Friday, September 14, 2018

Concert Review: The Bang on a Can All-Stars and the Kansas City Chorale at the Folly Theater



















The most prestigious offering of Open Spaces was an artistic triumph and an attendance disaster.  About 100 people showed up for the ambitious collaboration between the Bang on a Can All-Stars, one of New York’s most decorated new music ensembles, and the four-time Grammy Award recipients the Kansas City Chorale at the Folly Theater on Thursday.  Tickets to the Kansas City premiere of “Anthracite Fields”, the oratorio about coal miners that won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Music, were only $20.  The dismal turnout for the once-in-a-lifetime event at the venue with more than 1,000 seats was almost certainly the smallest showing for either acclaimed group in years.

Bang on a Can clarinetist Ken Thomson didn’t bother to use a microphone when he told the small gathering seated near the stage that his group had rehearsed with the Kansas City Chorale the previous two days.  The preparation paid off.  Conducted by the Chorale’s Charles Bruffy, the rendering of “Anthracite Fields” was magnificent.  Bruffy’s 27-member group excelled in the uncharacteristically adventurous context.  A melding of classical, rock and folk elements, “Anthracite Fields” is a sonically jarring but emotionally compelling work.  Composer Julia Wolfe grinned broadly as she was rewarded with a standing ovation at the conclusion of the evening.

Bang on a Can opened the concert with interpretations of two similarly engaging pieces.  Described in the glossy 20-page program for the concert as “an exploration into the use of video to create a framework in which live music can develop,” a madcap reading of Christian Marclay’s “Fade to Slide” showcased Bang on a Can’s ability to transcend labels.  The sensitive playing of cellist Ashley Bathgate during Michael Gordon’s meditation on mortality “Light is Calling” was almost as heartbreaking as the sparse attendance for the crown jewel of Open Spaces.


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I reviewed the record-breaking concert by Taylor Swift, Camila Cabello and Charlie XCX at Arrowhead Stadium.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I implore Kansas City’s jazz artists to redirect their promotional efforts at Plastic Sax.

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The promotional video for Cropped Out causes me to my question my decision to attend next month’s outsider music festival in Louisville.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, September 07, 2018

Album Review: Nicole Mitchell- Maroon Cloud




















I almost bailed on Nicole Mitchell’s Maroon Cloud after ten disorienting minutes.  Acclimating to the maelstrom created by the flutist’s drummer-less quartet is challenging.  The initial rough sledding serves to heighten the ultimate payoff.  Mitchell, vocalist Fay Victor, pianist Aruán Ortiz and cellist Tomeka Reid revive the most experimental aspects of the Sun Ra Arkestra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago.  Victor insists that “sometimes a sound represents eternity” on “Sound.”  She’s right.  Maroon Cloud has all the earmarks of a timeless avant-garde album.


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I created an four-minute audio feature about Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust for KCUR.

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I reviewed the Marcus Lewis Big Band’s Brass and Boujee album at Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I yakked about Open Spaces on KCUR.

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The American Jazz Museum held a press conference to promote a Randy Weston concert in 2010.  Only a television cameraman and I showed up.  Here are my notes documenting the odd event.  The jazz legend died Saturday.

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I relate to the locale of the Netflix series Ozark as much as the next Midwestern yokel.  Return, the forthcoming album by William Blackart, acts as a supplemental soundtrack to Ozark.  The Arkansas based singer-songwriter makes hardscrabble roots-rock in the vein of John Moreland.  Blackart’s current tour of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri includes a stop at the Westport Saloon in Kansas City on September 26.

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I didn’t want to invest time in Cyrus Chestnut’s Kaleidoscope, but there’s just no denying a piano trio album that ranges from Erik Satie to Deep Purple.

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Bruce Soord of the Pineapple Thief didn’t make much of an impression on me when I heard him open a concert for Steven Wilson in 2016.  Dissolution, the new album by the Pineapple Thief, does little to alter that perception.  RIYL: second-tier Roger Waters, dyspeptic pomp, a poor man’s Peter Gabriel.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, September 03, 2018

Concert Review: Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Dave Alvin and Jon Langford at Knuckleheads



















My date threatened to run off with Jimmie Dale Gilmore at Knuckleheads on Saturday.  I understood her impulse.  The Texan is an even groovier variant of Willie Nelson.  And at 73, Gilmore’s voice remains celestial.  He’s touring with Dave Alvin in support of their collaborative album Downey to Lubbock(Here’s the title track.).  They’re backed by a band of ringers including Lisa Pankratz.

Alvin’s frenzied guitar solos and the surprising jam-based segues were pleasing, but Gilmore was the main attraction.  His delivery on Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” was free of the sanctimony that often spoils the song.  And hearing Gilmore warble “Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown” was worth the $70 I paid at the door.

Jon Langford opened the show.  After noting my enthusiasm for the man who described he and his accompanist John Szymanski as “sad old guys playing acoustic guitars,” a few members of the audience of about 200 asked me about Langford.  I told them that his band the Mekons was the best rock group of ‘80s.  Langford seemed more inclined to abscond with my date than Gilmore.  I’m relieved that she didn’t ”Treat Me Like a Saturday Night”.

(Original image of Jimmie Dale Gilmore by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

EP Review: Radiant Children- Tryin'


Why hasn’t Radiant Children blown up?  The four dream-soul songs on Radiant Children’s Tryin’ EP are superior to almost everything the Internet, Janelle Monaé or Little Dragon have issued recently.  Don’t believe me?  Even cursory examinations of “Life’s a Bitch” and “Poke Bowl” will convince you that the London based trio has been unjustly overlooked.


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I reviewed Luke Bryan’s concert at the Sprint Center for The Kansas City Star

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I reviewed Lonnie McFadden’s "Charlie Parker: Past, Present & Future" at the Gem Theater at Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Believe it or not, the Temptations’ new interpretation of the Weeknd’s “Earned It” is excellent.

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Luciana Souza’s Book of Dreaming is too rarified for my blood.  RIYL: Gretchen Parlato extreme tastefulness, Joni Mitchell.

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Old dogs execute all manner of new tricks on a strange new tribute album.  Billy Swan and Buzz Cason perform surprising interpretations of Buddy Holly songs on Billy & Buzz Sing Buddy“Lookin’ For Someone to Love” is one of the project’s most conventional selections.

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I’m disappointed that Ólafur Arnalds’ Re:member doesn’t possess the emotional resonance of the late Jóhann Jóhannsson’s work.  RIYL: androids, Brian Eno, bleeps.

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Vete de mi vida.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Album Review: Elza Soares- Deus É Mulher



















I’ve long posited that Miles Davis had a more extreme evolution over the course of a career than any other musician.  Maybe I’ve been wrong.  Elza Soares went from this in 1965 to this in 2017.  The Brazilian octogenarian’s abrasive new samba album Deus É Mulher (God Is Woman) resembles an experimental Bill Laswell production.  Even though I can’t pretend to understand even half of the social, political and artistic implications of Soares’ transformation, I’m awed by her audacious fearlessness.  Here’s the punk-infused “Dentro de Cada Um”.


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Lazy Lester has died.  I documented a 2008 performance by the blues man.

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Ed King of Lynyrd Skynyrd has died.

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Ed “Mr. Bongo” Costanzo has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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I love every element of Erykah Badu’s Tiny Desk Concert.

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I understand the appeal of being one of Nicki Minaj’s minions.  Unfortunately, I can’t bring myself to sign up.  While fascinating, Queen is wildly inconsistent.  That said, all 47 minutes of Sweetener, the blissful pop album by Minaj’s pal Ariana Grande, are delicious.

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Thee Oh Sees have a full metal freakout on the hilariously gonzo Smote Reverser.  RIYL: Atomic Rooster, acid rock, Spooky Tooth.  The joke wears thin halfway through the hour-long album.  Here’s “Anthemic Aggressor”

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Slug and Ant on a train!  Atmosphere’s “Virgo” may be corny, but I remain all-in on my generational and regional peers in Atmosphere.

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I’m a sucker for metallic novelties.  Trappist recently issued an entire album of thrash songs about beer.  Ancient Brewing Tactics opens with the video-of-the-year candidate “No Soldiers Left Behind”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Kansas City Wine: New Albums by Kelly Hunt, Domineko and Broken Arrows






















Kelly Hunt’s debut album Even the Sparrow sounds as if was issued by Vanguard Records in 1966.  I wouldn’t ordinary commend an album that recalls the folk revivalist styles associated with Mimi Fariña and Buffy Sainte-Marie, but the combination of Hunt’s exceptional voice and exquisitely spare instrumentation is stunning.  Even the Sparrow will likely be my favorite non-jazz album of the year by a Kansas City musician.  Here’s “Sunshine Long Overdue”.

Domineko’s Perfect Weekend sounds like what might transpire if Kendrick Lamar or Vince Staples spent the summer in Kansas City consuming a debilitating stockpile of intoxicants.  The extremely wavy vibe is exemplified by lyrics like “I ain’t ever been this high” (“Peaking”), “I’m trying to smoke all night” (“Viewtiful”), and “addicted to ‘scriptions” (“Sundayze”).  Here’s “Setlist”.

There’s plenty wrong with Streetflowers, the debut album of the Kansas City band Broken Arrows.  The mix is tinny, the tempos drag, the lyrics are plain and none of the vocalists are compelling.  Even so, the boyish enthusiasm of the grizzled scenesters is charming.  A few of the area’s fashionable young garage-rock bands play similar forms of jangle-pop with an ironic smirk.  Broken Arrows’ earnestness is refreshing.  Here’s live footage.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sounding Off


Friends and associates are chagrined by my indifference to sonic fidelity.  I defend my lackluster stereo equipment by noting that a disproportionate percentage of my favorite recordings consist of hiss-imbued R&B, wobbly dub, murky jazz, scratchy honky tonk, ruffian rockabilly, disheveled punk and extemporaneous Soundcloud rap.  I don’t need a fancy system to properly appreciate that stuff.

Two new releases challenge my skinflint inclinations.

My modest speakers don’t protest when I inflict Pusha T on my neighbors, but they can’t handle Mirage? Concertos for Percussion, the dynamic collaboration of percussionist Evelyn Glennie, the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and conductor Anne Manson.  Glennie’s marimba and vibraphone barrage compel the speakers to beg for mercy.

I’ve repeatedly returned to Dirty Projectors’ Lamp Lit Prose simply because it’s a mind-blowing headphone album.  I’m less interested in David Longstreth’s pastoral version of Art of Noise-style prog-pop than in his hallucinatory studio trickery. 

Perhaps it’s time to upgrade.


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Drake and Migos raised the bar at the Sprint Center last Sunday.  I reviewed the concert for The Kansas City Star(Instagram clip)

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I reviewed Keith Urban’s bonkers appearance at the Sprint Center on Friday for The Kansas City Star(Instagram clip)

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Aretha Franklin received no respect from Sam Smith at the Sprint Center on Saturday.  I reviewed the concert for The Kansas City Star(Instagram clip)

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I previewed this month’s Charlie Parker Celebration at Plastic Sax.

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I reviewed Nate Nall's debut album Places to Go at Plastic Sax.

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Jazz vocalist Morgana King has died.

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Jill Janus of Huntress has died.

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I own physical copies of a few of Terence Blanchard’s film scores.  I’ve listened to each of them once.  While I enjoy his score for Blackkklansman, I doubt I’ll return to it.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)