Thursday, March 26, 2020

Album Review: Childish Gambino- 3.15.20

I was among the millions of Prince fans who rushed to record stores on Tuesdays to buy the nine albums he released in the 1980s.  Alternately hedonistic and apocalyptic, the communal soundtrack was admirably adventurous and challenging.

Childish Gambino’s 3.15.20 is a splendid evocation of that era.  While the musician born Donald Glover isn’t as innovative as Prince, his ingratiating references to the vintage sounds of Cameo, George Clinton, Marvin Gaye, Sly and the Family Stone and Prince are balanced by astute allusions to Frank Ocean and Kanye West.

3.15.20 is an invigorating reminder that not everything is awful.  Arriving nine days after Jay Electronica’s essential A Written Testimony, 3.15.20 is the second classic album of the coronavirus era.


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I yakked about Kansas City artists including Deborah Brown, Julia Lee, Marilyn Maye and Mary Lou Williams on an episode of 90.0 The Bridge’s Eight One Sixty.

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I reviewed Eldar Djangirov’s Rhapsodize at Plastic Sax.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Pandemic Playlist

I was awakened by a helicopter hovering over my home at 1:50 a.m. last night.  At least I think I was.  I’m no longer confident in my capacity to distinguish dreams from reality.   The tone and/or the lyrics of each track on my two-hour pandemic playlist reflect the circumstances.  Please wake me when it’s over.



(Original image of cat by There Stands the Glass)

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Album Review: Jay Electronica- A Written Testimony

What a time we living in/just like the scripture says/earthquakes, fires, and plagues/the resurrection of the dead.- Jay Electronica’s “The Neverending Story”

A Written Testimony couldn’t be timelier.  The long-awaited arrival of an official Jay Electronica album clocks in as much of the world’s population confronts calamity.  Everything about A Written Testimony hits home.  Because I maintain an (intermittently) halal household and regularly visit mosques, I don’t blink at the album’s foundation in Islam.  Still mourning a December death, I appreciate the spiritual meditations on the 39-minute recording.  As someone with suddenly precarious employment prospects, I share the artist’s skepticism of several of our shared institutions.  The bleak A Written Testimony provides an entirely apropos soundtrack for this pivotal moment.

(Original image of the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, March 13, 2020

Album Review: R.A.P. Ferreira- Purple Moonlight Pages

Most jazz-based vocalese is unlistenable drek.  Jazz poetry is even worse.  Yet as the cool kids hyperventilate to Shabaka and the Ancestors’ entirely adequate new spiritual jazz album We Are Sent Here By History, I’m obsessed with R.A.P. Ferreira’s Purple Moonlight Pages.   Backed by the faux-jazz band Jefferson Park Boys, the rapper formerly known as Milo avoids the pitfalls of the form by applying a hip-hop sensibility and a protective cloak of ironic detachment to rhythmic poetry.  Smart and funny, Purple Moonlight Pages’s simultaneous evocation of Nas and Thelonious Monk is rarely corny.  My fingers involuntarily snap when Ferreira raps lines like “whisper-singing Nelly Furtado/wishing I was a Yardbird/plastic saxophone/ashy metronome.”  Although the songs are among the album’s weakest tracks, Ferreira created videos for “Doldrums” and “Leaving Hell”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Expense Ratios

I’m a value investor.  I relish taking advantage of market anomalies in stocks as well as in goods ranging from albums to airline tickets.  Operating as an adaptable music obsessive in Kansas City means it’s impossible to uncover attractive deals on admission to concerts by stars like Lil Uzi Vert, but bargains abound for ostensibly highbrow performances.

The highlight of my stingy concertgoing career may always be nabbing a deeply-discounted front-row ticket to a 2012 Philip Glass concert for $30.  Even so, I’m inordinately pleased to have spent a measly $20 (plus a $4 dollar service fee) to see the jazz giant Bill Frisell last week.  (My review at Plastic Sax).

I’ve also been living high on the hog due to market aberrations for chamber music at the Folly Theater.  Spending $35 on a front-row seat for a concert by the revered chamber orchestra Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin allowed me to live like a Prussian monarch for two hours on February 21.  I pondered palace intrigue while basking in the rarified sound of unamplified period instruments.

The wondrous experience compelled me to buy another $35 front-row ticket for a concert by the Pavel Haas Quartet featuring pianist Boris Giltburg on March 6.  As the embedded photo of the string quartet’s Veronika Jarůšková and Giltburg indicates, I was so close to the action that I couldn’t capture the entire ensemble in a single frame.  As much as I’ll always love “XO Tour Lif3”,  the chamber music concert transformed me in a way an Uzi performance can not.  Watching Giltberg wrestle with Rachmaninoff’s “Études-tableaux”- (more or less exactly like this)- from a distance of ten feet allowed me to finally grasp the appeal of the composer’s work.

The jazz inflections in a contemporary piece by Ľubica Čekovská reminded me of Anthony Davis (this AD) compositions while the ensemble’s vital take on String Quartet No. 9 in C major made it seem as if Beethoven should be celebrating his 50th rather than his 250th.  Even though I didn’t enjoy a 45-piece Dvorak nearly as much, I walked out of the Folly Theater a changed man.  Eternal Atake resonated differently on my drive home.

I’ve saved the best for last.  I lamented the necessity of passing on Daniil Trifonov’s March 12 concert.  Tickets were far too rich for my blood.  But less than five minutes after receiving an email notification from the presenter offering remaining seats at a eighty-percent discount, I owned a fourth-row center ticket to hear the one of the most celebrated pianists in the world for a price of just $20.50.  I trust Uzi admires my investment acumen.


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I make weekly concert recommendations for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Album Review: Bad Bunny- YHLQMDLG

The range of intoxicating thrills available to sober vegetarians is limited.  That’s why I’m mainlining Bad Bunny’s deliriously heady Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana.  Beginning with the opening track’s hilarious send-up of “The Girl from Ipanema,'' the twenty-song set makes me feel as if I stopped at a dispensary on my way home from a liquor run.  The relentless application of giddy production effects on sugary pop-oriented reggaeton jams like “Pero Ya No” makes me dizzy.  Here’s actual footage of me dancing to “Yo Perreo Sola” in my bedroom.


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I recently resumed management of The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed Pat Metheny’s From This Place at Plastic Sax.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, March 01, 2020

February 2020 Recap: A Monthly Exercise in Critical Transparency

Top Five Performances
1. Post Malone- Sprint Center
My review.
2. Roddy Ricch- Uptown Theater
My review.
3. Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin- Folly Theater
My Instagram image.
4. Matt Villinger, Peter Schlamb and Zach Morrow- Blue Room
My review.
5. Joseph- Madrid Theatre
My Instagram clip.


Top Five Albums
1. Beatrice Dillon- Workaround
My review.
2. Obongjayar- Which Way Is Forward?
My review.
3. Blackstarkids- Surf
N.E.R.Ds.
4. Jóhann Jóhannsson- Last and First Men
End times.
5. Tame Impala- The Slow Rush
Smooth sailing.


Top Five Songs
1. Pongo- “Uwa”
Sonic sunshine.
2. Boosie Badazz- “Mop Wit It”
Cleanup on aisle America.
3. yMusic- Gabriella Smith’s “Tessellations”
Classical pops needn’t be lame.
4. BTS- “Ugh!”
Get on up.
5. Sam Hunt- “Hard To Forget”
Webb Pierce for the win.

Last month’s selections are here.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)