Sunday, April 28, 2019

Concert Review: The Chicago Plan at the Blue Room

The American Jazz Museum described the sound of the Chicago Plan as “loose and cool" in a social media post promoting the avant-garde ensemble’s April 26 appearance at the Blue Room.  Those aren’t the words anyone in the audience of about 100 for the ensemble’s first set would have used.  The pairing of the adjectives “agitated and incendiary” or “chaotic and combustible” better represent the ensemble’s attack.

The extremely rare booking of free jazz stalwarts in Kansas City was made possible by the well-financed Goethe Pop Up.  A billboard in the Crossroads District advertised the concert.  The gambit may not have worked.  Aside from affiliates of the Goethe group and the locally based musicians Bill McKemy, Adam Schlozman, Brian Steever and Rich Wheeler who alternated sets with the Chicago Plan, I may have been the sole enthusiast of Fred Lonberg-Holm, Steve Swell, Gebhard Ullmann and Michael Zerang to pay the $10 cover charge.

With collective recording credits that include sessions with Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, El-P, Ken Vandermark, Wilco and John Zorn, the members of the Chicago Plan are all-stars in the new music community.  They validated their reputations as elite noise-makers.  Lonberg-Holm, a self-described “anti-cellist,” provided the biggest surprises.  He contributed ominous electronic enhancements, made his instrument sound like a rusty door hinge and summoned the ghost of the MC5 guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith.

Steve Swell served as a maniacal master of ceremonies.  His snarky attempts to engage the dozens of high school choir students from Iowa who filled the back half of the club fell flat, but nearly everything else he and his colleagues attempted was explosive.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Now's the Time: Arturo Sandoval

Arturo Sandoval regularly rubs shoulders with other legends.  The trumpeter collaborated with icons including Pl├ícido Domingo and Ariana Grande on his 2018 album Ultimate Duets.  He works with the pop star Prince Royce in the embedded video.  Sandoval will focus on Latin jazz at the Folly Theater on Saturday, April 27.  Every area gig is listed on The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Rod Fleeman, Gerald Spaits and Todd Strait are praised in a letter to the editor published by The Kansas City Star.

*Joe Dimino shares footage of a performance by the River Cow Orchestra.

*The Bad Plus, Danilo Perez, Chris Potter and Craig Taborn are among the musicians performing at the Iowa City Jazz Festival in July.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Melissa Bower- Great music this weekend at the @424Lounge - quickly becoming an African-American-owned, veteran-owned #BlackBusiness icon in #leavenworth #kansas - check out their website for a schedule of musicians. #kcjazz #KCMO

*From a press release: The teen Olathe saxophonist Evan Kappelman “has earned the honor of being selected as one of 22 of the brightest young jazz musicians from across the U.S. for the 2019 roster of Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Jazz Orchestra... this summer he’ll be training with world-class jazz musicians and performing at Carnegie Hall before embarking on NYO Jazz’s debut tour to Asia.

*From a press release: KU Jazz Ensemble I, under the direction of Dan Gailey, was named the best graduate college large jazz ensemble in the country in the 42 Annual Downbeat Student Music Awards. DownBeat also recognized Alex Annan, a master’s student in jazz composition from Omaha, Nebraska… Under Gailey’s leadership, the KU Jazz Studies Program has received 27 DownBeat Student Music Awards since 1992.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, April 22, 2019

Concert Review: The Joshua Redman Quartet at the Folly Theater

Joshua Redman is one of the elite jazz musicians of his generation partly because of his versatility and range.  He showcased the conventional side of his talent at the Folly Theater on Thursday, April 11.  The celebrated saxophonist, 50, and his longtime touring band of pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, played more than 90 minutes of mainstream jazz for an audience of more than 600.  Five of the nine songs on the setlist were drawn from the group’s strait-laced new album Come What May.  Rather than offering the thrill of the new, the quartet demonstrated that mainstream jazz needn’t sound routine.  Even at his dullest, Redman is one of the most exciting men in jazz.

Setlist: Circle of Life, How We Do, Come What May, Shed, I’ll Go Mine, Bloomdido, Stardust, DGAF, Yesterdays

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Now's the Time: The Chicago Plan

Trombonist Steve Swell and saxophonist Gebhard Ullmann will perform at the Blue Room on Friday, April 26, under the auspices of The Chicago Plan.  The extremely rare avant-garde booking at the Blue Room is part of the ongoing Goethe Pop Up festival in Kansas City.  Swell and Ullman will be joined by cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer Michael Zerang.  Every area gig is listed at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The editorial board of The Kansas City Star chastises the city for spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on last year’s Open Spaces festival.  A recap of the artistically audacious but woefully attended festival is included in Plastic Sax’s end-of-the year survey of Kansas City’s jazz scene.

*Not a single Kansas City musician or institution is among the dozens of nominees in the Jazz Journalists Association’s JJA Jazz Awards 2019.

*Logan Richardson’s return to the Blue Room is previewed by The Kansas City Star.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Charlie Parker- Charlie Parker with Strings: Alternate Takes comes 70 years since the initial recordings & the Record Store Day LP set comes in a blue vinyl matching the updated original David Stone Martin cover. Exclusively available 4/13 at participating record stores.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Concert Review: Assif Tsahar and Tatsuya Nakatani at the 1900 Building

An Israeli saxophonist and a Japanese percussionist walk into an office building in Kansas…  It’s not the opening line of an offensive joke.  Instead, the unlikely scenario resulted in a bracing avant-garde recital at the 1900 Building on Wednesday, April 10.  Longtime friends and collaborators Assif Tsahar and Tatsuya Nakatani played two brief but incendiary sets.  I paid $21 to join three dozen people at the improvisatory freakout. 

Tsahar wailed like a free jazz superhero on tenor saxophone as Nakatani banged on drums, sawed on gongs and did untoward things to cymbals.  I’ll admit to later goofing on Nakatani’s manic style with pots, pans and utensils in my kitchen, but I can’t come close to replicating his expert form of mayhem.  Even when pieces of Nakatani’s kit accidentally fell to the floor, the timing of each crash was perfect.

I understand why skeptics doubt the sanity of audiences who intentionally subject themselves to free jazz.  “Is it even music?”  Yet the question answers itself.  I may not encounter more vital music in 2019 than the cacophonous commotion created by Tasahar and Nakatani in Mission Woods, Kansas.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Now's the Time: Logan Richardson

Logan Richardson is one of a handful of musicians from the Kansas City area who have been featured on an episode of NPR’s illustrious Tiny Desk Concert series.  The saxophonist’s 2018 contribution to the showcase is embedded here.  Richardson performs at Blue Room on Thursday, April 18.  The concert is one of the day’s 18 gigs listed on The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Ernest Melton is featured in a brief video profile created by Google.

*Joe Dimino captured footage of Johnson County Community College Night at Black Dolphin.

*Sue Vicory recently uploaded her hour-long documentary Kansas City Jazz & Blues; Past, Present & Future to YouTube.

*The Kansas City Star includes an upcoming performance by the Joshua Redman Quartet among its weekly concert previews.

*Moon Hooch will perform at the Encore Room on July 10.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Uptown Arts Bar- Tonight and every Thursday 7pm-1am All That Jazz Karaoke at @UptownArtsBar

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Matt Otto, Danny Embrey, Sam Copeland and Brian Steever at Black Dolphin

The ticket I buy at the box office of the Folly Theater on Thursday for a concert by the Joshua Redman Quartet will almost surely be money well spent.  The saxophonist deserves his status as one of the biggest stars in mainstream jazz.

I wasn’t required to open my wallet to catch a similarly refined quartet on Wednesday.  Performances at Black Dolphin are always free.  Saxophonist Matt Otto,  guitarist Danny Embrey, bassist Sam Copeland and drummer Brian Steever were staggeringly good. 

Otto immediately became one of Kansas City’s finest musicians upon moving to the area in 2009.  Embrey has a chameleon-like tendency to play at the level of his collaborators, a trait that resulted in a magnificent effort on Wednesday. 

A $40 seat in the center of the second row is currently available for Redman’s concert.  I hope to snag it Thursday.  While I know that Redman’s showmanship will be enormously entertaining, I’m less confident that the star will equal the musical standard set by Otto last week.

Otto’s quartet returns to on Black Dolphin on Wednesday, April 10, Wednesday, April 17, and Wednesday, April 24.  I shared a portion of an Otto solo at Instagram.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Now's the Time: Joshua Redman

The modern-day jazz giant Joshua Redman last performed in Kansas City with the Bad Plus in 2016.  (I reviewed the concert for The Kansas City Star.)  The saxophonist was in equally fine form as a headliner of the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in New York in 2017.  (I reviewed the event at Plastic Sax.)   Redman will be joined by pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson at the Folly Theater on Thursday, April 11.  The concert is one of more than 20 of the evening’s performances listed at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*A critic for a British newspaper praises Hermon Mehari in a concert review that suggests “our side of the pond is where jazz is at in 2019.”

*Marilyn Maye’s new show in New York is titled “I Wish I Were 90 Again!”.

* Drew Williams and Ben Leifer chatted with Joe Dimino.

*Jazz St. Louis is presenting April and May performances by the Branford Marsalis Quartet, Marcus Strickland with Ron Miles and Matt Wilson, the Brad Mehldau Trio, the Pedrito Martinez Group, Arturo O’Farrill, Jazzmeia Horn and the John Pizzarelli Trio with Catherine Russell.  Not one of these stars is slated to appear in Kansas City.

*Tweet o’ the Week: UMKC MNL- Are you around campus this week? Check out one (or all) of our exhibits! Floor G: Focusing on Faces, A Life in a Year Part 3 Floor 3: Jay McShann's Kansas City Floor 4: Poetics of Invention, a traveling exhibit from OU

*April’s gig listings are posted at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)