Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Big Reveal


I sat down with Aaron Rhodes of Shuttlecock Music Magazine to discuss a few of my favorite things.

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I reviewed a concert by Blondie, Garbage and the duo of Exene Cervenka and John Doe on Tuesday. 

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I discussed Jake Wells and Mike Dillon on KCUR.

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My most recent weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star are here and here.

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Field Day Fest shook my confidence on Friday. Even though the event received plenty of advance publicity (including a glowing piece I wrote for Ink magazine and The Kansas City Star), the turnout was woeful. I often felt as if I was the only person in attendance who had actually paid the full $15 cover.

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I marked a personal milestone at Plastic Sax.

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Fresh Kid Ice of 2 Live Crew has died. I last saw him perform at the misguided Zombie Pub Crawl in 2014 in the former grocery space to the north of the Uptown Theater.

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The stunning visual component of Juanes’ Mis Planes Son Amarte isn't necessary to appreciate the immediately ingratiating pop album.

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Contemporary doom metal goes corporate on Pallbearer’s Heartless. RIYL: Boston, colorless vocals, Rush. Here’s ”Thorns”.

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George Colligan’s session with Linda Oh, Rudy Royston and Nicole Glover on More Powerful veers between cocktail jazz and skronk.

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Every member of my compound is down with Sudan Archives’ self-titled release on Stones Throw Records. That almost never happens. RIYL: Sampha, something for everyone, Amber Coffman.

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Pharoah Sanders plays on three tracks of bassist Charnett Moffett’s often wonderful Music From Our Soul. RIYL: Jamaaladeen Tacuma, electric jams, Victor Wooten.

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I dig Cody Jinks’ cover of Pink Floyd’s ”Wish You Were Here”.

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I’m charmed by Big Boi’s wildly erratic Boomiverse. RIYL: Outkast, sweating, UGK. Here’s ”In the South”.

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Sevyn Streeter’s startlingly lurid Girl Disrupted is RIYL Brandy, underdogs, Janet Jackson. Here’s ”Before I Do”.

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Based on the melodic pop sensibility of Tenere, I sense that Afous D’Afous is fully capable of taking the place of 311 on the American summer festival circuit. RIYL: Bombino, dancing, Tinariwen. (Tip via Big Steve.)

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Deep Cover


There’s a right way and a wrong way to make an album of cover songs.  Nikka Costa takes the proper approach on the stellar Nikka & Strings: Underneath and In Between.  The unconventional arrangements and unusual instrumentation demonstrate Costa’s healthy irreverence on selections like Prince’s ”Nothing Compares 2 U”.  Her leisurely version of  “Stormy Weather” makes a case for Costa as Etta James’ most worthy heir.  Conversely, Douyé’s impeccably tasteful interpretations of standards like “In a Sentimental Mood” on Daddy Said So are infuriatingly stale.  The inability of elite jazz musicians like Kenny Barron, Ron Carter and Jeremy Pelt to lift the project out of the doldrums makes the effort even more frustrating.  The reactionary conservatism of Daddy Said So sounds like the supper club of my nightmares.


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I reviewed a concert by Iron Maiden and Ghost on Tuesday.

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I reviewed Monday’s outing by DJ Shadow at the Madrid Theatre.

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OneRepublic’s concert at the Sprint Center on Friday was one of my favorite shows of 2017.  No joke.  I reviewed the concert for The Kansas City Star.

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I discussed the Kansas City jazz fusion musician Blair Bryant on KCUR last week.  I inflicted Mike Dillon on listeners of the NPR affiliate earlier today.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I consider Steve Lambert’s new album Seven Stories at Plastic Sax.

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Lord have mercy.  Pokey Bear’s ”Can’t Be Faithful” is a strong contender for my favorite song of 2017.

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21 Savage’s Issa is so bad that it's good. "FaceTime" is among the tracks that are both brilliantly awful and awfully brilliant.

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I love everything about Riverside’s The New National Anthem.  The project overseen by trumpeter Dave Douglas is RIYL Carla Bley, brilliant fun, Old and New Dreams.

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Shredders, a reshuffling of the Doomtree crew, is invigorating.  RIYL: P.O.S, feeling Minnesota, Sims.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Album Review: Rich the Factor- 1,000 (Keep It Ten Hunnid)


As millions of Jay-Z fans parsed 4:44 over the weekend, heedful Kansas Citians studied Rich the Factor’s latest missive.  1,000 (Keep It Ten Hunnid) is another essential document of Kansas City’s criminal underworld.  The album validates the assertions I made in an extensive examination of Rich published by KCUR last year.  The title track includes a statement of purpose: “Rich, why you rap about the drug life? I’m like Pac when he rapped about thug life.”  He notes that “I handle business on the late night and keep my grass cut low for the snake bites” on “Late Night.”  The production continues to reference ‘80s and ‘90s R&B.  “On the Grit” samples the 1990 hit After 7 “Ready or Not,” a sentiment that reflects Rich’s unrepentant grind.


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I reviewed Bruce Hornsby’s appearance at Knuckleheads last Thursday.

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I accorded the Philistines my KCUR Band of the Week designation.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I consider reactions to the American Jazz Museum’s negative publicity at Plastic Sax.

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Pianist Geri Allen has died.  Perfection, her collaboration with David Murray and Terri Lyne Carrington, was my #9 album of 2016.

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A perplexing eight-minute documentary on the creation of Bargou ‘08’s wonderful Targ in Algeria raises more questions than it answers.

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I embrace the glorious pop of Calvin Harris’s Funk Wav Bounces without reservation or irony.  RIYL: Pharrell Williams, 2017, Future.

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Aruan Ortiz’s solo piano album Cub(an)ism is astounding.  RIYL: Cecil Taylor, truly new sounds, Gonzalo Rubalcaba.

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May the Purple Rain never stop falling.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Album Review: Vince Staples- Big Fish Theory


Several obsessive listening sessions with the difficult Big Fish Theory compels me to paraphrase a familiar saying: it’s not the Vince Staples album I want, but it may be the Vince Staples album I need.  Electronica-based production choices presented the initial hurdle.  Where the melange of jazz, funk and R&B employed by Kendrick Lamar- Staples’ most worthy hyper-ambitious California art-rap peer- immediately resonates with me, Big Fish Theory draws on sonics that are outside my wheelhouse.  As for Staples’ lyrical concerns, well, they’re not a lot of fun.  Lamar provides resolution for his apprehensions.  Staples is more ambiguous.  The contrast make Lamar’s entrance on “Yeah Right” the most electrifying moment on an album of challenging music for unsettled times.


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Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s concert at Crossroads KC was wack.  Here’s my review.

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I named Making Movies KCUR’s Band of the Week.

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In a dazzling display of poor judgement, I put off listening to Hudson, the new collaboration between John Scofield, John Medeski, Larry Grenadier and Jack DeJohnette.  The prospect of hearing them cover the likes of “Woodstock” didn’t appeal to me.  I shouldn’t have doubted the brilliant men.  The excellent album isn’t the least bit portentous.  Here’s the title track.

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Tigran Hamasyan’s An Ancient Observer is an enchanting piano-based album.  Here’s "Markos and Markos".  RIYL: Brad Mehldau, Armenia, Ethan Iverson.

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Sometimes I dodn’t know if I should envy the cool kids or laugh at them.

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Outside the Echo Chamber, an astounding collaboration between Coldcut and On-U Sound, overflows with ideas.  RIYL: No Doubt, dub, Lee Perry.

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Even though I think it’s a pointless exercise, I’d be lying if I claimed not to derive great pleasure from Ala.Ni’s You & I.  RIYL: Madeleine Peyroux, fine wine, Blossom Dearie.  Here’s ”Cherry Blossom”.

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Pop Makossa- The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon 1976​-​1984 sounds like an exuberant remix of Nile Rodgers’ discography.  In other words, it’s an instant party.  (Tip via Big Steve.)

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A viable new contender for the title of the worst song of all time features one of the best artists of the moment.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ain’t Nobody Praying For Me: Music Midway in 2017

The Top Songs of 2017 (So Far)
Three topics that have unsettled my home during the last six months- faith, sobriety and formulating an appropriate response to the new political climate- are addressed on Brother Ali’s hopeful anthem.(Spotify playlist)

1. Brother Ali- “Own Light (What Hearts Are For)”
2. Calvin Harris featuring Frank Ocean and Migos- “Slide”
3. Kendrick Lamar- “Humble”
4. Valerie June- “Astral Plane”
5. Sunny Sweeney- “Bottle by My Bed”
6. Lorde- “Liability”
7. Rick Ross featuring Young Thug- “Trap Trap Trap”
8. Young Fathers- “Only God Knows”
9. Future- “Mask Off”
10. Ibibio Sound Machine- “Give Me a Reason”

11. Fat Joe and Remy Ma- “Spaghetti”
12. Alejandro Fernandez- “Agridulce”
13. José James- “To Be With You”
14. Craig Finn- “God in Chicago”
15. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit- “Hope the High Road”
16. Mark Eitzel- “The Last Ten Years”
17. Adriel Favela- “Me Llamo Juan”
18. Stik Figa- “Cold”
19. Rodney Crowell- “It Ain’t Over Yet”
20. Migos- “T-Shirt”

21. Chronixx- “Majesty”
22. Motionless in White- “Loud”
23. Carlos Vives- “Al Filo de Tu Amor”
24. Chief Keef- “Reefah”
25. Ledisi- “High”


The Top Albums of 2017 (So Far)
No contest- 2017 belongs to Kendrick Lamar.

1. Kendrick Lamar- Damn
2. Matt Otto- Ibérica
3. Orchestra Baobab- Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng
4. Future- Future
5. Sunny Sweeney- Trophy
6. Tinariwen- Elwan
7. Juana Molina- Halo
8. Víkingur Ólafsson- Philip Glass: Piano Works
9. Bobby Watson- Made In America
10. Migos- Culture

11. Miguel Zenón- Típico
12. Future- Hndrxx
13. Making Movies- I Am Another You
14. Brother Ali- All the Beauty In This Whole Life
15. Wavves- You’re Welcome
16. Samantha Fish- Chills & Fever
17. Omar Souleyman- To Syria, With Love
18. Syd- Fin
19. Yelena Eckemoff- Blooming Tall Phlox
20. Gorillaz- Humanz

21. Uniform- Wake In Fright
22. Oleta Adams- Third Set
23. Jessi Colter- The Psalms
24. Willie Nelson- God’s Problem Child
25. Lorde- Melodrama


The Top Shows of 2017 (So Far)
My cousin the opera star made me wince from laughing so hard in my front row seat at the Folly Theater.  Eric Owens one-upped him by causing me to sob.

1. Lawrence Brownlee and Eric Owens- Folly Theater
2. Charlie Wilson, Fantasia and Johnny Gill- Sprint Center
3. A Place to Bury Strangers- Madrid Theatre (opening for the Black Angels)
4. Donny McCaslin Trio- Folly Theater
5. Salif Keita- Town Hall (New York City)
6. Greg Tardy Trio- Blue Room
7. Danilo Pérez’s Jazz 100- Yardley Hall
8. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and Strand of Oaks- Uptown Theater
9. Halestorm- Rockfest at Kansas Speedway
10. Jack DeJohnette Trio- Gem Theater

11. Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood- Sprint Center
12. Ramsey Lewis- Gem Theater
13. Patti LaBelle- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
14. Joseph- Madrid Theatre
15. Jessica Care Moore- Black Archives of Mid-America
16. Soundgarden and Dillinger Escape Plan- Starlight Theatre
17. Alaturka- Polsky Theatre
18. Lalah Hathaway- Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival in the Jazz District
19. Pure Disgust- Encore Room
20. Jimmy LaFave- Folk Alliance at the Westin Crown Center

21. Tech N9ne- Midland theater
22. Punch Brothers- Crossroads KC
23. Motionless in White- Midland theater
24. Simone Porter- Folly Theater
25. George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic- Boulevardia in the Stockyards District

(Original image of Lalah Hathaway by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Album Review: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit- The Nashville Sound


By evoking peak-era Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band during Ink’s Middle of the Map Festival at the Uptown Theater in May, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s concert at the Uptown Theater momentarily restored my faith in the viability of traditional rock and roll.  The best songs on the setlist- “If We Were Vampires” and “Hope the High Road”- acted as previews of the forthcoming The Nashville Sound.  It’s a drag, consequently, that those songs are far and away the album’s best tracks.  I’ll probably listen to “If We Were Vampires and “Hope the High Road” for the remainder of my life, but I’m just not down with the rest of The Nashville Sound.


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I wrote a feature about Oleta Adams for KCUR.

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I reviewed Ann Wilson’s concert at the Uptown Theater.

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I reviewed George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic’s appearance at the Boulevardia festival.

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Willie Nelson was rained out on Saturday, but I reviewed opening sets by Dwight Yoakam and Robert Earl Keen.

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Concerts by John Legend and Portugal. The Man were my shows of the week for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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I named My Brothers & Sisters the KCUR Band of the Week.

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I take note of Gerald Spaits latest release at Plastic Sax.

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My weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star are here and here.

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Prodigy of Mobb Deep has died.

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Ben Goldberg School’s The Humanities is RIYL Henry Threadgill, the combination of clarinet and accordion, Don Byron.

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I had a spiritual epiphany while listening to the opening selection of Ahmad Jamal’s excellent new Marseille. Here’s a music video for the fourth track.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Album Review: Juana Molina- Halo


My insomnia has a soundtrack.  When my mind races like a hamster on a wheel in spite of my exhaustion, my imagination generates gentle buzzes, soothing bleeps and reassuring coos.  Juana Molina may suffer from the same curious malady.  Her enchanting new album Halo is precisely what I hear on sleepless nights.


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I reviewed a production of “The Who’s Tommy” on Friday.

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I reviewed “You’ve Got a Friend” at Quality Hill Playhouse on Saturday.

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I reviewed a Punch Brothers concert at Crossroads KC on Sunday.

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I reviewed Muse and Thirty Seconds to Mars at Starlight Theatre on Monday.

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John Legend’s concert at Starlight Theatre is my pick of the week for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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I named Hembree KCUR’s Band of the Week.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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Footage of the late Jimmy LaFave’s powerful performance at the Folk Alliance conference in February has emerged.

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I hopped on the bandwagon for Gorillaz' Humanz last week.

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Ambrose Akinmusire’s A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard doesn’t move me.  RIYL: Wallace Roney, disappointments, Roy Hargrove.

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Benjamin Booker’s Witness is the rare roots-rock album that isn’t afraid of upsetting the apple cart.  RIYL: Gomez, powerful voices, Heartless Bastards.  Here’s ”Believe”.

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Canned arrangements and lackluster production spoil Maysa’s Love Is a Battlefield.  RIYL: Anita Baker, romance, Ledisi.  Here’s the title track.

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Even though I listened carefully to A Social Call, I’m compelled to reserve judgement on Jazzmeia Horn until I catch a live performance.  RIYL: Shirley Horn, jazz hype, Ella Fitzgerald.

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I’ve never attempted to hide my unironic affection for Papa Roach.  Crooked Teeth is RIYL Sevendust, real life, Seether.

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Heliocentrics’ trippy A World of Masks is RIYL Mulatu Astatke, groovy drones, Sun Ra.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)