Sunday, May 22, 2016

Whale Songs


Even in the age of unlimited streaming sounds, inspecting a physical library of prerecorded music thrills me.  The property I rented on the coast of Oregon last week was equipped with a fine library of classical, jazz and folk CDs.  I thoroughly enjoyed playing selections by Yo-Yo Ma, Dave Brubeck and Leonard Cohen on the cliff-side cabin’s excellent stereo as I looked for the gray whales that occasionally caroused several hundred yards below.


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I previewed a Florence + The Machine concert for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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

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Two of the four most recent posts at Plastic Sax extol new recordings by Pat Metheny.

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Guy Clark has died.  The Texan was extremely shaky during an appearance at the Folly Theater a couple years ago, but I named a 2005 concert at the Uptown Theater as one of the best shows of the decade

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Joe Temperley has died.  I last heard the Scottish saxophonist perform with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at Helzberg Hall in 2011.

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Bluegrass musician James King has died.

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Until I learned of his death today, I didn’t realize that Nick Menza of Megadeth also played jazz fusion.  Here’s footage of Menza with his band OHM.

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Emilio Navaira has died.  According to my records, the Tejano musician last performed in Kansas City 12 months ago.

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Theo Croker’s Escape Velocity may be the culmination of what so many young jazz musicians have been driving at in recent years.  The album possesses an up-to-date groove without forsaking tradition.  RIYL: Herbie Hancock, the now, Roy Hargrove.

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Musiq Soulchild successfully catches up to Drake, Miguel and Frank Ocean on Life On Earth while retaining his old-school sound.  Here’s ”I Do”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Concert Review: Tortoise at the Granada



I attended my first Tortoise concert last night.  More than 25 years into the Chicago collective’s career, I finally understand what all the fuss is about.  The songs that had always struck me as theoretical post-jazz abstractions came to life during Tortoise’s 90-minute performance at the Granada.  The paltry crowd of about 150 (including at least 20 women!) didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.  I drove to Lawrence and purchased a $25 ticket on a whim.  My impulsive act may have permanently transformed the way I think about music.


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My five favorite performances at Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest were by Group of the Altos, Ebony Tusks, Gallant, Jorge Arana Trio and Manchester Orchestra.  I contributed to The Kansas City Star’s reviews of the event on Friday and Saturday.

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I discussed Ida McBeth with Steve Kraske on KCUR yesterday.

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I ponder cultural appropriation in my preview of Disclosure’s concert at Crossroads KC.

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

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The new incarnation of recordBar at 1520 Grand Blvd. reminds me of the Slowdown in Omaha.  That’s a good thing.

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I felt like a proper German as I swooned over Robert Schumann’s third symphony during the Midwest Chamber Ensemble’s concert at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection on Sunday.

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The bawdy blues artist Candye Kane has died.

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The Kansas City rapper Young Devi D has a video for ”Don’t Judge Me”.

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I’m pleased by the critical consensus for Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor's Guide to Earth.  The solid album deserves much of the acclaim.  Weeks before the release of Simpson’s album, a friend insisted that I’d love Shooter Jennings’ Countach (For Giorgio).  He was right.  The completely bonkers project opens with a sample of Waylon’s "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out of Hand."  The track gradually morphs into a disco/techno banger in the vein of Giorgio Moroder.  Jennings also transforms the warhorse I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone into a throbbing electro-twang dance track and a fiddle battles Marilyn Manson for supremacy on a delightfully campy version of David Bowie’s “Cat People.”  That's what being an outlaw is all about.

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I’m always surprised when people tell me that they’ve never heard the song “There Stands the Glass.”  TSTG pal and honky tonk authority BGO thought that this site’s readers might enjoy David Ball’s rendition of the standard.

(Original image of Tortoise by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

He Believes He Can Fly





It may take me the rest of the year to process everything I heard and saw at R. Kelly’s bizarre outing at the Sprint Center on Saturday.  I hadn’t attended a Kelly concert in nine years, a period in which the Pied Piper of R&B made several essential additions to his vast discography.

The first 30 minutes of his maddeningly inconsistent appearance were so disheartening that I cursed myself for wasting $67 on the cheapest available ticket. My interest grew as the concert became increasingly odd. 

An abbreviated list of Kelly’s foibles: He spent a few minutes watching television from an easy chair (pictured).  A woman in the front row ostensibly massaged his crotch for about a minute (thankfully, my view was obstructed).  After his microphone was wrested away during a foray into the audience, Kelly was propositioned by a self-described “thick midget.”  Kelly had an extended discussion with a drone/blimp.  A video demonstrating his prowess as a trick shot hoop star was screened.  A man with an anemic t-shirt cannon shot objects into the audience.

Kelly’s rhapsodic voice belied these oddities throughout the disjointed show.  He sounded phenomenal even though it was unclear whether he was singing over prerecorded tracks or with a live band.  He paid tribute to Prince by playing a recording of “Purple Rain” as he hung his head.   Prince’s tragic death moves Kelly, a man already known as The King of R&B,  to the top rung of a category I’ll call “Most Vital and Brilliant Veteran R&B Artist.” 

It’s a shame that Kelly doesn’t have someone on his team with the authority to help him properly showcase his immense talent.  Here’s Tim Finn’s review of Saturday’s concert.



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I previewed the Middle of the Map Fest’s lineup of Zhu, Vince Staples, Gallant, Ebony Tusks and Blk Flanl.

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I talk about music with Steve Kraske on KCUR every Wednesday at 11:55 a.m.

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My $40 ticket to the Who was- please forgive me- a bargain, the best I ever had.  It took less than ten minutes for the band to eradicate my ill-placed skepticism.  Here’s Tim Finn’s review.

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Terrace Martin’s Velvet Portraits seems to go on forever.  Even so, the best tracks are first-rate.  RIYL: K-Dot, noodling, Curtis Mayfield.

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I recently praised Snarky Puppy at There Stands the Glass.  A few tracks on the live session Family Dinner, Vol. 2 tricked me into believing that the collective was more than the 21st century version of the Stan Kenton Orchestra.  I was wrong.  The new album Culcha Vulcha is RIYL: high school band camp, Doc Severinsen, transcribing solos.

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My friend S. raved to me about Parker Millsap several months ago.  I joined S. on the young Oklahoman’s bandwagon when I heard  the new album The Very Last Day last weekend.  RIYL: Steve Forbert, next-big-(folk)-things, Greg Brown.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Concert Review: Les Arts Florissants at Helzberg Hall


I couldn’t afford not to go to the Les Arts Florissants concert at Helzberg Hall last Saturday.  The 80% discount the presenter offered to everyone on its mailing list reduced the price of the ticket I purchased in the back row of the room to $4. 

At that absurdly low sum, I was willing to bail at intermission if the show wasn’t entertaining.  Rather than finding Les Arts Florissants tiresome, I wished that the vocal and instrumental ensemble that specializes in playing baroque music on period instruments would have performed all night.

An exceedingly sober review of the concert bears the headline “Consistency, grace, good taste.”  Those words don’t reflect my reaction to the presentation.  I’d go with “Sexy, steamy, fun” instead.  Vintage footage of a Les Arts Florissants show captures only a bit of the ensemble’s sultry side that enthralled this bargain-hunter on Saturday.


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I reviewed a concert by the Tedeschi Trucks Band.

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I reviewed a concert by Magic Man, the Griswolds and Panama Wedding.

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My friends don’t call me Rain Man for nothing.  My stilted commentary is featured in an audio review of Logan Richardson’s Shift that was aired by KCUR on Wednesday.

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I chatted about Duncan Burnett with Steve Kraske on KCUR last week.

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I wrote an extended concert preview about the Arcs.

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I wrote an extended show preview for R. Kelly’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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Lonnie Mack has died.

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Billy Paul has died.

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Papa Wemba has died.

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The Kansas City band Making Movies created a video for “Ready For the Rain.”

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Nihil Novi, the wonderful album by Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life, is a post-Kamasi Washington, post-Robert Glasper project.  RIYL: Randy Weston, groovin’, Meshell Ndegeocello.  The 15-minute album trailer contains a few interesting insights.

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Most of Mind of Mine, the solo debut album by former One Direction member Zayn Malik, is an unabashed homage to R. Kelly.  In other words, it’s pretty good.  Here’s ”Befour”.

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George Coleman’s A Master Speaks is a treat.  RIYL: octogenarians, Jackie McLean, standards.

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The press release for the Yellowjackets’ Cohearence suggests that the band offers a “modern take on Weather Report.”  If by “modern” the publicist meant “watered down,” the assertion is spot-on.  And I’m not even going to pretend that I’m too cool for sophisticated elevator music.  The Yellowjackets are one of my favorite contemporary jazz groups.

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Levitation Room’s Ethos is an almost perfect neo-garage-rock album.  RIYL: The Electric Prunes, “Pushin’ Too Hard,” the Pretty Things.

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Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom- Otis Was a Polar Bear is delightful.  RIYL: Jenny Scheinman, giving the drummer some, Myra Melford.  Here’s a promotional video.

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A$AP Ferg’s Always Strive and Prosper is immensely entertaining.  RIYL: Wu-Tang Clan, glossy production, Danny Brown’s XXX.  The uplifting ”Strive” may be my favorite song of 2016.

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Black Stone Cherry’s Kentucky is RIYL: Lynyrd Skynyrd, boogie, Kid Rock.  Here’s “Soul Machine”.

(Original image of a facade in Kansas City’s jazz district by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Prince, 1958-2016

I wore out the grooves on all four sides of 1999 in the months following the release of the album.  It’s a tribute to the universal appeal of the music that none of the guys in my college dorm ever complained.

Such was the power of Prince.  He changed everything.

The six albums beginning with Dirty Mind and ending with Sign o’ the Times is one of the greatest strings of consecutive brilliant releases in pop music history.

In terms of altering both the musical and cultural landscapes, Prince’s feat is matched by only a handful of artists including the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Sly and the Family Stone and Kanye West.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

David Murray: An Appreciation


Although the designation doesn’t have any impact on my estimation of the man, I’m glad that Henry Threadgill won a Pulitzer Prize yesterday.  In his self-congratulatory report, Howard Reich notes that Ornette Coleman was awarded a Pulitzer in 2007.  David Murray could be the next titanic jazz saxophonist and composer to be similarly honored.  Perfection, Murray’s new collaboration with pianist Geri Allen and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, is the latest entry in a massive discography that was already loaded with thrilling music.  Unlike the output of most supergroups, Perfection doesn’t disappoint.   With a previously unrecorded Coleman composition as its centerpiece, the album shot past Logan Richardson’s Shift as my favorite jazz release of 2016.


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I reviewed a concert by the Bad Plus Joshua Redman at the Gem Theater.

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The most recent rounds of the weekly music previews I write for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine are here and here.

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I wrote an extended show preview about the Tedeschi Trucks Band for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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The Kansas City rapper Gee Watts created a video for ”Grammys”.

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Gib Guilbeau, an integral part of the West Coast country-rock revolution, has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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Phil Humphrey of the Fendermen has died.  The group’s version of “Mule Skinner Blues” was a  hit in 1960.  (Tip via BGO.)

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Loyalty is good.  Nostalgia is bad.  That’s why I don’t entirely trust my affection for Deftones’ Gore.  Combining Boy-era U2 and Disintegration-era the Cure with thrash elements makes my heart go pitter-patter, but I’m inclined to dismiss the approach as a cynical parlor trick.  Pals who suggest that I need to get in the “right frame of mind” to properly appreciate Gore are undoubtedly right, but I’m on a straight-and-narrow tip at the moment.  Here's "Prayers/Triangles".

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Hayes Carll’s Lovers and Leavers is a spot-on evocation of the moment in the 1970s when Billy Joe Shaver, Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker and Guy Clark were at their artistic peaks.

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The Black Sabbath cover that serves as the colossal title track of Charles Bradley’s Changes is the album’s best song.  RIYL: O.V. Wright, emoting, Wilson Pickett.

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Yeah, I like Aesop Rock.  Wanna make something of it?  Here’s a live reading of ”Lazy Eye”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Swinging Doors: Remembering Merle Haggard


As I’ve mentioned several times in this space, I was raised on country.  A few portions of my indoctrination didn’t initially take.  Ray Price’s countrypolitan hits, for instance, struck me as corny until my hair began to gray. 

I always loved the music of Merle Haggard.  The Songs I’ll Always Sing compilation was my dad’s preferred Merle album.  And hearing the latest Hag hit on the radio pleased both of us.  One of the biggest mindblowers in my dad’s record collection was A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (or, my salute to Bob Wills).   The crazed Western swing broadened my horizon. 

My dad allowed me to tag along with him to a few Merle concerts when I was a kid.  When I later took dates to Merle’s shows, I desperately hoped I wouldn’t run into my old man.  That confession is especially painful now that both Merle and my dad are gone.

I reviewed Haggard’s final Kansas City show last year.


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I reviewed a concert by Joe Ely, Ruthie Foster and Paul Thorn.

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I reviewed the Christian McBride Trio’s concert at the Folly Theater.

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My favorite selection of the master’s recital by Garrett Torbert at St. John’s United Methodist Church last Friday was a reading of Aaron Copland’s ”The Promise of Living.”  Here’s a rendition by a larger group. 

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Tony Conrad has died.

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Leon Haywood has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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Ralph Peterson’s ably played but entirely predictable Triangular III is precisely the sort of mainstream jazz album that causes me to question my commitment to the form.

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The EPK for In Movement, the new collaboration between Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison, is compelling.

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Maxwell’s BLACKsummer’snight was my top album of 2010.  I’m atwitter about ”Lake By the Ocean”, the lead track from the long-anticipated follow-up.

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Phronesis’ Parallax is RIYL: Esbjörn Svensson Trio, Euro-jazz, The Bad Plus.  Here’s ”Stillness”.

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Bombino’s lovely Azel is RIYL: Tinariwen, the Sahara, Terakaft.  Here's ”Inar (If You Know the Degree of My Love For You)”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)