Monday, June 18, 2018

Album Review: Jorja Smith- Lost & Found


Jorja Smith’s episode of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert floored me.  The performance seemed to signal the arrival of a major talent.  Alas, the 21-year-old British woman’s debut album Lost & Found is slightly less convincing.  I was about to write it off until I was arrested by a surprising interpolation of Dizzee Rascal’s “Sirens,” my favorite song of 2007, on the eighth track.  Smith could be the next big star in the mode of Erykah Badu, D’Angelo or Lauryn Hill after all.


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I covered the first day of the Boulevardia festival for The Kansas City Star

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I analyzed the significance of Social Distortion in a forecast of the band’s appearance at Middle of the Map festival.

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I reviewed the Ryan Marquez Trio’s Moving Forward in Time at Plastic Sax.

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I was backstage in Austin Music Hall at a SWSW showcase for the All the King’s Men project in 1997.  I was on cloud nine watching a parade of stars walk past me to perform with Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana.  Fontana has died.

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At the conclusion of Matt “Guitar” Murphy’s first set at the Jazzhaus in Lawrence, Kansas, in the 1980s, I convinced two friends to abandon the club for my apartment.  I’d run out of money, but cold beer was in my refrigerator.  I’ve been haunted by that shameful decision for decades.  Murphy died last week.

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Lorraine Gordon of the Village Vanguard has died.  I’m fairly certain she’s the person who scolded me for dawdling during my first visit to the club in the 1990s.

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Jalal Mansur Nuriddin of the Last Poets has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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If three minutes were cut from the 7:33 “Everything,” Nas’ Nasir would be close to perfect.  It’s the best of Kanye West’s recent stellar musical outburst.  My new ranking: Nasir, Kids See Ghosts, Daytona, Ye.  Another thought: it’s increasingly clear that the five-part series (Teyana Taylor’s effort is slated for release on June 22) is intended to be heard as a single song cycle.

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Nick Lowe’s new four-song collaboration with Los Straitjackets is almost as wonderful as his classic work of the 1970s.

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The four-song Consolation affirms my belief that Protomartyr is one of the most vital bands in rock.

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Jeffrey Osborne’s Worth It All suffers from a serious quality control problem.  The soul crooner’s voice is intact, but decent songs are few and far between.  Here’s the title track.

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Lower East Suite Part Three, the sloppy debut album of the Onyx Collective, is a lo-fi mess.  And that’s precisely what I like about it.  The young jazz musicians play with the reckless indifference of punks.  RIYL: the Jazz Passengers, nose-thumbing, the Lounge Lizards.

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Orange Goblin’s The Wolf Bites Back is a blast.  RIYL: Clutch, prison tattoos, Red Fang.  Here’s “In Bocca Al Lupo”.

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I listened to The Carters’ Everything Is Love once.  Never again.  RIYL: Forbes list flexing, Us Weekly, misplaced priorities.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, June 11, 2018

Album Review: Angelique Kidjo- Remain in Light


The young man next to me refused to stay seated when a band led by David Byrne launched into “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)” at Muriel Kauffman Theatre on Thursday.  (I reviewed the concert for The Kansas City Star.)   My new friend confided that “it’s from my favorite album, I have to dance” as he rose to his feet.  I joined him even though I knew that my display of solidarity would draw the ire of the handful of prim people who refused to stand.  My dance partner had yet to be born when Talking Heads' Remain in Light was recorded, but I bought it as a new release in 1980.  Angelique Kidjo shares our passion for the seminal album.  The Beninese star has remade Remain In Light in her own image.  Her translation of songs including "Born Under Punches" and “Once in a Lifetime” address some of the most crucial issues of 2018.


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I reviewed the Marcus Lewis Big Band at RecordBar for Plastic Sax.

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Eddie Clearwater has died.  The Chief seemed to play in Kansas City nightclubs and at area festivals at least three times a year during the blues boom of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

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Danny Kirwan of Fleetwood Mac has died.

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The problematic Kids See Ghosts is better than Ye and not as good as Daytona

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Of Life, Steve Tibbetts’ first album since 2010, is enchanting.  RIYL: Ravi Shankar, dreaming, Terje Rypdal.

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Marcus Miller’s Laid Black is a star-studded party.  The accomplished bassist and producer hosts pals like Trombone Shorty and vocalist Selah Sue on a feel-good project that’s ideally suited for backyard barbecues.  RIYL: Quincy Jones, getting down just for the funk of it, Jonathan Butler.

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Sullivan Fortner is my top pick among the legions of young neo-conservative jazz pianists.  Moments Preserved features Roy Hargrove on a few tracks.  RIYL: Cyrus Chestnut, tradition, Cedar Walton.

(Original image of Kiki Smith sculpture by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Clarence Fountain, 1929-2018



I wasn’t prepared the first time I attended a performance by Clarence Fountain and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama.  Fountain and his sightless bandmates repeatedly rushed to the lip of the stage during the gospel ensemble’s outing at the Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival at Penn Valley Park in 1991.  I was certain the frenzied men would topple, but they seemed to know exactly where to stop to avert disaster.  The gasp-inducing stunt was intended as testimony to God’s grace.  It worked.  If I hadn’t already been a believer, I would likely have found Jesus that day.  Fountain died on June 3.


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I surveyed Rockfest for The Kansas City Star.  As my analysis implies, my three favorite performances were by Ghost, Underoath and Sevendust.

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I took a fresh look at last year’s infamous Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival at Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Stewart Lipton of Jonathan Fireeater has died.

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Thunderpussy’s self-titled album goes like gangbusters before fizzling out in its second half.  RIYL: Sheer Mag, that old time rock and roll, Thee Oh Sees.

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The Esbjörn Svensson Trio's Live in London was recorded in 2005 when the pianist was 39.  He died in a scuba diving accident three years later.  Alternately thrilling and rhapsodic, not a single one of the 105 minutes on the piano trio album is mundane.

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Not-so-hot take: Black Thought’s Streams of Thought, Vol. 1 is superior to Ye.  9th Wonder’s production is typically outstanding.

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African Scream Contest Vol​.​2 - Benin 1963​-​1980 may have prevented me from going to jail on a particularly difficult Monday morning.  It may not be quite as mind-blowing as other recent African compilations, but it’s a blast.  (Tip via Big Steve.)

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, June 01, 2018

Album Review: Kanye West- Ye


I’ve long tolerated the erratic behavior of my favorite artist of the millennium.  I stuck with him when he cancelled a concert in Atlanta after I booked a non-refundable trip to see him at Philips Arena.  Even his unsettling flirtation with the current president didn’t phase me.  I’m firmly in the music-is-the-only-thing-that-matters camp.

Each of Kanye West’s first seven albums is a masterpiece.  Released today, his eighth album Ye ends that remarkable streak.  While it’s enormously entertaining and endlessly fascinating, Ye isn’t up to West’s colossal standard.

After listening to the 23-minute project on repeat for hours on end, I’ve concluded that only the druggy gospel of “Ghost Town”- a mashup of the styles of Queen, Rihanna and Kirk Franklin- is exceptional.  The punchline lyrics and inconsistent production on the other six tracks betray a lack of focus.

West flew higher than anyone for more than 15 years.  While Ye can’t be characterized as a crash landing, it’s an extremely bumpy return to earth.


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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I examined Grizzly Bear’s return to the Middle of the Map festival for The Kansas City Star.

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I recently became obsessed with a premium brand of cream soda.  The empty calories infuse me with a fleeting sense of euphoria.  The silky production on J Balvin’s lightweight Vibras is similarly satisfying.  Here’s “Ambiente”.

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Tia Fuller’s Diamond Cut is precisely the sort of thrilling mainstream jazz album I keep waiting for a Kansas City musician (other than Bobby Watson) to make.

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The song titles and press release for Awase, the latest effort of Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin, are painfully pretentious.  The music, however, is genuinely funky, albeit in a Swiss kind of way.  RIYL: Manu Katché, bass clarinet, the Esbjörn Svensson Trio.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, May 28, 2018

Album Review: Joshua Redman- Still Dreaming


Although I’ve seen him perform five times in the last eight years, I don’t track Joshua Redman’s every move.  So I was stunned by what I heard when I cued up Still Dreaming, the saxophonist’s new album with trumpeter Ron Miles, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade.

The abrasive barrage of Ornette Coleman harmolodics was a wholly unexpected but entirely welcome surprise.  Only after my initial 40-minute listening session concluded did I investigate the impetus for the album.  It’s inspired by Old and New Dreams, the estimable project that included Redman’s father Dewey. 

The interplay on Still Dreaming is slightly more reserved than the wild-eyed attack of Old and New Dreams.  Even so, it’s remarkably prickly.  Hearing Redman play this bracing material in his appearance in the 2018-19 season of the Folly Jazz Series promises to be thrilling.


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I reviewed a concert by the Charles Williams Trio at Plastic Sax.

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Roger Clark, the drummer on classic Muscle Shoals tracks by the likes of Clarence Carter and Bocephus, has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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Big Scoob’s Duality couldn’t have been issued on a worse day.  Released alongside Pusha T’s highly anticipated Daytona, the Kansas City rapper’s Duality suffers in comparison.  Few men rap better than King Push, and no one creates more interesting beats than Kanye West.

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The best thing that can be said of Stone Temple Pilots’ new self-titled album is that it doesn’t desecrate the memory of the late Scott Weiland.  Sterile production limits the possibilities of the solid songs.

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Yelena Eckemoff’s hot streak continues.  Desert is astounding, partly because of the presence of the multi-instrumentalist Paul McCandless, bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Peter Erskine.  RIYL: Oregon, underdogs, John Surman.

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I’m all about the liberation theology espoused by Ry Cooder on The Prodigal Son.  The many people who rail against Christianity on my social media feeds would be surprised to learn that the anti-capitalist, pro-reconciliation messages embedded in The Prodigal Son reflect the preaching I hear at my mainstream Protestant church on Sundays.  RIYL: Warren Zevon, Jesus, Woody Guthrie. 

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, May 25, 2018

I'm KC


My latest audio feature for KCUR aired this morning.  I enjoyed my hangs with Walter Edwin, aka The Popper.  The segment lives online here.


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I reviewed James Taylor’s concert at the Sprint Center for The Kansas City Star.

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I also reviewed Jimmy Buffett’s concert at the Sprint Center for The Kansas City Star.  Opening act Caroline Jones was a revelation.  Her overproduced new album is almost unlistenable, but her solo renditions of songs like “Old Blue” charmed me on Saturday.

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I reviewed Harold O’Neal’s Piano Cinema at Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I previewed Greta Van Fleet’s appearance at the Middle of the Map festival.

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Reggie Lucas has died. (Via BGO.)

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I woke up three hours earlier than usual today because I was so eager to hear Pusha T’s Daytona.  Kanye West’s production is stupendous.

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Old-boy networks can be good things.  Don Was, the current top dog at Blue Note Records, signed his old Was (Not Was) bandmate Dave McMurray.  Music Is Life is an old-school instrumental party album.  RIYL: Maceo Parker, Detroit, Lou Donaldson.

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The Brad Mehldau Trio is a victim of its own success.  If Seymour Reads the Constitution doesn’t sound revolutionary, it’s only because so many imitators have made the trio’s attack seem commonplace.  It’s not.

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What sorcery is this? Elina Duni’s magical Partir is unlike anything I’ve encountered.  RIYL: June Tabor, Albania, Márta Sebestyén.

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I don't hear what everyone else claims to hear in Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour.  Post-Christine McVie pop doesn’t appeal to me.  Musgraves’ new songs remind me of the formulaic music I hear during my periodic digs through the closeout racks at Macy’s.

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I hadn’t encountered the striking music video for “Ndogal,” a track from Cheikh Lô’s 1995 album Ne La Thiass, until World Circuit uploaded it this week.

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Iceage’s Beyondless is a mess- and I like it.  Strings, horns and other unlikely embellishments complement the slurred vocals of Elias Bender Rønnenfelt on the Danish band’s strung-out fourth album.  RIYL: The Saints, hitting rock bottom, Nick Cave.

(Original image of The Popper by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Album Review: Ashley Monroe- Sparrow


I usually recoil when I encounter strings in country music.  Orchestral flourishes have spoiled otherwise perfect songs by the likes of George Jones.  Yet I thrill each time strings are introduced on Sparrow, the outstanding new album by Ashley Monroe.  Her songs about sex (“Hands on You”), death (“Sparrow”), heartache (“Paying Attention”) and family ties (“Mother’s Daughter”) lend themselves to the lush backdrops.


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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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The initial concept for this fine KCUR profile of Fatih Seferagic originated with me.

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Glenn Branca has died.

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Tony Kinman of the Dils and Rank & File has died.

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Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit has died.

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Drummer Jab’o Starks has died.

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I was floored when I first heard Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.  I fully embraced the unexpectedly mature sound.  Focusing on the often hilarious lyrics my second time through deepened my admiration of the album.  Yet the melodramatically woebegone vocals of Alex Turner irritated me on the third listen.  My fourth run-through with the windows rolled down in rush hour traffic soured me on Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.  The album wilts in my whip.  I’ll reserve future spins of tracks including “Four Out of Five” for my next late-night pity party.

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My lizard brain appreciates Five Finger Death Punch’s And Justice For None.  Wanna make something of it?  Here’s “Sham Pain”.

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While I’m indifferent to the headliner, I’m awestruck by the lineup of the 2018 edition of the Soundset festival.

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The strength of Cruzando Borders validates my enthusiasm for Los Texmaniacs’ performance at the Kansas City Folk Festival in February.

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I repeatedly make the mistake of underestimating Terence Blanchard.  I almost didn’t bother listening to the ferocious Live, a protest album with a funk-oriented electric band.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, May 14, 2018

Album Review: Dave Holland- Uncharted Territories


Dave Holland has ruined everything.  Again.  Uncharted Territories, the 69-year-old British bassist’s monumental new collaboration with saxophonist Evan Parker, keyboardist and electronic manipulator Craig Taborn and drummer Ches Smith, makes all other improvised music seem woefully inferior.  (I could hardly be bothered to write a review of a mainstream album by a highly respected musician for the Kansas City jazz blog Plastic Sax yesterday.)  Uncharted Territories is a searing modern masterpiece of room-clearing skronk and heartbreakingly subtle beauty.  The musicians extemporaneously play as a quartet and in “every possible subset of duo and trio configurations.”  Each of the 131 minutes is stunning.  Holland’s 1973 album Conference of the Birds is revered by free jazz enthusiasts.  Uncharted Territories is no less magnificent.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Concert Review: The Breeders at the Rave


My mother asked if I was having an affair after I told her I was in Milwaukee when she called me on Wednesday.  C’mon mom!  Infidelity hadn’t crossed my mind, although I’ll confess that I swooned over Kim and Kelley Deal at a concert by The Breeders a few hours later.

I hadn’t seen the accomplished indie-rockers in so long that I’d forgotten how effortlessly the sisters’ radiant smiles and warm voices can beguile large audiences.  About 1,000 people purchased $30 and $40 tickets to grin and sing along with the reunited classic lineup of the band at The Rave.

The Breeders’ 95-minute outing resembled the feel-good resolution of a reality television program.  Two of rock’s most agreeable eccentrics, the Deal sisters engaged in testy repartee that seemed like good-natured familial banter rather than the symptom of a more serious conflict.

I’m still not sold on the quartet’s new album All Nerve, but renditions of fresh selections including “Walking with a Killer,” “Get in the Car” and “MetaGoth” were every bit as powerful as versions of older tracks like “Cannonball” and the Pixies jam “Gigantic.”  Even so, I couldn’t shake the sense that even first-rate rock in 2018 is akin to Dixieland in 1958- it can still be vibrant and meaningful, but it’s a marginal form on the wane.

Irresistibly cheap airfare rather than the concert or a tryst (really, Ma?) lured me to Wisconsin, but the Breeders provided a nostalgic highlight of my chaste getaway.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Bring the Noise


Does my ability to withstand all 55 minutes of the recent reissue of Iannis Xenakis’ hellish cacophony Persepolis make me some kind of superhero?  Nah.  I just dig noise. 

A varied set of additional new releases of difficult music have helped me maintain equilibrium during choppy times.  While it’s not particularly loud or even conventionally disagreeable, Matthew Shipp’s solo piano release Zero is capable of unnerving fans of the thrash band Slayer.  Neither a free jazz freakout nor an avant-garde classical recital, Zero is a confrontational display of next-level genius.

Sonic Fiction places the prolific Shipp with the skronky reed player Mat Walerian, bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey.  The quartet balances serene beauty with unspeakable ugliness.

On the prog-rock end of the spectrum, Vortex documents a collaboration between the Swiss band Sonar and the experimental American guitarist David Torn.  Vortex is tailor-made for listeners who appreciate the discordant aspects of King Crimson and Weather Report.

I’m unable to determine if Anteloper’s Kudu is the best or worst album in this survey.  The accomplished jazz-oriented trumpeter Jaimie Branch teams up with percussionist Jason Nazary on the abrasive effort.  The addition of synthesizers and sound manipulation makes Kudo occasionally sound as if art school punks are paying homage to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew.


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I reviewed the Flyover festival for The Kansas City Star.  My three favorite performances were by the Flatbush Zombies, Snow Tha Product and Post Malone.

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I examine the Uriel Herman Quartet’s appearance at Black Dolphin for Plastic Sax.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Album Review: Rich the Factor- CEO of the Blacktop


Rich the Factor, the most respected rapper on the east side of Kansas City, continues his career renaissance with CEO of the Blacktop.  Since the termination of his incarceration in 2016, the man born Richard Johnson has issued a steady stream of bold albums.

More in keeping with the immaculate sound of a Maybach Music release than the swampy sonics that usually accompany Rich the Factor’s menacing raps, CEO of the Blacktop is loaded with essential bangers.  “Diamond N the Ruff” sounds like a secret meeting between Sly Stone and Rick Ross in Swope Park.  “Move Up” is one of the silkiest songs in Rich’s vast catalog. 

He threatens adversaries in “Flashy” by reminding them that “we from the middle/we can touch you in 24 hours/hit you with a box of shells/they two or three dollars.”  Rich could hit me in less than 24 minutes, but in doing so he’d eliminate one of his most conspicuous advocates.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed a concert by the SFJazz Collective at Plastic Sax.

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Charles Neville has died.

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“Take a Byte,” the third song on Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer, exemplifies my objection to her sensual android aesthetic.  The sterile sound just doesn’t appeal to me.  I’ll stick with Zapp’s “Computer Love” to get my digital kicks.

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I feel as if I should check myself into rehab after listening to Post Malone’s Beerbongs and Bentleys.  RIYL: alcohol, Lil Peep, drugs.  Here’s “Psycho”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Concert Review: Injury Reserve and Jpegmafia at the Encore Room


Two of Kanye West’s most accomplished artistic progeny performed in Kansas City hours after the incalcitrant star’s infamous tweetstorm made headlines on Wednesday.  About 150 noise-rap enthusiasts heard Injury Reserve and Jpegmafia respond to West’s latest outburst at the Encore Room while performing music inspired by Yeezus and 808s & Heartbreak.

Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks, the Baltimore man who performs as Jpegmafia, was apoplectic about the series of tweets in which West endorsed the current president.  Hendricks processed his disappointment in the man he admitted was “my favorite artist” by screaming the lyrics of songs including “Rock N Roll is Dead,” “I Cannot Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies” and “Baby I’m Bleeding” while surrounded by rowdy fans in front of the stage in an inflammatory 40-minute opening set.

“You guys are one of the few mosh pits to defeat me- you knocked me down,” Hendricks noted.

The Arizona trio Injury Reserve wasn’t quite as confrontational during an hour-long headlining outing that included special effects that resembled a budget version of West’s lavish stage shows.  An anemic blast of artificial snow showered Stepa J. Groggs on one song while snarky messages like the pictured statement flashed across video screens during others. 

The visuals may have been scroungy, but first-rate renditions of Injury Reserve bangers like “Oh Shit!!!” and “See You Sweat” definitely helped make America great again on an extremely challenging day for hip-hop heads.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I note the passing of Luqman Hamza at Plastic Sax.

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Bob Dorough has died.

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There was a time when I would have been smitten by Renee Rosnes’ Beloved of the Sky.  The pianist is joined by a cast of heavyweights (Chris Potter, Steve Nelson, Peter Washington and Lenny White) on the melodic mainstream jazz album.  Beloved of the Sky may be faultless, but the style doesn’t interest me in 2018.

(Original image captured at Injury Reserve’s show by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, April 23, 2018

So What


The new boxed set The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 documents the death knell of jazz as a form of popular music.  Months after Miles Davis’ sublime Kind of Blue and John Coltrane’s monumental Giant Steps were released, the jazz titans toured Europe with pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb.

Eager audiences expected to hear a unified band firing on all cylinders.  The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 is the sound of disappointment.  A press release insists that the 220-minute collection showcases the “musical chemistry shared by Miles and Trane.”  What a laugh!

Davis and Coltrane are clearly at odds with one another.  Coltrane’s connection with the rhythm section is even shakier.  I’m on #teamtrane, but I understand how Coltrane’s lengthy and often dissonant solos could be construed as selfish grandstanding.  The band’s unwillingness or inability to respond with a corresponding sense of exploration is cringe-inducing.

The clearly audible responses of enraged fans seem misguided in hindsight, but the auspiciousness of the participants places these sessions among the most significant breaches of jazz’s accord with the general public.


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I consider suburban jazz at Plastic Sax.

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Avicii has died.

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“Groomed By the Block” is the best track on Kontra-Band, a collaboration between the Kansas City rappers Stevie Stone and JL.

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Kandace Springs reveals her supper club inclinations on the three-song Black Orchid.  RIYL: Diana Ross, formal wear, Dionne Warwick.  Here’s the title track.

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I like J. Cole as a person but I don’t particularly care for his music.  Most of KOD is insufferable.

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Sorrows & Triumphs may be too much of a good thing.  Edward Simon’s latest effort features a large cast of ringers including Brian Blade, Imani Winds, David Binney and Gretchen Parlato.  The result is aggravatingly fussy.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Album Review: E-40 and B-Legit- Connected and Respected

The Bay Area legend E-40 is responsible for some of the most outlandish music in hip-hop history.  Connected and Respected, a new album created with his cousin B-Legit, is worthy of his legacy.  The project’s funk is so elastic that the gangster theme on tracks including “Meet the Dealers” and “Boy” seem like harmless fun.  E-40’s hyperbolic flow and the gruff raps of B-Legit act as a relentless lyrical tag team on the compelling glorification of nefarious street life.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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The Kansas City Jazz Calendar continues to evolve.

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Randy Scruggs has died.

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Lakecia Benjamin’s Rise Up is so gratifying that I don’t even object to the rendition of the Babyface/Eric Clapton hit “Change the World.”  A invigorating blend of smooth jazz, gospel, soul-jazz, hip-hop and R&B, Rise Up is my idea of a good time.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Album Review: Sly & Robbie and Nils Petter Molvaer- Nordub


I’m at the center of the tiny target audience for Nordub, an unlikely collaboration between the reggae innovators Sly & Robbie and the jazz trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer.  There can’t be more than a few thousand people who appreciate deep Jamaican dub and experimental Norwegian jazz.  Yet Nordub deserves an audience beyond a handful of oddball music obsessives.  The album’s colossal sonic landscape would appeal to admirers of Miles Davis’ electric bands as well as to intrepid listeners eager to hear the sound of tomorrow today.


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I reviewed a concert by Bill Frisell, Thomas Morgan and Rudy Royston at Plastic Sax.

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Proper appreciation of most Kool Keith-related projects requires being in the right frame of mind.  Dr. Octagon’s Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation is no different.  Here’s the gloriously absurd “Flying Waterbeds”.

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I didn’t care for the 2014 duet album by Nels Cline and Julian Lage, but bassist Scott Colley and drummer Tom Rainey add enormous excitement to the guitarists’ Currents, Constellations release.  Here’s “Imperfect 10”.

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Sarah Shook & the Disarmers’ Years is a modest alt-country album that could have been released by Bloodshot Records in 1998.  RIYL: the Bottle Rockets, bottom shelf whiskey, the Meat Purveyors.  Here’s “Good as Gold”.

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Dave Douglas & Joe Lovano Sound Prints combine their enormous talents on Scandal, a post-bop quintet date that I wish was just a couples notches further outside.

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Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy rivals Migos’ Culture II as my favorite party album of 2018.

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Rafiq Bhatia’s Breaking English is a worthy progressive noise album.

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The Aruán Ortiz Trio’s Live in Zurich provides additional evidence that the pianist is a genius.  RIYL: Thelonious Monk, giants hiding in plain sight, Craig Taborn.

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While Kurt Elling’s performances never fail to impress, his albums have never done much for me- until now.  The adult pop effort The Questions is like a marriage of Joni Mitchell and Frank Sinatra. 

(Original image at There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Toni, Chanté and I


The durability of my marriage may be my greatest achievement.  I’m an extraordinarily lucky man, but successful long term relationships don’t happen by accident.

The love songs written and performed by mature musicians, consequently, resonate more deeply as I age.  Partly because it was released a few months before I married, Womack & Womack’s Conscious is one of my primary reference points for enlightened R&B.  I longed for- and succeeded in obtaining- the domestic bliss depicted on the album’s cover.  Two veteran soul singers reach for that lofty height on their recent releases.

Chanté Moore croons that “we grow different, as long as we don’t grow distant” on the opening selection of 1 of 4.   That’s the sort of truism that reflects my hard-won experience.  She adds that “we can make each other stay better if we just love” on the sultry “One Love.”  Four of the five tracks are savvy explorations of steadfast commitment.

Toni Braxton is far less content on Sex & Cigarettes.  The velvet-voiced star drops an f-bomb on the furious “FOH” and rages that “you’re not who you said you are” on “Sorry.”  Sex & Cigarettes isn’t  as compelling as her recent work with Babyface, but it’s an interesting examination of a form of middle-aged heartache that I’ve been blessed not to have experienced.


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I created a five-minute audio feature about Mackenzie Nicole for KCUR.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed the Anat Cohen Tentet’s concert at the Gem Theater at Plastic Sax.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Concert Review: Radar State and Jake Wells at the Homegrown Music Showcase


The promotional might of the #13 radio station in the Kansas City market and a nominal $5 cover for appearances by two dozen locally-based indie-leaning bands attracted just a few hundred people to 96.5 The Buzz’s Homegrown Music Showcase in the Power & Light District on Saturday afternoon.  The light attendance made bouncing between six stages a breeze during during the 150 minutes I spent at the event.  Two acts I hadn’t previously seen perform caught my attention.

The so-called supergroup Radar State played for a few dozen people who braved the chilly conditions at the outdoor stage in the courtyard of the entertainment district.  The grizzled veterans of the Anniversary, the Get Up Kids and the Architects sound precisely like their auspicious lineages would suggest. 

Unfortunately, the quartet’s punchy three-minute songs were mangled by an abysmal mix.  A friend quipped that an inaudible guitar solo “looks like it sounds amazing.”  The band’s amusing banter between songs, consequently, was as appealing as its music.  After noting that his daughter was a fan of the California group Mom Jeans, Matt Pryor suggested that Radar State might be renamed Dad Jokes.

I still don’t have a handle on Jake Wells even after catching his entire set at McFadden’s Sport Saloon.  Is he the next Ray LaMontagne?  A low-rent Amos Lee?  An indifferent party bro who happens to possess a wonderful voice?  Beats me.  The indeterminate set by Wells and an overeager band included his minor hit “Rolls Like Thunder”, a tiresome cover of Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” a funny interpretation of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” and a delightful reading of Lupe Fiasco’s “Superstar.”

(Original image of Radar State by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, April 06, 2018

Cecil Taylor, 1929-2018


Many advocates of jazz laud the polite sophistication that’s often associated with the form.  Not me.  I first embraced jazz as a disaffected teen in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.  Artists who possessed the same sort of disruptive energy, outrageous personas and penchant for abrasiveness as cutting-edge rock and R&B musicians provided my entry point into the music.  Aggressive new releases by Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago thrilled me almost as much as the latest innovations by the likes of Prince, Talking Heads, Rick James, the Clash and the Gap Band.  Only later did I come to appreciate the uptown elegance of Duke Ellington and the subtle beauty of Bill Evans.  My primary allegiance will always be with the noisy daredevils of jazz.  Taylor died yesterday.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Concert Review: Emancipator at the Crystal Ballroom


I experienced an irregularity in the space-time continuum at Portland’s Crystal Ballroom last week.  Thick secondhand vape smoke and the bewildering elasticity of the dancefloor helped convince me that I was attending a Shadowfax concert in 1984 instead of an Emancipator show in 2018.  Each so-called ambient trip-hop song performed by a quintet led by Emancipator bandleader Doug Appling seemed little different from a dusty New Age jam.  My bout with astral projection still seems real several days later.  After all, it’s inconceivable that 1,500 status-conscious Oregonians with a median age of 25 would purchase $22 tickets to hear tranquilizing lullabies in the vein of Shadowfax, John Tesh and Yanni in 2018.


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My most recent weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star are here and here.

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I recently featured Howard Iceberg and The Project H on KCUR.

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I reviewed Charles Williams’ Flavors of Jazz album at Plastic Sax.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Quarterly Report: The Top Albums, Songs and Concerts of 2018 (So Far)


The Top Albums of 2018 (So Far)
1. Black Panther the Album
2. Ben Miller Band- Choke Cherry Tree
3. Logan Richardson- Blues People
4. Migos- Culture II
5. Rhye- Woman
6. Hailu Mergia- Lala Belu
7. August Greene- August Greene
8. Meshell Ndegeocello- Ventriloquism
9. David Murray and Saul Williams- Blues for Memo
10. Sons of Kemet- Your Queen Is a Reptile


The Top Songs of 2018 (So Far)
1. Janelle Monaé- “Make Me Feel”
2. J Balvin featuring Jeon and Anitta- “Machika”
3. Sa-Roc- “Forever”
4. Tech N9ne- “Don’t Nobody Want None”
5. Chris Dave and the Drumhedz featuring Anderson Paak- “Black Hole”
6. Soulive- “King’s March”
7. Danielle Nicole- “Cry No More”
8. Courtney Barnett- “Nameless, Faceless”
9. Turnstile- “Generator”
10. Orchestra Akokán- “Un Tabaco para Elegua”


The Top Concerts of 2018 (So Far)
1. Ryan Keberle & Catharsis- Black Dolphin
2. Protomartyr- Zanzabar (Louisville)
3. Cyrille Aimée- Folly Theater
4. Pink- Sprint Center
5. Atmosphere- VooDoo
6. Drive-By Truckers- Truman
7. Los Texmaniacs with Flaco Jiménez- KC Folk Fest
8. Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s “Rigoletto”- Muriel Kauffman Theater
9. Lola Pistola- Riot Room
10. Low Cut Connie- Doug Fir Lounge (Portland)

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Concert Review: Atmosphere and Evidence at VooDoo

Evidence affirmed the hip-hop hierarchy of the evening during the first song he performed at VooDoo on Saturday by noting that “I’m Rhymesayers' number three under Slug and Ali.”  Slug is half of the headlining act Atmosphere.  Brother Ali is his supremely talented stablemate at Rhymesayers, the Minneapolis record label that has issued more than a dozen classic hip-hop albums since its formation in 1995.

Evidence, a member of the California hip-hop group Dilated Peoples that’s best known for the 2004 song “This Way”, was riveting in a 45-minute opening set.  He has enough bars to supply an expansion of the penitentiary in Leavenworth.  An unrecorded list of tips for less polished performers that included drinking room temperature water, not allowing your crew to join you on stage and the proper way to stage dive (a feat he perfectly executed) provided one of the evening’s most memorable moments.  Most of the audience of about 1,000- a crowd that Slug characterized as “a bunch of dirty, stinky, white people”- didn’t know what to make of Evidence and only responded enthusiastically to his weed references.

Slug, Ant and Plain Ole Bill performed songs about suicide, self-loathing, domestic violence and hangovers for 90 minutes.  Slug was his usual outrageous self.  He claimed that “the only thing I like to do more than masturbate is bust rhymes and freestyle” and suggested that there “ain’t nothin’ like a broken bottle to the face to put put a (batterer of women) on the right path.”  I felt “sick and contradictive” as I joined communal rap-alongs to “GodLovesUgly,” “Guarantees” and “Trying To Find a Balance,” harrowing songs that redefined the scope and meaning of Midwestern hip-hop.

Atmosphere’s sound hasn’t changed much since the release of its 1997 debut album Overcast.  Once cutting-edge, Ant’s soul-soaked production and Slug’s confessional lyrics are now part of hip-hop’s rearguard.  XXXTentacion, the rapper who is expected to have the top album in the country this week, is 25 years younger than Slug.  The controversial upstart rejects everything about hip-hop that Atmosphere fans hold dear.

The sudden realization that the once-subversive Atmosphere and Evidence had somehow become old-school traditionalists devastated me.  I'd inadvertently paid $35 to attend an oldies concert.  When Slug asked “who’s your favorite rapper” during a duet with Evidence on “Powder Cocaine” in the encore, I was too rattled to respond.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Album Review: Snoop Dogg Presents Bible of Love


Bible of Love restores a good portion of the respect I’ve lost for Snoop Dogg in recent years.  The 134-minute gospel album counteracts the embarrassing buffoonery for which he’s become known.  Not surprisingly, Snoop doesn’t appear on the best selections.  The life-affirming “Come as You Are” features the gospel luminaries Mary Mary and Marvin Sapp.  Faith Evans’ lead vocals on “Saved” offer spiritual redemption.  The vibrant contributions of notable vocalists including Kim Burrell, Daz Dillinger (!), Patti LaBelle, Fred Hammond and Charlie Wilson  prevent the lengthy Bible of Love from becoming a slog.  Snoop pops on up songs including Rance Allen’s “Blessing Me Again”, but only on the closing track “Words Are Few” does he get in the way of the rapturous message.


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I featured Reggie and the Full Effect in my weekly segment on KCUR.

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Hours after railing against nostalgia in the previous There Stands the Glass post, I was floored by Meshell Ndegeocello’s Ventriloquism.  The stunning collection of covers of pop-leaning ‘80s and ‘90s R&B songs was love at first listen.  An ingenious reading of TLC’s “Waterfalls” typifies her incredibly smart but not excessively clever approach.

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I’ve been predisposed to dislike Nathaniel Rateliff since his breakout hit- an exploitative gospel goof that bugs the bejeezus out of me- began befouling the airwaves in 2015.  Even so, Rateliff & the Night Sweats won me over the first time I saw the band.  I begrudgingly acknowledge that the ensemble’s soulful new album Tearing at the Seams is a worthy successor to Van Morrison’s classic His Band and the Street Choir and Bruce Springsteen’s epic The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.

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The members of Cameo would surely approve of the four sweet sticky things on Jeremih’s The Chocolate Box EP.  Here’s “Nympho”.

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While I’d prefer that much of Transparent Water didn’t sound like first-take improvisations, the collaboration between Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and the Senegalese kora master Seckou Keita is gorgeous.

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The aesthetically pure punk label Dischord has issued an album of ostentatious guitar shredding.  Backed by the Fugazi rhythm section of Joe Lally and Brendan Canty, guitarist Anthony Pirog makes like Joe Satriani on The Messthetics.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Recycled Sounds


Nostalgia is for suckers.  Predilections for the past can be emotionally crippling.  The disorder applies to musical preferences.  I’m inclined to distance myself from people who suggest that the music of today is inferior to the sounds of the past.  Against my nature, I’ve spent recent days begrudgingly appreciating three albums that induce repressed memories.

I cringed when an acquaintance proclaimed the Breeders’ All Nerve as his favorite album of 2018.  The disconcerting confession compelled me to give it a chance.  It’s not bad.  “Wait in the Car” is among the songs that help make All Nerve sound like the eighth-best alternative rock album of 1993.

Progger appeals to my worst musical impulses.  I allowed myself to pine for the mid-’70s days when the big brothers of my pals turned me on to since-forsaken jazz fusion bands like Brand X, Curved Air and Lifetime while listening to “Housewives” on the Austin band’s new album Dystopia.

I documented my single favorite sound in this space last month, so it’s not a surprise that I was eager to sample the expanded edition of the soul revivalists Durand Jones & the Indications’ self-titled album.  The ten live tracks demonstrate that Jones and his band simulate the atmosphere of a 1965 frat party featuring the likes of Joe Tex or Eddie Floyd.

Now excuse me while I go back to obsessing over my presumptive album of the year.


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I reviewed Pink’s concert at the Sprint Center for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed Everyday, Forever, the latest album by the Project H, at Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Matt Dike, a co-founder of Delicious Vinyl, has died.

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Bill Frisell’s solo album Music Is includes pastoral elegies and big city meltdowns.  Even though I haven’t heard all of the guitarist’s three dozen albums, I'm comfortable with the assertion that Music Is is among his ten most essential recordings. Here’s “Rambler”.

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The title of the Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth Boogie in 1980s South Africa compilation is perfect.  Hearing the sounds of groups like Shalamar, the Gap Band and the Whispers filtered through a South African sensibility is worlds of fun.  (Tip via Big Steve.)

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Album Review: Brad Mehldau- After Bach


Brad Mehldau is the Keith Jarrett of his generation.  Much as Jarrett hoodwinked admirers into listening to extended freeform piano improvisations in the 1970s, Mehldau’s iconoclastic approach has transformed the perception of jazz piano in the new millennium.  I’m selectively sipping the Kool-Aid.  I loathed the project Mehldau and Chris Thile released last year.  Even though I suspect I’m being duped, the new album After Bach transfixes me.  Here’s “After Bach: Rondo”.


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I extolled Joyce DiDonato in my weekly feature for KCUR.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Here’s a reminder that I maintain the comprehensive Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

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Craig Mack has died.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Album Review: Young Fathers- Cocoa Sugar


Cocoa Sugar doesn’t bump in my whip.  It doesn’t do much through my headphones either.  Young Fathers’ new release is among my most highly anticipated albums of 2018.  I don’t like it.  The Scottish group downplays hip-hop elements on its third album in favor of precious indie-rock embellishments.  I once rejected the frequent comparisons to TV On the Radio that hounded the Scottish trio, but the correlation is obvious on Cocoa Sugar.  (Caveat: I reserve the right to change my mind.)


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I reviewed a concert by the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra at Plastic Sax.

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Valee’s 14-minute Good Job, You Found Me is pure evil.  The lyrics are reprehensible and the flow is derivative.  So why can’t I stop listening?  It’s the beats, stupid.  Pusha T pops off on “Miami”.

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Nubya Garcia’s new single “When We Are” has me on #teamnubya.  RIYL: Courtney Pine, optimism, Eddie Moore & the Outer Circle.

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Automata 1, Between the Buried and Me’s latest riff-tastic effort, surpasses the recent work of Mastodon.  Here’s “Millions”.

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I’m struggling to hear what the cool kids find so captivating about Soccer Mommy’s Clean.  RIYL: Blake Babies, retreads, Liz Phair.  Here’s “Your Dog”.

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Henry Cow lives!  The kids in the British jazz group Dinosaur made a wacky music video that evokes the forgotten experimental rock ensemble.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, March 09, 2018

Concert Review: The Lyric Opera’s “Rigoletto”


Eager to savor the invigorating night at the opera I’d enjoyed the previous evening, I watched a 2008 production of “Rigoletto” filmed at Semperoper in Dresden via Amazon Prime on Thursday.  I didn’t know what I’d been missing. 

Exposed flesh!  Surrealistic stage sets!  And best of all, Juan Diego Flórez’s glorious mullet!

The Lyric Opera’s interpretation of Giuseppe Verdi’s work enthralled me, but the Dresden production makes it seem stodgy.  I considered buying another $35.50 ticket to see the three-hour production again as I exited Muriel Kauffman Theatre on Wednesday.  Now that I know the way it went down in Germany ten years ago, that prospect is much less appealing. 

As Rigoletto would shout, “la maledizione!”

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Album Review: August Greene


I love everything about August Greene’s self-titled debut album.  Well, almost everything.  Common’s lyrics are occasionally too corny even by my sentimental standards.  And a background vocalist’s pitch seems slightly off.  My instantaneous embrace of the project is hardly a surprise.  I’ve long adored the veteran rapper, the genre-busting keyboardist Robert Glasper and the imaginative drummer Karriem Riggins.  Working as August Greene, they create a sublime blend of jazz, soul and hip-hop that’s situated at the exact center of my wheelhouse.  The group’s Tiny Desk Concert is divine.


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My recent weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star are here and here.

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I named Brewer & Shipley the KCUR Band of the Week.

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Russ Solomon has died.  I reported directly to the retail titan during a particularly perilous segment of my career in the music distribution industry.  Solomon’s fearlessness was inspiring, his guile was masterful and his frequent displays of kindness never failed to motivate me.

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Tracey Thorn’s Record is wonderful.  RIYL: Everything But the Girl, Brit-pop circa 1986, Pet Shop Boys.  Here’s “Sister”.

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Lucy Dacus’ breathlessly hyped Historian merits much of the acclaim.  RIYL: Eliza Carthy, the flavor of the week, Fairport Convention.  Here’s “Addictions”.

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A bygone Moroccan band’s deranged interpretation of “Für Elise” makes me proud to be an Earthling.

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Dayramir González attempts to condense the entire history of Cuban jazz into the 72-minute The Grand Concourse.  The manic release is recommended if you like Cachao, Benny Moré and Irakere.

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Alfredo Rodríguez’s The Little Dream is completely over the top.  RIYL: Lionel Loueke, Cuba, Pat Metheny at his most excessive.

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Seun Kuti does right by his father on Black Times.  Femi Kuti’s One People One World is slightly less formidable.

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The Andy Sheppard Quartet’s wispy Romaria is elegant sonic wallpaper.  RIYL: music for hangovers, John Surman, clouds.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Van McLain, R.I.P.

Van McLain, the primary artistic force of Shooting Star, has died.  The most successful rock band to emerge from Kansas City in the 1980s, Shooting Star was also exceedingly unfashionable.

A stylistic holdover from the classic rock era dominated by Midwestern bands like Styx, Kansas, Head East and REO Speedwagon, Shooting Star played outmoded pomp-prog in the age of Talking Heads, the Clash and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

Even so, Shooting Star songs including “Last Chance,” “Bring It On” and “Hang On For Your Life” were championed by radio stations like KSHE in St. Louis and KY102 in Kansas City.

I had a complicated professional relationship with McLain.  He and I rarely saw eye-to-eye, but he always behaved honorably.  He sings lead on the uncharacteristically poppy “You’ve Got What I Need”, my favorite Shooting Star song.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, March 02, 2018

Concert Review: Protomartyr at Zanzabar


Joe Casey was in a wistful mood at Zanzabar on Thursday.  The front man of Protomartyr recalled that “we were paid in quarters to play pinball” the first time his Detroit band appeared at the Louisville arcade, beer hall and music venue.  Protomartyr’s riveting performance last night merited far more than chump change.

Several college professor-types and old-school crust-punks mixed with the usual indie-rock scenesters in the audience of about 125.  The cover charge was $15.  Casey toted three cans of PBR to the stage.  The beer presumably helped him sustain his strident bark.  He’s often compared to the late Mark E. Smith of the Fall, but last night Casey resembled an agitator giving a rousing speech at a union rally.

The pontificating made me realize that Protomartyr’s post-punk attack is almost incidental.  Casey would be no less effective working in a dub-reggae format or with an avant-garde jazz ensemble.  That’s not to suggest that guitarist Greg Ahee, bassist Scott Davidson and drummer Alex Leonard aren’t satisfactory rock musicians.  They’re excellent.  Even so, it’s telling that Casey is the only member of Protomartyr armed with a microphone.

Deflecting applause at the start of the encore, Casey suggested “we’re not that good.”  On a night filled with clever feints and willful deceptions, the statement was the only outright lie.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Album Review: Hailu Mergia- Lala Belu


Friday wasn’t going well.  A couple setbacks put me in a foul mood that even a plethora of new music releases couldn’t remedy.  As I began to prepare for sleep at the end of the disappointing day, I auditioned one last album.  The dark clouds in my head dissipated five minutes into “Tizita,” the opening track of Hailu Mergia’s Lala Belu.

I’d just read The New York Times’s profile of Mergia that explained that the Ethiopian musician was now a cabdriver in Washington D.C.  The guy behind Awesome Tapes From Africa tracked Mergia down and recorded Lala Belu with him.  It’s a cool story, but I still wasn’t expecting much.  I was mistaken.

The life-affirming Lala Belu sounds as if the Ethiopian icon Mulatu Astatke is jamming with the jazz luminaries Charles Mingus and Robert Glasper.  Simultaneously old, new, African and American, the album is a potent sonic salve.


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I reviewed Logan Richardson’s Blues People at Plastic Sax.

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I featured David George in my weekly segment for KCUR.

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Cry No More, the second solo album by Kansas City blues-rock luminary Danielle Nicole, puts me in mind of the classic 1970s work of Delaney & Bonnie.  The title track is the second-best song on the new release.

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I’m as excited as everyone else about Janelle Monáe’s new songs “Django Jane” and “Make Me Feel”.

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I don’t begrudge Dessa for making crass pop moves on Chime.  It’s ridiculous that the enormously talented Doomtree standout isn’t already a household name.  I hope Chime makes her a star, but I’m not going to spend much time listening to the slick bid for mainstream acceptance.  RIYL: Madonna, commerce, Gwen Stefani.  Here’s “Half of You”.

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I still mourn Lou Reed.  I might even miss Mark E. Smith of the Fall someday.  But I’ll be damned if Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest doesn’t prove himself to be a worthy heir of those innovators on Twin Fantasy.  Here’s “Nervous Young Inhumans”.

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Noah Preminger is on a roll.  Genuinity, the most recent in a string of impressive albums by the New York based saxophonist, is RIYL Ornette Coleman, jazz emancipation, Rudresh Mahanthappa.

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While the contents aren’t as interesting as the title, Leslie Pintchik’s You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl! is a better-than-average mainstream jazz album.  RIYL: Bill Charlap, accordion flourishes, Matt Wilson.

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Black Milk’s Fever is decent, I guess.  RIYL: Dwele, good enough, Oddisee.  Here’s “Laugh Now Cry Later”.

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A couple tracks on Soulive’s instrumental EP Cinematics Vol. 1 are spectacular.  RIYL: Booker T. & the M.G.'s, imaginary soundtracks, Badbadnotgood.

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They still make ‘em like they used to.  Even the cover art of the new recording by baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan’s Alternative Contrafacts is straight out of 1974.  The dated packaging is belied by the freshness of the music.  Bassist David Wong and drummer Rodney Green push Smulyan into wooly terrain.  RIYL: Harry Carney, unexpected treasures, Hamiet Bluiett.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Continental Drift


Jazz fans are familiar with the concept of big band battles.  I’m intrigued by the unofficial jazz clash between Europe and North America.  Based on my listening habits in recent months, my money’s on Europe.

Three new releases by European pianists illustrative the point.  Each is more imaginative and engaging than the efforts of most of their American counterparts.  Tigran Hamasyan is one of the most exciting musicians of the moment.  The Armenian pianist’s 29-minute For Gyumri possesses improvisational daring, melodic charm and a vast sonic range.

The septuagenarian Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson demonstrates that it’s still possible to make the conventional jazz trio format seem fresh on Contra la Indecisión.   Elliot Galvin, an impudent British talent, conveys funny jazz jokes on the deeply amusing The Influencing Machine.  I’m eager for Americans to rise to the challenge.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I’ll feature David George on my weekly KCUR segment tomorrow.

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I reviewed Cyrille Aimée’s concert at the Folly Theater for Plastic Sax.

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The Kansas City rock musician Billy Johnson has died.

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I barely survived Mary Chapin Carpenter’s morose headlining set at the Kansas City Folk Festival.  To paraphrase the eminent philosopher Chief Keef, that’s that stuff I don’t like.  To be fair, following the jubilant set of Los Texmaniacs and Flaco Jiménez’s party music would have been a challenge for anyone.  Kalyn Fay, an Oklahoman Cherokee singer-songwriter, was my find of the day.

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An in-store performance by the soul revivalist and roots-rock newcomer Liz Brasher thrilled me last week.  Here’s “Cold Baby”.

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Sa-Roc’s self-empowerment anthem “Forever” is persuasive.  RIYL: Lizzo, appreciating “exactly who you are,” Brother Ali.

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I realize it makes me little different than an awful 13-year-old boy, but the novelty of countertenor vocalists still amuses me.  Even so, I’m awed by Franco Fagioli’s Handel Arias.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)