Monday, September 15, 2014

Concert Review: Joyce DiDonato with the Kansas City Symphony at Helzberg Hall





































I didn't realize that my fandom of Joyce DiDonato had become unhealthy until I spent the first couple minutes of her appearance Saturday at Helzberg Hall hating on her new hairstyle.  Then she started singing.

I hung on every note of Ravel's sublime "Shéhérazade."  DiDinato's rendition of Strauss' century-old art-pop song "Morgen" was sweet.  Even a horrendously cloying arrangement of her encore of "Danny Boy" didn't spoil the fun.

Much to my surprise, almost no one in the audience of about 1,500 left after intermission.  I'm not much on Tchaikovsky, so I just closed my eyes during the second half of the concert and passively let the sound of his Symphony No. 5 wash over me.  The fact that the pretty stranger sitting next to me smelled amazing enhanced the dreamlike experience.

Here's The Kansas City Star's proper review of Friday's concert.


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I featured Various Blonde on KCUR's Local Listen segment last week.

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Joe Sample has died.  Here are my notes on his 2013 concert in Kansas City.

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Cosimo Matassa has died.  (Via BGO.)

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Peter Gutteridge of the Chills has died.  (Via Robert Moore.)

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Thanks in large part to Joe Boyd's production, Robyn Hitchcock's new album The Man Upstairs is my official September soundtrack.  Hitchcock's original material is fine and the covers of the Psychedelic Furs' "The Ghost In You" and the Doors' "The Crystal Ship" altered my perception of the songs.  RIYL: Nick Drake, wistfulness, Roy Harper.

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I know a few people who may lose their minds over Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro.  The impressive project overseen by Billy Childs isn't for me.  For the record, the track with Rickie Lee Jones and Chris Potter wins. 

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Jhené Aiko's Souled Out is a state of the art R&B album.  RIYL: Sade, the sound of 2014, Aaliyah.  Here's "The Pressure".

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Sergio Mendes is still cheesy after all these years.  Yet his new album Magic is significant because of the amazing lineup of guest vocalists ranging from Janelle Monáe to Milton Nascimento.

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J. Mascis' Tied to a Star sounds like a tribute to Bert Jansch.

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Roberta Invernizzi's Ferrandini: Al Santo Sepolcro is RIYL: Italian cathedrals, Joyce DiDonato, the 18th century.

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Justin Townes Earle acquits himself nicely on Single Mothers.  RIYL: Slaid Cleaves, depression, Mark Olson.

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Dark Comedy by Open Mike Eagle is my favorite nerdcore album of 2014.  RIYL: Das Racist, crossword puzzles, MC Lars.

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Much of the metal community is appalled by the ascent of King 810.  I like 'em.  Memoirs of a Murderer is RIYL: Slipknot, violence, Five Finger Death Punch.  Here's "War Outside".

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The performance by pianists Alice Sara Ott and Francesco Tristano on Scandale is exciting.  The bile elicited by a promotional video is also very entertaining.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Album Review: Various Blonde- Summer High


The disbanding of the Mars Volta and the Deftones' inability to sustain the momentum generated by the wondrous 2010 album Diamond Eyes have left me jonesing for a new dealer of art-metal.  I've searched the world for a adequate replacement but the solution has been right under my nose all along.  Even though a couple of the dudes in the Kansas City band are my Facebook friends and I regularly reference the group in my work as a freelance writer, I had no idea Various Blonde was capable of creating a work as powerful as Summer High.  With the assistance of producer Ikey Owens of the Mars Volta, Various Blonde has devised a potent dose of foreboding psychedelia.


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I reviewed Cake's performance at Crossroads KC.

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The Project H was the subject of my most recent feature on the Local Listen segment of KCUR's Up to Date program.

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Gerald Wilson has died.  (Via BGO.)

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My acquaintance Teddy Dibble discusses rare vinyl by the likes of the Bill Dixon Orchestra and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

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I'm infatuated with Joyce DiDonato's Stella di Napoli.  RIYL: Italy, Renée Fleming, beauty.

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Dom Flemons' Prospect Hill opens with a bang before petering out.  RIYL: Leon Redbone, sepia, the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

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Sims' Field Notes contains two or three strong tracks.  RIYL: Atmosphere, the Twin Cities, P.O.S.

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Il Sogno del Marinaio's Canto Secondo isn't as interesting as the project's first album.  RIYL: Mike Watt, SST Records' jazz/punk releases, the Minutemen.

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Belphegor's Conjuring the Dead is RIYL: exorcisms, Morbid Angel, haunted houses.  I assume the video for the title track is intentionally hilarious.

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Just a reminder- I continue to write about Kansas City's jazz scene at Plastic Sax.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Album Review: The Ben Miller Band- Any Way, Shape or Form


I was surprised to learn that the Ben Miller Band was opening several concerts for ZZ Top.  How, I wondered, did the ruffians from Joplin land those enviable gigs?  Then I listened to the new album Any Way, Shape or Form.  The ensemble is no longer merely a poor man's version of Split Lip Rayfield.  Rugged new songs like "The Outsider" are capable of thrilling impatient fans of ZZ Top, Americana obsessives and jaded music bloggers.

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My notes on the opening night of the Kansas City Irish Fest are here.

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I contributed a Local Listen segment about Carswell & Hope to KCUR's Up to Date.

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Here's Ces Cru's video for "Give It To Me".

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A week after I named "Pieces of Me" as the #6 track of the decade, NPR posted Ledisi's excellent live performance of the hit.

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My observations about a 2011 Opeth show in Kansas City indicate that the band's transition from a metal band to a prog ensemble was underway three years ago.  The ridiculously overblown new album Pale Communion resembles Emerson Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull and Kansas.  (And yes, I like it.)

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Pallbearer's Foundations of Burden is mighty.  RIYL: rolling thunder, High on Fire, haunted houses.

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The audio portion of Dio's recently released Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993 makes me smile.  Here's corresponding concert footage.

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Somi's The Lagos Music Salon may be "important," but I just can't get into it.  RIYL: Esperanza Spalding, Art with a capital A, Abbey Lincoln.

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I may be the only person who's excited about the impending deluge of resentful recordings by graying rappers.  Cormega's Mega Philosophy is RIYL: bitterness, Nas, sour grapes.  I'm all about it.

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Spoon's They Want My Soul is first-rate.  RIYL: The Cars, craftsmanship, The  New Pornographers.

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DJ Mustard's 10 Summers is RIYL: YG, radio playlists, Jeezy.  Here's "Down On Me".

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I'd be lying if I suggested that I'd rather hear Steven Drozd and Wayne Coyne talk about Miles Davis than listen to the Electric Würms’ Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk, but it's a close call.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Album Review: D/Will- Reset


I had the pleasure of attending a small listening party for D/Will's Reset album last month.  I'd delayed reviewing the masterful recording partly because its unconventional nature makes it difficult to analyze.

Only after enduring a new release that's likely to be my least favorite Kansas City album of 2014 did I begin to fully appreciate the subtle brilliance of Reset.

Rather than being obsessed by the shallow topics of marijuana and rap status that consume many of his contemporaries, D/Will engages in a profound examination of spirituality.  Kanye West may be the only hip-hop artist to address the topic of salvation with as much finesse as D/Will.  Yet characterizing Reset as a Christian album wouldn't be accurate.

Reset is a bold reckoning of what it means to reside in America.

D/Will isn't a great rapper but he's an excellent producer.  The surprising array of sounds on Reset enhances the project's cultivated message.  "Meeting With God" relects the album's intent.


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Here's my review of T-Pain's woefully under-attended concert at Crossroads KC.

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I reviewed Nickel Creek's concert at the Uptown Theater.

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I contributed a Local Listen segment about the Phantastics to KCUR's Up To Date.

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Radkey was featured in USA Today.

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Mac Lethal has, as they say, found his lane.  Here's his new Mozart rap.

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John Blake has died.  I bought the violinist's album Twinkling of an Eye as a new release in 1985. 

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Jean Redpath has died.  (Via BGO.)

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The band name and album title of the National Jazz Trio of Scotland's Standards, Vol. III are amusingly misleading.  Bill Wells' project is RIYL: Belle and Sebastian, nuance, Robert Wyatt.  "Surprising Word" isn't the best track on the album, but the video is solid.

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The Messenger's Illusory Blues is RIYL: Kansas, 1975, Renaissance.  Here's the video for “Somniloquist”.

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Action Bronson is hilarious.

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I'm not convinced that Benjamin Booker is all that.  The self-titled album of the current media darling is RIYL: Kings of Leon, NPR, the Black Keys.

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Rittz owns it.

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Bless their metallic hearts.  The current lineup of the stalwart thrash band Overkill sounds better than ever on White Devil Armory, the New Jersey band's seventeenth studio album.  Here's the video for "Armorist".

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The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra's OverTime: Music of Bob Brookmeyer is worthwhile.

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My latest obsession: the music of the Lebanese singer Fairuz.

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"I don't know how you can sit there and listen to that mess."  That's what a member of my compound told me as I was ingesting Wiring, a new all-star jazz collaboration.  RIYL: Vijay Iyer, annoying others, Reggie Workman.

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I spent the remainder of the day cowering under my desk in a fetal position after I watched the videos for Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" and Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" back-to-back last week.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Top 25 Tracks of the Decade (So Far)


Pitchfork's polemical The 200 Best Tracks of the Decade (so far) post inspired me to compile my own list.  Although I don't necessarily share Pitchfork's sensibility, my smaller list includes eight of the same selections.  Where's the jazz?  Where's the metal?  Well, when I think about individual songs, I think about R&B and hip-hop.  All 25 of these songs released during the past 55 months thrill me.  Here's the Spotify playlist.

The Top 25 Tracks of the Decade (So Far)
1. Pusha T with Kendrick Lamar- "Nosetalgia"
2. Kendrick Lamar- "B****, Don't Kill My Vibe"
3. Lorde- "Royals"
4. Janelle Monae with Erykah Badu- "Q.U.E.E.N."
5. Jay-Z and Kanye West- "N***** In Paris"

6. Ledisi- "Pieces of Me"
7. Kanye West- "All of the Lights"
8. Tyler, the Creator- "Yonkers"
9. Earl Sweatshirt- "Chum"
10. Tech N9ne- "Worldwide Choppers"

11. Frank Ocean- "Thinkin' 'Bout You"
12. Jill Scott with Anthony Hamilton- "So In Love"
13. Josh Thompson- "Way Out Here"
14. Kanye West- "New Slaves"
15. John Legend- "All of Me"

16. Chrisette Michele- "A Couple of Forevers"
17. Miranda Lambert- "Baggage Claim"
18. Sleigh Bells- "Rill Rill"
19. Skating Polly- "So In Love"
20. Lil Debbie with Riff Raff- "Michelle Obama"

21. Nas and Damian Marley- "As We Enter"
22. Danny Brown- "Fields"
23. E-40- "Function"
24. LCD Soundsystem- "Drunk Girls"
25. Michael Jackson- "Love Never Felt So Good"

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cretin Hop


Punk may have won several battles during the past few decades, but it's clearly lost the war against mainstream rock. 

I visited a friend who runs the vinyl department at 7th Heaven on my way to Starlight Theatre for last night's concert by Boston and Kansas.  He told me that young vinyl enthusiasts are purchasing scads of Boston records. 

Sure enough, I spotted several groups of teens among the audience that almost filled the venue. 

Boston and The Ramones were both released in 1976.  Thirty-eight years later, Tom Scholz faithfully recreates "Peace of Mind" for thousands of admirers while every original member of the Ramones is dead.  A new album by the post-Boston metal band Godsmack topped Billboard's album charts this week. 

Punk's defeat doesn't bother me much.  While I prefer "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" to "Peace of Mind," I've always liked "More Than a Feeling" more than "Smells Like Teen Spirit."


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I reviewed a concert by Chrisette Michele and Raheem DeVaughn.

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I reviewed Joan Sebastian's first and final appearance in Kansas.

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Ziggy Marley performed at Crossroads KC this week.  Here's my review.

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Here's my review of Boston and Kansas.

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I contributed Local Listen segments to KCUR's "Up To Date" featuring The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra and Nuthatch-47.

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Dwight Frizzell's "Slippages" is very nice.

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Kasai Allstars' Beware the Fetish may be my favorite groove-based album of the year.

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Falty DL's In the Wild is as fresh as everyone says.  RIYL: Pole, vertigo, Flying Lotus.

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A lot of people enjoy making fun of Godsmack.  I'm not among them. The new album 1000hp is RIYL: Disturbed, life outside an ivory tower, Shinedown.  Here's the title track.

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Baxter Dury looks and sounds uncannily like his pop in the video for "Pleasure".

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Captain Black Big Band's Mother's Touch is RIYL: Orrin Evans, relevant swing, Charles Mingus.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, August 08, 2014

Album Review: Ces Cru- Codename: Ego Stripper


My knock on Ces Cru has always centered on the content of the Kansas City duo's lyrics.  Godemis and Ubiquitous possess great flows, superior intelligence and wondrous energy, but I'm not terribly interested in songs about inebriation, conspiracy theories or their standing in the rap game.  Yet everything comes together on Codename: Ego Stripper.  I still prefer the beats on Ces Cru's self-released stuff, but there's no denying the additional power provided by the typically slick Strange Music production.  Besides, "Pressure" references my late friend Anne Winter.  I don't know where Codename: Ego Stripper will debut on Billboard's charts this week, but the project is clearly one of the best Kansas City albums of 2014.


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Teen pop sensation Gracie Schram made a video for "Yellow Shoes".

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The video for Shy Boys' "Life Is Peachy" is amusing.

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Dutch Newman's "Go Chicken Go" isn't about the Kansas City restaurant.

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Electric Needle Room have released a split EP with the Pennsylvania band the Worsh Ahts.

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I can't get the late Jimmy Scott out of my mind as I listen to Cold World, the new album by Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens.  RIYL: The Soul Stirrers, God, Albertina Walker.  Here's a video for "Sinner".

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Miriam of Norton Records has released an album of her own.  "My Love Has Gone" is the first single.

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Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio is an uncompromising jazz recording led by the winner of the 2013 Thelonious Monk competition.  RIYL: Matt Otto, freedom, Sonny Rollins.

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Lawrence English's noise on Wilderness of Mirrors is right up my alley.  Here's "Hapless Gatherer".  RIYL: the hum of machinery, Harold Budd, ringing ears.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)