Monday, October 14, 2019

Concert Review: Kelli O’Hara at Helzberg Hall

What constitutes an ideal date night concert?  I’d suggest that the performance should be romantic, engaging, sophisticated, brief and affordable.  By those specifications, Kelli O’Hara’s appearance at Helzberg Hall on Saturday, October 12, was perfect.  My date shed tears of gratitude during the Broadway star’s renditions of romantic standards including “All the Way”, and she gleefully sang along to a rendition of the cheerful “Getting to Know You”.  Accompanied only by pianist Dan Lipton, O’Hara’s appearance lasted less than 90 minutes.  The brevity of the show might have bothered me had I not purchased rush tickets at an enormous discount.  Light attendance meant that we had an entire section in a posh venue almost entirely to ourselves.  Suddenly, I’m bright and breezy.

I reviewed an appearance by Tatsuya Nakatani at Plastic Sax.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, October 11, 2019

Album Review: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds- Ghosteen

I’ve attended only two funerals in 2019.  That number is certain to multiply in the next several years.  Knowing that my end is also coming sooner rather than later, I spend a lot of time pondering death, grief and God.  I once would have dismissed Ghosteen, the stately new song cycle by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, as an exercise in morbidity.  Yet like everyone who has managed to stay alive for more than half a century, I’ve taken enough hits to make Cave’s unblinking musings on mortality entirely relatable  Ghosteen is grim but not macabre.  Cave admirably attempts to overcome melancholy without devaluing the source of his pain.  In treasuring the good that remains, he honors the memories of those he’s lost.  That’s the best any of us can do.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Album Review: Robert Glasper- Fuck Yo Feelings

A rapper accosted me in a bar a few years ago.  He told me that while he appreciated my detailed analysis of his latest work, my review mistakenly referred to the recording as an album.  “It’s a mixtape!” he hollered.  Even though the project was sold on Bandcamp and iTunes and wasn’t available at mixtape sites like DatPiff, I let it go.

The distinction between albums and mixtapes is even more meaningless today.  That’s why I think Robert Glasper’s insistence that Fuck Yo Feelings is a mixtape is merely a defensive posture intended to deflect accusations of sloppiness.  And sure enough, the 71-minute recording is a self-indulgent mess, a tone he cops to in the album trailer.

Almost every time a groove catches a towering wave, the vibe is unceremoniously interrupted by a social message or a grimy verse.  But when the list of contributors reads like a Who’s Who of my favorite jazz, funk and hip-hop musicians- Bilal, YBN Cordae, Chris Dave, Denzel Curry, Herbie Hancock, Derrick Hodge, etc.- even the disruptions are nice.

On the DJ Screw-inspired “Daf Ftf,” Glasper slurs “anybody can just be a killing musician… it takes courage to step out and be a fucking artist…”  Glasper continues to prove that has plenty of guts.  I’d rather hear him goof around than listen to the most polished work of ninety percent of the artists listed on the JazzWeek radio chart.  Fuck their feelings.

I contribute weekly concert recommendations to The Kansas City Star.

I reviewed Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges at Plastic Sax.

(Original image of a light switch at the Folly Theater by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, October 07, 2019

Middle Muddle

I spent seven hours at the two-day Middle of the Map festival last weekend.  Much of it wasn’t time well spent.  A cover band's faithful back-to-back interpretations of “Helter Skelter” and “Love Shack" forced me to question the curation of the ninth edition of the event.

The headlining acts at the Uptown Theater on Friday were particularly dissatisfactory.  For an alleged industry plant, Clairo was shockingly lackluster in her Kansas City debut.  She performed prosaic pop with the reticence of an unwilling participant in a high school talent show.  Clairo’s tourmate Beabadoobee was similarly stilted in a set that sounded like Kidz Bop interpreting Pavement.  Lindsey Jordan of Snail Mail is a major talent, but she made it explicitly clear that she wasn’t happy to be there.  A drab collaboration between Clairo and Snail Mail on “Speaking Terms” was the ostensible highlight of the evening.  The giddy teens in the audience of about 600 deserved much better.

I would have stayed home if I had known that the clutch of singer-songwriters featured at Songbird Cafe were going to be my favorite component of Saturday’s day parties.  I defaulted to the folkies when few of the rock bands at the three other venues proved worthwhile.

Una Walkenhorst was a revelation.  I’d written her off after witnessing a dismal set a couple years ago.  Walkenhorst made huge strides while I wasn’t paying attention.  She may be the best folk artist to emerge from Kansas City since Iris Dement played open mic sessions in the 1990s.  Walkenhorst justly heaped praise on the precocious teen Jo MacKenzie: “she’s gonna be selling places out soon, so you’d better get on that train early.”  She may be right.  I detect similarities between MacKenzie and Addie Sartino of the on-the-cusp Kansas City indie-pop band the Greeting Committee.

I expected bracing blues-rock at the debut of Womanish Girl.  The duo of guitarist Katy Guillen and drummer Stephanie Williams didn't disappoint.  I left during the two-hour break between the festival’s day parties and the evening sessions.  A friend’s invitation to join him at the Tyler, the Creator concert in Independence didn’t work out, but the momentary prospect of seeing a musical giant made the idea of returning to the unassuming festival untenable.

(Original image of Jo MacKenzie by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, October 04, 2019


The owner of a Kansas City jazz establishment does an uncannily accurate impression of me.  Rolling his eyes while whining about “that f*cking organ,” the entrepreneur mocks my longstanding dislike of the Hammond B-3.  Three convincing recent releases forced me to reassess my bias.

The presence of the mighty Pharoah Sanders compelled me to check out organist Joey DeFrancesco’s In the Key of the Universe.  The grooviest tracks almost make me believe that “The Creator Has a Master Plan”.

The James Carter Organ Trio emits as much energy as the sun on the radiant Live From Newport Jazz.   The saxophonist, organist Gerard Gibbs and drummer Alexander White are committed to getting backfields in motion.

Steve Howe- yes, that Steve Howe- is joined by organist Ross Stanley and drummer Dylan Howe on New Frontier.  It’s a tasteful blend of prog-rock, jazz fusion and the conventional organ trio sound.

A few hours after composing the previous paragraphs, I plopped down in a chair three feet from the Hammond B-3’s auxiliary speaker at the Green Lady Lounge last night.  I was unexpectedly overcome with a newfound appreciation of the vintage analogue sound.  Here’s actual footage of my ecstatic response.

I write weekly concert recommendations for The Kansas City Star.

I contributed to KCUR’s guide to the Middle of the Map Fest.

I extol the addition of Adam Larson to Kansas City’s jazz scene at Plastic Sax.

(Original image of an organ combo at the Green Lady Lounge by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, September 30, 2019

September Recap

Top Five Performances
1. Eddie Palmieri, Ben LaMar Gay, Camila Meza, et al.- Millennium Park (The Chicago Jazz Festival)
My review.
2. Carrie Underwood- Sprint Center
My review.
3. Little Joe Hernandez- Barney Allis Plaza (Fiesta Hispana)
My Instagram clip.
4. Logan Richardson, Peter Schlamb, Dominique Sanders and Ryan J. Lee- The Ship
My Instagram clip.
5. The Sextet- RecordBar
My Instagram clip.

Top Five Albums
1. Jóhann Jóhannsson- 12 Conversations With Thilo Heinzmann
My review.
2. Alasdair Roberts- A Fiery Margin
My review.
3. Samantha Fish- Kill or Be Kind
4. Monty Alexander- Wareika Hill: Rastamonk Vibrations
My review.
5. Dylan Pyles- Popular Songs for the Heart
Lo-fi KC freak-folk a la Eugene Chadbourne and Jeff Mangum.

Top Five Songs
1. Fat Joe featuring Cardi B and Anuel AA- “Yes”
I apologize in advance.
2. Earthgang featuring T-Pain- “Tequila”
“Life is full of catchy hooks and uppercuts.”
3. Ameer Vann- “Emmanuel”
Cancel at your own risk.
4. The Highwomen- “Cocktail and a Song”
“Time’s running out.”
5. Alexandra Billings- “Let Her Be Okay”
I’m a crier.

I conducted the same exercise in August, July, June, May, April, March, February and January.

(Original image of Eddie Palmieri by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Album Review: Jóhann Jóhannsson- 12 Conversations With Thilo Heinzmann

I was so entranced the first time I listened to Jóhann Jóhannsson’s 41-minute song cycle 12 Conversations With Thilo Heinzmann that I was surprised when it ended.  The album was seemingly over just moments after it began.  It’s my understanding that it’s the first full-length recording of Jóhannsson compositions by a string quartet.  Each of the instrumental selections played by the Echo Collective is the length of a pop song.  Several are just as catchy- and as heartbreaking- as ballads written by Paul McCartney and Smokey Robinson.  Jóhannsson was at his artistic peak when he died last year at 48.  I’m not prone to extended periods of mourning, but I may never stop selfishly grieving the forestallment of the new music that would have enhanced the remainder of my life.

I reviewed an extremely loud concert by the Jonas Brothers and Bebe Rexha at the Sprint Center for The Kansas City Star.

I write weekly concert recommendations for The Kansas City Star.

I wrap up my three-part examination of the Chicago Jazz Festival with a litany of fussy grievances at Plastic Sax.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)