Thursday, July 30, 2020

Now's the Time: Carmell Jones

Carmell Jones was born in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1936.  He’s probably best known for his contribution to Horace Silver’s classic 1964 recording “Song for My Father”.  Locally based jazz enthusiasts regularly turn to Jones’ 1965 album Jay Hawk Talk.  Jones appears alongside Joe Henderson in Silver’s band in the embedded video.  The trumpeter died in 1996.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Mark Wiebe’s 5,000-word examination  of economic and racial disparities in the testing and treatment of the coronavirus centers on the late Brandon McRay.

*Mike Dillon was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*We the People’s latest single is titled “Worst Nights”.

*Birdsong, Champion Fulton’s tribute album to Charlie Parker, will be released August 28.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Charlie Parker- Available for pre-order now, the rare 1955 12”, The Magnificent Charlie Parker. The collection contains the classics, “Au Privave,” “She Rote,” “Star Eyes,” “Lover Man” and “In The Still Of The Night.” Available everywhere August 7th! (link)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Dolphin Dance

As more than 500,000 hip-hop fans watched Snoop Dogg perform “Doggy Dogg World” in a rap battle with DMX on Instagram on Wednesday, July 22, a dozen viewers enjoyed OJT’s rendition of “Take the Three” on a Facebook stream from the Kansas City jazz venue Black Dolphin.  The staggeringly divergent numbers don’t tell the whole story.  The simultaneous free live broadcasts offered wildly different experiences not limited to the immense chasm separating confrontational popular music and comforting old-school organ jazz.

As with all Verzuz broadcasts, the static shot of the rappers was plastered with advertisements and scrolling comments from celebrity wellwishers like Keyshia Cole, J Balvin and Method Man.  The comparatively clean Black Dolphin streams feature multiple camera angles managed by a producer attuned to the band’s grooves.  The club’s signature mood lighting enhances the music.

Snoop and DMX rapped over pre-recorded backing tracks.  Fans of the genre are accustomed to tinny sound fields.   The majority of quarantine-era free livestreams of jazz performances also sound terrible.  While I regularly tune in to catch big names like Cyrus Chestnut and Nicholas Payton, I’m rarely impressed by the technical components of the offerings.   The production values of Black Dolphin’s efforts are superior.  The crisp fidelity is matched by excellent visuals.  Don’t just take my word for it.  See and hear for yourself.  While I choose not to live that lifestyle, Black Dolphin welcomes patrons at its live presentations.  Feel free to give me a wave.

(Screenshot of Black Dolphin livestream by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, July 24, 2020

Now's the Time: Horace Washington

Horace Washington was a fixture on Kansas City’s jazz scene in the ‘80s and ‘90s.  The loyal following of the saxophonist and flautist ensured steady gigs at the town’s top jazz venues.  The embedded video captures a band led by Washington performing at the Blue Room a year before his death in 2014.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Star reports on a spate of vandalism at the American Jazz Museum complex.

*The Johnson County Library interviewed Trevor Turla.

*Joe Dimino documented Bobby Watson’s drive-in concert.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Bix Jazz Society- Band Showcase #4: Roarin’ out of KC… Kansas City's VINE STREET RUMBLE Jazz Orchestra is a 14 piece big band, celebrating the legacy of Kansas City Jazz in the 30's & 40's. The only band of it's kind in the country, VSR re-creates the incredible music that made KC world famous!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Album Review: Mike Dillon- Rosewood

Most members of the audience of about 300 didn’t know what to make of Mike Dillon when he opened for Rickie Lee Jones at Crossroads KC last summer.  ((My review.)  Even though he embodies the beatnik spirit of many of Jones’ most beloved songs, the manic percussionist’s punk-informed jazz mystified nostalgic baby boomers.  He finally won them over with a riveting arrangement of Johnny Cash’s version of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.”

While still captivating, Dillon’s hushed interpretation of “Hurt” is one of the lesser of the 13 tracks on his uniformly excellent new album Rosewood.  An uncommonly intimate press release explains why Dillon returned to Kansas City.  Assisted only by recording engineer Chad Meise and drummer Earl Harvin, Dillon crafted the relatively serene Rosewood in the months following his homecoming.  The emphasis on nuance rather than propulsive beats makes it one of Dillon’s most rewarding albums.

The intentionally wobbly “Mulatu Goes to India” exemplifies Dillon’s characteristic wanderlust.  His hypothetical relocation of the Ethiopian jazz master Mulatu Astatke to another continent carries over to other tracks.  With its blend of exotica and second-line funk, the opening selection “Tiki Bird Whistle” could be subtitled “Martin Denny Goes to Tipitina’s.”   A cover of Elliott Smith’s “Can’t Make a Sound” transplants the late singer-songwriter to Tahiti.

The resigned “Vibes at the End of the World” is a Terry Riley-style meditation while the alarming “St. Cloud’s Drone” resembles a psychedelic distress signal.  Yet the album isn’t a downer.  The consistently somber but resolutely hopeful Rosewood may not be the unhinged party many Dillon fans expect, but it’s the profoundly inspirational pandemic soundtrack they need.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Now's the Time: Luqman Hamza

The death of Freddy Cole rightfully generated a tremendous amount of press coverage and heartfelt tributes from grieving fans last month.  Cole’s passing caused me to reflect on Luqman Hamza.  Kansas City’s serene jazz-based balladeer died in obscurity in 2018.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Bobby Watson chatted with Steve Kraske during the last 18 minutes of an episode of KCUR’s Up To Date program.  Their conversation touched on Watson’s forthcoming concert in Kansas City.

*We the People created a music video for “Misunderstood.”

*Logan Richardson is featured on Gerald Clayton’s new album Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard.

*Miles Bonny was interviewed by Joe Dimino.

*Tweet o’ the Week: American Jazz Museum- On 7/19 we're hosting an opening reception to celebrate our new exhibition! It commemorates the centennial birthday of famous Kansas City saxophonist Charlie Parker. Co-curated by AJM and Chuck Haddix. Click here for more information.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Recreational Sports

I don’t miss sports.  Prior to the pandemic-induced lockdown, I avidly followed leagues including the NBA and the NFL.  After being forced to go cold turkey on meaningful games, I realized spectator sports no longer needed to figure in my life.  A new hobby and stacks of previously neglected books filled the void.

What if my obsession with live music also wanes?  I attended an average of three or four performances a week during the past 20 years.  Including trips to music festivals in Louisville and Chicago, I spent more than 200 nights enjoying live music in 2019.  Aside from buskers outside my neighborhood grocery store, I haven’t heard live music in more than four months.  The deprivation hasn’t killed me.

Maybe I’ve been going to shows out of force of habit rather than genuine need.  I’ll almost certainly be more selective about the performances I attend when it’s finally safe to do so.  Besides, the coronavirus has essentially put me out of work.  Money’s going to be tight for the foreseeable future.  My absence in nightclubs and concert halls won’t be missed, but what will happen if even a quarter of the 150 other people who make up the core jazz audience in Kansas City come to the same conclusion after reassessing their priorities?

(Original by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, July 10, 2020

Now's the Time: Bob Brookmeyer

Trombonist Douglas Perviance insists that “Bob Brookmeyer has had an influence on every writer in the jazz idiom that came after him” in “A Suite for Three.”  The film documents the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra’s 2009 trip to Columbia, Missouri.  Brookmeyer, a Kansas City native, died in 2011.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Star reports that the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s fall and winter concerts are among the few events still on the books at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

*No musicians from Kansas City are among the more than five dozen winners named in the 2020 DownBeat Critic’s Poll.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Eda Karat- Kansas City you gotta quit sleeping on jazz, it's such an important part of our history there

*From a press release: Over 25 Kansas City-based musicians came together to create Kansas City Syzygy, a compilation of music created during the shutdown of the world in the Spring of 2020… The nineteen songs on the album span the entire spectrum of music… The album can be purchased from Bandcamp beginning July 17, 2020. All proceeds will be donated to KC Tenants… Trevor Turla, Jeff Harshbarger, Robert Castillo, John Kizilarmut and We the People are among the jazz-related artists contributing to the project.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Album Review: Steve Cardenas- Blue Has a Range

Pat Metheny employs a vast sonic canvas on From This Place.  I praise Metheny's evocation of the “incalculable immensity of space” in my review of his new album.  Steve Cardenas, the second most artistically renowned living jazz guitarist from the Kansas City area, takes the opposite approach on Blue Has a Range.  Released on Sunnyside Records on July 10, the album is a dazzling miniature. 

Cardenas and his celebrated collaborators- pianist Jon Cowherd, bassist Ben Allison and drummer Brian Blade- prove that small-scale refinement can be just as profound as loud flamboyance.  The variations on the blues implied by the title may be subtly articulated, but they express enormous ideas.  Cowherd’s excellent playing emphasizes the influence of Thelonious Monk on Cardenas’ compositions.   All four members of the band leaven their knotty inclinations with thoughtful serenity.

Although “Reflector” is an undeniable earworm, the quiet gracefulness of tracks including “Language of Love” may struggle to capture the attention they deserve in a world dominated by flashiness.  Yet the stunning magnification of intimate beauty will be revealed to listeners willing to pay close attention to the hushed Blue Has a Range.

(Original image of the Mediterranean Sea by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Now's the Time: Born to Swing

What happens when the world moves on decades after you altered the cultural landscape?  The 1973 British documentary “Born to Swing” attempts to answer the question through the prism of the Kansas City jazz diaspora.  Not all 47 minutes of the occasionally grim film are pertinent, but the best segments are essential.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Steve Cardenas’ new album Blue Has a Range will be released on July 10.

*Three news reports- here, here and here- document and analyze recent fatal shootings in the Jazz District.

*A city councilman lobbies for the relaxation of regulations in the Jazz District in an effort to attract party-minded revelers.

*Tweet o’ the Week: James De Noir- I want everybody to tune in this week for the @jazzwalkkc Jazzy Jamdemic Live Stream. I’ll be blessing the stage of the Historic Gem Theater. You don’t want to miss this!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)