Friday, August 28, 2020

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Eddie Moore, Hermon Mehari and Jackie Myers are among the musicians paying tribute to Charlie Parker in an episode of Eight One Sixty.

*Television news stations reported on area Charlie Parker celebrations herehere and here.

*The New York Times lists the best ways to observe the centennial of Charlie Parker’s birth.

*Marcus Lewis chatted with Joe Dimino.

*The Kansas City Star reports that Johnson County Community College is rescheduling its fall concerts.  The slate included an appearance by Larry Carlton.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Kansas City PBS- Just in case you haven't heard: On the centennial of Charlie "Bird" Parker's birth, we're taking a look back at the 21 years #Bird spent in #KansasCity and his lasting impression on present-day #KC jazz. Take our word for it, you don't want to miss this premiere! August 29!

(Original image of Gary Giddins’ Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Call Me Karen

I was taken aback when I tuned in to a livestream of a jazz gig at a Kansas City nightclub last week.  None of the musicians wore masks.  Neither did any of the six or seven members of the audience in the sightline of the stationary camera.  Aside from a mask draped around the neck of a patron, no indication of these abnormal times was evident.  I take pride in nearing or exceeding my goal of catching 365 individual music performances every year.  The past five months have been devastating on a personal level- live music is my passion- and from a financial perspective- I’m not being paid to preview and review concerts as a professional critic.  Even though it’s excruciating, I do my part by staying home.  It’s a shame so many other people abandoned the communal effort.  Thanks for prolonging the agony, jerks.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, August 21, 2020

Now's the Time: Charlie Parker

One of the most telling indications of Charlie Parker’s status as a pariah during his lifetime is the scarcity of video footage documenting the legend.  Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Hank Jones, Ray Brown and Buddy Rich pantomime to recordings in this 1950 clip.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Chuck Haddix and Jon McGraw chatted with Steve Kraske about the Charlie Parker centennial for 17 minutes.  McGraw also reviewed his initiatives with Joe Dimino.

*The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra postponed its fall concerts.

*Marc Myers published an appreciation of Charlie Parker.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Riverfront Times - <i>Miles Davis' former home in East St. Louis has been repurposed into a nonprofit museum with educational programs for children and teens. (link)

*From the American Jazz Museum: Live music is back in the Gem Theater! Social distancing will be required, with only 100 tickets available for each concert and masks mandatory.  The American Jazz Museum presents a mini-series befitting of Bird himself on August 21st, 22nd, 28th, and 29th… Friday, August 21st, 4:30pm - 7:00pm ($15): Gerald Spaits Quintet featuring Charles Perkins and Jack Lightfoot;  Saturday, August 22nd, 4:30pm - 7:00pm ($15): SearchingforCharlieParker, An Ode to Bird Featuring Houston Smith and Morgan Faw; Friday, August 28th, 4:30pm - 7:00pm ($15): Will Matthews Organ Trio; Saturday, August 29th, 7:00am - 7:00pm 12-hour jam session-- Session 1 (free), 7:00am - 11:45am: Matt Otto Quartet, Bryan Alford Quartet featuring Amber Underwood, Andrew Ouellette Trio; Session 2 (free), 12:15pm - 3:15pm: James Ward Band, Peter Schlamb Quintet; Session 3 ($15), 3:45pm - 7:00pm: Eclipse featuring Lisa Henry, Bobby Watson.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Double Dealing

The politician representing the Jazz District on the Kansas City City Council mistakenly cited the Mississippi bluesman Big Joe Williams as a local jazz hero several weeks ago.  She obviously meant Big Joe Turner.  Melissa Robinson felt obliged to cite past masters in her introduction to a publicly-funded Jazzy Jamdemic performance that attracted less than 50 live viewers. Apparently unaware of the explosion of live-streaming, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver repeatedly insisted that his Jazzy Jamedemic initiative was the world’s sole outlet for jazz performances during his appearances in the series.  In themselves, the slips aren’t a big deal, but the faux pas are emblematic of Kansas City’s fraught relationship with jazz.  De rigueur lip service without historical understanding or a genuine passion for the music results in abuse, waste and further erosion in the public’s tenuous perception of jazz in Kansas City.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, August 14, 2020

Now's the Time: Ben Kynard

I’m fairly certain the longtime Kansas City resident Ben Kynard is part of the saxophone section of Lionel Hampton’s big band in this lively clip.  I documented Kynyrd’s 2010 appearance at the American Jazz Museum here. Kynard died two years later.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Bobby Watson tells J.D. Considine a certain politician is a “jive motherf*cker” in a Downbeat profile.

*Brian Scarborough was interviewed on the Chicago Music Revealed vlog.

*Miguel Atwood-Ferguson’s subversive rendering of the 1950 album Charlie Parker with Strings at the 2012 Charlie Parker Festival at Marcus Garvey Park in New York is now available for streaming on YouTube.

*Gary Giddins will lead Joe Lovano, Charles McPherson, Grace Kelly and Antonio Hart in a discussion about Charlie Parker on August 29.

*Tweet of the Week: Howard Reich- Honoring Charlie Parker at his centennial (link)

*From Johnson County Community College: Our Recital Series are online this Fall! Our musicians are on stage right now recording their shows for your entertainment!... Now in their 32nd year, the hour-long recitals feature some of the most respected professional classical and jazz musicians in the Kansas City area… All events for this fall of 2020 will be presented VIRTUALLY with links to the previously recorded broadcast  prior to the events… Sept. 22 Doug Talley Quartet; Sept. 29 Bram Wijnands Duo; Oct. 6 Brian Scarborough Quintet; Oct. 13 Michael McClintock and Jeff Freling, guitars; Oct. 20 Adam Larson Quartet; Oct. 27 Joe Cartwright, piano; Nov. 3 Eclipse

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Monday, August 10, 2020

Album Review: Brian Scarborough- Sunflower Song

I began tracking the steady ascent of Brian Scarborough even before I snapped the embedded photo of the young Kansas City trombonist at Homer’s Coffee Shop in 2017.  I’ve impatiently anticipated the release of his debut album since catching an astounding performance by Scarborough’s band at recordBar last year.  Released August 7, Sunflower Song is worth the wait.

Not only does the uncommonly elegant album showcase Scarborough’s talents as a trombonist and bandleader, Sunflower Song is an essential document of the artful component of Kansas City’s jazz scene.  In recruiting four of Kansas City’s most notable musicians- tenor saxophonist Matt Otto, guitarist Adam Schlozman, bassist Jeff Harshbarger and drummer Brian Steever- Scarborough is responsible for giving the rest of the world an opportunity to hear the magnificent sounds a small cadre of locally based fans of improvised music have enjoyed in recent years.  

Rather than dominating the nine tracks, Scarborough allows his bandmates equal footing.  The democratic collaboration pays homage to the cool West Coast jazz of the 1950s, an approach allowing Scarborough to honor the adventurous spirit of Bob Brookmeyer.  The late Kansas City native is Scarborough’s most obvious reference point.  The sound may be based on a venerable tradition, but there’s nothing stale about Sunflower Song.  

Serene on the surface, the album is deceptively subversive.  Otto invokes the underappreciated Jimmy Giuffre while Schlozman’s thorny solos reveal the influence of Thelonious Monk.  The stutter-step rhythms of “City Lights” highlight the synchronicity between Harshbarger and Steever.  Scarborough exhibits none of the youthful aggression you’d expect to hear on the debut album of a rising star.  

Immanuel Wilkins’ very fine Omega, the most prominent jazz album released August 7, is characterized by brash solos and innovative production tricks.  That’s clearly not Scarborough’s style.  Yet his reserved sensibility produced one of the most consequential acoustic jazz albums made entirely by Kansas City musicians in recent years.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Now's the Time: Ahmaad Alaadeen

Goofy jazz enthusiasts exclaim “Bird lives” as they celebrate the centennial of Charlie Parker’s birth this month.  The spirit of Ahmad Alaadeen also continues to resound in Kansas City.  Logan Richardson is among the late saxophonist’s notable disciples.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*KCUR surveys the Charlie Parker centennial celebration events in Kansas City this month.

*Calvin Wilson considers Charlie Parker’s legacy for KC Studio.

*Harvey Mason apparently references the conference rooms at the downtown Marriott hotel when he insists Kansas City has “lots of hotels…  with rooms named after famous jazz musicians… even streets may be named after them…” on Regina Carter’s new album
Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground.

*Tweet of the Week: ECMRecords- Finally,@PatMetheny’s complete ECM catalog of 11 albums, which includes such titles as Bright Size Life, Offramp, 80/81, is available as high-resolution masters for download and streaming: (link)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Exhibit Review: Saxophone Supreme at the American Jazz Museum

Chuck Haddix recently told me the Saxophone Supreme exhibit at the American Jazz Museum is like a CliffsNotes version of his 2013 book Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker(Plastic Sax review.)  A recent examination of the new installation Haddix co-curated with the American Jazz Museum’s Geri Sanders confirms his assessment.

Anchored by twelve handsome panels designed by Sean McCue of UMKC Libraries, Saxophone Supreme is a three-dimensional rendering of Haddix’s text.  Ephemera including album covers, biographies, performance contracts, artistic renderings and a menu from the second version of Birdland are displayed.  Several interactive sound clips are useful for visitors who bring their own headphones.  Here’s a link to a rendition of “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”.  Haddix tells me it's otherwise unavailable.

I wholeheartedly recommend Saxophone Supreme to anyone who knows little about Parker.  Admission is free.  Yet nothing in the exhibit is new to me, nor does the array of artifacts deepen my understanding of Bird.  An edition of CliffsNotes can be an indispensable tool for an apprehensive student.  But when it comes to Parker, I insist on complete and unabridged editions in the form of a biographies such as Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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.)

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Album Review: Bobby Watson- Keepin’ It Real

Keeping’ It Real arrives as a radiant beacon of hope at a difficult moment.  Bobby Watson’s strongest album in more than two decades offers indispensable inspiration during a time of societal upheaval and lethal pandemic.

Watson’s first release since stepping down as Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City is a vibrant return to form.  While each of the recordings he made as a leader during the new millennium is good, Keepin’ It Real is on par with the work that made him a vital star worthy of a six-night stand at the Village Vanguard in 1991.

Performing with a new version of Horizon- trumpeters Josh Evans and Giveton Gelin, pianist Victor Gould, bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Victor Jones- Watson revives the robust energy and unencumbered joy of his albums for Blue Note Records in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

Watson comes out swinging with an incendiary solo on the opening track “Condition Blue.”  His enthusiasm is matched by the fresh-faced pianist and trumpeters and the old-guard bassist and drummer.  Unlike the more innovative faction of Charlie Parker acolytes represented by Rudresh Mahanthappa, Watson sticks with tried-and-true bop.  The conventional approach works.  Watson’s band breathes new life into a stale form throughout Keepin’ It Real.

The album also documents the revival of Watson’s melodic gifts.  The title track and “My Song” (the latter piece first appeared in abbreviated form on 2013’s Check Cashing Day) are among the ebullient compositions likely to join Watson classics like “Wheel Within a Wheel” as modern-day standards.  A pair of ballads provide respite from the frantic pace.  Gould sparkles in Bill Evans’ role on Kind of Blues’s “Flamenco Sketches.”  Watson imbues Donny Hathaway’s gentle protest song “Someday We’ll All Be Free” with a sense of profound yearning.

Watson’s playing is so curative that listeners may wish they could inject it directly into their veins.  Keepin’ It Real may not be a vaccine for the coronavirus or a solution to America’s troubles, but it serves as a wondrous infusion of fulfilling assurance.

(Original image of a Village Vanguard calendar from 1991 by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 26, 2020

Now's the Time: Milton Morris

Twelve entertaining minutes of the salty Kansas City raconteur Milton Morris holding court begin at the 1:25 mark of the embedded video.  KC Jazz Lark wrote a fine overview of the colorful character’s ties to Kansas City’s jazz scene.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*UNESCO Creative City KC honored Marcus Lewis with the 2020 American Music International Innovator Award.  The organization cites Lewis’ “leadership and creativity in musical composition, as a creative director for the Marcus Lewis Big Band and for his original compositions fusing the big band jazz tradition of Kansas City with the latest and greatest hip hop from Kemet and Kadesh Flow with Brass and Boujee.”

*A television news reporter previews today’s city council deliberations about the allocation of $7,000,000 additional dollars to the Jazz District.  Tony Botello objects to the prospect of additional government funding for “a doomed district wherein gunfire echoes through the streets far more loudly than jazz.”

*Todd Strait drums on pianist Randy Porter’s new album Porter Plays Frishberg.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Mayor Q- I am deeply disappointed that a festive day ended again in tragedy in my home district at 18th & Vine. Long after establishments had closed, gunfire rang out. We'll pursue every option available to ensure residents and businesses in the area can be safe. (link)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Album Review: Rudresh Mahanthappa- Hero Trio

One of the truest barometers of musical popularity is what’s heard blaring out of open car windows.  For better or worse, the phenomenon hardly abated during the coronavirus era.  While I frequently hear the music of the Kansas City icons Rich the Factor and Tech N9ne at stoplights, I’ve encountered the music of Charlie Parker emanating from a car exactly once.  And given the rare instance occurred near Parker’s grave at Lincoln Cemetery, it almost doesn’t count. 

The track list of Rudresh Mahanthappa’s new album Hero Trio reveals what the heralded New York based jazz saxophonist would blast on a car stereo.  In addition to rabble-rousing readings of Charlie Parker staples including “Red Cross”, Mahanthappa, bassist François Moutin and drummer Rudy Royston interpret selections associated with Stevie Wonder, Johnny Cash, Keith Jarrett, Ornette Coleman and Sonny Rollins.  From Mahanthappa’s tart tone to his startling melodic choices, Hero Trio is the most vital homage to Parker’s innovations since the bandleader’s 2015 album Bird Calls

As I noted in an assessment of the essential new box set The Savoy 10-Inch LP Collection, the persuasive vitality of Parker’s music doesn’t require apologies or excuses.  Once again, Mahanthappa provides further evidence that Bird doesn’t merely live- he thrives.  The indefensible embargo currently tarnishing the reputation of Kansas City takes nothing away from Mahanthappa’s achievement.  I’ll be bumping Hero Trio in my whip through the remainder of this momentous summer.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Now's the Time: Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson

I’ve already shared the story of encountering Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Priscilla Bowman performing for a handful of admirers at the Grand Emporium in the early 1980s.  Given the informal tone of the gig, I’ve always assumed Vinson was living in Kansas City at the time.  The charismatic vocalist and saxophonist shares the stage with the Count Basie Orchestra in the embedded video.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Hermon Mehari was interviewed by Laura Spencer of KCUR.

*Eddie Moore appears on The People of 2020, a recording on which “40 composers from the NYC music community and around the globe, seeking a way to deeply speak about the times, collaborated to write and record an album... over a 14-day period.”  The project will be released on Friday, June 19.

*A politically-oriented arts site considers the cultural implications of Charlie Parker’s association with “Cherokee.”

*The Shawnee Mission Post reports on the cancellation of the Prairie Village Jazz Festival.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Deborah Brown and Tim Whitmer

*Vine Street Rumble will perform at a virtual version of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival in July.

*Tweet o’ the Week: The Folly Theater- Did you catch our Executive Director on @fox4kc this morning? Gale chatted with @markalfordkc about our reopening and upcoming concerts! (link)

*From The American Jazz Museum: The American Jazz Museum is excited to reopen on Tuesday, June 16th, 2020. Come celebrate the Jazz Experience again! We have taken careful precautions to keep our visitors, staff, and volunteers safe. Following the guidance from health agencies at the local, state, and federal levels, we have partnered with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the KC Culture Cares group to welcome visitors back to the Museums at 18th & Vine. (Details are available here.)

*From a press release: Burnett Music Foundation is pleased to announce it has received a $5,900 grant from the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission. These funds will support the August 22, 2020 Bird Boot Camp that is also an official program of the annual Spotlight Charlie Parker festivities.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Tuned Out

Complaining about terrestrial radio in 2020 is akin to railing against the decimation of the typewriter industry in 1990.  It’s a hopelessly irrelevant subject.  Yet I continue to see musicians and jazz institutions pouring time and money into the sham.

The enterprise is a Potemkin village erected by duplicitous publicists and brazen programmers.  Examine the total weekly plays and the corresponding number of stations on the most prominent chart.  Furthermore, the majority of the reporting stations are obscure.  Only one of the stations occasionally featuring jazz in the Kansas City market even registers as a blip in the ratings.

The content of the jazz chart is even more jarring.  There’s nothing wrong with any of the individual albums.  I happen to love a few of the recordings in the current Top 50.  Yet taken collectively, the grouping presents a picture of jazz as a fossilized remnant of the past.

At a time when innovative and socially relevant jazz is being made by the likes of Ambrose Akinmusire, Terri Lyne Carrington, Robert Glasper, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Matana Roberts, the anodyne tone of the majority of jazz radio programming (there are, of course, plenty of wonderful exceptions to the bland predictability) is designed to pacify rather than inspire active engagement.  Maybe it’s a good thing so few people hear it.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 12, 2020

Now's the Time: Bennie Moten

Bennie Moten was 40 when he died in 1935 following a botched tonsillectomy in his hometown of Kansas City.  Ninety-one years after it was recorded, the embedded “Spanish stomp” still sounds like a vibrant party-starter.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*A recording of a purportedly lost interview with Charlie Parker recently surfaced.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Leslie Maclean and Dave Panico.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Tony’s Kansas City- Kansas City After Hours Argument Sparks MASS SHOOTING INURING FIVE PEOPLE In The Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District: (link)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, June 7, 2020

EP Review: Hermon Mehari- A Change For the Dreamlike

Hermon Mehari’s reverence for jazz tradition was evident during his performances while he was based in Kansas City.  Even when he led tribute bands dedicated to reviving the rambunctious sounds of Miles Davis’ electric period, Mehari was resolutely dedicated to faithful recreations.

A Change For the Dreamlike, Mehari’s new 24-minute missive, shows the continued and entirely welcome expansion of his sonic palette during his ongoing residency in France.  Each of the seven tracks showcases intriguing ideas and textures.

The elegiac meditation on the wistful melody of “Shenandoah” opening the EP is followed by a jolt of contemporary production accents on “Let’s Try This Again.”  Mehari riffs over the spoken cadence of a family member on “Conversation With My Uncle,” a concept also effectively deployed by musicians including pianist Henrique Eisenmann.  The tale of a dangerous transnational journey makes the experiment the recording’s most essential track. 

“Eritrea” is an electro-acoustic groove in the vein of Lionel Louke while the chamber-jazz of “I Cry” evokes the innovations of Ambrose Akinmusire.  “All Alone” and “Dreamscapes” are moody soundscapes not unlike the recent work of Kendrick Scott Oracle and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah.

Mehari’s signature plaintive trumpet tone- a trait causing him to sound like Miles Davis’ sensitive great-grandson- provides a sense of continuity amid the disparate sounds of A Change For the Dreamlike.  Mehari's insightful statement of purpose for the project is here.

(Original image of Mehari performing in 2011 by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, June 5, 2020

Now's the Time: Jimmy Rushing

The Oklahoma native Jimmy Rushing sang in Kansas City based bands led by Walter Page and Bennie Moten before rising to fame through his association with the Count Basie Orchestra.  Known as Mr. Five by Five for his stout build, Rushing is supported by an auspicious cast of geniuses in the embedded video.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra created a social isolation rendition of the Clint Ashlock composition “Solitary Confinement.”

*2019 Fellows, an album recorded under the auspices of Kansas City Area Youth Jazz, is available on Bandcamp.

*The 2020-21 season at The Lied Center includes concerts by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Sherman Irby and Charenée Wade.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Ryan Anselmi, Brett Jackson and Eddie Moore.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Clint Ashlock- I play Black American Music. I wouldn’t have the career and life I have if it weren’t for great black Americans. To say I condemn racism doesn’t seem significant, but I do, and I’m trying to educate myself, figure out how best to make things better from my small part of the world

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 31, 2020

A Jerk Judges the Jazzy Jamdemic

I’ve long believed the only people who use the word “jazzy” without irony are either dullards or sardonic jazz-haters.  So I cringed when I learned of Jazzy Jamdemic just a few hours before the first concert in the series transpired at the Gem Theater on Sunday, May 24.  (Why bother informing a Kansas City music journalist and dedicated jazz blogger about the initiative?)

At a reported cost of $75,000, Jazzy Jamdemic consists of free one-hour streams of live concerts on Facebook at 5 p.m. C.S.T. six nights a week through July 3.  The verbiage at American Jazz Walk of Fame’s site notwithstanding, the events stream only at Facebook.

The unfortunate name of Jazzy Jamdemic belies the high quality of the first six episodes. The sound and lighting of the performances are invariably outstanding.  In spite of the off-putting absence of live audiences and the unsettling but welcome use of face masks by musicians, the concerts are excellent showcases for Kansas City artists.  My notes on the first week’s episodes follow.

Bobby Watson- Sunday, May 24
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, the apparent driving force behind Jazzy Jamdemic, introduced the first concert by suggesting the series will act as a “painkiller.”  The setlist rendered by saxophonist Bobby Watson, pianist Roger Wilder, bassist James Ward and drummer Mike Warren- “Confirmation,” “E.T.A.,” “A Wheel Within a Wheel,” “Soul Eyes,” “Up to the Minute Blues” and “In Case You Missed It”- was indeed a familiar balm for admirers of Kansas City’s most notable jazz practitioner.  Peak viewership: 114.

Molly Hammer- Monday, May 25
A woman suggested “who needs NYC jazz when we have Molly and the ‘guys’!” during Molly Hammer’s triumphant return to the stage.  If by “NYC jazz” the commenter meant “adventurous,” she was right.  Pianist Joe Cartright, bassist Steve Rigazzi and drummer Brian Steever supported the vocalist with appropriately conventional swing.  A hushed cabaret-style rendition of “Listen Here” was easily the best selection.  Peak viewership: 226.

James Ward Band- Tuesday, May 26
The extreme dynamics created by fiery saxophonist Ernest Melton and the harmonious smooth jazz and sublime fusion played by bassist James Ward, keyboardist Angela Ward and drummer Jaylen Ward caused the week’s only sound problems.  Melton’s compulsion to test the textural limits of standards by Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter as his bandmates played it straight was thrilling.  Peak viewership: 58.

Millage Gilbert- Wednesday, May 27
The Kansas City bluesman led a quartet in desultory renditions of blues and soul standards associated with the likes of Bobby “Blue” Bland, Tyrone Davis and Albert King.  Peak viewership: 48.

Pablo Sanhueza and the Kansas City Latin Jazz Orchestra- Thursday, May 28
The nine-piece band played the vibrant form of salsa associated with Eddie Palmieri with infectious enthusiasm and spontaneity.  Peak viewership: 77.

Lisa Henry- Friday, May 29
Lisa Henry reflected the fraught tenor of the times with a set highlighted by a searing reading of “Strange Fruit” and a powerful recitation of Natasha Ria El-Scari’s poem “The Secret Life of Black Mothers.”  Flugelhornist Chalis O’Neal, pianist Everett Freeman, bassist DeAndre Manning and drummer Mike Warren backed the vocalist with exquisite sensitivity.  Peak viewership: 55.

Based on comments and "likes" during the Facebook broadcasts, the majority of the paltry viewership of each stream consisted of the same people every night.  The well-intentioned Cleaver has miscalculated the intrinsic support for jazz in Kansas City for decades.  From historical and artistic perspectives, however, Jazzy Jamdemic is an entirely vital and necessary endeavor.  It’s a shame about the name.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Now's the Time: Mary Lou Williams

Mary Lou Williams established a reputation as a stellar arranger and composer while working in Kansas City in the late 1920s.  Her appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1978 came three years before her death.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Jazzy Jamdemic concert series continues through July 3.

*Ted Panken catches up with Eldar Djangirov for Downbeat.

*Steve Paul checks in with Bobby Watson for KC Studio.

*Patrick Neas promotes the 2020-21 season of the Folly Jazz Series in The Kansas City Star.

*Joe Dimino interviewed Candace Evans, E.E. Pointer and Dan Thomas.

*Tweet o’ the Week: KC Jazz Orchestra- KCJO's annual four-concert series is back and ready to wow you with a season that celebrates Kansas City's most beloved jazz icons. Subscription renewals under way, new subscriptions available beginning June 15! (link)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 24, 2020

I Voted

I elected to join the Jazz Journalist Association after sitting next to Howard Mandel for much of the Chicago Jazz Festival last year.  Mandel is President and Executive Director of the enterprise dedicated to “the creation and dissemination of accurate, balanced, ethical and informative journalism on all of jazz’s genres.”

I hope my affiliation with the JJA will boost the profile of my ongoing documentation of Kansas City’s jazz scene, and will in some small way contribute to an eventual reestablishment of Kansas City as a vital jazz hub.  The first true benefit I redeemed after paying my dues fee derived from the satisfaction I felt in nominating Kansas City’s Peter Schlamb alongside Joel Ross and Stefan Harris as Mallet Player of the Year in the JJA Jazz Awards.  Even though Schlamb didn’t make the final ballot, I was pleased to give him a little shine.

No musicians based in Kansas City were among the JJA winners, an omission that mirrors the discouraging results of almost every jazz poll of recent years.  I intend to continue to do my part in bringing the work of worthy artists like Schlamb to prominence in the years to come.

(Original image of Joel Ross at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2019 by Plastic Sax.)

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Now's the Time: Coleman Hawkins

Coleman Hawkins was born in Saint Joseph, Missouri, in 1904. He attended Topeka High School and Washburn University prior to attaining immortality in New York.  The breathlessness of the hokey hipster narrator in the embedded video is understandable.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Lonnie McFadden’s virtual concerts are the subject of a KCUR audio feature.

*Bobby Watson performs and talks about his forthcoming album in a Jazziz “Happy Hour” video.  Watson’s segment begins at the 32:45 mark.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Essential to my wife, so at home- #vinylrecords from my #vinylcollection People into jazz know Kansas City. People in Kansas City know Pete Eye. Pete only put out a couple of records, but they’re really great.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Grading the 2020-21 Season of the Folly Jazz Series

The last concert I attended before the coronavirus lockdown was Luciana Souza’s appearance in the Folly Jazz Series on March 7.  The Kansas City debut of the innovative Brazilian was filled with surprises.  The recently announced 2020-21 bookings in the Folly Jazz Series don’t hold much potential for the thrill of discovery.  Conventional, tried-and-true sounds by touring musicians already familiar to Kansas City audiences dominate the season.  The absence of the centennial tribute to Kansas City’s Charlie Parker- the most important tour of the year- is particularly egregious.

Karrin Allyson
Saturday, October 17
Karrin Allyson rose to fame while living in Kansas City.  Her homecomings are always welcome.  She last performed in the Folly Jazz Series in 2016.
Grade: B

David Benoit
Saturday, December 12
David Benoit’s biography suggests the keyboardist “has reigned supreme as one the founding fathers of contemporary jazz” for decades.  Joined by the son of Mel Tormé, Benoit and his band will revisit his popular 2000 tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.  The Folly last hosted Benoit’s holiday show in 2015.
Grade: C-

Jeff Lorber
Saturday, January 16
I walked to Line Creek Park in 1977 or 1978 to catch a free Sunday evening concert by a group led by Jeff Lorber.  The fusion band’s saxophonist was a scrawny kid named Kenny G.  Lorber performed at the Gem Theater in 2014.
Grade: C+

Anat Cohen
Friday, February 12
Anat Cohen is an Israeli clarinetist with wide-ranging interests.  She’ll be joined by Vitor Gonçalves, Tal Mashiach and James Shipp, men who helped make her lightly attended 2018 appearance at the Gem Theater extraordinary.
Grade: B+

Paquito D'Rivera Quintet
Saturday, March 20
The Cuban saxophonist and clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera, 71, is a Latin jazz mainstay.  The former member of Irakere is making his first public appearance in Kansas City in recent years.
Grade: B+

Eliane Elias
Friday, April 9
Eliane Elias has repeatedly proven she’s a sublime performer on Kansas City stages.  The Brazilian chanteuse and pianist last appeared at the Folly in 2017.
Grade: B

(Original image of materials from the 2006-2007 season of the Folly Jazz Series by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Now's the Time: Richard Ross

Joe Cartwright recently made the world a better place with his upload of a jubilant 1984 performance by the Richard Ross Trio.  The invaluable footage features the late drummer, vocalist and bandleader, pianist Cartwright and bassist Gerry Leonard tearing into a blues number.  Ruth Rhoden, the co-host of KCUR’s sorely missed program Just Jazz, eggs them on.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Folly Theater unveiled the 2020-21 season of the Folly Jazz Series.  The bookings will be soon be evaluated at Plastic Sax.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Community Christian Church- We’re bringing Happy Hour to you, so you can enjoy “live” jazz music from our own Tim Whitmer wherever you’re at! Check out our playlist of Tim’s Happy Hour videos any day of the week. #kcjazz #kansascity #kansascityjazz #kcjazz #livejazz #happyhour

*From a press release: 90.9 The Bridge is thrilled to announce KC Bands Together, a two-night virtual concert celebrating the resilience of the Kansas City community and benefiting the Midwest Music Foundation.  KC Bands Together  will feature nearly 20 local musician performances from 8:30 to approximately 11 p.m. on May 15-16. A one-hour highlight reel will air May 22 at 8:30 p.m. on KCPT with an audio version presented on 90.9 The Bridge.  Performers include Hermon Mehari and Krystle Warren.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Album Review: Leslie Maclean Trio featuring Molly Hammer- Live at Black Dolphin

I didn’t add to the outpouring of grief in the Kansas City music community when the Tank Room closed in 2017.  I sensed something even better was coming to the performance space at 1813 Grand Boulevard.  Black Dolphin didn’t disappoint.

Black Dolphin’s excellent sound, superior service and the gold backdrop behind the stage immediately elevated the room to the top tier of music venues in Kansas City.  While inconsiderate patrons occasionally detract from the live music experience, notable artists including Steve Cardenas, Jerry Hahn and Lonnie McFadden invariably attract attentive listeners at the room next door to Green Lady Lounge.

The members of the audience at Black Dolphin on March 24, 2019, were almost certainly riveted by the Leslie Maclean Trio.  Pianist Maclean, bassist Tim Brewer and drummer Jerry Pollack play the cheerful form of bluesy jazz long favored by Kansas City audiences.  The auspicious vocalist Molly Hammer joins the trio for six of the eight selections on the jaunty Live at Black Dolphin.  

The notes accompanying the new release suggest “these tracks would have been considered mainstream in the 1960s.”  “Let’s Let It Happen,” the strongest of Maclean’s original compositions, evokes the era in which the likes of Eydie Gormé, Jeri Southern and Nancy Wilson were major attractions.  The throwback approach wouldn’t ordinarily appeal to me.  Yet two months into the quarantine, Live at Black Dolphin sounds like a dispatch from heaven.  I’d give most anything to attend a performance by Maclean’s band at the nightclub this evening.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Now's the Time: Melba Liston

Melba Liston was born in Kansas City in 1926.  The embedded clip from 1960 features the trombonist and arranger performing in a big band led by Quincy Jones.  Randy Weston also benefited from Liston’s groundbreaking work.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Jeff Harshbarger and Johnny Hamil’s treacherous trip to Paris is documented by KCUR.

*Candace Evans is featured in Johnson County Lifestyle magazine.

*Joe Dimino interviewed A La Mode, B.J. Jansen and Jackie Myers.

*A graphic novel will depict Charlie Parker’s stint in California.  (Via St. Louis Jazz Notes.)

*Tweet o’ the Week: The Folly Theater- We're ecstatic to announce our involvement in Charlie Parker's 100th birthday celebration with Charlie "Bird" Parker 100! with Dan Thomas and the Kansas City All Star Band and almost 20 special guests! Tickets are available Friday!

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, May 3, 2020


Kansas City wasn’t among the cities slated to host a Fly Higher: Charlie Parker@100 concert before the pandemic forced the temporary suspension of live music.  It’s not a moot point.

Born 100 years ago in Kansas City, Kansas, Parker had a notoriously contentious relationship with his hometown.  The discord continues 65 years after his death.  Civic leaders and representatives of arts groups tout the area’s connection to the man who transformed music in the 20th century, but their diplomatic words aren’t matched by intrinsic support.

Fly Higher is an all-star band led by saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington.  Along with vocalist Charenée Wade, trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, pianist Kris Davis, bassist Larry Grenadier and DJ Kassa Overall, Mahanthappa and Carrington uphold Parker’s revolutionary spirit.  A fearless dedication to Parker’s subversiveness reflects the global acclaim bestowed upon the members of Fly Higher.  Yet they’re personae non gratae in Kansas City.

Willful defiance of convention doesn’t fly in Kansas City.  Only after his innovations were codified and he was safely ensconced in Lincoln Cemetery was Parker embraced as a hometown hero.  My fervent longing for a Fly Higher tour date doesn’t take anything away from the dozens of Kansas City jazz musicians who know Parker’s music inside and out.  But none of them- not even the exemplary Bobby Watson- possess the intrepid recklessness of the band led by Mahanthappa and Carrington.

It’s not too late for jazz power brokers in Kansas City to rectify the mortifying omission.  Concerts in San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago have been canceled, but dates in Washington D.C, Detroit and several European cities are still on the books.  Is Kansas City really going to further dishonor Parker by snubbing a vital tribute on the hundredth anniversary of his death?

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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.)