Friday, January 18, 2019

Sign of the Times


Like a full-fledged creep, I examined a stack of confiscated homemade signs near one of the entrances of Silverstein Eye Centers Arena last night.  The children and teens who created the fan art must have been devastated upon learning that the symbols of their devotion wouldn’t be seen by the headliner Kane Brown.  Friends and colleagues have long asked me how I suffer through concerts by mainstream country artists, facile pop stars and over-the-hill rockers.  I respond to their queries with indignant disbelief.  Seeing joy on the faces of fans and hearing their unreserved screams of appreciation never fails to thrill me.  I unreservedly adored last night’s concert by Brown, Granger Smith and Lacy Cavalier.  I reviewed the show for The Kansas City Star.

---
I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

---
I’m not quite sure how or why, but I’ve always been aware of Carol Channing.  She died earlier this week.

---
Lorna Doom of the punk band Germs has died.

---
My ongoing appreciation of Future’s druggy, vulgar materialism shames me.  Even so, I'm willing to confess that I’ve already derived enormous pleasure from the new release Future Hndrxx Presents: The Wizrd.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Joseph Jarman, 1937-2019


I’ve coveted the 21-CD box set collecting the works of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and affiliated ECM Records projects since its release six weeks ago.  I own physical copies of just a handful of the titles, but catching the group twice in the early 1980s transformed me from a curious listener to a fully committed jazz enthusiast.  The inability or unwillingness of subsequent jazz-oriented acts to attempt similar sorts of outlandish showmanship and surprising improvisations is an ongoing letdown.  The late Lester Bowie commanded most of the attention, but Joseph Jarman was one of the group’s most vital members.  The saxophonist died last week.


---
I created an audio profile of the Kansas City producer and engineer Justin Wilson for KCUR.

---
I reviewed a performance by Ben Tervort, Matt Otto and Brian Steever at Plastic Sax.

---
I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

---
Trombonist Urbie Green died on New Year’s Eve.

---
I adore Liz Brasher.  It’s a drag to report that her debut album Painted Image consists of warmed-over soul.  RIYL: (forgettable) Shelby Lynne, disappointment, (generic) James Hunter.

---
Chris Potter, James Francies, Eric Harland and Linley Marthe?  Oh man.  Circuits will be released on February 22.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Album Review: David and Tamela Mann- Us Against the World


I took objected as I spotted people clowning on David and Tamela Mann’s new album (and book) Us Against the World.  The couple’s suggestion that the album is intended to serve as a sensual soundtrack for Christian couples struck some wags as hysterical.  I can only assume these heathens are unfamiliar with Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin and Al Green.

The explicitness of a lot of contemporary R&B eradicates its appeal.  For instance, Trey Songz’s two repulsively graphic 2018 albums 11 and 28 make me queasy.  I’m entirely on board with the gospel-based Manns making grown-and-sexy soul.  Besides, I’m a longtime fan.

Unfortunately, Us Against the World is merely adequate.   Babyface and Toni Braxton’s like-minded 2014 collaboration Love, Marriage & Divorce and Womack & Womack’s 1988 classic Conscience are far more effective.  Even so, Us Against the World songs including “Feels Like” are refreshing examinations of marital grace.


---
I touted the music of Logan Richardson, Cardi B and Kanye West on a “Best Music of 2018” program on KCUR’s Up To Date two days ago.

---
I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

---
Ray Sawyer of Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show has died.  “Sylvia’s Mother” and “The Cover of ‘Rolling Stone’” were among very few radio hits my dad and I both enjoyed.

---
Pegi Young has died.

---
The versatile lyricist Norman Gimbel has died.

---
My childhood loathing of Captain and Tennille may have been my first brush with music criticism.  Even as a credulous child, that zippity doo-dah offended my sensibilities.  Daryl Dragon has died.

---
Howard Begle, the “legal eagle” who helped Big Joe Turner and Ruth Brown obtain back royalties, has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

---
Honey Lantree of the Honeycombs has died.  Here’s “Have I the Right?”.  (Tip via BGO.)

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, December 31, 2018

Concert Review: The Isley Brothers, the Whispers and Glenn Jones at Municipal Auditorium


The woman working at the box office of Municipal Auditorium on Sunday initially refused to sell me a ticket to the the New Year’s Weekend Soul Fest.  “You want to go to this?” she marveled as she pointed at a sign indicating that a concert by the Isley Brothers, the Whispers and Glenn Jones was about to begin.  Moments after convincing the woman to accept $40 in exchange for the least expensive ticket, I was accosted by a security guard who skeptically looked me up and down before asking to inspect my hard-won ticket. “Huh,” she muttered. “Well, have fun.”

Their bewilderment may have been warranted.  I was one of only a handful of white guys in the audience of about 4,000.  The extreme racial disparity blows my mind.  The Isley Brothers are one of the most important bands of the past 60 years.  I grew up on Top 40 hits like “It’s Your Thing,” “That Lady,” “Summer Breeze” and “Fight the Power”.  Not only would there be no Rick James, Prince or even Maroon 5 without the Isley Brothers, the Rolling Stones began their losing effort to catch up to the Isley Brothers with the 1976 album Black and Blue.

A twelve-member ensemble backed front man Ronald Isley and guitarist Ernie Isley in a stellar 90-minute headlining set that included rock and roll, doo-wop, pop, R&B, funk, gospel and gangsta rap.  The sound was mediocre, the production was rudimentary and 77-year-old Ronald leaned against a stool for much of the show, but witnessing the man who co-wrote the 1959 hit “Shout” perform the ancient nugget is still thrilling.  A rendition of the absolutely bananas 2011 hit “Contagious” was just as fun.  And yes, Ernie still shreds.

The Whispers’ 40-minute effort was almost as good.  I expected the 10-piece group to play crossover hits such as “And the Beat Goes On” and “Rock Steady,” but the venerable group surprisingly revived a few wildly anachronistic jams like “Olivia (Lost and Turned Out)”.  Introduced as “The Ambassador of Love, crooner Glenn Jones excelled in a karaoke-style 30-minute opening set that also delighted me.  The staff working the event may not have felt that I fit in, but I would rather have been nowhere else.

Isley Brothers setlist: Fight the Power, That Lady, Between the Sheets Footsteps in the Dark/Today Was a Good Day, Smooth Sailing/Sweet Thing, It’s Your Thing, Twist and Shout, Boney Maroney, Groove With You, Hello, Hello It’s Me, Choosey Lover, Joy and Pain, Jesus Loves Me, For the Love of You, Voyage to Atlantis, Summer Breeze, Down Low, Contagious, Shout

Whispers setlist: It’s a Love Thing, Keep On Lovin’ Me, In the Mood, Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong, In the Raw, Lady, Rock Steady, Olivia (Lost and Turned Out), Say Yes, And the Beat Goes On

Glenn Jones setlist: We’ve Only Just Begun, The Very First Time, A Song For You, Love By Design, Show Me Nobody But You


---
I reviewed Steve Cardenas’ homecoming concert at Black Dolphin for Plastic Sax.

---
I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, December 21, 2018

White Noise


In my extremely limited experience with mind-altering substances, I’ve found that the most rewarding intoxicants allow the user to gain fresh perspectives on familiar topics.  Remaining completely in control while entering a slightly divergent dimension is my idea of a good high.  The remixed version of the Beatles’ White Album offers such an experience.  Even though I’ve been as sober as a judge as I’ve scrutinized the project since its release last month, the tweaks made to the 50-year-old classic make me lightheaded.  It’s the same… but wondrously different.  The dozens of alternate takes and demos that follow the remix induce slightly less potent forms of delirium.


---
I reviewed Harry Connick’s delightful concert at the Midland theater for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Mopping Up


As an obsessive-compulsive music consumer, I’m frantically attempting to enter the new year without an imposing backlog of unheard music from 2018.  A cursory survey of the most rewarding components of my recent cramming sessions follows.  And yes, the albums are ranked.

Lionel Loueke- The Journey
One of the most important musicians alive turns down the volume and slows the tempo. 
RIYL: Weather Report, offhanded brilliance, Steps Ahead.

Marianne Faithfull- Negative Capability
Not exactly the feel-good album of the year. 
RIYL: looking death in the eye, Leonard Cohen, the bitter truth.

Cupcakke- Ephorize
The rapper’s extremely raunchy- and undeniably hilarious raps- make me blush.
RIYL: Cardi B, The Joy of Sex, Leikeli47.

F*cked Up- Dose Your Dreams
The investment in the 88-minute concept album pays off.
RIYL: George Orwell, Titus Andronicus, Pete Townshend.

Miguel Zenón- Yo Soy La Tradición
Undiluted genius or indulgent puffery?  It’s probably both. 
RIYL: Anthony Braxton, third stream, Rudresh Mahanthappa.

Phonte- No News Is Good News
Mature and nuanced rap.
RIYL: Black Thought, a man without a market, Oddisee.

Jeff Tweedy- Warm
I have nothing but respect for Tweedy. 
RIYL: Fred Neil, real life, Will Oldham.

Khruangbin- Con Todo El Mundo
Mildly diverting lounge music. 
RIYL: Friends of Dean Martinez, the first rehearsal of a Malo cover band, Calexico.

Dem Atlas- Bad Actress
Often overbearing emo-rap.
RIYL: Atmosphere, rappers who want to rock, Grieves.

Joan Shelley- Rivers and Vessels
Another outstanding young troubadour.
RIYL: Sandy Denny, 1970s folk, I’m With Her.

Meek Mill- Championships
There’s a reason the Philadelphian is more celebrated for his travails than for his rapping.
RIYL: corny guys, French Montana, excellent guest features and production.


---
I list my favorite jazz albums and performances of 2018 at the Kansas City jazz blog Plastic Sax.

---
I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

---
The elegant vocalist Nancy Wilson has died. 

---
Galt MacDermot, the composer of “Hair,” has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

---
Many of my colleagues don’t want to hear it, but Champagne Campaign is one of the most popular rock bands in Kansas City.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Here in BFE


Many of my friends and neighbors are committed to propagating the narrative that our town is an overlooked cosmopolitan utopia.  My social media feeds are regularly clogged with links to clickbait stories hyping Kansas City as a bastion of sophistication.  The desperate boosterism of my peers makes them look like self-conscious hayseeds. 

I don’t attempt to hide the dirt under my fingernails.  I’m just as comfortable in the empty plains of central Kansas as I am in a Kansas City jazz club.  That’s why I regret omitting an earworm that reflects my roots from my year-end list only because it was released in November of 2017.  Not only does Morgan Wallen’s “Up Down” hit home, it’s an indelible anthem for flyover country.  (Sadly, the video misses the point.) 

A pair of clips I posted to Instagram this year reflect the cold, hard facts about my town.  I was in the front row for a headlining concert by the Vijay Iyer Sextet at the Open Spaces festival.  Only a few dozen people were in the room.  Open Spaces presentations by Lonnie Holley and Bang On a Can also resembled private salon concerts.  The bacchanal atmosphere I documented amid a massive throng at a Kenny Chesney concert at Arrowhead Stadium demonstrates what actually flies in Kansas City. 

As Waller insists in “Up Down,” “we got what we got, we don't need the rest.”  And that’s good enough for me here in BFE.


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

---
I reviewed a new album by Greg Carroll and Michael Pagán at Plastic Sax.

---
Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks has died.  Singles Going Steady turned my world upside down in 1980.  I last saw the band perform at Warped Tour in 2006.

---
The Memphis saxophonist Ace Cannon has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

---
The Chicago bluesman Jody Williams has died.

---
The jazz musician and actor Roger Burton has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)