Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Album Review: Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan- Epistrophy



I deliberately avoided appearances by Bill Frisell at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville last month.  I reasoned that I should focus on showcases by artists I’d never seen.  Even though I’ve heard the guitarist perform seven or eight times, I’m beginning to wonder if my reasoning was faulty.  Epistrophy, a set of astounding duets between Frisell and bassist Thomas Morgan recorded at the Village Vanguard, is yet another addition to the already staggering mountain of evidence that Frisell may be the most brilliant musician of our time.  


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

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I reviewed the Joshua Redman Quartet’s concert at the Folly Theater for Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Angry Ethiopian jazz?  Sign me up.  Black Flower’s Future Flora is RIYL Hailu Mergia, trippy jams, Sons of Kemet.

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Lizzo tries way too hard on Cuz I Love You.  The anonymous production on her ostensible breakout album makes her alacrity even less appealing.  At least I’ll always be able to say “I saw her when.”.

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The Budos Band pummels a single good idea into the ground on V.  RIYL: Link Wray, repetition, the Ventures.  Here’s “Ghost Talk”.

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Relentless Doppelganger, a live stream of malevolent bots creating entirely credible death metal, is as impressive as it is terrifying.

(Original image of Bill Frisell, Thomas Morgan and Rudy Royston by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Concert Review: Khatia Buniatishvili at the Folly Theater



I’ve witnessed the cavorting of scantily clad pop stars, the testifying of sweaty soul men and the suggestive voguing of hyper-masculine country crooners in recent months.  None of these performers possessed even half of the charisma exuded by Khatia Buniatishvili at the Folly Theater on Wednesday.  While she and Sony’s marketing department don’t hesitate to capitalize on her looks, the celebrated pianist from Batumi, Georgia, boasts the sort of magnetism that transcends her pleasing visage.  The impeccable playing of Buniatishvili emphasized extreme dynamics in an enchanting program of Shubert.  She ecstatically tossed her hair, waved her arms and contorted her body during her Kansas City debut.  Just how captivating was Buniatishvili?  The majority of the audience of about 750 stuck around for the invariably dull artist interview that follows concerts in the Harriman-Jewell Series.  I’m not the only one who can’t get enough of Buniatishvili.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Album Review: Anderson Paak- Ventura



I don’t entirely trust my enthusiasm for Anderson Paak’s Ventura.  The album is so closely attuned to my sensibilities that I suspect it’s an algorithmic swindle.  Ventura resembles what might happen if the Music Genome Project, the uncannily perceptive program designed by the creators of Pandora Music, was commissioned to create music specifically for me.  The silky throwback soul of songs like “Make It Better” are frighteningly spot-on evocations of my sonic ideal.


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I contribute weekly concert previews to The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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I reviewed a recital by Assif Tsahar and Tatsuya Nakatani at Plastic Sax.

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Before music streaming services became quick and (nearly) comprehensive, I’d occasionally go on excursions at the Free Music Archive in search of interesting variations on the jam-band sound.  I invariably came up empty.  Imperfection, the new release by the New York power trio Gorgeous!, is the sort of unpolished gem I’d hoped to discover at FMA.  The group sounds like the Jimi Hendrix Experience jamming on contemporary funk.  The album contains about 20 minutes of thrilling grooves.  Unfortunately, Imperfection rambles on for 98 minutes.

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I wasn’t impressed the two times I witnessed Whitechapel spoon-feed greasy kid stuff to fidgety teenage headbangers.  The convincingly heavy The Valley, however, isn’t generic child’s play.  Here’s “When a Demon Defiles a Witch”.

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Lage Lund is accompanied by pianist Sullivan Fortner, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Tyshawn Sorey on Terrible Animals.  The auspicious lineup assembled by the guitarist doesn’t disappoint.  RIYL: Mary Halvorson, genius hiding in plain sight, Pat Metheny.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Album Review: Brooks & Dunn- Reboot


A drunk homophobe wanted to fight me because I wore a pink shirt to an Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn concert at Verizon Amphitheater in 2007.  I dressed less conspicuously when Brooks & Dunn headlined at the Sprint Center on its 2010 farewell tour.   Honestly, I haven’t given the duo much thought since then.  That’s why I’m astounded by my reaction to the 12 remakes featuring contemporary country stars on Reboot.  Absence definitely made my ears grow fonder.  Although I harbored only a mild affection for the songs when they were originally released, I shout along with Luke Combs on ”Brand New Man” and get weepy as Ashley McBride sings “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone”.  The comeback album is so good that even the interpretation of “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” featuring Midland resembles an unexpected visit from a long-lost friend who doesn't care what I wear.


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I contribute weekly concert previews to The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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I always liked Earl Thomas Conley more than Brooks & Dunn.  Conley died yesterday.  Here’s “Holding Her and Loving You”.

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I’m still salty about the Dutchman’s listless performance at the Big Ears Festival last month, but the stirring convergence of new age, ambient and classical music on Henosis is precisely what I want from Joep Beving.  Here’s “Unus Mundus”.

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Anitta’s Kisses contains several stupendous bangers and concludes with a lovely duet with Caetano Veloso.  Aside from Snoop Dogg’s vibe-killing appearance, Kisses is delightful.  RIYL: baila funk, Ariana Grande, sunshine.  Here’s “Banana”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, April 08, 2019

Concert Review: Durand Jones & the Indications at recordBar


I like alcohol, but I wasn’t drinking.  I like dancing, but there wasn’t room to move.  I like parties, but I felt as if I was crashing a sloppy frat kegger.  And while I possess unconditional love for old-school R&B, I could hardly hear Durand Jones & the Indications over the din of drunken conversations.  Saturday’s sold-out show at RecordBar was an enormous letdown.  Opening band Ginger Root never stood a chance.  A friend tweeted that “I’m not sure I’ll see a better live show in 2019.”  Well, the performance by the soul revivalist band wasn’t even the best concert I attended in the past week.  I rave about a quartet led by Matt Otto at Plastic Sax.  Last night’s appearance by the Norwegian brass band tenThing was also superior.  I posted amusing footage at Instagram.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, April 05, 2019

Album Review: Ex Hex- It's Real


I was a member of the target demographic for the 1980 punksploitation flick “Times Square”.  As a disaffected teen stuck in the boonies and desperate for dispatches from the punk scene in New York City, I enthusiastically acquired the soundtrack and bought a ticket to see the film the week it opened.  This gullible rube was expertly played by a cynical marketing team that made Suzi Quatro’s “Rock Hard” the theme song of the deservedly forgotten movie.  Even though tracks including “Rainbow Shiner” on Ex Hex’s It’s Real are vastly superior to “Rock Hard,” the throwback “new wave” on the album catapults me back to an almost incomprehensibly foreign era.


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

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Nipsey Hussle was gunned down on March 31.  I don’t share the hip-hop community’s adoration of the rapper.  The memory of his dreary outing at the Granada in 2009 still grates on me.

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The Chicago house vocalist Kim English has died.  Here’s “Natural High”.

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David White of Danny and the Juniors, has died.  Here’s “At the Hop”.

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There have been moments during the last 20 years in which I believed that attending Kansas City’s Rockfest was my sole reason to exist.  I don’t know what to do with myself now that this year’s blowout isn’t happening.

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Marvin Gaye's You’re the Man, the would-be follow up to What’s Going On, is only half as good as his classic 1971 work.  But man, there are still a dozen spine-tingling moments scattered throughout the newly reassembled version of the nixed project.

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Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is the love child of Lorde’s Pure Heroine and Taylor Swift’s Reputation.  Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys served as the midwife.  “Bury a Friend” is the baby picture the proud parents sold to a celebrity tabloid.

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I paid $14 to hear The Wild Reeds and Valley Queen at RecordBar on Wednesday.  The show was altogether adequate.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Album Review: Coltrane '58: The Prestige Recordings


I devoured all five hours and 38 minutes of Coltrane ‘58: The Prestige Recordings in just two listening sessions this weekend.  After devoting much of March to the avant-garde sounds of today, bingeing on one of the most disruptive artists of 1958 has been as refreshing as chugging cool water on a hot summer day.  Even though I’m familiar with most of the material on the new box set, hearing it presented in chronological order provides fresh perspectives.  I’m particularly struck by my reaction to Red Garland.  The pianist’s combination of intelligence and soulfulness on the earliest dates are awe-inspiring.  Yet Garland’s inability to adjust to Coltrane’s rapid evolution occasionally threatens to send me into a blind rage.  (To be fair, pianists Tommy Flanagan, Elmo Hope and Kenny Drew also had a hard time keeping up.)  I can only imagine Coltrane’s frustration.


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

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I reviewed Dave Scott’s In Search of Hipness and suggest that Kansas City is the land that time forgot at Plastic Sax.

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Scott Walker has died.

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Ranking Roger has died.

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The lineup of the We Out Here festival in August makes me giddy.  Round-trip flights to London start at $650.  Do I dare pull the trigger?

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Shafiq Husayn’s The Loop would be a contender for my album of the year if the songs were just a little less loopy.  RIYL: To Pimp a Butterfly, marijuana, There’s a Riot Goin’ On.

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I’m not laughing at the Faint; I’m laughing with them.  The members of the Omaha band sound as if they’re having a blast crafting variations on decades-old industrial pop and electronic funk on Egowerk.  RIYL: Front Line Assembly, Wax Trax, Front 242.  Here’s “Child Asleep”.

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(Original image of an old OJC reissue by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

March Recap


Top Five Performances
1. The Big Ears Festival
My capsule reviews of 30 sets.
2. Leikeli47- Encore Room
My Instagram clip.
3. Metallica- Sprint Center
My review.
4. Ryan Keberle & Catharsis- Mod Gallery
My review.
5. Eric Church- Sprint Center
My review.

Top Five Albums
1. Solange- When I Get Home
I no longer pine for new music from Erykah Badu.
2. Little Simz- Grey Area
A true boss.
3. Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom- Glitter Wolf
Delirious chamber jazz.
4. Willie Clayton- Excellence
Take me to the river.
5. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah- Ancestral Recall
Generational brilliance.

Top Five Songs
1. Townes Van Zandt- “Sky Blue”
Buried treasure.
2. 2 Chainz with Kendrick Lamar- “Momma I Hit a Lick”
I want it, I want it, I want it.
3. The Wild Reeds- “Moving Target”
Garage-rock perfection.
4. Zara McFarlane- "East of the River Nile”
New life for an Augustus Pablo gem.
5. Nick Lowe- “Love Starvation”
Pure pop for old people.

I conducted the same exercise in January and February.

(Original image of Dwight Andrews and Leo Wadada Smith at the Big Ears Festival by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Controlled Chaos: Thirty Sets at the Big Ears Festival

I booked a trip to Knoxville hours after discovering that the 2019 edition of the Big Ears Festival would serve as a fiftieth anniversary celebration of ECM Records.  As my ranking of 30 sets indicates, I didn’t limit my Big Ears experience to music associated with my favorite record label.

1. Art Ensemble of Chicago- Tennessee Theatre
Largely because I took in performances by the groundbreaking band during its heyday, I was skeptical about Sunday’s show.  Rather than attempting to recreate past glories, the group morphed into a rambunctious big band for the festival’s grand finale concert.  Even without the late Lester Bowie, Malachi Favors and Joseph Jarman, the Art Ensemble of Chicago continues to exude a sense of barely controlled chaos.

2. Artifacts Trio- St. John's Cathedral
The astounding new wave of forward-thinking Chicago jazz musicians rarely perform in Kansas City.  Even before I spotted Tomeka Reid on stage with the Art Ensemble of Chicago two days later, the ferocious outing by Reid, Nicole Mitchell and Mike Reed on Friday made me realize that they’re worthy heirs of that vital legacy.

3. Meredith Monk’s Cellular Songs- Bijou Theatre
Not only did I shed tears of joy on Friday, I guffawed so strenuously that people five rows in front of me turned to stare at my disruptive responses to Monk’s life-affirming work.

4. Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl- The Mill & Mine
Mary Halvorson was the most divisive artist on the lineup.  Heated arguments frequently broke out when her name was mentioned.  Halvorson’s dissonant attack elicits harsh rebukes from detractors while her advocates insist she’s the most significant guitarist to come along since the Big Three of Bill Frisell, Pat Metheny and John Scofield.  I’m no longer a doubter.  (The presence of the brilliant Ambrose Akinmusire didn’t hurt.)

5. Evan Parker’s Trance Map Plus- Bijou Theatre
What sorcery is this?  The septuagenarian’s perpetual embrace of the future makes him my role model.

6. Rhiannon Giddens- Church Street United Methodist Church
Giddens is a wondrous musical presence, but I predict that she’ll hold an even greater role as a prominent public figure 20 years from now.

7. Mathias Eick Quintet- The Standard
The Norwegians located the groovy sweet spot between Miles Davis’ Jack Johnson and Tutu.

8. Leo Wadada Smith- The Standard
Monk lives!  Smith’s unaccompanied interpretations of Thelonious Monk’s compositions were revelatory.

9. Kim Kashkashian- St. John's Cathedral
Rapturous solo viola.

10. Roomful of Teeth- Knoxville Museum of Art
The members of the a cappella vocal ensemble resemble the weird aunts and uncles of Pentatonix.

11. Alvin Lucier- Bijou Theatre
The avant-garde composer displayed his signature wit and adventurous spirit.

12. Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn- Tennessee Theatre
Iyer needs to calm down. His everything-at-once assault in a duo with Taborn was often overbearing.  The less frenetic passages were extraordinary.

13. Evan Parker's Trance Map Plus- The Mill & Mine
I fell in love with Big Ears when the festival announced this 10 a.m. pop-up exhibition of free jazz.

14. Tim Berne’s Snakeoil- Bijou  Theatre
As we say in Kansas, “that’ll put hair on your chest!”  The skronk-oriented saxophonist joked that “it’s entirely possible we’ll get dropped by the label between the third and fourth tunes.”

15. Columbia Icefield- The Standard
Nate Wooley’s reference to the poetry of Jim Harrison while the pedal steel master Susan Alcorn and guitar hero Mary Halvorson retuned encapsulates his group’s rough-and-tumble sound.

16. Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir- St. John's Cathedral
I’ll cop to showing up just to gawk at the twins depicted on the cover of Belle & Sebastian’s classic 2000 album Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant even though I was certain I’d loathe their frail music.  Instead, I was captivated by the convincing performances of Kristín Anna and Gyða Valtýsdóttir.  Like characters who escaped from the pages The Lord of the Rings, the sisters transported me to an alternate universe.  The plant seeds they hawked were among the festival’s most tempting merch offerings.

17. Carla Bley, Steve Swallow and Andy Sheppard- Tennessee Theatre
As they say on talk radio, “first time, long time.”  The highly refined outing lacked energy, but finally witnessing Swallow’s trademark electric bass work in person thrilled me.

18. Nik Bärtsch and Ronin- Tennessee Theatre
I assume the festival attendee who wore a King Crimson t-shirt is an even more ardent fan of Ronin than I.  The Swiss pianist and his collaborators including a saxophonist named Sha play prog-tinged jazz.

19. Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison- Tennessee Theatre
The trio has improved immensely since I caught it in Kansas City two years ago.

20. Mercury Rev- The Mill & Mine
Loud rock and roll guitars sound especially good near the end of a jazz-filled day.

21. Joan La Barbara- St. John's Cathedral
I hadn’t realized that the vocal trailblazer collaborated with the late Jóhann Gunnar Jóhannsson on the Arrival soundtrack.

22. KTL- The Mill & Mine
The kids sprawled out on the floor during the loud drone cultivated by Stephen O'Malley and Peter Rehberg had the right idea.

23. Nils Frahm- Tennessee Theatre
Frahm was intent on making certain everyone at his elaborate one-man show understood that he’s extremely talented.  His curiously bass-free version of EDM didn’t do much for me, but I won’t be surprised if Frahm soon headlines 1,000-capacity venues.

24. The Comet is Coming- The Mill & Mine
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- the Comet is Coming is vastly overrated.

25. Joep Beving- Knoxville Museum of Art
Beving boasts more streams on Spotify than any artist at the festival.  The Dutchman’s effort was mystifyingly dull.

26. Moor Mother- The Standard
I’m willing to accept the possibility that the essence of this set sailed far over my head.

27. Kayhan Kahlor and Brooklyn Rider- Bijou Theatre
Tasteful to a fault.

28. Harold Budd- Bijou Theatre
29. Harold Budd- St. John's Cathedral
I take no pleasure in reporting that the ambient legend’s rare appearances were unmitigated disasters.  I went back for a second round only to verify my deeply distressing diagnosis.

30. Leo Wadada Smith- Tennessee Theater
I’d eagerly anticipated the reprise of the 1979 album Divine Love.  Alas, the trumpeter’s reunion with Dwight Andrews and vibraphonist Bobby Naughton was a shambolic mess.


What About Sons of Kemet and Makaya McCraven?
I intended to spend Saturday night at the Mill & the Mine sampling local beers while grooving to two of the most exciting acts in the world.  Yet after experiencing fatigue-induced hallucinations early Saturday evening- I didn’t consume any intoxicants during the festival- I elected to turn in early.

Wait For It...
I didn’t attempt to secure a media pass.  Instead, I paid $246.40 for a general admission wristband.  Consequently, I spent more than five hours in lines over the course of four days.  One exasperated wag suggested that only 10 people with general admission passes were allowed inside the Standard for each set.  I didn’t even attempt to gain admittance to the cozy club on Saturday or Sunday.  I made the best of the bad situation by making new friends as I cooled my heels.  The most telling indication that I was among fellow music obsessives was the absence of chatter inside the venues.

Knox in Box
I’m still thinking about a sidewalk placard advertising a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in the heart of downtown for $1,750.00 a month.  I’m so smitten by Knoxville that I’d consider relocating to the college town.  Every local I encountered was kind and gracious.  My sole knock on Knoxville is that downtown is a food desert for committed fest-goers.  Who has time for a sit-down restaurant if it means missing a set?  Barring national chains from the district is a nice idea, but the lone convenience store is an unreliable mom-and-pop operation.  I would have killed for a 7-Eleven, let alone a Trader Joe’s.

Bright Size Life
I posted video clips of 20 performances at my Instagram account.

(Original image of Craig Taborn by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Album Review: Snarky Puppy- Immigrance


Clinical studio perfection?  Check.  Ostentatious instrumental prowess?  Check.  Clever jazz references?  Check.  Insufferably smug fan base?  Check.  Snarky Puppy is the new Steely Dan.  The absence of Donald Fagen’s disdainful voice is the only substantive difference between Snarky Puppy’s Immigrance and Steely Dan albums like Aja.  Oh sure, Immigrance possesses additional components: the most dreadful moments reference the bloated pop of Toto while the best bits recall Return to Forever’s prog-rock fusion.  But it’s just a matter of time until a prankster releases a mashup of Immigrance and Aja.  I’m going to be all about it.  Here’s “Bad Kids to the Back”.


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

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I took a field trip to 424 Lounge in Leavenworth, Kansas.

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The R&B OG Andre Williams has died.  Here’s one of the Williams concert reviews I wrote for The Kansas City Star.

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The rock guitar pioneer Dick Dale has died.

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I’ve elected not to share the sordid details of the lucid dream I experienced after drifting off to the Sokratis Sinopoulos Quartet’s evocative Metamodal.  RIYL: Regina Carter, Venus de Milo, John Blake.

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I didn’t see the maturation of 2 Chainz coming.  Not only does Rap or Go to the League go down easy, the star-studded project offers nourishing food for thought.  Here’s “Money in the Way”.

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The video of Tortoise’s set at the Midwinter festival is excellent.

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It’s not funny anymore.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Album Review: The Comet is Coming- Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery


Attendees of music festivals are often required to make excruciating decisions.  I’ve been tortured by a particularly agonizing scheduling conflict coming up on Friday at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Ralph Towner and The Comet is Coming play simultaneous showcases at different venues. 

Towner, 71, has blown my mind since I fished Sargasso Sea out of a discount bin at Classical Westport as a curious teen.  Friday’s show is my first- and likely last- opportunity to see the guitarist.

In contrast to the relatively staid Towner, the energetic the Comet is Coming is one of the most fashionable acts in the world.  The cool kids have glommed onto the London based trio as their token jazz act of 2019.  A commensurate allotment of coolness will be conferred on everyone at the band’s showcase on Friday. 

Alas, the release of the Comet is Coming’s major label debut made my choice a lot easier.  Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery doesn’t live up to the hype.  The best bits resemble a solid Pharoah Sanders tribute while the worst passages sound like a mashup of the late prog-rock keyboardist Keith Emerson and the manic jazz ensemble Moon Hooch.  It’s cheesy. 

So while fashionable folks dance to the Comet is Coming at a nightclub, I’ll be seated with my frumpy brethren in an Episcopal cathedral listening to a septuagenarian guitarist.  No regrets.


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I created an audio feature about RL Brooks and Seen Merch for KCUR.

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The process entailed several listening sessions, but I finally worked my way through Jordi Savall’s 146-minute epic Ibn Battuta, the Traveller of Islam.  While the music is uniformly compelling, the goofy narration is intrusive. 

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It’s difficult for me to image Jim Keltner and Mike Watt in the same room, let alone in the same recording studio.  Yet the classic rock drummer and the intrepid punk bassist support Mike Baggetta on Wall of Flowers.  The guitarist’s attack falls somewhere between Terje Rypdal and Joe Satriani. 

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Album Review: Willie Clayton- Excellence


Several of my friends and associates are raving about Durand Jones & the Indications’ American Love Call.  While the group’s spot-on evocation of a lost 1972 album by the Dramatics is a neat trick, I don’t understand the point of the nostalgic exercise.  After all, Whatcha See is Whatcha Get and Dramatically Yours are just a few clicks away.

Unlike Durand and his admirers, Willie Clayton isn’t desperate to return the past. As he suggests on the aptly titled new album Excellence, Clayton’s Southern soul contains “a little old-school with a little new.”  The approach has made him a star on what’s left of the chitlin’ circuit.

The varied Excellence recalls Al Green’s classic work for Hi Records, the commercial peak of the Isley Brothers and the contemporary R&B of a certain pariah.  The music video for the so-wrong-it’s-right “Where You Get That Body” is something else.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed a performance by Ryan Keberle & Catharsis at Plastic Sax.

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Drummer Hal Blaine has died.

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Keith Flint of the Prodigy has died.

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The South African icon Dorothy Masuka has died.

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Sara Romweber of Let’s Active has died.  It’s hard to believe at this late date, but there was a moment in my life when “Every Word Means No” was important to me.

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Four acts from Kansas City- the Get Up Kids, Hembree, Kadesh Flow and Shy Boys- have official showcases at SXSW this week.  I wish them well.

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I’m not terribly interested in the gender dynamics explored on Angel-Ho’s Death Becomes Her.  It’s the startling sonic blend of the noise of Death Grips, the futurism of Grimes and the New Orleans bounce of Big Freedia that fascinates me.  Do I like it?  I’m still not sure.  Here’s “Pose”.  (Tip via Big Steve.)

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When I saw Caleb Burhans’ Past Lives described as  “emo-classical,” I cued it up with the intention of hate-listening.  The opening track is titled “A Moment for Jason Molina,” for Pete’s sake!  In spite of my pernicious intent, I quickly became entranced by the album’s sentimental beauty.  RIYL: Jóhann Jóhannsson, melancholy, John Fahey.

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Forward-thinking improvised music doesn’t get much more fun than Glitter Wolf, the latest album by Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom.  Equal parts klezmer, chamber jazz and pop, the drummer-led project features violinist Jenny Scheinman, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, pianist Myra Melford and bassist Todd Sickafoose.  RIYL: Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, joy, Charles Mingus.

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Good news, old-timers: most of Meat Puppets’ Dusty Notes is entirely acceptable.  RIYL: Son Volt’s Trace, fried psychedelia, the Dead’s Wake of the Flood.

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I’ve heard Havilah Bruders sing plenty of times, but she’s never sounded better than she did at my church on Sunday morning as she redeemed U2 in a restrained rendition of “Love Rescue Me.”

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Concert Review: Metallica at the Sprint Center


A record-setting crowd bid farewell to heavy metal at the Sprint Center on Wednesday.  Members of the audience of 19,646- the largest-ever gathering for a concert at the arena- gave Metallica and their concert-going days a worthy sendoff.

Even though an adorable little boy with a seat directly in front of mine tossed up devil horns for two hours, the concert felt more like a rowdy Irish wake than a passionate rock and roll revival.  I got the sense that most of the men in their thirties and forties who dominated the audience were bidding farewell to the rock-loving portion of their lives with one final blowout.

Most gave it everything they had.  There was little difference between the giddiness of the grown men at last night’s concert- “can you believe that Metallica is going to be on that stage in a few minutes” a wobbly man shouted as he shook me by the shoulders- and little girls at an appearance by the boy band BTS.  The misty nostalgia of my neighbor indicated that he had no intention of going to another show.

The members of Metallica reflected the outlook.  James Hetfield even trotted out the sad catchphrase “thank you for supporting live music,” a phrase usually uttered by unworthy hacks.  And while Metallica may be a lot of things, unworthy isn’t one of them.  Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo and Lars Ulrich were admirably energetic.  The astounding production supporting them equaled their intensity.  An inexcusably muddy sound field was the only snag.

While a fraction of the nearly 20,000 people at last night’s show will attend a concert featuring Slayer and Lamb of God in seven weeks, Metallica’s winning effort acted as a heroic last stand for the majority of the weary headbangers.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Album Review: Solange- When I Get Home


How I detested A Seat at the Table!   I didn’t hear what others claimed to like about Solange’s 2016 breakout album.  While I’ve admired Solange for more than a decade, I’m hardly a Stan of Beyoncé’s sister.  That’s why I’m enormously pleased to report that Solange has realized her potential with When I Get Home.  The new album equals or betters efforts by like-minded neo-soul and progressive jazz artists including the Internet, Flying Lotus, Robert Glasper and SZA.   While it doesn’t contain any so-called “bops” (ugh), When I Get Home represents everything I love about the current musical moment even as it recalls the seminal work of Stevie Wonder and Erykah Badu.  And no, I haven’t watched the accompanying album-length video.


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I reviewed the first of Eric Church’s two concerts at the Sprint Center for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed Norman Brown’s The Highest Act of Love at Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Bluegrass giant Mac Wiseman has died.

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Jazz guitarist Ed Bickert has died.

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Mark Hollis of Talk Talk has died.

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Drummer Andy Anderson has died.

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André Previn has died.  What a life!  I’ve long employed his solo piano improvisations as sublime background music.

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The jazz critic and producer Ira Gitler has died.

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Zara McFarlane’s four interpretations of Augustus Pablo’s “East of the River Nile” are positioned at the precise center of my musical wheelhouse. 

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Offset’s Father of 4 is so weak that I’m embarrassed for the rapper and for myself for intently listening to all 58 minutes of it.  Here’s “Quarter Milli”.

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Guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King are in thrall of Ornette Coleman on the thorny Love Hurts.  I love it, of course.  Here’s “Tomorrow Is the Question”.

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While attending the rock festival isn’t at the top of my bucket list, I’m consistently impressed by the scale of Rocklahoma.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

February Recap

Top Five Performances
1. Elton John- Sprint Center
My review.
2. Blake Shelton with Trace Adkins, Lauren Alaina, John Anderson and the Bellamy Brothers- Sprint Center
My review.
3. Ben Allison’s Think Free- Mod Gallery
My review.
4. Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7- Black Dolphin
I like it like that.
5. Heat Index- Thee Gin Mill
Sizzling fusion in the suburbs.

Top Five Albums
1. Yugen Blakrok- Anima Mysterium
A fearsome roar from the Black Panther soundtrack alum.
2. Nubiyan Twist- Jungle Run
Nourishing future jazz.
3. Drew Williams’ Wing Walker Orchestra- Hazel
The Lee’s Summit musician makes a national splash.
4. Mavis Staples- Live in London
A great American.
5. Cochemea Gastelum- All My Relations
Metaphysical jams.

Top Five Songs
1. Natti Natasha- “Pa’ Mala Yo”
Who’s bad?
2. Reggie B and the Popper- “Not Funky”
Heartland funk.
3. Tropkillaz, J Balvin, Anitta and MC Zaac- “Bola Rebola”
Balling.
4. Ariana Grande- “NASA”
Spaced out.
5. Keaton Conrad- “What Am I Supposed to Do?”
Kansas City’s Prince of Pop.

(Original image of Elton John by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, February 22, 2019

Album Review: Mercury Rev- Bobbie Gentry’s ‘The Delta Sweete’ Revisited


Even though it’s precisely the type of album my dad would have imposed on me when I was a kid, I’d never heard Bobbie Gentry’s 1968 song cycle The Delta Sweete until this week.  It’s absolutely bonkers!  Bobbie Gentry’s ‘The Delta Sweete’ Revisited, Mercury Rev’s exquisite interpretation of the album, is far less loopy.  Yet even as the guest vocalists including Beth Orton, Hope Sandoval, Phoebe Bridgers, Norah Jones and Lucinda Williams attempt to ratchet back the weirdness, their languid contributions are still wondrously eerie.  These creepy bedtime lullabies are the stuff of lurid Southern gothic nightmares.


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Peter Tork of the Monkees has died.

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The soul artist Jackie Shane has died.

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Kofi Burbridge, a longtime associate of Derek Trucks, has died.

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Yuck!  The circa-1985 mainstream rock production on Gary Clark Jr.’s This Land is a dealbreaker.  The bluesman’s new songs sound as if they’re intended to played alongside the Firm’s “Radioactive” and Eric Clapton’s “Forever Man.”  RIYL: corporate rock, Foreigner, groupthink.

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I don’t intend to listen to Angel Bat David’s The Oracle again, but I admire every aspect of her lo-fi sound collage.  RIYL: truth, International Anthem, Tape Op magazine.

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I expected Chris Potter’s Circuits to be a contender for my album of the year.  Boy, am I ever disappointed.  At first blush, the saxophonist’s collaboration with keyboardist James Francies, bassist Linley Marthe and drummer Eric Harland seems substantially less than the sum of its formidable parts.

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If I were king of the world, I’d mandate that the four best selections on Alicia Olatuja’s lovely Intuition: Songs from the Minds of Women dominate the pop charts for the remainder of the year.  RIYL: Kandace Springs, tastefulness, Lizz Wright.

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Cochemea Gastelum’s All My Relations is a righteous jam.  RIYL: Kamasi Washington, motion, Herbie Mann.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Album Review: Nubiyan Twist- Jungle Run


I came for Mulatu Astatke and stayed for the cosmic grooves.  The giant of Ethiopian jazz contributes to a selection on the new Nubiyan Twist album Jungle Run, but every track on the project fills me with a warmth that repels the excruciating winter chill.  Twining the sounds of Roy Ayers, Fela, Curtis Mayfield, Roni Size, Soul II Soul and Erykah Badu into a riveting fabric, the youthful British “future jazz/afro-dub” collective weave entirely new patterns into a comforting blanket that makes me feel more secure than Linus van Pelt.  Here’s “Tell It To Me Slowly”.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Natti Natasha’s Iluminatti bumps in my whip.  RIYL: Diplo, candy, Wisin & Yandel.  Here’s “Me Gusta”.

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Hey, jerks: I’m still seeking a roommate for the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville next month.  I’m locked in for four nights at the convention hotel at the axis of the avant-garde hullabaloo.  Hit me up.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, February 17, 2019

A Line in the Sand


I was certain Florida-Georgia Line was the worst band I’d ever encountered the first time I attended a performance by the pop-country act.  The duo’s new Can’t Say I Ain’t Country is another batch of calculated bro-country gewgaws, but my antipathy toward the style has waned.  Not only does Florida-Georgia Line no longer offend me, I’ve come to respect the hustle.  Aspiring to be the country version of Maroon 5 is a savvy business decision.  And I genuinely enjoy singing the lyric “lookin’ like a line from a Vandross song” over the canned production of “Talk You Out of It.” I’m also amused by the lustiness of the Ronnie Milsap-style slow jam “Told You.”  Only the infuriating stomp-and-shout “Simple” and the crass corniness of “Women” make me want to break things.


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I reviewed Elton John’s Kansas City swan song at the Sprint Center.

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I reviewed Blake Shelton’s collaboration with Trace Adkins, Lauren Alaina, John Anderson and the Bellamy Brothers at the Sprint Center.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I take note of Karrin Allyson’s Some of That Sunshine at Plastic Sax.

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“I Love a Groove”.  The “word-jazz” artist Ken Nordine has died.

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I pray that the inherent pleasures of state-of-the-art pop will never sound stale to me.  While the album is immediately gratifying, the aggrieved tone of Ariana Grande Thank You, Next makes it less enjoyable than last year’s Sweetener.  Here’s “Bloodline”.

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Shake it on down.  Signs, the latest release by the Tedeschi Trucks Band, makes me want to sell all my earthly possessions in order to follow the groovy blues/soul/rock/jam band around the globe.  RIYL: the Band, tie-dye, Leon Russell.  Here’s “Hard Case”.

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Sincerely, the P, the bittersweet finale of the longstanding Los Angeles hip-hop duo People Under the Stairs, is endearing.

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I’m pained to report that Songs of Freedom, Ulysses Owens Jr.’s well-intentioned album of socially conscious songs like “Mississippi Goddam,” has no bite.  Toothless and stuffy, the all-star project sounds as if it’s aimed at the residents of blue state nursing homes.

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I adore Kid Koala’s new ambient-oriented album Music to Draw To: Io.  RIYL: Pink Floyd, astral projection, Daniel Lanois.  Here’s “All For You”.

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Even though there’s not a single original note on Texas Queens 5, I can’t can’t stop listening to the collaboration between the Japanese roots revivalist group Bloodest Saxophone and a few Texas based vocalists.  Here’s “Losing Battle”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, February 11, 2019

Album Review: Twin Talk- Weaver


Twin Talk infuriates me.  The bold sound of its new album Weaver makes the output of far too many jazz artists seem passé.  Knowing that the trio of Katie Ernst, Andrew Green and Dustin Laurenzi are making startling sounds in Chicago renders the prospect of hearing their less imaginative peers gig in Kansas City clubs substantially less appealing.  While there are no exact analogies, Twin Talk’s surprising attack evokes bits of Sara Serpa, the Bad Plus and David Binney.  The trio’s connection to Bon Iver is also evident (but is never overbearing).  Here’s the title track of Weaver.


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I’m attending the Big Ears Festival next month.  Carla Bley!  Harold Budd!  Jlin!  Makaya McCraven!  Meredith Monk!  Spiritualized!  Wadada Leo Smith!  Care to join me?   Hotels in downtown Knoxville are so pricey that I’m seeking a roommate to help defray expenses.

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The soul balladeer James Ingram has died.

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Edwin Birdsong, a legend among R&B crate-diggers, has died.

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The Nashville insider Harold Bradley, the brother of Owen Bradley, has died.

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Yugen Blakrok’s Anima Mysterium is an invigorating throwback to old-school backpack rap.  RIYL: Jedi Mind Tricks, South Africa, Cannibal Ox.  Here’s “Picture Box”.

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Eleni Karaindrou’s Tous des oiseaux is unclassifiable.  The Greek composer’s new release doesn’t really qualify as classical, folk, jazz or ambient music.  The material was composed for a play and for a film, but it’s far more substantial than typical incidental sounds.  Here’s  “Encounter”.

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I respect Robert Pollock more with each passing year.  Guided By Voices’ Zeppelin over China is preposterously good.  About two dozen of the 32 songs are keepers.  RIYL: The Who’s Quadrophenia, impossible feats, the Pretty Things’ S.F. Sorrow.  Here’s “The Rally Boys”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Bow Down: Keaton Conrad is Kansas City's Prince of Pop


Although I’ve praised him in The Kansas City Star (here and here), Keaton Conrad remains an absurdly unheralded young Kansas City musician.  That’s about to change.  An appealing blend of John Mayer’s guitar heroics and Charlie Puth’s pop wiles make Conrad’s new album Nova irresistible.  By deftly incorporating a dash of Harry Styles’ penchant for rock grandiosity and a pinch of Shawn Mendes’ melodic charm into his expansive sound, Conrad earns the title of Kansas City’s Prince of Pop.  “I Think I Fell In Love With You” and “What Am I Supposed to Do?” sound like surefire hits.  The ‘70s-ish production of a few tracks including “Rust” is bloated and the evocation of the Bee Gees hit “Stayin’ Alive” on the chillwave jam “Introspective” is only marginally effective.  Yet even the weakest components of Conrad’s space-themed song cycle are impressively ambitious.  Bow down.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed Drew Williams’ Wing Walker Orchestra’s Hazel at Plastic Sax.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

January Recap


Top Five Performances
1. Riyaaz Qawwali- Cathedral of Saint John the Divine
My review.
2. Al Foster- Smoke Jazz & Supper Club
My review.
3. Kane Brown- Silverstein Eye Centers Arena
My review.
4. The Metropolitan Opera’s “‘Iolanta’ and ‘Bluebeard’s Castle’”- The Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center
Bucket list.
5. Ben Tervort’s Classically Trained- Westport Coffee House
My review.

Top Five Albums
1. Toro y Moi- Outer Peace
A homeopathic remedy for seasonal affective order.
2. Future- Future Hndrxx Presents: The Wizrd
Purple haze.
3. Joe Lovano- Trio Tapestry
Melancholy improvisations with Marilyn Crispell and Carmen Castaldi.
4. Larry Ochs, Nels Cline and Gerald Cleaver- What Is To Be Done
Groovy skronk.
5. Kassa Overall- Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz
Everything at once.

Top Five Songs
1. Lacy Cavalier- “André”
A Nashville ditty about living large on the cheap.
2. Fidlar- “By Myself”
Alcohol is awesome.
3. Ibibio Sound Machine- “Tell Me (Doko Mien)”
Disco inferno.
4. Billie Eilish- “When I Was Older”
Muy triste.
5. Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus- “Nothing Breaks Like a Broken Heart” (acoustic version)
High camp.


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

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Oliver Mtukudzi has died.  I haven’t given the Zimbabwean much consideration in recent years, but I spent many blissful hours listening to his soothing music in the 1990s.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Concert Review: Riyaaz Qawwali at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine


My first Qawwali concert experience couldn’t have taken place in a more auspicious setting.  I took in a transcendent performance by Riyaaz Qawwali at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine on Saturday, January 19.  About two-thirds of the audience of approximately 500 were Desi, but their responses to the devotional Sufi music weren’t uniform.  Some closed their eyes and assumed solemn postures of prayer.  Others stood and gesticulated wildly.  The boldest move, however, consisted of cavorting to the front of the stage and flinging money at the musicians with dramatic flourishes.  Overwhelmed by the swirling echoes in the world’s largest cathedral, I was sympathetic to all three delirious reactions.  Sonny K. Mehta, the leader of the Texas based group, humbly suggested that Riyaaz Qawwali was simply striving to honor the tradition established by Qawwali greats such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.  Had the group been any better, I might have died of excessive beatitude.


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I shared my thoughts on Al Foster’s 75th birthday party at the New York City jazz club at Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Michel Legrand has died.

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Toro y Moi’s insistently uplifting Outer Peace sounded amazing in the subterranean Harlem rental I occupied during my trip to New York City.  Here’s “Freelance”.

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I don’t know if I’ve gone soft or if James Blake has simply veered into territory that’s more appealing to me, but Assume Form is easily my favorite album by the art-pop innovator.  Here’s “Here’s the Catch”.

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The Motet’s Death or Devotion is an outstanding homage to funky R&B acts like Tower of Power and Bobby Caldwell.  Here’s “Highly Compatible”.

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Skronk doesn’t get much groovier than What Is To Be Done, an invigorating collaboration between saxophonist Larry Ochs, guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Gerald Cleaver.

(Original image captured shortly after the conclusion of Riyaaz Qawwali’s concert by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, January 18, 2019

Sign of the Times


Like a full-fledged creep, I examined a stack of confiscated homemade signs near one of the entrances of Silverstein Eye Centers Arena last night.  The children and teens who created the fan art must have been devastated upon learning that the symbols of their devotion wouldn’t be seen by the headliner Kane Brown.  Friends and colleagues have long asked me how I suffer through concerts by mainstream country artists, facile pop stars and over-the-hill rockers.  I respond to their queries with indignant disbelief.  Seeing joy on the faces of fans and hearing their unreserved screams of appreciation never fails to thrill me.  I unreservedly adored last night’s concert by Brown, Granger Smith and Lacy Cavalier.  I reviewed the show for The Kansas City Star.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I’m not quite sure how or why, but I’ve always been aware of Carol Channing.  She died earlier this week.

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Lorna Doom of the punk band Germs has died.

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My ongoing appreciation of Future’s druggy, vulgar materialism shames me.  Even so, I'm willing to confess that I’ve already derived enormous pleasure from the new release Future Hndrxx Presents: The Wizrd.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Joseph Jarman, 1937-2019


I’ve coveted the 21-CD box set collecting the works of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and affiliated ECM Records projects since its release six weeks ago.  I own physical copies of just a handful of the titles, but catching the group twice in the early 1980s transformed me from a curious listener to a fully committed jazz enthusiast.  The inability or unwillingness of subsequent jazz-oriented acts to attempt similar sorts of outlandish showmanship and surprising improvisations is an ongoing letdown.  The late Lester Bowie commanded most of the attention, but Joseph Jarman was one of the group’s most vital members.  The saxophonist died last week.


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I created an audio profile of the Kansas City producer and engineer Justin Wilson for KCUR.

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I reviewed a performance by Ben Tervort, Matt Otto and Brian Steever at Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Trombonist Urbie Green died on New Year’s Eve.

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I adore Liz Brasher.  It’s a drag to report that her debut album Painted Image consists of warmed-over soul.  RIYL: (forgettable) Shelby Lynne, disappointment, (generic) James Hunter.

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Chris Potter, James Francies, Eric Harland and Linley Marthe?  Oh man.  Circuits will be released on February 22.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Album Review: David and Tamela Mann- Us Against the World


I took objected as I spotted people clowning on David and Tamela Mann’s new album (and book) Us Against the World.  The couple’s suggestion that the album is intended to serve as a sensual soundtrack for Christian couples struck some wags as hysterical.  I can only assume these heathens are unfamiliar with Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin and Al Green.

The explicitness of a lot of contemporary R&B eradicates its appeal.  For instance, Trey Songz’s two repulsively graphic 2018 albums 11 and 28 make me queasy.  I’m entirely on board with the gospel-based Manns making grown-and-sexy soul.  Besides, I’m a longtime fan.

Unfortunately, Us Against the World is merely adequate.   Babyface and Toni Braxton’s like-minded 2014 collaboration Love, Marriage & Divorce and Womack & Womack’s 1988 classic Conscience are far more effective.  Even so, Us Against the World songs including “Feels Like” are refreshing examinations of marital grace.


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I touted the music of Logan Richardson, Cardi B and Kanye West on a “Best Music of 2018” program on KCUR’s Up To Date two days ago.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Ray Sawyer of Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show has died.  “Sylvia’s Mother” and “The Cover of ‘Rolling Stone’” were among very few radio hits my dad and I both enjoyed.

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Pegi Young has died.

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The versatile lyricist Norman Gimbel has died.

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My childhood loathing of Captain and Tennille may have been my first brush with music criticism.  Even as a credulous child, that zippity doo-dah offended my sensibilities.  Daryl Dragon has died.

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Howard Begle, the “legal eagle” who helped Big Joe Turner and Ruth Brown obtain back royalties, has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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Honey Lantree of the Honeycombs has died.  Here’s “Have I the Right?”.  (Tip via BGO.)

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)