the feel-good hit of the winter for everyone fortunate enough to encounter its invigorating grooves.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Now's the Time: Jeanette Harris and Althea René

The inclusive appeal of smooth jazz is immediately apparent in the feel-good music video for “We Are One,” a lively new single by Althea René and Jeanette Harris.  The artists appear at a benefit for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum at the Gem Theater on Saturday, November 9.  Their performance is among The Kansas City Star’s weekly concert recommendations.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The creator of Plastic Sax appeared on Marcus Lewis’ Ask a Jazz Dude show.

*June’s Jazz Club opened at the location of the former Uptown Arts Bar.

*Matt Hopper was interviewed on the Trading Fours podcast.  This sketchy link is apparently the only way to listen.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Beth Tofurky- The constant use of "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas into commercials during @Chiefs broadcasts proves that 1. People still don't know Kansas City is in Missouri 2. The @NFL needs to research the history of jazz. #nfl #Chiefs #18thandvine

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Ask a Jazz Blogger

I’m not entirely sure what’s on the agenda for my appearance on the 58th episode of the Ask a Jazz Dude show.  (12:10 p.m. CST Monday, November 4).  Left to my own devices, I’ll repeat my claim that strictly in artistic terms, jazz is thriving.  The miniscule size of the audience for the music doesn’t diminish its magnificence.

The ambiguity that accompanies obscurity makes defining terms essential when discussing jazz in 2019.  Jazz enthusiasts often unwittingly talk past one another because they have entirely different conceptions of the term.  Perhaps because I’m deeply engaged with all types of music, the jazz I’m most passionate about tends to reflect the tenor of the times.

The following list of my 25 favorite jazz albums released in October is intended to clarify my enthusiasm while demonstrating the abundance of the dynamic improvised music being made today.  Ordered by my personal preference, most of these vital sounds are shunned by pitifully conservative jazz radio programmers and are rarely performed on stages in Kansas City. 

Not only are none of these innovative albums by Kansas City musicians, not a single jazz-based album of any stripe was released by a locally based artist in October.  I hope to address this deficiency on the Ask a Jazz Dude session.

1. Kris Davis- Diatom Ribbons (Oct. 4)
The elevation of Cecil Taylor’s unit structures.

2. Robert Glasper- Fuck Yo Feelings (Oct. 3)
You don’t think this is jazz?  You know what to do with your feelings.

3. Jamie Branch- Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise (Oct. 11)
Jazz musicians with punk attitudes are inestimable.

4. Matana Roberts- Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis (Oct. 18)
Conceptual art-jazz.

5. Roberto Fonseca- Yesun (Oct. 18)
Simultaneously slick and earthy.

6. Bill Frisell- Harmony (Oct. 4)
Pastoral folk-jazz.

7. Mary Halvorson and John Dieterich- A Tangle of Stars (Oct. 25)
Exhilarating guitar skronk.

8. Joshua Redman with Brooklyn Rider- Sun On Sand (Oct. 4)
Third stream thrills.

9. Noah Preminger- Zigsaw: Music of Steve Lampert (Oct. 4)
A bonkers electro-jazz odyssey.

10. Petter Eldh- Koma Saxo (Oct. 4)
European free jazz given a dub treatment.

11. Portico Quartet- Memory Stream (Oct. 4)
Electrifying ambient jazz.

12. Kit Downes- Dreamlife of Debris (Oct. 25)
Contemplative church organ jazz.

13. Esbjörn Svensson Trio- Live in Gothenburg (Oct. 25)
A previously unreleased 2001 concert by the ill-fated group.

14. The Bad Plus- Activate Infinity (Oct. 25)
The trio’s second album with pianist Orrin Evans.

15. Chris Lightcap- SuperBigMouth (Oct. 4)
A double quartet with prog-rock inclinations.

16. GoGo Penguin- Ocean In A Drop (Oct. 4)
Acoustic techno-jazz.

17. Nicholas Payton- Relaxin’ with Nick (Oct. 25)
A (relatively) straight-ahead live set.

18. Tamika Reid Quartet- Old New (Oct. 4)
Bristling ingenuity.

19. Rez Abbasi- A Throw of Dice (Oct. 18)
Beyond time, place and form.

20. Yazz Ahmed- Polyhymnia (Oct. 11)
A British big band tackles unconventional arrangements.

21. Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain and Chris Potter- Good Hope (Oct. 11)
Seamless assimilation.

22. Jan Garbarek and Hilliard Ensemble- Remember Me, My Dear (Oct. 18)
Quintessential ECM Records.

23. Marquis Hill-  Love Tape (Oct. 11)
A smoldering concept album.

24. Gebhard Ullmann- Mikropuls (Oct. 18)
The German free jazz saxophonist performed at the Blue Room in April.

25. Made to Break- F4 Fake (Oct. 18)
An urgent missive from Ken Vandermark.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Now's the Time: The RSS Trio

The RSS Trio works the late shift at Green Lady Lounge on the evening of Friday, November 1.  The young organ trio maintains the same slot on the venue’s schedule through the end of the year.  The group flaunts convention on its new single “Allison”.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Smithsonian published an article about Charlie Parker’s other saxophone.

*Adam Larson was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Steve Paul- This band: @stefonharris and Blackout. Stirring and uplifting concert tonight at @TheFollyTheater in #KC and great convo beforehand along with @MarcCaryMusic and Casey Benjamin (@stutzmcgee). Inspiring in many ways.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Concert Review: Stefon Harris and Blackout at the Folly Theater

Stefon Harris told an audience of about 300 that he and his colleagues intended to “organize vibration into motion” at the Folly Theater on Saturday, October 26.  That’s an alluring notion, but I would have enjoyed the concert even more had the bandleader allowed the members of Blackout to put backfields into motion.

Harris, a master of vibraphone and marimba, kept his New York based band of funk-inclined aces in swing mode.  Multi-instrumentalist Casey Benjamin and drummer Mark Colenburg are members of the groundbreaking Robert Glasper Experiment.  Keyboardist Marc Cary helped the late Roy Hargrove integrate jazz with hip-hop and R&B.  The accomplished bassist Ben Williams is part of Pat Metheny’s Unity Group.

The temperate tone wasn’t entirely surprising.  Blackout’s 2018 album Sonic Creed is a bit bland.  Yet Harris’ melodic gift and winning showmanship almost negated the frustrating absence of  funk.  Even so, a pair of silky Quiet Storm ballads featuring Benjamin on vocoder and keytar were the highlights of the low-key evening.  The selections provided tantalizing hints of how a very good performance might easily have been transformed into the best show of the year.

Setlist: Dat Dere, Gentle Wind, Chasin’ Kendall, Now, Let’s Take a Trip to the Sky, improvisation/It Could Happen to You/Bye Bye Blackbird, For You, The Cape Verdean Blues

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, October 25, 2019

Now's the Time: Laura Taglialatela

The Italian vocalist Laura Taglialatela will perform with her Ropeadope labelmate Logan Richardson at the Blue Room on Friday, October 25.  The spiritual nature of the song in the embedded video reflects the searching tone of her 2018 debut album.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s appearance on Star Sessions is available for streaming.

*The Kansas City Star recommends Laura Taglialatela’s performance at the Blue Room.

*Pat Metheny was named the guitarist of the year in the 84th Annual Readers Poll.

*Carl Tribble has died.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Dominique Sanders- if your a band leader and you call multiple rehearsals and extra stuff for a 100$ gig that leads to nothing else but that gig........ YOU ARE SUPER WEAK hahahah

*From a press release: Jazz Vocalist and Kansas City jazz icon, David Basse, will make a rare appearance in the Kansas City northland on Friday, November 15, when he brings his trio to the Corbin Theater in Liberty, Missouri. For those Kansas City fans who are used to experiencing David's music in clubs & lounges, this performance will showcase his unique talents in a concert, theater setting. The Corbin is a small, 60 seat venue…  Tickets are $15.00.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Album Review: The Karrin Allyson Sextet- Shoulder to Shoulder: Centennial Tribute to Women’s Suffrage

Karrin Allyson doesn’t lack ambition.  The jazz-oriented artist who rose to prominence while based in Kansas City collaborates with an impressive array of prominent friends on her unconventional new project.  Allyson and a core band of trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, saxophonist Mindi Abair, pianist Helen Sung, bassist Endea Owens and drummer Allison Miller are joined by stars including rapper Rapsody, jazz stalwart Kurt Elling, R&B standout Lalah Hathaway, violinist Regina Carter and singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash on Shoulder to Shoulder: Centennial Tribute to Women’s Suffrage.  The performances are impeccable, but the primary purpose of the concept album is edification rather than entertainment.  Anyone who appreciates feminism, Sweet Honey in the Rock and #metoo is certain to be inspired by Allyson’s important history lesson.

(Original image of Karrin Allyson and Houston Person by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Now's the Time: The Casualties of Jazz

Three jazz groups prominently featuring an organ- OJT, Guitar Elation and Matt Hopper’s Organ Trio- will energize patrons of Green Lady Lounge on Thursday, October 17.  A very different organ-oriented group from Los Angeles will perform for unsuspecting rock fans seven blocks away.  The Casualties of Jazz, an organ trio specializing in Black Sabbath covers, will open for the Raconteurs at the Midland theater.  The group interprets the 1970 jam “Fairies Wear Boots” in the embedded video.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Bobby Watson chatted with Brian Ellison on KCUR’s Up To Date.

*The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra received coverage from Joe Dimino, Kansas City Live!, Fox4KC and KMBC last week.

*Molly Hammer discussed her health travails with a television reporter.

*The Kansas City Star previewed concerts by Herb Alpert and Norman Brown.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Steph Irwin- Green lady lounge always lit

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, October 14, 2019

Concert Review: Tatsuya Nakatani at the Ship

For a recital featuring a manic percussionist who blows into cymbals and mercilessly batters small instruments, Tatsuya Nakatani’s appearance at the 1900 Building in April was a remarkably formal affair.  (Plastic Sax review.)

Tucked into a corner of the West Bottoms speakeasy the Ship with keyboardist Shawn E. Hansen, steel guitarist Mike Stover and bassist Jeff Harshbarger, Nakatani gave a pleasingly casual performance with an entirely different sound on Wednesday, October 9.

Saxophonist Assif Tsahar accentuated Nakatani’s sharp edges at the 1900 Building six months ago, but the Kansas City based musicians situated the percussionist’s enormous bag of improvisational tricks in a luxurious bed of hypnotic grooves.  Hansen added surgical slashes of melody, Stover contributed spooky drones and Harbarger provided a vigorous rhythmic pulse. 

What could have been a self-indulgent mess was instead
an exercise in spellbinding minimalism.  I was obligated to leave 45 minutes into the opening jam but I’d like to think the otherworldly quartet didn’t let up for another two hours.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, October 11, 2019

Now's the Time: Benny Golson

It’s astounding that the saxophonist playing alongside Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, Jymie Merritt and Art Blakey in the embedded video from 1958 continues to spread his swinging message in appearances around the world.  Benny Golson, 90, was the hippest, smartest and funniest person in the room during a master class session at Johnson County Community College yesterday afternoon.  He performs with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra at Helzberg Hall on Friday, October 11.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The relevant results of the The Pitch’s annual readers poll follow without comment.  Best Jazz Venue: Green Lady Lounge; Best Blues Venue: Green Lady Lounge; Best Nightclub: Green Lady Lounge; Best Jazz Artist: Lonnie McFadden; Best Jazz Band: A La Mode; Best Jazz Event: Jazzoo; Best Vocalist: Molly Hammer.

*The Kansas City Star recommends the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s  forthcoming concert with Benny Golson.

*In an introduction to an interview with Blair Bryant, the Crazeology podcast suggests that “many people who live here can’t remember the last time they’ve actually listened to the music. Some have never even gone to a performance, even though several clubs have live jazz every night of the week.”

*Tweet o’ the Week: American Jazz Museum- Looking for the perfect space to host your holiday party? Email for more information. The season is filling up quickly!

*From an event’s ticket solicitation: Join us at Greenwood Social Hall for a unique international jazz celebration on Thursday October 10th at 7 pm, presented by Hannover Committee, Sister Cities Association of Kansas City.  The band will swing some classic Kansas City sounds from the songbook of Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton. Special guest Lothar Krist will bring his friends from Hannover Germany and Ghent Belgium to play with Greg Carroll and the crew from Kansas City.  A second performance takes place at Soirée Steak & Oyster House on Saturday, October 12.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Book Review: Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges by Con Chapman

“The birth of one style in an art form generally means the death of another,” Con Chapman declares in his illuminating new biography Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges.  The author is referring to Charlie Parker’s displacement of Hodges as jazz’s preeminent saxophonist.  Parker is revered in his hometown of Kansas City and throughout the world.  Yet his innovations were almost as disruptive to the musical landscape as the Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Chapman laments “the depths of obscurity to which the man who was once one of the most famous saxophonists in the world had fallen.”  His biography is a noble attempt to restore Hodges’ place of importance.  Rabbit’s Blues makes a strong case for Hodges as an essential link between Sidney Bechet and John Coltrane and is a convincing defence of the sensuous swing that Parker rendered unfashionable.

The unapologetically romantic Hodges was rarely cloying.  When considering Hodges’ unlikely album with the “white square” Lawrence Welk, Chapman suggests “one need only compare a latter-day sentimentalist on the soprano sax such as Kenny G to Hodges to detect the difference between emotion used in the service of melody and emotional technique used as superficial decoration, like gingerbread trim on a Victorian house.”

In addition to faithfully documenting the decades Hodges spent as one of the most celebrated members of the orchestras led by Duke Ellington, Chapman paints a vivid portrait of a complicated man who successfully overcame the racial discrimination, music industry misdeeds and substance abuse pandemic associated with his times.

Chapman documents Hodges’ recording sessions in fastidious detail.  Much of Hodges’ most essential work was released under the banner of the Ellington band or with collaborators like Wild Bill Davis.  Tracking down his individual tracks and complete albums on streaming services or music retailers isn’t always easy.  The failure to include a discography in Rabbit’s Blues, consequently, is frustrating.  Yet Chapman’s persuasive case for Hodges’ art is entirely successful.  Bingeing on Rabbit’s timeless recordings caused this appreciative reader to begin to lament Bird’s bop revolution.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Now's the Time: The Branford Marsalis Quartet

It’s possible that the Branford Marsalis Quartet is the best mainstream jazz group in the world.  The embedded video and the ensemble’s latest album The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul demonstrate that the saxophonist, pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner possess spectacular chemistry.  The group performs at the Folly Theater on Friday, October 4.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Sextet uploaded a brief recap of its recent album release show and its Star Sessions appearance (here’s one of four segments) to YouTube.

*The Kansas City Star recommended a concert by the Branford Marsalis Quartet.

*“That’s My Jazz”, the 13-minute documentary about Milt Abel Jr. and his father first mentioned at this site in March, now streams online.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Johnson County Community College- We have your Thursday night plans! Brighten your mood with memorable melodies and toe-tapping jazz and blues from the Midnight Express Jazz Band and Faculty Quintet.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Grand Larson-y

The arrival of Adam Larson on Kansas City’s jazz scene is one of the most momentous developments of 2019.   Am I exaggerating?  Listen With Your Eyes, Larson’s new album on Ropeadope Records, is one of the year’s most exciting mainstream jazz albums. 

Consequently, I was only partly mistaken when I recently asserted that not a single album released in 2019 by a jazz musician based in Kansas City has been reviewed anywhere but Plastic Sax.  Larson and his accomplished New York based cohorts including keyboardist Fabian Almazan, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Jimmy Macbride presumably recorded Listen With Your Eyes in Brooklyn before Larson moved to Kansas City.  Yet I’m now willing to claim it as a Kansas City album.

Something Else raved that Listen With Your Eyes is “stellar” while Stereogum called it “a fierce, stabbing blend of hard bop, funk, and weirdness.”  I concur.  I’m less willing to cosign an All About Jazz review that insists that Larson’s album contains “celebratory music for active intellectuals.”  I’m proof that even a sluggish dullard is capable of relishing Listen With Your Eyes.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, September 27, 2019

Now's the Time: Pablo Masis

The Brooklyn based trumpeter Pablo Masis is touring with guitarist Dave Juarez and bassist Jeff Koch.  The trio will be joined by saxophonist Adam Larson and drummer John Kizilarmut at Westport Coffee House on Monday, Sept. 30.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Jackie Myers pitched her new album in an interview with Joe Dimino.

*Kurt Wheeler discusses societal issues in a StoryCorps segment on NPR.

*Bird at 100, an album featuring Bobby Watson, Vincent Herring and Gary Bartz, will be released by Smoke Sessions Records on November 29.

*A performance by the Boulevard Big Band is documented by Joe Dimino.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Wing Walker Music- I'm delighted to finally perform some brand new "solo" music I've been working on for the last four years featuring saxophone, synths, pedals, and tape loops.

*From the American Jazz Museum: In celebration of John Coltrane's September 23rd birthday, AJM is proud to present a new exhibition, on display through the end of October, 2019… Featured objects in the exhibit include a letter written by Coltrane to Congressman John Conyers, and a telegram sent by Floyd B. McKissick, the National Director of CORE (Congress Of Racial Equality) to Naima Coltrane after the artist's death on July 17th, 1967.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Freed by Free Jazz: The 2019 Chicago Jazz Festival, Part Three

Let me make this clear at the outset of the third and final installment of my analysis of the Chicago Jazz Festival: I’m not unhappy with what’s readily available on Kansas City’s jazz scene.  Instead, I’m deeply frustrated by the infrequency of performances of homegrown progressive sounds and by the apparent boycott of Kansas City by adventurous touring artists.  I’m obligated to leave town to experience much of the music I love.  During my trek to Chicago- my third music-oriented trip of 2019- I verified that the city’s jazz scene is thriving.  Kansas City is stuck in a rut.  Why?

Critical Mass
Chicago’s greater metropolitan area is five times the size of Kansas City.  A performance by an all-star band led by Vijay Iyer can’t sell 100 tickets in Kansas City, but the same group likely to draw 500 paying customers in Chicago.

The ghost of Charlie Parker is an oppressive presence in Kansas City.  Chicago jazz legends like Ramsey Lewis and Roscoe Mitchell are living symbols of innovation.  And Kansas City has no equivalent to the Chicago based AACM.  The improvised music created in each city reflects those dynamics.

The decrepit buildings scattered throughout the Jazz District aren’t the only things crumbling in Kansas City.  Self-inflicted wounds have impaired three of the most prominent Kansas City jazz organizations.  Advocacy groups such as the Jazz Institute of Chicago efficiently coordinate their efforts with like-minded concerns to achieve large-scale successes including the Chicago Jazz Festival.

The Void
Try to find a review of a 2019 album by a locally based jazz musician anywhere but Plastic Sax.  Not one exists.  Yet releases by Chicago artists- especially those by the hugely influential International Anthem Recording Co.- are regularly given serious consideration at prominent outlets including Downbeat, The New York Times and Pitchfork.

If you talk to almost any Kansas City jazz musician for more than five minutes, he or she will bemoan the lack of rooms for unconventional sounds.  In addition to renowned straight-ahead clubs including Andy’s Jazz Club & Restaurant, the Green Mill and Jazz Showcase, Chicago has spaces designed for innovation including Constellation, Elastic Arts and Hungry Brain.

Plastic Sax is the sole forum in Kansas City reporting on jazz every week.  Howard Reich writes extensively about jazz for The Chicago Tribune.  The Chicago Reader is also dedicated to covering the scene. Chicago Jazz Magazine is among the specialty publications.  KKFI- the only viable radio outlet for jazz in Kansas City- plays 15 hours of jazz a week.  Chicago’s WDCB- one of several Chicago stations programming jazz- offers more than 15 hours of jazz every day.

Case Study
On Saturday, September 28, jazz fans in Chicago will attend performances by groundbreaking touring artists including Ambrose Akinmusire, Chico Freeman and Mary Halvorson.  Angel Bat Dawid and Ari Brown are among the Chicago based musicians with international reputations who have hometown shows.  And in Kansas City?  No touring acts are in town, but I highly recommend guitarist Rod Fleeman’s regular matinee gig at Green Lady Lounge.

The first and second parts of this three-part series were published earlier this month.

(Original image of Sam Harris, Ambrose Akinmusire, Harish Raghavan and Justin Brown at the Chicago Jazz Festival by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Now's the Time: Ben Markley

Ben Markley, a Wyoming based pianist from Denver, will perform with trumpeter Hermon Mehari and bassist Bob Bowman at Capsule on Thursday, Sept. 26.  Markley is best known in Kansas City for The Return, his winning 2014 collaboration with Clint Ashlock.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCUR aired an audio feature about Robert Castillo and the Sextet.  The Sextet also performed on The Star Sessions.

*Eddie Moore made an appearance on the weekly Thursdays with Timothy Finn radio show.

*Pat Metheny’s relationship with the Montreal International Jazz Festival is considered by NPR’s Jazz Night in America.  A cranky Australian journalist gets the scoop on Metheny’s next album.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Jewell Omaha- One of Kansas City's best jazz acts brings its sound to the stage at The Jewell Friday, Sept. 27th. Bob Bowman & Bowdog featuring Bob Bowman, Hermon Mehari, Ben Markley, Peter Schlamb, and Brian Steever. A show for true jazz lovers.

(Original image of the Sextet’s album release show at RecordBar by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, September 16, 2019

Freed by Free Jazz: The 2019 Chicago Jazz Festival, Part Two

One of the most prominent figures on Kansas City’s jazz scene insists that his town is home to “the best jazz musicians in the world.”  It’s a lovely thought, but even the staunchest advocates of hometown pride would have been disabused of that notion had they joined me at the Chicago Jazz Festival on Labor Day weekend.  Twenty-two of the 30 jazz acts I heard during my 72 hours in Chicago were locally based.  All but a handful were at least as auspicious as their counterparts in Kansas City.

It’s also worth noting that Camila Meza is the only one of the approximately 500 musicians featured at the festival who have made an appearance in Kansas City this year.  The scarcity of concerts by the world’s most important jazz musicians is a galling reflection of the low demand for their talents in Kansas City.  The following assessments of every set I caught at the Chicago Jazz Festival are ordered by my personal preference.

Friday, August 30

1. The Art Ensemble of Chicago
After catching the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s incendiary outing at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville in March, I was eager to verify my sense that the legendary group led by Roscoe Mitchell truly managed to reassert itself as one of the most essential groups on the planet by expanding its size, sound and repertoire.  Brilliance confirmed!

2. The Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet
The trumpeter- a contender for my favorite musician of the decade- dedicated his set to the late Roy Hargrove.  The simmering playing of Akinmusire, pianist Sam Harris, bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Justin Brown exuded indignant rage.  The sirens of nearby emergency vehicles heightened the sense of urgency.

3. The Juju Exchange
The young Chicago group led by Nico Segal, a.k.a. Donnie Trumpet of Chance the Rapper fame, didn’t play by the rules.  No two selections sounded alike.  In the oddest- and by extension the most exciting moment- guest artist Jamila Woods contributed to an exuberant interpretation of Chris Tomlin’s Contemporary Christian Music standard “How Great Is Our God”.

4. Joel Ross
I’m still dizzy.  The young vibraphonist is so disconcertingly quick that my Instagram clip appears to be in fast motion.  Far more than a showcase of accelerated chops, Ross and his band married the sophisticated elegance of the Modern Jazz Quartet with the 21st century beats of J Dilla.

5. George Freeman and Billy Branch
The venerable Chicago blues harpist Billy Branch’s recollection that he first encountered the blues when he heard Willie Dixon at the Chicago Blues Festival in 1969 was the sole moment in the set in which he was paired with the 92-year-old guitarist George Freeman that wasn’t entirely bonkers.  The men were joined by an interpretive dancer and a woman who exhorted the audience to chant “George the bomb.”  I happily obliged.

6. After Dark
Although it’s billed as a Von Freeman tribute band, the Chicago group After Dark played a set of prime Kansas City jazz that included jumping readings of Lester Young’s “Every Tub,” Charlie Parker’s “Quasimodo” and Mary Lou Williams’ “Mary’s Waltz.”

7. The Metropolitan Jazz Octet featuring Dee Alexander
While the Chicago fixture Dee Alexander has a fine voice and a vibrant personality, I was floored by the ingenious in-house charts played by the Metropolitan Jazz Octet.

8. The Miguel de la Cerna Trio
The Chicago pianist works in the elegant vein of Oscar Peterson.

Saturday, August 31

1. Jeremy Cunningham’s The Weather Up There
I’ve long admired the undefinable Chicago band Tortoise.  Drummer Jeremy Cunningham’s Chicago band featuring Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker flaunted similarly futuristic sounds.

2. Christian McBride's New Jawn
As if watching the transcendently powerful Nasheet Waits in action wasn’t enough, bassist McBride, saxophonist Marcus Strickland and trumpeter John Evans matched the genius of my favorite drummer.

3. Cécile McLorin Salvant
The profoundly imaginative vocalist makes most of her peers seem like dullards.

4. The AACM’s Great Black Music Ensemble
I left the festival grounds to catch the AACM’s Great Black Music Ensemble at Fred Anderson Park two miles south of Millennium Park.  The ramshackle (an unidentified but remarkable young keyboardist excepted) group of venerable elders and unconversant understudies were conducted by a furiously demonstrative bandleader.  Although the troupe resembled a minor league version of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, their sincerity was deeply moving.

5. Ryan Cohan's Originations
The Chicago based Ryan Cohan explained that he was “born of an Arab and a Jew” as he presented his Originations suite.  The masterful Third Stream outing by the ten-piece ensemble was slightly sinister.

6. Ben Wendel's Seasons
I expected the outing by saxophonist Ben Wendel, guitarist Gilad Hekselman, pianist Sullivan Fortner, bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Kendrick Scott to be my favorite set of the festival.  Yet after I was struck by Wendel’s passing resemblance to a young David Sanborn and his similar form of studied showmanship, I couldn’t get past the notion that Wendel, like Sanborn, is able to recognize and exploit the leading edge of the current sonic landscape.  I felt as if I’d been duped.

7. The Andy Brown Quartet
Imagine John Pizzarelli without the showbiz razzle-dazzle.  That’s the impeccably tasteful Chicago guitarist Andy Brown.

8. The Chris Madsen Quartet
The Chicago saxophonist sounds exactly like a buttoned-down member of a prestigious university’s jazz faculty.

9. Carolyn Fitzhugh
Brunch music.

10. The ChiArts Honors Jazz Combo

Sunday September 1

1. The Eddie Palmieri Sextet
Frail and understandably blue, Eddie Palmieri was grieving the death of his wife when I caught him at the Blue Note in 2017.  Palmieri was clearly in the mood to party in Chicago.  He moaned with the primal passion of a young lover and grunted with the don’t-give-a-damn indifference of an authoritative star.

2. Ben LaMar Gay
A skeptical announcer dismissively introduced the experimental Chicago artist Ben LaMar Gay as a performer of “real, real artistic music.”  As if in response to the hater, Gay suggested that he and his band intended to “make a sound and be curious together.”  Gay is one of the transgressive Chicago musicians who is breathing new life into jazz.  He recalled that his brothers bullied him at the Chicago Jazz Festival when he was seven.   “The songs that you’re hearing are the songs my brothers sung to me about getting the last piece of chicken,” Gay said.  “If they sound kind of weird, they should be.”  His best songs combined Chicago footwork with Mardi Gras Indian chants.

3. The Russ Johnson Quartet
Knowing only that Russ Johnson is the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, I had low expectations for the trumpeter.  I was astonished.  Abetted by the stellar saxophonist Greg Ward, bassist Clark Summers and drummer Dana Hall, Johnson’s imaginative subversion of swing resulted in one of the most dexterously adventurous sets of the festival.

4. Rempis/Flaten/Ra + Baker Quartet
I didn't fall in love with the Chicago Jazz Festival until a deliberately provocative free jazz quartet made a dissonant racket on the main stage.  Thousands of people were forced to either flee the churlish assault of saxophonist Dave Rempis, keyboardist and electronic manipulator Jim Baker, substitute bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Avreeayl Ra and risk losing their seats or withstand the attack and hold their ground.  I cheered when Ra’s violent pummeling buckled a cymbal stand and Håker Flaten brutalized his instrument as if it owed him money.

5. Latino-America Unida
The estimable jazz critics Howard Reich and Howard Mandel hailed the supergroup’s first public performance in their respective reviews for The Chicago Tribune and Downbeat, but the quintet's highly-anticipated debut struck me as a massive disappointment.  The aggregation of saxophonists Melissa Aldana and Miguel Zenón, pianist David Virelles, bassist Ricky Rodriguez and drummer Antonio Sánchez was definitely less than the sum of its parts.  I would have preferred to hear any one of the stars lead his or her own band.

6. Camila Meza and the Nectar Orchestra
Camila Meza knocked me out each of the three times I’ve heard her perform with the road warriors in the Ryan Keberle-led band Catharsis.  Yet I don’t care for the fussy chamber-jazz on her new album Ámbar.  Acknowledging the presence of a string quartet, Meza said “with this album I made my dream come true.”  I was nonplussed until her ensemble interpreted the David Bowie, Lyle Mays and Pat Metheny composition “This Is Not America.”  The sweeping Jimi Hendrix-inspired cover salvaged Meza’s set.

7. Sharel Cassity Quartet
Sharel Cassity could only come from Chicago.  The exciting young saxophonist is my happiest discovery.

8. The Joan Collaso Sextet
I didn’t attend church on Sunday morning, but a gospel-infused reading of “Love’s in Need of Love Today” reduced me to faith-based tears of gratitude.  The stirring vocals of Joan Collaso and her superlative backing vocalists on the tragically topical Stevie Wonder song compelled me to shout “amen.”  Collaso doesn’t shy away from the secular.  She joked about her devotion to one of her primary influences: “I really did try to marry Al Jarreau.”

9. The Dakarai Barclay Sextet
It’s terribly unfair to burden young musicians with next-big-thing tags, but this young trumpeter and his bandmates were extremely impressive.  Bonus: the ensemble covered Carmell Jones’ “Beepdurple.”

10. Juli Wood's Big Bari Band
A hard-swinging de facto Gerry Mulligan tribute.

11. Paulinho Garcia
In a frustrating anomaly, the demure set by the Brazilian guitarist was spoiled by loud chatter throughout the tent housing the Jazz & Heritage Pavilion stage.

12. Zach Rosenstiehl Nacht Group
The tentative young men played as if they were auditioning for their first professional gig.

Part one of this three-part analysis of the Chicago Jazz Festival is here.

(Original image of the Art Ensemble of Chicago by Plastic Sax.)