Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chuck Berry, 1926-2017


Prior to buying The Great Twenty-Eight as a new release in 1982, I thought of Chuck Berry as the guy responsible for the novelty hit “My Ding-a-Ling.”  The compilation rectified that misleading impression.  The euphoric aggressiveness of Berry’s earth-shaking songs was of a piece with a few of my other favorite albums of 1982, including the Clash’s Combat Rock and George Clinton’s Computer Games.

I attended my first Berry concert a year or two later.   It was terrible.  He was clearly going through the motions.  Yet I didn’t give up.  My persistence paid off the third or fourth time I saw Berry.  Lou Whitney and his cohorts in the Skeletons and the Morells acted as Berry’s backing band at Parody Hall in Kansas City.

Fondly remembered in these parts as ”the best bar band ever”, the quality of Whitney’s group clearly surprised Berry.  The legend became increasingly elated as his exceptional pickup band survived each of his challenges.  Against his contrary inclinations, Berry went all-in on that memorable night.  I never saw him try half as hard again.  Berry died yesterday.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Juke


Rather than shedding tears of grief upon learning of the death of the aged blues harmonica titan James Cotton yesterday, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for living during an era that enabled me to catch multiple performances by the luminary.  I first witnessed Cotton at the original incarnation of Antone’s in Austin. I heard him for the last time at the Uptown Theater in 2011.  Thanks to the blues scare of the late 1980s and early 1990s, I also attended plenty of gigs by John Lee Hooker, Hubert Sumlin, Jimmy Rogers, Albert Collins, B.B. King, Bobby Bland, Honeyboy Edwards, Koko Taylor, Johnny Copeland, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Z.Z. Hill and many other since-departed giants.  The blues was alright.


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I reviewed last night’s outstanding concert by Charlie Wilson, Fantasia and Johnny Gill at the Sprint Center.

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I reviewed Ben Folds’ concert with the Kansas City Symphony.

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I reviewed the Quality Hill Playhouse production “Unchained Melody.”

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

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I named Everette DeVan the KCUR Band of the Week.

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

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I reviewed the one-man play Live Bird at Plastic Sax.

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Evan Johns has died.

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Joni Sledge has died.

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Tommy LiPuma has died.

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New albums by the Kansas City based artists Samantha Fish, Hermon Mehari and Matt Otto were released today.

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The heavy Kansas City rock band Hyborian is off to an auspicious start with ”As Above, So Below”.

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Based on the stellar quality of the three advance tracks from Valerie June’s new album The Order of Time, I was hoping for a modern-day Astral Weeks.  It’s not even close.  The remainder of The Order of Time is merely good.  RIYL: Van Morrison, celestial boogie, Iris DeMent.

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I thought I’d outgrown 1980s college rock, but the Rolling Blackouts' The French Press makes me swoon in spite of myself.  RIYL: The Windbreakers, 1985,  the Go-Betweens.  Here’s ”Julie’s Place”.

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Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives’ Way Out West is a showcase for guitarist Kenny Vaughan.  RIYL: Dick Dale, spaghetti westerns, Marty Robbins.  Here’s the title track.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Album Review: Ibibio Sound Machine- Uyai


So-called “world music” radio programming in the pre-internet era frustrated me.  The majority of the specialty DJs on college and public radio stations condescendingly prized rigid stylistic purity.  Performers like Angelique Kidjo who dared to incorporate contemporary styles into their sounds were dismissed in favor of “authentic” artists.  Selections like ”Give Me a Reason” on Ibibio Sound Machine’s Uyai that betray the influence of acts ranging from Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band to Thomas Dolby would never would have been played by those patronizing gatekeepers.  And that’s a large part of what makes Uyai wonderful.


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I reviewed Art Garfunkel’s concert at Helzberg Hall.

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I reviewed Joseph’s concert at the Madrid Theatre.

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

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

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I commended the popularity of the Elders on KCUR.

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Dave Valentin has died.

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Tommy Page has died.

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The Kansas City rapper CB channels Atlanta on his latest track.

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Would you rather be an elite name in an esoteric realm or a mid-tier performer in a more popular format?  José James has opted for the latter.   He discards almost every trace of the sound that once made him a rising star in the jazz world on his fine neo-soul album Love In a Time of Madness.  RIYL: Robin Thicke, successful transitions, Ledisi.

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No matter how hard I try, I just can’t get with the new wave of stylish rock-informed jazz bands led by Snarky Puppy.  Kneebody’s Anti-Hero makes me wish I was listening to my old James “Blood” Ulmer, Billy Cobham or King Crimson albums instead.

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Chicano Batman’s Freedom Is Free may be my all-time favorite Grateful Dead album.  Here’s ”Friendship (Is a Small Boat in a Storm”.

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Fat Joe and Remy Ma’s Plata O Plomo is old-school fun.  RIYL: Big Pun, 2000, New York.  Here’s “Money Showers”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, March 03, 2017

Concert Review: Simone Porter at the Folly Theater


Almost every one of the dozens of children and teenagers who made up about half of the audience in the back of the balcony of the Folly Theater on Sunday afternoon were riveted by the performance of Simone Porter.  The young violinist’s ability to transfix kids impressed me almost as much as her sterling readings of works by Mozart, Janáček, Pärt and Brahms during the free concert in the venerable Harriman-Jewell Series.  Even the boys who played video games at intermission were silent as Porter and pianist Armen Guzelimian played the challenging selections.  I won’t pretend to understand how the star-making machinery works in the classical realm, but the poise and artistry Porter displayed on Sunday made her a commendable celebrity in the eyes and ears of hundreds of young devotees in Kansas City.


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I reviewed Stik Figa’s Central Standard album for KCUR.

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

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

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My review of Alaturka’s concert at Polsky Theatre is posted at Plastic Sax.

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I discussed Poor Bishop Hooper on KCUR this week.

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Horace Parlan has died.

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”Freedom Cobra” is the rawk song I’ve long wanted from the Kansas City band Bummer.

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David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors is the Donald Fagen of indie-rock.  That makes Dirty Projectors’ new self-titled album the equivalent of Aja.

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Much like Dirty Projectors, Thundercat’s Drunk is the eccentric brainchild of a California man who’s often too smart for his own good. Drunk is much better on paper than in practice.  RIYL: Frank Zappa, concept albums, Van Dyke Parks.  ”Walk On By” is the best track.

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And much like Drunk, Karriem Riggins’ Headnod Suite indulges the occasionally whimsical impulses of a master musician.  RIYL: Clyde Stubblefield, drumming lessons, Garageband.

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The sense of fun that’s often absent in jazz abounds on the hilarious Loafer’s Hollow, the latest effort from Mostly Other People Do the Killing.  RIYL: Louis Armstrong, audacity, Henry Threadgill.

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The spacey R&B on Kingdom’s Tears in the Club is RIYL Jhene Aiko, spacing out, SZA.  Here’s ”Nothin’”.

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Although Stormzy overshares on the schizophrenic Gang Signs & Prayer, the angry tracks are genuine bangers.  Here’s ”Big For Your Boots”.

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A few of my pals will lose their minds over Brokeback’s instrumental guitar album Illinois River Valley Blues.  RIYL: Link Wray, imaginary movies, the Coctails.

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Until I ingested Man Vs. Sofa last week, I hadn’t listened to a new Adrian Sherwood album in years.  He’s still great.  RIYL: bass, Lee “Scratch” Perry, dub.

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Víkingur Ólafsson’s Philip Glass: Piano Works is stunning.

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Pissed Jeans’ relentless Why Love Now is RIYL testosterone, F8cked Up, angry white men.  Here’s ”The Bar Is Low”.

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I wondered how Future expected to fill arenas on his forthcoming tour after issuing an inaccessible self-titled album two weeks ago.  The immediate follow-up Hndrxx solves the problem by serving as the vehicle for several likely hits.

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I wanted to love Los Campensinos!’s Sick Scene, but it’s about four notches too subdued for me.  Here’s ”The Fall of Home”.

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I can almost imagine an alternate universe in which Son Volt is my favorite band.  Notes of Blue is RIYL consistency, Furry Lewis, the Midwest.

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Even though I won’t spend much time listening to Little Big Town’s The Breaker for pleasure, I’m awed by its seamless merger of pop, country and classic rock.  Here’s ”Better Man”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

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.)