Thursday, August 16, 2018

Aretha Franklin, 1942-2018



















I’ve never not known Aretha Franklin’s voice.  She’s been a constant presence in the life of every committed music lover of my generation.  Yet I only began truly appreciating her as a distinct entity rather than as a omnipresent piece of the cultural firmament when I went on a deep soul dive in the early ‘90s.  I was reduced to a puddle when I first encountered “My Song” on one of the many soul compilations I purchased while on my single-minded pursuit.  Talk about being “in my feelings”!  I never took the Queen of Soul for granted again.  Franklin died today.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, August 10, 2018

In Defense of Kenny Chesney


Mocking Kenny Chesney is easy.  I’m guilty of clowning on the country star’s flair for corny melodrama.  My otherwise positive review of his concert at Arrowhead Stadium contained an unhealthy heaping of snark.

Not only do I admire Songs For the Saints, Chesney’s 43-minute meditation on the aftermath of the storms that have ravaged the Caribbean, I’ve repeatedly listened to the new album for pleasure.  Chesney’s platitudes may be trite, but they’re reassuringly sincere.

When I was younger, I often made the mistake of conflating an artist’s fan base with his or her art.  I know better now.  The staggering number of red MAGA hats and vomiting miscreants at Chesney’s appearance at Arrowhead Stadium doesn’t diminish my appreciation of songs like “Better Boat”.


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Charlie Puth obliterated my modest expectations at Starlight Theatre on Thursday.  I reviewed the concert for The Kansas City Star.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed the Myers Swingset’s The Instrumental One at Plastic Sax.

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Tommy Peoples of the Bothy Band has died. (Tip via BGO.)

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Lorrie Collins of the Collins Kids has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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Jack Williams, a musical Zelig, has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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Travis Scott’s crass crossover attempt Astroworld is tediously generic.  RIYL: consumerism, Young Thug, celebrities.

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Where We Come From (Chicago x London Mixtape) exemplifies everything I love- as well as everything I loathe- at the burgeoning intersection of jazz and hip-hop.  RIYL: bragging about lack of preparation, Nubya Garcia, jam sessions.  Here’s an explanatory video.

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I’m fully aware that music nerds like me are supposed to rave about Kaveh Rastegar’s Light of Love, but the preciousness of his fusion of jazz, funk and indie-rock irritates me.  RIYL: Kneebody, nerds, Chris Dave.

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What fresh hell is this?.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Concert Review: The S.O.S. Band and Avery Sunshine in the Jazz District


Doggone it!  The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s Heart of America Hot Dog Festival fundraiser was a massive disappointment.  I made my way to the Jazz District to hear Cameo, The S.O.S. Band and Avery Sunshine on Saturday.  The festival grounds on the spacious median of Paseo Boulevard north of 18th Street were packed.  Attendance appeared to be well over 5,000. 

I was glad the entertainment lineup ran about an hour behind schedule.  I stood in line 20 minutes to pay $20 admission at the gate and 30 minutes in another line to purchase cold drinks.  I strained to hear the jazz-tinged funk of Marcus Anderson as I waited. 

The faint sound was a big problem.  When I finally made my way to the closest spot to the stage the hoi polloi were allowed, I saw that only the few hundred people in the cordoned-off V.I.P. section were able to properly hear the performances.  It wasn’t all good for them- the fortunate few had to endure the glad-handing of at least one Kansas City councilman.

The clamor of the crowd and the aggressive policing that prevented music lovers from sidling up to the edge of the V.I.P. section caused the event to resemble a massive political rally more than a concert.  Even though I’m familiar with Sunshine’s repertoire, it was often difficult to discern which song she and her band were playing over the constant commotion.  I couldn’t even say if the setlist included “Call My Name”.

The din of the crowd and the inadequate amplification compelled me to take desperate measures.  I abandoned the festival grounds to watch the S.O.S. Band play hits like “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” from behind a chain link fence about 50 yards from the side of the stage.  The vantage point was an improvement, but not good enough to compel me to stick around for Cameo.  Maybe that’s a blessing- at least I didn’t get shot.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Album Review: Rodney Crowell- Acoustic Classics


Re-recordings by country artists are invariably dismal legal maneuvers.  Rodney Crowell’s Acoustic Classics is different.  For starters, the Texan never succumbed to has-been status.  Crowell is in his artistic prime as he nears his 68th birthday.  The songwriter redeems “Please Remember Me,” a goopy 1999 hit for Tim McGraw, refreshes “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight”, a 1979 hit for the Oak Ridge Boys, and reworks “Shame on the Moon,” a 1982 hit for Bob Seger.  The new interpretations of “Making Memories of Us” and “After All This Time” bring me to tears.  May we all continue to outrun the train and outlast the pain.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I asssess the Folly Jazz Series' forthcoming season at Plastic Sax.

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The jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stańko has died.  ECM created a nice memoriam for the Polish trailblazer.

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I’d rather hang out with Cody Jinks than listen to his music.  Jinks and I could bond over our mutual admiration of Waylon Jennings, Joe Ely and Jerry Jeff Walker.  His new album Lifers acts as a fine homage to those troubadours.

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Santigold’s I Don’t Want: The Gold Fire Sessions exudes the guileless creativity of M.I.A.’s 2004 mixtape Piracy Funds Terrorism.  RIYL: J Balvin, parties, Run the Jewels.

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Azul in Ljubljana is an invigorating live recording by the longstanding trio of bassist Carlos Bica, guitarist Frank Möbus and drummer Jim Black.  RIYL: Dave Holland, Euro-jazz, Nels Cline.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Concert Review: Selwyn Birchwood at Kanza Hall


Four black musicians performed for 20 white people at the 1,000-capacity Kanza Hall on Friday.  I forked over $15 at the door to witness the debacle.  Selwyn Birchwood is one of handful of artists equipped to shake blues out of the doldrums.  The form has been stuck in a commercial and artistic rut for years.  The Floridian’s astute songs, sly guitar solos, powerful voice and uncommon band configuration- guitar, saxophone, bass and drums- were even more impressive at Kanza Hall than on his two albums for Alligator Records.  The snippet of a Fenton Robinson-style guitar solo I posted to Instagram reflects Birchwood’s sensitivity and restraint, rare qualities in a genre that too often rewards bluster.  Subtlety clearly wasn’t in demand on Friday.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Album Review: Eddie Palmieri- Full Circle


I blew my travel budget on an Eddie Palmieri show in New York last year.  By Kansas City standards, I spent crazy money to catch the salsa legend at the Blue Note.  As a snippet of footage I posted to Instagram suggests, he was worth every penny.   The octogenarian and his expansive band revise salsa classics on the joyous new album Full Circle.   Not only does the project substantiate my enthusiasm for the Blue Note show, its life-affirming jubilance provides precisely the sort of consolatory tonic I need this summer.


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I reviewed Shania Twain’s return to the Sprint Center for The Kansas City Star.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I take note of the fine new album by Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 at Plastic Sax.

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The title of the Internet’s Hive Mind is unintentionally ironic.  Me-tooers have heaped praise on the return of Syd the Kid’s stylish soul group.  Telling the truth is unfashionable, but I don’t mind being the bad guy.  Here goes: Hive Mind is a terrible disappointment.  Aside from the sublime bass lines, there’s little to admire about the dreary project.

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Decade, a collaboration between 90-year-old Lee Konitz and 36-year-old pianist Dan Tepfer, is a mystical mind-meld.  RIYL: chess, Sam Rivers, astrophysics.

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Protoje’s A Matter of Time is a solid roots-rock-reggae album.  RIYL: Chronixx, getting past Legend, Burning Spear.  Here’s “Bout Noon”.

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I’d long ignored friends as they've touted footwork.  What a mistake!  Since R.P. Boo’s new I’ll Tell You What! turned my head, I’ve been astounded by almost every track on footwork playlists including Spotify’s Footwork Fever.  Better late than never.

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As a grown man, I’m disinterested in rap beefs and internecine heavy metal skirmishes.  I don’t particularly care why the metal community is divided by Skeletonwitch’s Devouring Radiant LightI just know that I’m down.  RIYL: Deafheaven, sore throats, Revocation.  Here’s “Fen of Shadows”.

(Original image of Eddie Palmieri at the Blue Note by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Concert Review: Randy Bachman at Ameristar Casino


Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s Not Fragile was one of my favorite rock albums when I was in elementary school.  My abiding affection for burly BTO songs like Not Fragile’s title track (“hoping boogie’s still allowed!”) compelled me to buy a $38 ticket at the door for Randy Bachman’s concert at Ameristar Casino on Friday.

The 74-year-old’s astonishing 100-minute appearance obliterated my modest expectations.  Bachman provided the surprising backstories of many of his hits as the primary artistic force of the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive in a survey of his momentous career. 

The Canadian explained that “No Sugar Tonight” was inspired by a scruffy street scene he encountered in Haight-Ashbury on an unsuccessful quest to find “a real hippie” during the Summer of Love.  In a story about the long gestation of “Takin’ Care of Business”, he admitted that “I have a songwriting kit in my car, it’s the same one you have- a McDonald’s napkin and a crayon.”

In addition to dropping the names of friends and colleagues like Burton Cummings (“he was born to be wild; I was born to be mild”), Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Stephen Stills, the setlist included three songs from his wondrously weird new George Harrison tribute project.  He took delight in enunciating the word jumble “buy By George By Bachman.  My mind was blown when Bachman introduced one of his four bandmates as his son Tal before a rendition of the latter’s 1999 hit “She’s So High”.  I never made the connection between father and son. 

The show’s sole flaw was the intrusive ambient noise from the casino that occasionally made Bachman’s stories difficult to hear.  My polite request to the staff at the entrance of the venue to shut the doors was summarily dismissed.  It’s a shame that Bachman’s classic rock tales weren’t afforded respect by indifferent representatives of the gambling emporium.

Setlist: Between Two Mountains; You Like Me Too Much; Shakin’ All Over; These Eyes; Laughing; No Sugar Tonight; Undun; American Woman; Here Comes the Sun; She’s So High;  Roll On Down the Highway; Let It Ride; Looking Out for #1; Takin’ Care of Business; You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)