Thursday, August 16, 2018

Aretha Franklin, 1942-2018



















I’ve never not known Aretha Franklin’s voice.  She’s been a constant presence in the life of every committed music lover of my generation.  Yet I only began truly appreciating her as a distinct entity rather than as a omnipresent piece of the cultural firmament when I went on a deep soul dive in the early ‘90s.  I was reduced to a puddle when I first encountered “My Song” on one of the many soul compilations I purchased while on my single-minded pursuit.  Talk about being “in my feelings”!  I never took the Queen of Soul for granted again.  Franklin died today.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, August 10, 2018

In Defense of Kenny Chesney


Mocking Kenny Chesney is easy.  I’m guilty of clowning on the country star’s flair for corny melodrama.  My otherwise positive review of his concert at Arrowhead Stadium contained an unhealthy heaping of snark.

Not only do I admire Songs For the Saints, Chesney’s 43-minute meditation on the aftermath of the storms that have ravaged the Caribbean, I’ve repeatedly listened to the new album for pleasure.  Chesney’s platitudes may be trite, but they’re reassuringly sincere.

When I was younger, I often made the mistake of conflating an artist’s fan base with his or her art.  I know better now.  The staggering number of red MAGA hats and vomiting miscreants at Chesney’s appearance at Arrowhead Stadium doesn’t diminish my appreciation of songs like “Better Boat”.


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Charlie Puth obliterated my modest expectations at Starlight Theatre on Thursday.  I reviewed the concert for The Kansas City Star.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed the Myers Swingset’s The Instrumental One at Plastic Sax.

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Tommy Peoples of the Bothy Band has died. (Tip via BGO.)

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Lorrie Collins of the Collins Kids has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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Jack Williams, a musical Zelig, has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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Travis Scott’s crass crossover attempt Astroworld is tediously generic.  RIYL: consumerism, Young Thug, celebrities.

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Where We Come From (Chicago x London Mixtape) exemplifies everything I love- as well as everything I loathe- at the burgeoning intersection of jazz and hip-hop.  RIYL: bragging about lack of preparation, Nubya Garcia, jam sessions.  Here’s an explanatory video.

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I’m fully aware that music nerds like me are supposed to rave about Kaveh Rastegar’s Light of Love, but the preciousness of his fusion of jazz, funk and indie-rock irritates me.  RIYL: Kneebody, nerds, Chris Dave.

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What fresh hell is this?.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Concert Review: The S.O.S. Band and Avery Sunshine in the Jazz District


Doggone it!  The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s Heart of America Hot Dog Festival fundraiser was a massive disappointment.  I made my way to the Jazz District to hear Cameo, The S.O.S. Band and Avery Sunshine on Saturday.  The festival grounds on the spacious median of Paseo Boulevard north of 18th Street were packed.  Attendance appeared to be well over 5,000. 

I was glad the entertainment lineup ran about an hour behind schedule.  I stood in line 20 minutes to pay $20 admission at the gate and 30 minutes in another line to purchase cold drinks.  I strained to hear the jazz-tinged funk of Marcus Anderson as I waited. 

The faint sound was a big problem.  When I finally made my way to the closest spot to the stage the hoi polloi were allowed, I saw that only the few hundred people in the cordoned-off V.I.P. section were able to properly hear the performances.  It wasn’t all good for them- the fortunate few had to endure the glad-handing of at least one Kansas City councilman.

The clamor of the crowd and the aggressive policing that prevented music lovers from sidling up to the edge of the V.I.P. section caused the event to resemble a massive political rally more than a concert.  Even though I’m familiar with Sunshine’s repertoire, it was often difficult to discern which song she and her band were playing over the constant commotion.  I couldn’t even say if the setlist included “Call My Name”.

The din of the crowd and the inadequate amplification compelled me to take desperate measures.  I abandoned the festival grounds to watch the S.O.S. Band play hits like “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” from behind a chain link fence about 50 yards from the side of the stage.  The vantage point was an improvement, but not good enough to compel me to stick around for Cameo.  Maybe that’s a blessing- at least I didn’t get shot.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Album Review: Rodney Crowell- Acoustic Classics


Re-recordings by country artists are invariably dismal legal maneuvers.  Rodney Crowell’s Acoustic Classics is different.  For starters, the Texan never succumbed to has-been status.  Crowell is in his artistic prime as he nears his 68th birthday.  The songwriter redeems “Please Remember Me,” a goopy 1999 hit for Tim McGraw, refreshes “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight”, a 1979 hit for the Oak Ridge Boys, and reworks “Shame on the Moon,” a 1982 hit for Bob Seger.  The new interpretations of “Making Memories of Us” and “After All This Time” bring me to tears.  May we all continue to outrun the train and outlast the pain.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I asssess the Folly Jazz Series' forthcoming season at Plastic Sax.

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The jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stańko has died.  ECM created a nice memoriam for the Polish trailblazer.

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I’d rather hang out with Cody Jinks than listen to his music.  Jinks and I could bond over our mutual admiration of Waylon Jennings, Joe Ely and Jerry Jeff Walker.  His new album Lifers acts as a fine homage to those troubadours.

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Santigold’s I Don’t Want: The Gold Fire Sessions exudes the guileless creativity of M.I.A.’s 2004 mixtape Piracy Funds Terrorism.  RIYL: J Balvin, parties, Run the Jewels.

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Azul in Ljubljana is an invigorating live recording by the longstanding trio of bassist Carlos Bica, guitarist Frank Möbus and drummer Jim Black.  RIYL: Dave Holland, Euro-jazz, Nels Cline.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Concert Review: Selwyn Birchwood at Kanza Hall


Four black musicians performed for 20 white people at the 1,000-capacity Kanza Hall on Friday.  I forked over $15 at the door to witness the debacle.  Selwyn Birchwood is one of handful of artists equipped to shake blues out of the doldrums.  The form has been stuck in a commercial and artistic rut for years.  The Floridian’s astute songs, sly guitar solos, powerful voice and uncommon band configuration- guitar, saxophone, bass and drums- were even more impressive at Kanza Hall than on his two albums for Alligator Records.  The snippet of a Fenton Robinson-style guitar solo I posted to Instagram reflects Birchwood’s sensitivity and restraint, rare qualities in a genre that too often rewards bluster.  Subtlety clearly wasn’t in demand on Friday.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Album Review: Eddie Palmieri- Full Circle


I blew my travel budget on an Eddie Palmieri show in New York last year.  By Kansas City standards, I spent crazy money to catch the salsa legend at the Blue Note.  As a snippet of footage I posted to Instagram suggests, he was worth every penny.   The octogenarian and his expansive band revise salsa classics on the joyous new album Full Circle.   Not only does the project substantiate my enthusiasm for the Blue Note show, its life-affirming jubilance provides precisely the sort of consolatory tonic I need this summer.


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I reviewed Shania Twain’s return to the Sprint Center for The Kansas City Star.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I take note of the fine new album by Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 at Plastic Sax.

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The title of the Internet’s Hive Mind is unintentionally ironic.  Me-tooers have heaped praise on the return of Syd the Kid’s stylish soul group.  Telling the truth is unfashionable, but I don’t mind being the bad guy.  Here goes: Hive Mind is a terrible disappointment.  Aside from the sublime bass lines, there’s little to admire about the dreary project.

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Decade, a collaboration between 90-year-old Lee Konitz and 36-year-old pianist Dan Tepfer, is a mystical mind-meld.  RIYL: chess, Sam Rivers, astrophysics.

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Protoje’s A Matter of Time is a solid roots-rock-reggae album.  RIYL: Chronixx, getting past Legend, Burning Spear.  Here’s “Bout Noon”.

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I’d long ignored friends as they've touted footwork.  What a mistake!  Since R.P. Boo’s new I’ll Tell You What! turned my head, I’ve been astounded by almost every track on footwork playlists including Spotify’s Footwork Fever.  Better late than never.

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As a grown man, I’m disinterested in rap beefs and internecine heavy metal skirmishes.  I don’t particularly care why the metal community is divided by Skeletonwitch’s Devouring Radiant LightI just know that I’m down.  RIYL: Deafheaven, sore throats, Revocation.  Here’s “Fen of Shadows”.

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

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Concert Review: Randy Bachman at Ameristar Casino


Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s Not Fragile was one of my favorite rock albums when I was in elementary school.  My abiding affection for burly BTO songs like Not Fragile’s title track (“hoping boogie’s still allowed!”) compelled me to buy a $38 ticket at the door for Randy Bachman’s concert at Ameristar Casino on Friday.

The 74-year-old’s astonishing 100-minute appearance obliterated my modest expectations.  Bachman provided the surprising backstories of many of his hits as the primary artistic force of the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive in a survey of his momentous career. 

The Canadian explained that “No Sugar Tonight” was inspired by a scruffy street scene he encountered in Haight-Ashbury on an unsuccessful quest to find “a real hippie” during the Summer of Love.  In a story about the long gestation of “Takin’ Care of Business”, he admitted that “I have a songwriting kit in my car, it’s the same one you have- a McDonald’s napkin and a crayon.”

In addition to dropping the names of friends and colleagues like Burton Cummings (“he was born to be wild; I was born to be mild”), Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Stephen Stills, the setlist included three songs from his wondrously weird new George Harrison tribute project.  He took delight in enunciating the word jumble “buy By George By Bachman.  My mind was blown when Bachman introduced one of his four bandmates as his son Tal before a rendition of the latter’s 1999 hit “She’s So High”.  I never made the connection between father and son. 

The show’s sole flaw was the intrusive ambient noise from the casino that occasionally made Bachman’s stories difficult to hear.  My polite request to the staff at the entrance of the venue to shut the doors was summarily dismissed.  It’s a shame that Bachman’s classic rock tales weren’t afforded respect by indifferent representatives of the gambling emporium.

Setlist: Between Two Mountains; You Like Me Too Much; Shakin’ All Over; These Eyes; Laughing; No Sugar Tonight; Undun; American Woman; Here Comes the Sun; She’s So High;  Roll On Down the Highway; Let It Ride; Looking Out for #1; Takin’ Care of Business; You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Concert Review: Courtney Barnett at the Truman















A friend proclaimed that Courtney Barnett is “the present and future of rock and roll” in his social media post from the Truman on Wednesday.  I’m not so sure.  After paying $33 to join him amid a full house of more than 1,000 fans at the Australian’s 90-minute performance, I believe that the 30-year-old is a gifted holdover from rock's past.  The gray-haired dudes wearing Tom Petty t-shirts were definitely in the right place.  Barnett’s old-school rock and the rinky-dink stage production made her appearance a spot-on throwback to 1978. While I enjoyed the defiantly archaic show and would be thrilled if Barnett had a commercial breakthrough, I sensed that I was witnessing the pinnacle of the career of an artist who is destined to be a marginal cult musician in the vein of Barnett’s countryman Paul Kelly.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Album Review: Halestorm- Vicious


I regularly run into a diligent concert photographer who is a steadfast rock loyalist.  After bemoaning the invariably diminished crowd sizes for his favorite form of music, our discussions shift to the general decline in the popularity of mainstream rock.  My go-to line is “where’s the new Guns N’ Roses?”  The next time I see my friend, I’ll be able to tell him that rock’s savior has finally arrived. 

On its fourth album Vicious (July 27 street date), Halestorm shows it’s capable of kicking up fresh dust with the one foot rock has moldering in the grave.  I’ve been on the Halestorm bandwagon for years, but the wholly accessible Vicious is the band’s first release that’s capable of crossing over to fans of classic rock, contemporary country and pop.

“Uncomfortable” is just one of several potential hits on Vicious.  Fashionable bands like Deafheaven and Parquet Courts will get the lion’s share of breathless reviews.  Halestorm is destined to pack arenas.  It’s about time.  Let the commercial revival of rock commence.


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I reviewed a concert by Kenny Chesney, Thomas Rhett, Old Dominion and Brandon Lay at Arrowhead Stadium for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed a concert by Henrique Eisenmann and Ehud Ettun at the 1900 Building for Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Ponty Bone has died.  Without Bone’s essential contributions, I probably wouldn’t have fallen in love with the first few Joe Ely albums.  The accordion player is featured in grainy footage from 1980.  (Tip via BGO.)

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The influential music journalist Roy Carr has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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Binker and Moses’ electrifying Alive in the East? lives up to the hype.  Maybe London really is the new jazz capital of the world.  That said, I could do without the annoying harp of Tori Handsley.  RIYL: Courtney Pine, trendiness, Shabaka Hutchings.

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Beastmode 2 is fine, but I guess I’ve moved on from the Future/Zaytoven formula.  It doesn’t move me much anymore.

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The Royal Krunk Jazz Orkestra is a new-school big band led by Russell Gunn.  Get It How You Live is worthwhile, but RKJO is clearly an ensemble that’s best experienced live.  RIYL: Snarky Puppy, progress, Dionne Farris.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Metal Deficiency


Something was wrong with me.  I’d become unusually disaffected in recent days.  I was relieved when I happened upon the proper diagnosis of the mysterious ache: I hadn’t attended a metal show in six weeks.

I paid $28 at the door of the Truman to allow the fearsome package tour of Black Dahlia Murder, Whitechapel, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Aversions Crown and Shadow of Intent to relieve me of my metal deficiency.  The extreme dose of bone-rattling blast beats mended my soul.  Getting kicked in the head by crowd-surfers and elbowed in the gut by crazed men in the mosh pit enhanced the healing process.

Fleshgod Apocalypse, a theatrical Italian band with an operatic vocalist and a pianist, amused me.  I felt the musical medicine fully kick in when the group insisted that the audience of about 700 participate in the traditional wall of death ritual.


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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed Stephen Martin’s debut album Vision at Plastic Sax.

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Henry Butler has died.  My kids were so enamored with a performance by the Louisiana pianist at an outdoor festival about 15 years ago that they had Butler sign their comic books.

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Richard Swift, an indie-rock Zelig, has died.

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Jazz trombonist Bill Watrous has died.

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Vince Martin of “Cindy, Oh Cindy” fame has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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The Kansas City rapper Hoggy D collaborates with locally based heavyweights Rich the Factor and Rush Borda on the old-school street rap album Heavy Starch.  Here’s “New Method”.

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Cyrille Aimée's new live album affirms my enthusiasm for her concert at the Folly Theater in February.  Far more than a gypsy jazz revivalist, Aimée and her band get delightfully weird on Thelonious Monk and Michael Jackson covers.

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I’m not going to pretend that I love it, but the ways in which Yuno blends Blink-182, Lil Peep, No Doubt, the Cure and Sade on Moodie is the default sound of 2018.  Here’s “Why For”.

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Philthy’s Party Crashers is a decent funk album.  I wouldn’t ordinarily bother mentioning it, but I came upon the release by the New York ensemble immediately after suffering through two like-minded but vastly inferior efforts by locally based artists.  Here’s the title track.

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The spate of protracted albums is wearing me out.  I'm diligently working my way through all three hours and 15 minutes of William Parker’s stupendous Voices Fall From The Sky.  RIYL: Anthony Davis, art songs, Wadada Leo Smith.

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Gorillaz’s The Now Now strikes me as the sequel to Arctic Monkey’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.  That’s a good thing.  Here’s “Humility”.

(Original image of Aversions Crown at the Truman by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Album Review: Drake- Scorpion


Drake’s money-infatuated album Scorpion reminds me of an incident that occurred during the Mexican beach vacation I took last year.  I thought I was living like royalty as I paid $75 per night for a clean room and all the food and booze I cared to consume at a hotel catering to Mexican families. 

Only when I snuck into a nearby resort on a futile quest to obtain an English language newspaper did I realize that I was a relative pauper.  I blew past an initial wave of security guards with the gringo excuse of “no hablo español” and discovered a hidden realm of exceptional luxury.  Dozens of perfectly-toned Europeans wearing swimsuits the size of peso notes lounged around a spectacular water complex that made the centerpiece of my hotel seem like a plastic wading pool.  I was unceremoniously escorted out before my beggarly presence spoiled the luxe setting.

Even though I’m ostensibly welcome to bask in the lavish atmosphere of Scorpion for as long as I like, the recording makes me feel like a shabby outsider crashing a swanky gala.  Drake appears to disdain everyone who hasn’t achieved similar levels of success.  Given that he seems miserable, I have no interest in trading places with the world’s most popular rapper.  He may spend more money in an afternoon than I make in a decade, but Drake seems lonely, bitter and petty on the sadly revealing Scorpion.  That’s “God’s Plan”.


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My five favorite sets at the Middle of the Map festival were by Spoon, Mx.Mrs Btrfly, Jade Jackson, Rick Maun and Becca Mancari.  I reviewed day one and day two of the event for The Kansas City Star.

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I featured Mysterious Clouds, Cubanisms and Logan Richardson in a mid-year music survey on KCUR’s Up To Date.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I parse the disheartening results of a Downbeat poll at Plastic Sax.

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I continue to toil at The Kansas City Jazz Calendar like a sequestered monk copying holy manuscripts.

(Original image of a beach in Mexico by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, June 29, 2018

Album Review: Justin Brown's Nyeusi


Justin Brown was shrouded in darkness the last time I caught up with the peripatetic drummer.  As a member of Thundercat’s band at the Granada in Lawrence, Kansas, Brown was heard but not seen.  (I reviewed the 2017 concert at Plastic Sax.)  Brown’s new album Nyeusi is imbued with a similarly enigmatic atmosphere.  The straight-up jazz fusion project has a few pleasing contemporary updates.  A cover of Tony Williams’ intergalactic “Circa 45” is telling.  Not even a dopey promotional video can prevent me from loving Nyeusi.


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I was awed by Kesha’s headlining appearance at the Sprint Center.  I reviewed her concert with Macklemore for The Kansas City Star.

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I examined Built To Spill in advance of the band’s appearance at the Middle of the Map festival.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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The storied rock drummer Vinnie Paul has died.

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XXXTentacion was killed.  I’ll always love “Roll in Peace”.

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Eugene Pitt of The Jive Five has reportedly died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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My pal McLain Johnson is the subject of a four-minute video profile.

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Kamasi Washington perfected his over-the-top approach to celestial jazz on Heaven and Earth.  Superior in every way to his 2016 breakout album The Epic, the bigger-is-better attack on Heaven and Earth is ecstatic rather than excessive.  Because it’s so long, I tried to take a nap while I absorbed the gospel-laced release last weekend.  I didn’t sleep, but I’m pretty sure I communed with God.

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Arp’s freaky Zebra is beyond description.  Jazz, classic rock, New Age, electronica and classical elements weave in and out of the transportive mix.  RIYL: Bonobo, headphones, Weather Report.  Here’s “Nzubu”.

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A piano trio led by Harold López-Nussa finds new life in the format on Un Día Cualquiera.  The Cuban’s album is so good that I’m almost tempted to head out of town to a date on his tour of the United States.  Almost.

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What a disappointment!  Let the Trap Say Amen, a collaboration between star producer Zeytoven and Christian rapper Lecrae, had the potential to elevate the tone of the hip-hop zeitgeist.  Neither man brought his a-game.

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The Record Company is as generic as its name.  The band sounds as if it’s auditioning for an advertising agency that specializes in beer commercials on All of This Life.  Even so, I find the journeyman rock oddly comforting.  RIYL: The Wallflowers, Bob Seger fan fiction, Dan Auerbach.  Here’s the Black Crowes knockoff “The Movie Song”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Concert Review: The LSD Tour at Starlight Theatre


As my tardy date chatted with attendants at the northwest gate of Starlight Theatre while waiting for me to deliver her ticket on Thursday, a couple members of the venue’s staff confessed that they were stunned that about 4,500 people purchased tickets to hear Dwight Yoakam play for less than an hour.

They didn’t understand that the LSD Tour was far more than the sum of its parts.  While Yoakam is the only bonafide hitmaker in the package, Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle are arguably even more culturally significant.  I’ve heard each artist perform multiple times during the past 32 years, but the rare chance to hear them on one evening was too good to pass up (especially when good seats could be secured for the bargain price of $35 at the box office on the day of the show.) 

After a convincing outing by King Leg that a pal and I characterized as sounding like Morrissey covering Roy Orbison, Earle and the Dukes played about 45 minutes of crusty country-rock.  The hard-core troubadour was as irascible as ever.  While he touched on classic original material like “Guitar Town,” “Copperhead Road” and “Transcendental Blues,” a grungy cover of “Hey Joe” provided my favorite moments.

Williams’ appearance was bittersweet.  She’s never been a dynamic performer, but Thursday’s outing was far more awkward than usual.  Sensing that it was the last time I’d see the storied songwriter, I pulled for Williams to overcome her struggles.  A series of perfect guitar solos by Nashville cat Stuart Mathis and the repurposing of “Foolishness” into a potent political rant pushed the set over the top.

Yoakam- along with Marty Stuart the most convincing country traditionalist alive- is the rare performer who can thrill audiences with an uninterrupted string of hits.  That’s probably why he apologized for playing two new songs.  He needn’t have make excuses for “Pretty Horses” and “Then Here Came Monday.”  They were as good as his old favorites.

A chintzy stage set didn’t do any of the musicians justice.  Not only did the ostensibly psychedelic video projections resemble ‘90s-era computer screensavers, the backdrop and lighting rigs were far too small for the Starlight Theatre stage.  Then again, perhaps no stage is capable of containing the outsize talents of Yoakam, Williams and Earle.


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I wrote profiles of Nikki Lane and Spoon in advance of their appearances at the Middle of the Map festival.

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I recount my experience at a battle of jazz big bands at Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, June 22, 2018

I Don’t Feel Pain Anymore: Music Midway in 2018




The primary conceit of my mid-year rankings is a sanction on artist overlap in the album and song lists, an arbitrary policy that allows me to delay a verdict on Kanye West’s insistence that his abbreviated Ye, Daytona, Kids See Ghosts, Nasir and Keep That Same Energy releases are proper albums.


The Top 25 Albums of 2018 (so far)
1. Dave Holland- Uncharted Territories
2. Black Panther the Album
3. Rhye- Blood
4. Ashley Monroe- Sparrow
5. Hailu Mergia- Lala Belu
6. Logan Richardson- Blues People
7. Cardi B- Invasion of Privacy
8. Joshua Redman- Still Dreaming
9. Sons of Kemet- Your Queen Is a Reptile
10. Courtney Barnett- Tell Me How You Really Feel

11. Fantastic Negrito- Please Don’t Be Dead
12. Fatoumata Diawara- Fenfo
13. Matthew Shipp- Zero
14. Snoop Dogg Presents Bible of Love
15. Brad Mehldau- After Bach
16. Angelique Kidjo- Remain in Light
17. Bettye LaVette- Things Have Changed
18. Sly & Robbie and Nils Petter Molvaer- Nordub
19. Rich the Factor- CEO of the Blacktop
20. August Greene- August Greene

21. Meshell Ndegeocello- Ventriloquism
22. Migos- Culture II
23. Jorja Smith- Lost & Found
24. Alasdair Roberts, Amble Skuse and David McGuinness- What News
25. Arctic Monkeys- Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino


The Top 25 Songs of 2018 (so far)
1. Prince- “Nothing Compares 2 U”
2. Janelle Monaé- “Make Me Feel”
3. Kanye West- “Ghost Town”
4. Kids See Ghosts- “Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2)”
5. Nas- “Cops Shot the Kid”
6. Pusha T- “The Games We Play”
7. Sa-Roc- “Forever”
8. J Balvin featuring Jeon and Anitta- “Machika”
9. Childish Gambino- “This Is America”
10. Chris Dave and the Drumhedz featuring Anderson Paak- “Black Hole”

11. Alejandro Fernández y Los Tigres del Norte- “Para Sacarte de Mi Vida (Versión Norteña)”
12. The Breeders- “Wait in the Car”
13. Tech N9ne- “Don’t Nobody Want None”
14. Parquet Courts- “Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience”
15. Ben Miller Band- “Akira Kurosawa”
16. Black Thought- “Dostoyevsky”
17. Christina Aguilera- “Maria”
18. Orchestra Akokán- “Un Tabaco para Elegua”
19. Progger- “Housewives”
20. Tracey Thorn- “Queen”

21. Valee with Pusha T- “Miami”
22. Banda Pelillos- “No Sabes Lo Que Se Siente”
23. Kitten- “I Did It!”
24. The James Hunter Six- “I Don't Wanna Be Without You”
25. Post Malone- “Psycho”


The Top 25 Concerts of 2018 (so far)
1. Anat Cohen Tentet- Gem Theater
2. David Byrne- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
3. Uriel Herman Quartet- Black Dolphin
4. Protomartyr- Zanzabar (Louisville)
5. Pink- Sprint Center
6. Bill Frisell, Rudy Royston and Thomas Morgan- 1900 Building
7. Julien Baker- Vinyl Renaissance
8. Low Cut Connie- Doug Fir Lounge (Portland)
9. Ryan Keberle & Catharsis- Black Dolphin
10. Injury Reserve- Encore Room

11. Ghost- Rockfest at the Kansas Speedway
12. Flatbush Zombies- Providence Medical Center Amphitheater
13. Cyrille Aimée- Folly Theater
14. Drive-By Truckers- The Truman
15. Atmosphere- VooDoo
16. The Breeders- The Rave (Milwaukee)
17. Tech N9ne- Boulevardia in the West Bottoms
18. The Project H- Westport Coffee House
19. Los Texmaniacs with Flaco Jiménez- Kansas City Folk Fest at Crown Center
20. McFadden Brothers- Helzberg Hall

21. Marcus Lewis Big Band- RecordBar
22. James Taylor- Sprint Center
23. Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s “Rigoletto”- Muriel Kauffman Theater
24. Hi-Lux- Mills Record Company
25. Lucinda Williams- Starlight Theatre

(Original image of Julien Baker at Vinyl Renaissance by There Stands the Glass.)

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.)