Sunday, March 29, 2020

Spot(ify) the Difference

Before the coronavirus epidemic initiated the necessity of social distancing, I intended to meet privately with a Kansas City jazz musician to provide guidance on his approach to music streaming services.  Rather than conducting a Zoom session with the artist, I’ll outline my suggestions in this forum.

I commend him for not joining many of his indignant peers in posting misinformed memes about the ostensible evils of streaming services.  Spearheaded by industry leader Spotify, streaming services paid out $10,000,000,000.00 to musicians and their affiliates last year.  Yes, that’s ten billion dollars.  Artists can whine about penny fractions all they like, but popular musicians are raking in mountains of money.

How can my associate get in on the action?  First, he needs to stop behaving as if interacting with streaming services is beneath him.  While maintaining up-to-date profiles won’t make him a star, his current recalcitrance hinders his career.  In 2020, an artist’s Spotify account is an interactive business card that’s at least as important as a Wikipedia entry.

Adding a photo, biographical information, links to his web presence and maybe even microvisuals to his Spotify account won’t suddenly catapult the musician to fame and fortune, but at least it will provide him with a fighting chance.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, March 27, 2020

Now's the Time: Count Basie

It may not cure the coronavirus, but vintage footage of an all-star band led by Count Basie joyously riffing on Charlie Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce” is surely good for what ails us.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The American Jazz Museum announced a Charlie Parker Centennial Contest with cash prizes of $500.

*Drone footage created by The Kansas City Star shows a deserted Jazz District.

*Tweet o’ the Week: The Boston Globe- Joe Biden calls Charlie Baker ‘Charlie Parker’ during national address (link)

*From a press release: It’s been said that basketball is like jazz—but Rock Chalk Suite takes the comparison to another level entirely. Written and recorded by the musicians of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, each of the suite’s high-flying 15 movements takes inspiration from a different University of Kansas hoops legend... Rock Chalk Suite was commissioned to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Lied Center of Kansas, KU’s performing arts center, and the album utilizes the JLCO’s full roster to honor the university’s rich athletic heritage as well as its cultural contributions to the world.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Album Review: Eldar Djangirov- Rhapsodize

If speed and aggressiveness were the form’s most prized attributes, Eldar Djangirov would be the top pianist in jazz.  When he was a child prodigy living in the Kansas City area, Djangirov was defined by his age.  He’s now associated with his faster-and-louder ethos.

Djangirov acts as the jazz equivalent of a speed-rapper on his frenetic new album Rhapsodize.  Abetted by bassist Raviv Markovitz and drummer Jimmy Macbride, Djangirov seems to be attempting to set a land speed record on “A Night in Tunisia”.  “Variations on a Bach Prelude” is among the additional tracks showcasing his maximalist tendencies.

Rhapsodize is spectacularly impressive as a purely athletic endeavor.  Yet several interesting things occur amid the dizzying blur of notes.  Djangirov’s shifts between acoustic and electric keyboards provide intriguing textural contrasts. 

A reading of the Soundgarden song isn’t as ambitious as Brad Mehldau’s epic 22-minute version from 2008, but Djangirov’s take on “Black Hole Sun” provides an accessible point of entry for headbangers.  Fans of the bombastic prog-rock institution Emerson, Lake & Palmer will be right at home with “Anthemic”.  And “Devotion” successfully merges mainstream jazz with the fresh sounds of innovative groups like GoGo Penguin.

Nuance and restraint may be in short supply on Rhapsodize, but Djangirov’s over-the-top heroics may be precisely what the world needs in this difficult moment.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, March 20, 2020

Now's the Time: Big John Patton

I intend to showcase Kansas City jazz artists of yore during the coronavirus-related closure of performance spaces.  Long before jazz organists like Everette DeVan, Chris Hazelton and Ken Lovern entertained local audiences, the Kansas City native Big John Patton was one of Blue Note Records’ best-selling artists.  A year before he died, the organist performed at the Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival in 2001.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*As my note at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar indicates, Kansas City’s live music venues have been silenced.

*CJ Janovy created an audio feature about Logan Richardson for KCUR.

*I highlighted the careers of artists including Deborah Brown, Julia Lee, Marilyn Maye and Priscilla Bowman in an episode of 90.9 The Bridge’s Eight One Sixty program.

*Mike Herrera and Jim Lower discussed Kansas City’s jazz scene with Joe Dimino.

*The New York Times recommended Logan Richardson’s appearance at the Jazz Gallery.

*A devastating fire ravaged Davey’s Uptown Ramblers Club.  The venue fostered the careers of musicians including Mike Dillon.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Mayor Quinton Lucas- Under the authority of Mayor Lucas’s State of Emergency proclamation, and per new @CDCgov guidance, no events or gatherings with 50 or more attendees will be allowed in Kansas City for the next eight weeks. #COVIDー19 #KCMO

*From the American Jazz Museum: In order to support Kansas City’s effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 the American Jazz Museum and The Blue Room jazz club will be closed temporarily, effective immediately.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Concert Review: Luciana Souza, Chico Pinheiro and Scott Colley at the Folly Theater

After hearing me excitedly rant about the rare opportunity to hear a Brazilian luminary perform in Kansas City as we made our way to the Folly Theater on Saturday, March 7, my date wondered why Brazilian music was being presented in a concert series dedicated to presenting jazz.  A stupendous genre-transcending performance answered her question.

Guitarist Chico Pinheiro and bassist Scott Colley joined bandleader Luciana Souza in a wondrously sublime rendering of jazz and Brazilian sounds.  In a pre-concert talk moderated by Doug Auwarter, Souza praised Colley as “a great architect on bass.”  The elegant foundations he constructed verified Colley’s reputation as one of the top bassists in jazz.  Souza also insisted Pinheiro has secured his place in “the pantheon” of indispensable Brazilian musicians.  The sublime guitarist added beautiful embellishments to Colley’s frameworks.

Standing between her collaborators, Souza provided light percussion and vocals.  (My Instagram clip.)  The arty conceits that occasionally mar Souza’s recordings were entirely absent in the spare setting for audience of about 400.

Because the trio’s musical interpretations of Leonard Cohen’s poetry and the classic works of Brazilians including Luiz Gonzaga and Milton Nascimento were squarely in my sweet spot, it’s difficult for this dazzled observer to be impartial.  The namechecks of personal favorites Bertolt Brecht and Hermeto Pascoal were just icing on a deliciously rarified cake of a concert.

(Original image of Chico Pinheiro, Scott Colley, Luciana Souza and Doug Auwarter by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Now's the Time: Soul Message Band

Deep Blue Organ Trio achieved a modicum of acclaim before disbanding.  The old-school organist Chris Foreman and the accomplished drummer Greg Rockingham now perform in Soul Message Band.  With guitarist Lee Rothenberg replacing Deep Blue Organ Trio’s Bobby Broom on guitar, the Chicago based Soul Message Band is building a new legacy.  The trio will perform songs from its 2019 album Soulful Days at Black Dolphin on Sunday, March 15.  The cover charge is $15.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The author of this site is once again manning The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

*The Kansas City Star recommends Deborah Brown’s two Dexter Gordon-inspired concerts this weekend.  Maxine Gordon promoted the events on KCUR’s Up to Date.

*Michael Mackie crafted a profile of Candace Evans.

*Jeff Harshbarger informed Joe Dimino about the Purna Loka Ensemble.

*E.J. Becker narrates an audio feature about the American Jazz Museum’s children’s program.

*The American Jazz Museum’s Rashida Phillips appeared on Marcus Lewis’ Ask a Jazz Dude show.

*David Epstein of Tom’s Town Distilling Company laments the shortage of “balls-out, wild-ass jazz” performed in Kansas City clubs in an episode of the I Love This Town podcast.

*The Brandon Goldberg Trio will perform at the Folly Theater on September 26 in the 2020-21 season of the Harriman-Jewell Series.

*Newly uploaded footage of Brian Hanni’s introduction of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at a 2018 concert at the Lied Center isn’t cringey at all.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Green Lady Lounge- Kansas City jazz radio (ok David Basse @JazzBasse it's not actually radio) streaming online 24/7 --Green Lady Radio.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Concert Review: Bill Frisell’s Harmony at Atkins Auditorium

The ethereal beauty of “Everywhere”, the opening track of Bill Frisell’s 2019 album Harmony, is the sort of heavenly sound I hope to hear moments after drawing my final breath.  The version of “Everywhere” rendered by the brilliant guitarist Frisell, vocalist Petra Haden, guitarist and vocalist Luke Bergman and cellist and vocalist Hank Roberts at the start of their 90-minute performance at Atkins Auditorium on Wednesday, March 4, was somewhat less transportive.

The audience of more than 400 at the Harriman-Jewell Series presentation was immediately reminded that the four musicians are inspired humans rather than divine beings.  Yet the concert’s rough edges and dead ends were integral components of its appeal.  After Haden apologized for giggling mid-song, Frisell told her “don’t worry about it- it’s ok.”  He embraces happy accidents and is more interested in discovering new terrain than in repeating cautious routines. 

Frisell added delicate shadings and subtle tones to an exhibition of the country-tinged aspect of his artistry.  Yet rather than resembling a hillbilly jazz ensemble, the quartet evoked an alternate version of The Carter Family that excelled at improvisational theory while studying at Julliard.

While I favored the abstract instrumental forays, the audience responded most enthusiastically to comparatively straightforward interpretations of folk, pop and jazz standards.  A startlingly insightful reading of “Lush Life” was the clear highlight, but delighted gasps filled the room when Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” morphed into David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”  More than a dozen people stood during a reverent take on the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.”

I knew I hadn’t died and gone to heaven when the quartet played an unironic version of Skeeter Davis’ over-the-top teen lament “The End of the World” as the encore.  Even so, the best moments of the quartet’s inspired- and entirely temporal- concert confirmed that death isn’t necessary to experience a glorious intimation of heaven.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Now's the Time: Luciana Souza

The Brazilian luminary Luciana Souza is backed by a German big band for an exquisite reading of “Corcovado” in the embedded video.  She’ll perform in a far more intimate context at the Folly Theater on Saturday, March 7.  Souza is accompanied only by the sublime guitarist Chico Pinheiro and the accomplished bassist Scott Colley on The Book of Longing tour.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s next concert is previewed by The Kansas City Star.

*Ken Lovern chatted with Joe Dimino about Guitar Elation’s new album.

*Rashida Phillips continues her media blitz on behalf of the American Jazz Museum with a question-and-answer session for KC Studio.

*Luciana Souza appeared on KCUR’s Up to Date to promote Saturday’s appearance at the Folly Theater.  The Kansas City Star also highlighted the concert.

*Pat Metheny’s new From This Place album debuted at #92 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Brian Ellison- MO Rep. Ingrid Burnett (D-Kansas City) presents a proclamation from the Missouri General Assembly celebrating Bobby Watson’s career and leadership of the @UMKC Jazz Studies program. #moleg

*From a press release: Special guests Bobby Watson, Helen Sung and Mike Rodriguez will headline the KU School of Music’s 43rd Annual Jazz Festival held on Friday, March 6. The festival will include an evening concert at 7:30 p.m. at the Lied Center of Kansas that will celebrate the music of Charlie Parker.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Album Review: Pat Metheny- From This Place

I revisited the consequential collaborations of Lyle Mays and Pat Metheny following the February 10 death of the keyboardist.   The most remarkable aspects of recordings including The Pat Metheny Group (1978), As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita Falls (1981) and Offramp (1982) is each album’s standing as a self-contained universe. 

From This Place is similarly distinct.  Mays didn’t participate in its creation, but Metheny’s latest album echoes his wildly inventive contributions.  Mays and Metheny didn’t merely document performances; they invented new worlds with intrinsic sets of logic and protocol.  The infinite sound field of From This Place is the sonic equivalent of the cinematic special effect in which the frame slowly pans away from a microscopic detail of an earthbound object to reveal the incalculable immensity of space. 

While the core supporting cast of pianist Gwilym Simcock, bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Antonio Sanchez are prominently featured, the lush underpinning provided by the Hollywood Studio Symphony further expands the dimensions of the project.  The monumental production is the central component of From This Place.  Only the chamber-folk of the title track featuring intimate vocals from Meshell Ndegeocello breaks the sense of immensity. 

As with Metheny’s collaborations with Mays, From This Place is best experienced on headphones.  The unapologetic bombast, silvery sentimentality and stupefying melodicism may not appeal to everyone, but to those of us who live within a stone’s throw of Metheny’s old stomping grounds in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, From This Place sounds like home.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)