Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Concert Review: Rickie Lee Jones at Crossroads KC

Seeing Rickie Lee Jones for the first time is akin to discovering that Santa Claus is real.  It turns out that Jones really is an old-school beatnik who has no choice but to inhabit a rarefied realm in which ‘50s-era West Coast jazz and Dylanesque folk intersect.

I paid $40 for a magical 95-minute trip to Coolsville, a place where Jones raps several lines of Cypress Hill’s “(Rock) Superstar” one moment and casually mentions that she recorded her 1991 album Pop Pop with jazz luminaries including saxophonist Joe Henderson and bassist Charlie Haden in the next without seeming the least bit incongruous.

Most members of the absurdly small audience of about 300 at Crossroads KC on Sunday were Jones’ generational peers, a circumstance that allowed me to ride the rail to get an intimate view of her interactions with percussionist Mike Dillon and two crackerjack multi-instrumentalists.  I didn’t dare snap a photo.  A testy performer, Jones directed her ire at a smoker, an annoying blurter and even a passing motorcyclist in the first few minutes of the show.  I didn’t want to be her next target.

Jones went full torch singer on “Company”, delivered a bebop interpretation of “Bye Bye Blackbird” and oversaw a hot jazz reading of “Nagasaki” that she admitted was based on the 1937 arrangement by the Mills Brothers.  Without the studio polish that ruined the original recording, a version of the devastating junkie blues “Living It Up” tore me to pieces.

I won’t bother making a Christmas list in December.  Santa came early this year.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Concert Review: Boulevardia 2019

I abandoned Boulevardia ninety minutes before rain washed out the headlining acts Dashboard Confessional and Ha Ha Tonka on Saturday.  Abstaining from alcohol allowed me to focus on 13 performances.  Capsule reviews of my five favorite sets follow.

The Black Creatures
I’d been so nonplussed by the Black Creature’s postings at Bandcamp that I’d planned to pass on the duo’s set.  An urgent impulse to take refuge from the sun led to a wonderful discovery at a small indoor stage.  The Black Creatures’ psychedelic neo-soul recordings don’t reflect front person Jade Green’s charming stage presence.

The Greeting Committee
Vindication!  I recently came under fire for claiming that the Greeting Committee is Kansas City’s most popular rock band in an audio feature I created for KCUR.  The thousands of drunk bros and middle-aged admirers who joined the group’s core fan base of young women in singing along to greasy-kid-stuff songs like “Hands Down” proved my point.

Katy Guillen and the Drive
Kansas City loves boogie.  Guillen’s new power trio satisfies Kansas City’s abiding passion for the ‘70s guitar-rock associated with groups like Foghat, Humble Pie and Mountain.  Light rain during the group’s set enhanced my appreciation of its throwback sound.

Kelly Hunt
A publicist recently attempted to pique my interest in the re-release of the debut album by the Kansas City folk artist Kelly Hunt by unknowingly including pull quotes from my rave review of Hunt's 2018 album in her pitch.  Hunt may be my favorite musician in Kansas City.

DJ Jazzy Jeff
Does anyone else remember the 2009 brouhaha that followed DJ Jazzy Jeff’s ostensible ouster from the Power & Light District?  Saturday’s benign set was even less threatening than the Greeting Committee’s frothy rock that preceded it.  The jock jams-themed mix blended Tupac, Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” J Balvin, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Toto’s “Africa” and (tons of) Bruno Mars with the DJ’s own hits including “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”.


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I reviewed the Kansas City debut of Snarky Puppy at Plastic Sax.

(Original image of DJ Jazzy Jeff by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Heartbreak Mountain

To the best of my knowledge, I don’t harbor any repressed memories.  Even so, I possess a psychological warehouse of unpleasant recollections that I choose not to dwell on.  A handful of selections on The Complete Capitol Singles 1971-1975, a recently released collection of material by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, plunged me back to what must be a composite memory from my childhood.  I’m alone in a parked sedan that reeks of fresh cigarette smoke and stale Coors even though the windows are down.  Second-tier country songs play on the AM radio as I pick at the sun-cracked artificial leather seat.  Thanks to the new compilation, I now know that I was hearing "The Good Ol' Days (Are Here Again)", “Made in Japan” and “Heartbreak Mountain”.  Buck and his boys were running on empty and I was just trying not to be noticed.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed Universal Pulse, a 2004 alliance of Mike Dillon, Earl Harvin and Arny Young, at Plastic Sax.

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Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys has died.

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Guitarist Spencer Bohren has died.

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I don’t recall previously hearing any of the 20 revelatory songs on the 83-minute Outro Tempo II: Electronic And Contemporary Music From Brazil, 1984-1996 compilation.  While the insufferable pop production techniques associated with the era are represented, most artists subvert the harsh digital sound with acoustic flourishes that sound deliriously strange to a guy who was raised on country radio in the northern hemisphere.  (Tip via Big Steve.)

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Rainford is the Lee “Scratch” Perry album of my dreams.

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This show was among the Santana concerts I attended at the Uptown Theater about 40 years ago.  I fondly recall the sustained guitar notes and the Latin percussion workouts at the jam-oriented shows.  The new album Africa Speaks isn’t merely a return to form, it’s a significant upgrade on the band’s vintage sound.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, June 07, 2019

Concert Review: Trombone Shorty and Seratones at Crossroads KC

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue concerts are preposterous.  The garish presentations of the high-energy New Orleans band are completely over-the-top.  Every solo is presented as a heroic achievement.  About 1,000 people lapped up the shameless showboating of the nine-piece band at Crossroads KC on Tuesday, June 4.  It would have been corny if it wasn’t so effective.  The musicians back up their ostentatious grandstanding with stellar ensemble work.  Often billed as a jazz act, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue is actually a jam-oriented funk band with a thick New Orleans accent.  Fans dictate the band’s direction.  More than half the audience used the group’s occasional forays into serious jazz-based improvisations as excuses to yak at their pals on Tuesday.  Most also talked through an opening set by Seratones.  I look forward to catching the soulful Shreveport group in a more accommodating setting.


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Mac Rebennack, the Louisiana musician better known as Dr. John, has died.  A few personal notes:
*The Top 40 radio hit “Right Place, Wrong Time” blew my mind in 1973.
*A cutout copy of Desitively Bonnaroo was the first Dr. John album I purchased.
*Bluesiana Triangle is my favorite Dr. John-affiliated album.
*My adamant defense of Dr. John almost came to fisticuffs during a racially-charged argument at a bachelor party.  (I still regret my obstinance.)
*The first of the four or five Dr. John concerts I attended was in 1984.  I reviewed his 2006 appearance at the Beaumont for The Kansas City Star.
*My life partner asked Dr. John about his mojo hand during a question-and-answer session at a 2012 concert at Yardley Hall.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Album Review: Azymuth- Demos 1973-1975

At the risk of oversharing, I’ll divulge the musical component of one of my proven methods of relaxation.  Deploying shuffle mode on a playlist with a few hours of lowkey Brazilian grooves from the ‘70s and ‘80s almost always makes me feel better.  Azymuth is a key component of these emergency decompression sessions.  The group’s Brazilian twist on effervescent instrumental funk and lilting jazz fusion provides engaging but undemanding background music.  The release of Demos (1973-1975), Vol. 1 & 2 is an unexpected windfall.  Most of the 80-minute compilation is musically preferable- if sonically inferior- to Azymuth’s most popular material.  Songs like “Laranjaeiras” are in keeping with watery instrumental jams of the era like Deodato’s reading of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and Bob James’ “Nautilus” while the least pleasing tracks are compelling studio workouts.  The unfortunate inclusion of a seven-minute drum solo that’s of interest only to beat pilferers kills the otherwise sublime restorative vibe.


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I reviewed StrangeFest 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 Ralph Peterson & The Messenger Legacy’s Legacy Alive, Volume 6 at the Side Door
at Plastic Sax.

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Ivan Conti’s impressive new album Poison Fruit doesn’t qualify for inclusion in the playlists I reference above.  Not only does it not fit into my arbitrary time frame constraints, the project by Azymuth’s adventurous 72-year-old drummer includes contemporary electronic and hip-hop elements.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, May 31, 2019

Concert Review: Nashville Pussy, Guitar Wolf and the Turbo A.C.'s at Knuckleheads

I ain’t never scared.  But as I surveyed the audience of about 250 from my perch on the upper deck of Knuckleheads’ outdoor stage on Thursday, May 30, I realized I may have been the most feeble person at the venue.  Every member of Nashville Pussy, Guitar Wolf and the Turbo A.C.’s is capable of knocking me out in seconds flat.  The bikers, the dude in jorts with a glorious mullet and even the 90-pound Guitar Wolf superfan could also have easily made quick work of me.

I didn’t pay the $20 cover charge to get beat up, so I minded my p’s-and-q’s with another sober pal.  The conventional punk band the Turbo A.C.’s were eager to please, but Guitar Wolf didn’t bother with niceties.  The storied Japanese trio played 45 minutes of confrontational noise.  The band took the stage to “Cretin Hop,” but Guitar Wolf sounded less like the Ramones than the sort of cacophony made by Keith Moon and Pete Townshend when they trashed the Who’s stage sets.  While Seiji has led his band for more than 30 years, he often played as if he never bothered to learn how to play guitar.  Needless to say, I loved every moment of Guitar Wolf’s debilitating anarchy.

My pal repeatedly insisted Nashville Pussy is “so badass.”  Rather than risk him tossing me over the railing, I heartily agreed with his enthusiastic assessment of the headliner.  The longstanding quartet exemplifies everything rock and roll should be: sexy, dangerous, defiant and subversive.  Yet Nashville Pussy’s stubborn insistence on musical competency and actual songcraft meant that the night belonged to Guitar Wolf.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

May Recap

Top Five Performances
1. Alisa Weilerstein, Sergey Khachatryan, Inon Barnatan and Colin Currie- Folly Theater
My review.
2. Cardi B- Providence Medical Center Amphitheater
My review.
3. Colter Wall- Madrid Theatre
My Instagram clip.
4. Der Lange Schatten- Blue Room
My review.
5. Combo Chimbita- RecordBar
My Instagram clip.


Top Five Albums
1. Jamila Woods- Legacy! Legacy!
“Are you mad? Yes, I’m mad!”
2. Flying Lotus- Flamagra
My review.
3. Tyler, The Creator- Igor
"Put it in park."
4. DJ Khaled- Father of Asahd
My review.
5. Michael Fabiano- Verdi & Donizetti
It bumps in my whip.


Top Five Songs
1. Mavis Staples- “One More Change”
I feel like going home.
2. Samantha Fish- “Love Letters”
Invisible ink.
3. Luke Combs- “Beer Never Broke My Heart”
Stuff that works.
4. Purple Mountains- “All My Happiness is Gone”
Staring into the abyss.
5. The Get Up Kids- “The Problem Is Me”
Don’t I know it.


I conducted the same exercise in April, March, February and January.

(Original image of Der Lange Schatten by There Stands the Glass.)