Thursday, April 30, 2020

Now's the Time: Jo Jones

I recently irked a mainstream jazz enthusiast by reminding him of my predilection for cutting-edge jazz.  My reverence for past masters is paired with a belief that their work is properly honored by an insistence on ongoing innovation.   The embedded video montage reflects my philosophy.  An instructional album by Jo Jones (of the famous Charlie Parker cymbal misadventure) is contrasted with subsequent improvisational deviations by the likes of Elvin Jones and Paul Motian.  I trust this waggish compilation made by a like-minded aficionado allows my friend to understand where I’m coming from.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Wynton Marsalis chatted with Steve Kraske about Rock Chalk Suite on KCUR’s Up To Date.

*Brandon McCray died from a coronavirus-related illness.  The saxophonist was 52.

*Brian Scarborough’s debut album will be released August 7.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Chris Burnett, Jeff Harshbarger and Matt Kane.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Green Lady Lounge- Steve Cardenas - RR (Composer: Steve Cardenas) #Jazz #NowPlaying #KansasCityJazz Green Lady Radio

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Album Review: Jackie Myers- Clementine

I was surprised to encounter several jazz musicians at the Sprint Center as I reviewed a James Taylor concert for The Kansas City Star in 2018.  Few of the soft rock icon’s folk-based hits possess even a smidgeon of swing.  Then again, Pat Metheny is an avowed Taylor fan.

Probably only a small fraction of the 12,000 people at Taylor’s concert were jazz enthusiasts, but I’m confident almost every one of them would enjoy Jackie Myers’ new album Clementine.  The latest release by the Kansas City keyboardist, vocalist and songwriter channels Taylor’s longtime collaborator Carole King on the project recorded at Black DolphinClementine often resembles Tapestry with the addition of a horn section.

Myers is accompanied by trumpeter Trent Austin, saxophonist Brad Gregory, guitarist Rod Fleeman, bassist Ben Tervort and drummer Todd Strait on the genial 36-minute set.  Each member of the backing band acquits himself well, but Fleeman stands out.  Although he’s not a deliberately flashy sideman, Fleeman is a longtime scene-stealer.

Myers’ sturdy songcraft on eight original compositions provides Fleeman and the other soloists with abundant inspiration.  The genial melodies and relatable lyrics of songs including “The Worst Part” wouldn’t be out of place on Tapestry.  The intersection of the singer-songwriter style and Kansas City jazz may be unconventional, but Myers’ eclecticism makes Clementine her most convincing and outright enjoyable album.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Now's the Time: Andy Kirk

Was rock and roll invented in Kansas City?  “Roll ‘Em Pete”, the famous 1938 collaboration between Pete Johnson and Joe Turner, sounds a lot like rock and roll to me.  And a few years after moving from Kansas City to New York City in the 1940s, Andy Kirk’s band was captured in the embedded film performing the style of music later popularized by the likes of Bill Haley.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCUR reports on the results of the American Jazz Museum’s Charlie Parker Song Contest.

*The Brandon Goldberg Trio featuring Logan Richardson will perform at the Folly Theater on September 26 as part of the 2020-21 season of The Harriman-Jewell Series.  A concert by Larry Carlton is among the jazz-related offerings in the 2020-21 season of the Carlsen Center Presents series at Johnson County Community College.

*Bobby Watson spoke to Joe Dimino about his retirement plans.

*The Marcus Lewis Band Band documented another virtual performance.

*Tweet o’ the Week: KC Jazz Alive- KC Jazz ALIVE has compiled a list of relief funding sources and other resources available to artists during COVID-19. Click the link to view!

*From a press release: As saxophonist/composer Bobby Watson embarks on a new chapter in his storied career, his latest album arrives as a reminder of the authenticity that has characterized his music on every step of that journey. Keepin’ It Real, due out June 26 via Smoke Sessions Records, debuts a new incarnation of his renowned band Horizon… Watson now finds himself in a position to dedicate more of it than ever to his own music. After 20 years as Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and decades more as an educator at institutions like Manhattan School of Music, the New School, and William Paterson University, Watson retired from academia this year. That newfound freedom instigated the launch of a new version of Horizon featuring a cast of rising stars and one lifelong collaborator… Rechristened New Horizon, the current band includes trumpeters Josh Evans or Giveton Gelin, pianist Victor Gould, drummer Victor Jones and bassist Curtis Lundy, whose relationship with Watson dates back to their college days at the University of Miami.

*From a press release: Mike Dillon has announced his new album 'Rosewood' will be released July 17 via Royal Potato Family. Recorded intermittently between January 2018 and September 2019, its 13 majestic tracks were created solely with vibraphone and percussion instruments… It was written and recorded during a period where Dillon was in the midst of leaving a long term relationship, followed by the beginning of a new relationship that would result in marriage. Dillon also found himself relocating from his longtime home-base, New Orleans to his current residence, Kansas City. "I fell in love with my dear friend, Peregrine Honig, in the midst of break up turmoil. I started spending time in Kansas City in August 2017, a city where I'd previously lived and had first met Peregrine in 1997," explains Dillon.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, April 19, 2020

EP Review: The Cur3- The Anecdote

 The Cur3- not to be confused with the legendary goth-rock band or the possible solution to the current global pandemic- is a jazz-adjacent ensemble with roots in Kansas City.  While the trio's confounding name is un-Google-able, pianist Christian Swan, bassist Blair Bryant and drummer Zach Morrow are respected contributors to the area's music scene.  (Two members are currently hunkered down elsewhere.)  The four songs on the 19-minute The Anecdote validate the musicians' reputations.  “P.G.F.” is a throwback to the sound of the smooth jazz radio format known as the “The Wave.”  The trio merges an intimation of new jack swing with glitchy hip-hop on “Traffic.”  An eponymous track is a cosmic burst of jazz fusion.  A man announces “we just came to chill and have fun- I guess that’s what life’s all about” over a bed of chipmunk soul on “The Ocean.”  The Anecdote isn’t a magic elixir, but the new release is a therapeutic sonic balm during a challenging time.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Now's the Time: The Last of the Blue Devils

It’s time to bring out the biggest gun in the arsenal.  “The Last of the Blue Devils” is an invaluable film about Kansas City jazz.  Its ongoing availability as a free stream on YouTube astounds me.  The first 15 minutes of the documentary in the embedded video capture a reunion of titans at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Purnaprajna Bangere spoke to The Kansas City Star about the Purna Loka Ensemble.

*The Marcus Lewis Big Band performed a quarantined rendition of “Facing East.”

*Tweet o’ the Week: KOJH 104.7- James D. Conqueror - Black Bouquet Ft. Ernest Melton (Radio Edit)

(Original music by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, April 13, 2020

Lockdown Listening

Harsh ambient recordings provide my soundtrack of choice during the lockdown, but I still find time to enjoy jazz.  My ten favorite jazz albums released in the first quarter of 2020 are listed in alphabetical order below.  No two sound alike. 

1. Majid Bekkas- Magic Spirit Quartet
Islamic jazz.
2. Jennifer Curtis and Tyshawn Sorey- Invisible Ritual
Avant-garde fiddle and drum duets.
3. Guitar Elation- Double Live at Green Lady Lounge
Party grooves.  (My review.)
4. Kilter- Axiom
Free jazz collides with doom metal.
5. Hailu Mergia- Yene Mircha
Ethiopian jazz.
6. Pat Metheny- From This Place
Infinite lushness.  (My review.)
7. Roscoe Mitchell- Distant Radio Transmission
Orchestral noise.
8. The Necks- Three
Agitated minimalism.
9. Jeremy Pelt- The Art of Intimacy, Vol. 1
Gorgeous ballads.
10. Oded Tzur- Here Be Dragons
Reticent chamber jazz.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, April 10, 2020

Now's the Time: Ben Webster

The embedded clip of the Kansas City native Ben Webster performing “Old Folks” in 1970 is the stuff of jazz lore.  The tear that appears to stream down Webster’s face at the 4:10 mark is said to be a reflection of the grief he felt upon learning of the death of Johnny Hodges prior to the gig.  Want more?  The edifying 48-minute Webster documentary Big Ben also streams on YouTube.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Purna Loka Ensemble is the subject of Libby Hanssen’s audio feature for KCUR.

*Roger Wilder, Andrew Ouellette, Max Levy, Paul Roberts, Sean Murdy and Matt Villinger are the winners of the American Jazz Museum’s Charlie Parker Song Contest.  Corresponding videos stream at the Facebook account of The Blue Room.

*The Kansas City jazz advocate Yoko Takemura notes Hermon Mehari’s participation in a Parisian fashion show in Jazz Tokyo.

*Logan Richardson contributes to Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds, the Blue Note Records debut of the South African pianist Nduduzo Makhathini.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Green Lady Lounge- Steve Lambert - Naima Rose (Composer: Steve Lambert) #Jazz #NowPlaying #KansasCityJazz Green Lady Radio

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Album Review: The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra- Rock Chalk Suite

The men’s basketball team representing the University of Kansas was ranked No. 1 when the coronavirus outbreak prematurely ended its season.  The Jayhawks were denied a shot at winning the national championship, but music-loving Jayhawk fans can take comfort in a similarly rarified achievement.

Rock Chalk Suite, a recording by The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, was released on March 20.  The project was “commissioned to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Lied Center of Kansas, KU’s performing arts center.”  Each of the 15 original compositions honors a Kansas basketball standout.  The Lied Center provides the “stories behind the songs”.

The hyper-partisan Kansas alumni who make their allegiance an integral component of their identities should be shouting the good news from their rooftops.  Yet I haven’t heard one of them boast about Rock Chalk Suite.  KU boosters aren’t alone in ignoring the recording.  One of four albums released by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in the first quarter of 2020, Rock Chalk Suite has been roundly ignored by the general public and the jazz media.

The neglect is unmerited.  Most of the unflaggingly swinging selections are immediately engaging.  Wynton Marsalis and his all-star ensemble sound fully committed to honoring Kansas’ basketball tradition on Ellingtonian selections like “Passing Game.”  Only three tracks contain overt references to basketball, making Rock Chalk Suite a largely unjarring experience for supporters of Kansas adversaries like Duke and Missouri. 

Switching out Luther Vandross’ “One Shining Moment” for the Jazz at Lincoln Orchestra’s Rock Chalk Suite may not placate devotees of sports, but for many jazz fans in Kansas and throughout the world, it’s an even trade.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, April 3, 2020

Now's the Time: Jay McShann and Claude "Fiddler" Williams

Retaining the upbeat tone of last week’s throwback video post, here’s a morale booster from 1979.  Kansas City legends Jay McShann and Claude “Fiddler” Williams join fellow all-stars including Erskine Hawkins and Buddy Tate in a rendition of Hawkins’ “Tuxedo Junction.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City musician Reggie Watkins has died.

*Logan Richardson released a new song titled “Frequency”.

*Matt Hopper and Adam Larson discussed the shutdown of Kansas City’s live jazz scene with Joe Dimino.

*Tweet o’ the Week: KC Kerrie- When you are stuck inside for the umpteenth day and need new ear joy so you open your suggested playlist. Spotify says "I got you" Jazz...who knew??? Thank you @Spotify for hitting a note I didn't know I was missing

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)