Saturday, February 25, 2017

I Might


I have no patience for the several important new albums that were released on Friday.  My obsession with “Slide” is in the way.  The collaboration between Calvin Harris, Migos and Frank Ocean is pure pop bliss.  “Slide” may be the best step dance song since R. Kelly’s joyous 2003 jam “Step in the Name of Love”


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I discussed Momma’s Boy on KCUR.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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I address the Janelle Monáe-related snafu that’s distressed much of Kansas City’s music and political communities at Plastic Sax.  I desperately hope that the following artists are the primary targets of the people in charge of the booking the American Jazz Museum’s new $50-per-day festival: A Tribe Called Quest, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Childish Gambino, Al Green, Lauryn Hill, Norah Jones, Kendrick Lamar, Diana Ross, Solange and Stevie Wonder.

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I wrote an extended concert preview about Valerie June for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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Larry Coryell has died.

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Leon Ware has died.

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Barbara Carroll has died.

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Blacswet, a self-titled EP featuring Spoek Mathambo, sounds like the soundtrack to George Clinton’s most lucid dream.  RIYL: “Atomic Dog,” European discotheques, Clipping.  (Tip via Big Steve.)

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Charlie Wilson has supplied an inordinately large portion of the soundtrack of my life.  Alas, In It To Win It is disappointing.  Only two or three songs are exceptional.  Here’s ”I’m Blessed”.

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The sparseness of La Diversité fooled me at first.  The open spaces cleverly obscure the depth of the latest effort by the Belgian saxophonist Nicolas Kummert and Lionel Loueke.  RIYL: Chris Potter, eurojazz, Pat Metheny.

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It’s not them; it’s me.  Windy City and Highway Queen, the new albums by Alison Krauss and Nikki Lane, don’t move me.

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Adam Schneit reached out to me about securing coverage of his 2016 album Light Shines In.  I’m pleased to report that it’s superlative progressive jazz in the vein of Bill Frisell and Steve Lacy.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Different Strokes and Indifferent Folks


I spent three nights working at the Folk Alliance conference last week.  (My summaries are here, here and here.)  While I admired a lot of what I heard- showcases by Bill Miller, Gaelynn Lea, Barbara Dane, Elle Márjá Eira and Wink Burcham were magnificent- I felt a bit detached.  

A good portion of the attendees had dedicated their lives to folk music.  Not me.  I might have been forcibly ejected from the conference had the true believers around me known that I had listened to the latest release by the rapper Future on the way to the event each night.

During one showcase, I was seated next to a man with no awareness of personal space.  I suspected that his life was transformed by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Pete Seeger in the early ‘60s.  He went into ecstatic paroxysms when a performer broke into the protest song “(Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody) Turn Me Around.” 

I was both annoyed and envious.  That was his moment.  What’s mine?  If I love everything, am I deeply attached to nothing?   I often feel like a profligate philanderer who sleeps with a different partner every night and inevitably winds up alone and friendless.


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I reviewed Run the Jewels’s return to the Midland theater.

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I elected to hit the Green Lady Lounge instead of attending the Kansas City Folk Festival on Sunday afternoon.  My notes on Dominique Sanders’ momentous weekend are posted at Plastic Sax.

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Benjamin Netanyahu bumped me off the airwaves last week.  I was slated to yak about the Ozark Mountain Daredevils.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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Clyde Stubblefield has died.

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Al Jarreau has died.

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Junie Morrison has died.

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I confess to reading the recent spate of rock-is-dead essays with almost as much relish as the inescapable jazz-is-dead dissertations.  And man, when I hear certain songs on “rock” radio stations, I’m overwhelmed with an urge to break stuff.  Uniform’s Wake in Fright makes me feel better.  Excoriating noise in the vein of Big Black and Jesus Lizard, Uniform’s Wake in Fright is a vicious ghost of rock past.  Here’s ”Tabloid”.

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The New Year's Concert 2017 with Gustavo Dudamel is less than three hours long, but it took me more than a month to work my way through the opus.  Maybe Vienna isn’t for me.

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David Bowie probably made scouting expeditions at New York jazz clubs before selecting Donny McClaslin’s band to create Blackstar.  A group led by David Binney might have been his second choice.  Binney’s fine new album The Time Verses is similarly exploratory. 

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I can’t defend my affection for John Garcia’s The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues.  It’s a bombastic metal-goes-acoustic jam.  And I love it.  RIYL: Alice In Chains, smoke, Kyuss.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Pain Meds


Ten absorbing new albums have provided comfort and distraction during my recovery from an invasive surgical procedure.  My ranking and notes follow.

1. Syd- Fin.  The promising producer a.k.a.Syd the Kid, a.k.a. The Internet, isn’t Prince reincarnated, but she has her moments.  RIYL: The Weeknd, works in progress, Usher.

2. Alejandro Fernandez- Rompiendo Fronteras.  So romantic!  RIYL: Juan Gabriel, gorgeous schmaltz, Rod Stewart.

3. Tinariwen- Elwan. Further confirmation that Tinarwen is the world’s best blues band. RIYL: Terakaft, Mali, John Lee Hooker.

4. Mats Gustafsson- Ljubljana.  Cracking the code of the free jazz duet between the saxophonist and pianist Craig Taborn is well worth the effort.  RIYL: Albert Ayler, room-clearing noise, Matthew Shipp.

5. Miguel Zenón- Típico.  The celebrated album is a tad musty.  RIYL: Charlie Parker, critical consensus, Benny Golson.

6. Howe Gelb- Future Standards.  A compellingly morose cocktail jazz album from the Giant Sand dude.  RIYL: Bobby Troup, despair, Hoagy Carmichael.

7. Allison Crutchfield- Tourist in This Town.  Ingratiating retro pop- rock. RIYL Camera Obscura, handwritten letters, Ellen Foley. 

8. Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears- Backlash.  Scuzzy garage-rock (that’s a good thing, of course).  RIYL: The Fleshtones, Burger Records, the Sonics.

9. Ces Cru- Catastrophic Event Specialists. Jazz interludes are interspersed throughout the Kansas City duo’s best album.  RIYL: conspiracy theories, Twistid, “real” MCs.

10. Delia Derbyshire Appreciation Society.  Sublime synth nostalgia.  RIYL: Brian Eno, getting lost in space, Tangerine Dream.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

I Am a Small Axe


Managers at an area tavern invite luminaries to spin records at their establishment.  I considered angling for an engagement until I attended one of the functions.  The volume was absurdly low and I seemed to be the sole patron who was listening.  Even so, I recently created a playlist that’s heavy on groove-based jazz, funk, Latin boogaloo, vintage R&B and neo-soul that I might someday employ in a different setting.  In other words, my mix sounds a lot like a compilation of the music of David Axelrod.  The multi-dimensional artist died on February 5.


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I reviewed a concert by Datsik, Crizzy and Virtual Riot.

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I wrote extended concert previews about Chief Keef and Gaelynn Lea for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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I reviewed Matt Otto’s latest album at Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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The Menzingers’ After the Party isn’t for me, but many of my pals will fully embrace the strong album.  RIYL: the Hold Steady, balding punks, the Get Up Kids.  Here’s ”Lookers”.

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The self-titled duet album by Brad Mehldau and Chris Thile is insufferably precious.  RIYL: fake folk, Yo-Yo Ma, grad school.

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Ballrogg’s Abaft the Beam is RIYL Elliott Carter, “free chamber Americana,” B.J. Cole.  Here’s ”Block and Tackle”.

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My high hopes for Nate Smith’s Kinfolk have been doused.  RIYL: Laura Nyro, limpid neo-soul, Lizz Wright.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Album Review: Mark Eitzel- Hey Mr. Ferryman


Mark Eitzel has my number.  Not literally- we last spoke in the ‘90s.  Yet his new album Hey Mr. Ferryman resembles a musical narration of my inner voice at 3 a.m.  Like Eitzel, I’m a fifty-something American whose life was changed by the music of Frank Sinatra, Sonny Rollins and Joe Strummer.  ”The Last Ten Years”, the opening track of Hey Mr. Ferryman, is loaded with zingers like “I saw the bartender’s love- I saw it in her yawn.”  The songs in which Eitzel banters with Jesus, dreams of slow-dancing in a kitchen and paints a portrait of a forlorn man who “gets grumpy trying to keep hope alive” hit uncomfortably close to my dilapidated home.


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I reviewed Winter Jam at the Sprint Center.

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I pondered the enigmatic Erica Joy on KCUR.

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I wrote an extended concert preview about Eric Church’s return to the Sprint Center.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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An anti-rap editorial in The Sedalia Democrat was inspired by a KCUR segment based on my advocacy of a song by the Popper.

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John Wetton has died.

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Delbert McClinton doesn’t give a flip on Prick of the Litter.  And that’s a good thing.  The new album is RIYL Dan Hicks, constructive indifference, Leon Russell.

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Boosie’s fatalistic ”Crabs In a Bucket” is my new theme song.

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Into the Blue, an EP by a trio led by the teen jazz pianist Emily Bear, is an exercise in tedious formalism.  RIYL: Joey Alexander, hype, Bill Charlap.

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Kehlani’s SweetSexySavage is RIYL Janet Jackson, generic R&B, Jhene Aiko.  Here’s “Distraction”.

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Bell Biv DeVoe’s Three Stripes is a barely passable reunion.

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Miles Mosley’s Uprising is RIYL Snarky Puppy, bluster, Al Kooper’s Blood, Sweat & Tears.  Here’s a live version of “L.A. Won’t Bring You Down”.

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Code Orange’s excellent Forever is RIYL chaos, the concept of metal version of Crass, throwing bricks.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Album Review: Yelena Eckemoff- Blooming Tall Phlox


Transfixed by the 98-minute album, I listened to Blooming Tall Phlox twice before researching the backstory of the unheralded but startlingly brilliant new release.  I discovered that each of the selections is intended to evoke a different scent that Yelena Eckemoff recalls from her childhood in Russia.  Whatever.  I’m far more interested in the ingenious arrangements and stellar playing of Eckemoff and the young band of Finns who realize her vision.  The cringey album trailer doesn't reflect the project's dazzling qualities.


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I suggest at Plastic Sax that a reading by poet Hanif Abdurraqib ruined jazz for me.

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I reviewed a disappointing Alexis y Fido concert.

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I reviewed “I Got Rhythm” at Quality Hill Playhouse.

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I featured A La Mode on my weekly segement on KCUR.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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I wrote an extended concert preview about Eric Church’s return to the Sprint Center for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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Maggie Roche has died.

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Overend Watts of Mott the Hoople has died.

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Jaki Liebezeit of Can has died.

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Butch Trucks has died.

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Kid Koala’s wondrous Music To Draw To: Satellite is RIYL floating, Björk, dreaming.

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Cherry Glazerr’s Apocalipstick is a rockin’ good time.

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Nicky Jam’s new album Fénix goes on forever.

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Bash & Pop’s quaint Anything Could Happen is RIYL: Pleased to Meet Me, Keith Richards’ solo career, Isolation Drills.

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Craig Taborn’s Daylight Ghosts has that new ECM smell.

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Wells Fargo’s Watch Out, an archival release by an obscure rock band from Zimbabwe, is RIYL the Faces, electric guitars, Jefferson Airplane.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Album Review: Noah Preminger- Meditations On Freedom


Noah Preminger is tilting at windmills.  Few artistic statements are more quixotic in 2017 than jazz protest albums.  Twitter rather than tonality is the order of the day.  Yet even if the New York based saxophonist fails to engage the new president in a war of words on social media, he’s made jazz great again with his sixth album Meditations On Freedom.  The project is slated for digital release on Friday, January 20, to coincide with the presidential inauguration.  Trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist Kim Cass and drummer Ian Froman join the saxophonist on instrumental interpretations of familiar material including Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is” and striking original compositions like “The 99 Percent.”  Performed in the liberating free jazz style associated with Ornette Coleman’s classic quartet, the appropriately named Meditations On Freedom is terrific, tremendous and very, very strong.


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I wrote a nasty review of a desultory concert by Lloyd and J. Holiday.

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I reviewed Ramsey Lewis’ concert at the Gem Theater.

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I reviewed Echoes of Europe, the new album by the Dino Massa Kansas City Quintet, for KCUR.

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I chastised a misguided Kansas City artist at Plastic Sax.

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I wrote an extended preview about Atmosphere’s return to the Granada.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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I discussed Blackbird Revue on KCUR this week.

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Posted here, for the first time anywhere- my response to the contemporaneous teen albums meme:
1. The Clash- London Calling
2. Michael Jackson- Off the Wall
3. Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson- Waylon & Willie
4. Bob Marley- Survival
5. Prince- 1999
6. Ramones- Ramones
7. Bruce Springsteen- Darkness on the Edge of Town
8. Talking Heads- Fear of Music
9. Hank Williams, Jr.- Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound
10. Stevie Wonder- Songs in the Key of Life
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Buddy Greco has died.  I thought about goofing on the late lounge lizard, but I genuinely like this ish.

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Tommy Allsup has died.

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Greg Trooper has died.

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William Onyeabor has died.

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Yukmouth’s JJ Based On a Vill Story is an unexpected triumph. RIYL: The Game, Oakland gangsta rap, E-40.  ”Thank You Lord” may be the album’s worst song.

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Systema Solar’s Rumbo A Tierra is a party-starter.  RIYL: Bomba Estéreo, a sense of surprise, Julieta Venegas.

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The XX’s I See You is an adorable homage to 1980s synth-pop artists like Alison Moyet and the Human League.

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I’m glad for my friends who are excited about Radiohead’s return to Kansas City on April 5.  An even more promising performance of forward-thinking sounds will take place at the Folly Theater on April 7.  The quartet of Donny McCaslin, Jason Lindner, Tim Lefebvre and Mark Guiliana act as convincing jazz ambassadors in a recent Tiny Desk Concert.

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Bonobo updates smooth jazz on the impressive Migration.  RIYL: Bob James, hot tubs, John Klemmer.

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Sepultura’s Machine Messiah isn’t just another perfunctory genre exercise.  RIYL: Pantera, rage, Kreator.

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Who needs the parody act Steel Panther when Grave Digger is still producing unironic gems like ”Healed By Metal”?

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)