Blue Room seems inconsistent with the mission of the American Jazz Museum. While I appreciate each of those forms, I’ve long believed the venue overseen by the institution should stay true to its mandate.
A couple seated near me at the Blue Room on Saturday, February 8, shared that perspective. They were visibly displeased by Matt Villinger’s All Night Trio. The plugged-in attack of Villinger (keyboards and vocoder), Peter Schlamb (keyboards and electronics) and Zach Morrow (drums and electronics) bears little resemblance to conventional Kansas City jazz.
Yet the post-Herbie groove-pop of Villinger’s All Night Trio is the sort of consequential music essential to fostering the ongoing viability of jazz. Rooted in Herbie Hancock’s innovations on Head Hunters and Future Shock, Villinger’s approach compares favorably with the current affiliates of the Brainfeeder collective.
The trio fleshed out the memorable melodies from Villinger’s excellent 2019 album All Day with whimsical improvisations over amplified grooves. And watching Schlamb produce stupendous bass lines through a keyboard further affirmed my belief that he’s Kansas City’s finest all-around musician.
The vital experience compels me to reconsider my inflexible stance on the Blue Room’s bookings. The bold performance by Villinger’s innovative trio in the heart of Kansas City’s jazz district points to a bright- and extraordinarily fun- future for jazz.
(Original image of Matt Villinger by Plastic Sax.)