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*JazzTimes lists 18 places “where you can find the historical documents of jazz.”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.)