Monday, October 14, 2019

Concert Review: Kelli O’Hara at Helzberg Hall

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


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I reviewed an appearance by Tatsuya Nakatani at Plastic Sax.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, October 11, 2019

Album Review: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds- Ghosteen

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

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Album Review: Robert Glasper- Fuck Yo Feelings

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

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

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

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


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I contribute weekly concert recommendations to The Kansas City Star.

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

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

Monday, October 07, 2019

Middle Muddle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 04, 2019

Organized

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

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

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

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

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


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I write weekly concert recommendations for The Kansas City Star.

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

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

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

Monday, September 30, 2019

September Recap

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Album Review: Jóhann Jóhannsson- 12 Conversations With Thilo Heinzmann

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


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

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I write weekly concert recommendations for The Kansas City Star.

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

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, September 20, 2019

Are You Ready for the Country?

A musician friend recently repeated Steve Earle’s assertion that contemporary country music is “hip-hop for people who are afraid of black people.”  I objected.  In addition to reeking of sour grapes, Earle’s quip epitomizes the sort of divisive cultural classism that’s contributing to the ongoing societal rupture. 

I’m living proof that owning a MAGA hat isn’t required to appreciate current country hits.  Sure, the audience at last night’s Carrie Underwood concert was almost entirely white.  So what?  The audience at the Little Joe Hernandez concert I attended last weekend was almost entirely Latino.  I may not like the elective (or the officially mandated) segregation policies in Kansas City, but that doesn’t mean every music lover is racist.

As someone raised on the songs of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, I take it personally when an outsider puts down any form of country.  I may prefer Colter Wall to Rascal Flatts, but it’s never occurred to me to categorically impugn the character of fans of pop-country.  Even though I often joke that lots of people like bad music, I'm won't slander those who choose to listen to sounds I deem inferior.


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I reviewed a concert by Carrie Underwood, Maddi & Tae and Runaway June for The Kansas City Star.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I critique every set I caught at the Chicago Jazz Festival at Plastic Sax.

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The audio component of my KCUR feature about Robert Castillo and the Sextet is now available for streaming.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Album Review: Alasdair Roberts- A Fiery Margin

As a white Midwestern male of humble stock, I’ve had the luxury of never needing to give much thought to my identity.  My American ancestors- a long lineage of obscure farmers, teachers and preachers- allow me to follow a path that’s largely free of expectations, obligations and encumbrances.

The results of the genetic test I recently took weren’t particularly surprising.  While it’s amusing to confirm my hunch that I’m a modern-day Neanderthal, I learned that a substantial chunk of my nuts-and-bolts are directly traceable to Glasgow.

Do my roots explain my dark disposition?  I account for ten of the 200 views of the stark solo performance of "A Keen" filmed in the home of Alasdair Roberts.  The bleak song about “the grief of a parent upon the early death of a child” is agonizing.  It could be the Scot in me that’s compelled to relish the misery.

The expanded instrumentation of the reading of “A Keen” on the Scotsman’s new album A Fiery Margin is reminiscent of Joe Boyd’s brilliant production for the likes of Nick Drake and Richard Thompson.  While based in tradition, Roberts has more in common with his Drag City labelmate Bonnie “Prince” Billy than with a typical folk purist.

My adamant rejection of the concept of historical trauma led to a heated argument with one of my children last year.  Yet Roberts’ brooding songs about uniquely Scottish forms of torment seem to stir dormant memories in my soul.  A Fiery Margin sounds so much like a home I’ve never known that I may owe my kid an apology.


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My audio feature about Robert Castillo and his Kansas City groove-jazz band The Sextet aired on KCUR yesterday.  The sound will eventually be added to my text.

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“Look at all the murderers and rapists here!” Joe Hernandez exclaimed as he surveyed the harmonious crowd of more than 3,000 at Fiesta Hispana last night.  The Tex-Mex legend who rose to fame as the leader of Little Joe y La Familia pilloried the President’s attacks on the Latin American community.  He asked for a moment of silence to acknowledge victims of gun violence and for “children in cages” before leading his band in a heartbreaking reading of “America the Beautiful.”  Hernandez insisted that “I know who I am and what we are- we don’t need a target on our backs.”  I captured a bit of Hernandez’s defiant “Redneck Meskin Boy”.

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The discounted five-dollar tickets I bought for yesterday’s matinee concert by The Four Italian Tenors at the Folly Theater paid off in the form of complimentary champagne and chocolate.  The ensemble’s hammy popera was just a bonus.

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“I run the town daily like Super Jesus.”  Here’s the music video for “Super Jesus”, the Popper’s new song about the Kansas City cult figure Mike Wheeler.

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I first saw Eddie Money at Royals Stadium in 1978.  Kansas, the Steve Miller Band and Van Halen were also on the bill of Summer Jam.  I last saw Money at the suburban festival Old Shawnee Days in 2012.  Here’s my review..  The bookends are a perfect encapsulation of the career arc of a typical pop star.  Money died on Friday.

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The familiar sample of the Sylvers’ “Stay Away from Me” on Sampa the Great’s “Final Form” sent me down a dusty R&B rabbithole yesterday.  I discovered the bonkers “I’ll Never Let You Go”.  I’d like someone to explain the lyrics on to me.  It’s a metaphor, right?

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Three good songs- “Old Soul”, “Loose Change” and “Cocktail and a Song”- salvage the otherwise drearily mundane self-titled album by The Highwomen.

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You’d be correct if you suspect that I’m over the moon about (almost) everything related to this.

(Screenshot of my 23andMe’s site by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Album Review: Monty Alexander- Wareika Hill: RastaMonk Vibrations

I’ve long believed that gimmicky bands and novelty albums are only embraced by people who don’t like music all that much.  Preferring comedy to music isn’t a crime, but it’s safe to say that the quality of most ostensibly funny music is criminally awful.  Monty Alexander’s Wareika Hill: RastaMonk Vibrations should be the musical equivalent of a Rastafarian dreadlock wig in a costume shop.  Yet against all odds, the album of Thelonious Monk compositions set to reggae rhythms is stupendous.  The Jamaican jazz veteran comes by the concept naturally.  Born in Kingston a year before Bob Marley, Alexander insists that he’s long harbored “a deep impression that the world of Monk and Rasta were one spirit.”  That’s why a dub reading of “Brilliant Corners” is both hilarious and moving while “Rhythm-a-Ning” sounds as if Monk anticipated reggae when he wrote the pliable melody.  Alexander demonstrates the premise in a revelatory video.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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The first of my three-part examination of the Chicago Jazz Festival is at Plastic Sax.

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My Brothers & Sisters was the best band I saw during the two hours I spent at the Crossroads Music Fest last week.

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Anticipating a desperate need for a respite from jazz, I bought a ticket for this Squeeze concert before traveling to the Chicago Jazz Festival.  Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook were fine, but I regret the decision.

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Earthgang’s implausible Mirrorland allows me to pretend that Outkast reunited, Prince is alive and Lauryn Hill lives in a recording studio.  Please don’t pinch me.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Album Review: Daymé Arocena- Sonocardiogram

Cesária Évora’s burnished voice accentuated some of my happiest moments of the 1990s.  The morna sung by the Cape Verde star was an integral part of my domestic chill-out soundtrack during the Clinton era.  Évora died in 2011.  Her spirit seems to have resurfaced a continent away in the form of Daymé Arocena.  The Cuban musician performs entirely different styles of music- her wondrous new album includes jazz, R&B balladry and Santeria incantations- yet Sonocardiogram is imbued with the same sort of soulful spirituality that I relished in Évora two decades ago.


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My Tool take: Fear Inoculum is a net positive for the world.  Here’s the title track.

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I respect the positive vibes, constructive sentiments and jazz-steeped production on Common’s Let Love, but man, the Chicago rapper sure is corny.  Here’s “Hercules”.

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Unpopular opinion: Sleater-Kinney’s The Center Won't Hold is excellent.  Sure, it sounds just like a St. Vincent album.  That’s a good thing.

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Dedicated readers of my music blogs won’t be surprised to learn that I adore Miguel Zenón’s Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera.  RIYL: Charlie Parker, certifiable genius, Dizzy Gillespie.

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I don’t know if Post Malone or the team of people tasked with keeping the gravy train rolling is responsible for the success of the project, but the highly anticipated Hollywood’s Bleeding is more than sufficient.

(Original image of a Mexican street scene by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Ancient to the Future

After the Art Ensemble of Chicago scrambled my DNA at the Big Ears Festival in March, I knew that catching another date on the band’s fiftieth anniversary tour was the only way to fully recalibrate my mind and body.  A Southwest Airlines flash sale allowed me to satisfy my compulsion with a minimum of financial pain on Labor Day weekend.  The Art Ensemble of Chicago was among the 30 acts I caught during the three days I spent at the Chicago Jazz Festival.  I’ll write about the curative event in detail at Plastic Sax.  In the meantime, I’m uploading clips and photos to my Instagram account.  Here’s an initial ranking of my favorite sets.
1. Art Ensemble of Chicago
2. Ben Lamar Gay
3. The Juju Exchange
4. Eddie Palmieri Sextet
5. Jeremy Cunningham’s The Weather Up There
6. Russ Johnson Quartet
7. Christian McBride's New Jawn
8. Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet
9. Joel Ross Quartet
10. Rempis/Flaten/Ra + Baker Quartet

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

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

August Recap

Top Five Performances
1. Lauryn Hill- Kauffman Stadium
My review.
2. Jupiter & Okwess- 1900 Building
My Instagram clip.
3. Mary J. Blige- Starlight Theatre
My review.
4. Brian Scarborough Quintet- RecordBar
My review.
5. Zakk Sabbath- Midland theater
My Instagram clip.

Top Five Albums
1. Raphael Saadiq- Jimmy Lee
Soul exorcism.
2. P.P. Arnold- The New Adventures of…
My review.
3. Shannon Lay- August
My review.
4. Brockhampton- Ginger
Pray right.
5. Merlin- The Mortal
Dark magic.

Top Five Songs
1. Mike and the Moonpies- “Cheap Silver”
That high and lonesome sound.
2. Rapsody featuring D’Angelo and GZA- “Ibtihaj”
Trying to catch a wave.
3. Pusha T featuring Kash Doll- “Sociopath”
Charcuteries.
4. Channel Tres- “Raw Power”
As in Iggy.
5. PJ Morton featuring Jazmine Sullivan- “Built For Love”
An homage to Donny and Roberta.

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

(Original image of Jupiter & Okwess by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

I’m home alone for the first time in thirty years.  The members of my brood aren’t going to burst through the front door at any moment and my wife is exploring a distant island.  I feel jarringly isolated no matter how high I crank the volume on the latest albums by Brockhampton, Rapsody and Taylor Swift.

That’s why the new release from Shannon Lay hit me like a ton of bricks.  I intended to give August just a cursory listen, but bleak songs like “Death Up Close” and “Nowhere” directly address my newfound solitude.

Lay is best known for her affiliations with Ty Segall and Kevin Morby, but August is superior to anything I’ve heard by either indie-rock mainstay.  Of the multitude of recordings by the Nick Drake and Sandy Denny facsimiles currently clamoring for attention, only Bill MacKay’s Fountain Fire and Lay’s August are worthy distractions from blockbusters like Ginger, Eve and Lover.


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I commend the Kansas City jazz musician Brian Scarborough at Plastic Sax.

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Miniature reviews of the aforementioned albums: Taylor Swift remains intensely unlikeable on Lover, but her craftsmanship is impeccable.  The sound field on Rapsody’s Eve is atrocious. I demand a remix.  Brockhampton’s Ginger is a glorious mess.  Sad songs (say so much).

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I knew Carl Jefferson.  I can say with complete confidence that he’d be horrified by most of the music currently released by the straight-ahead jazz record label he founded.  That said, you can’t argue with success.  The absurdly revisionist The History of Concord Jazz video feature is worth a look.

(Original image of Iceland by the life partner of There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

B.B. Luvs P.P.

What in the wild, wild imagination of Phil Spector is going on?  The unaccountably exceptional new album by P.P. Arnold- yes, that P.P. Arnold- is one of the most intensely pleasurable albums I’ve heard in ages.  Although I was familiar with the 72-year-old’s affiliation with the Rolling Stones and the Small Faces, I hadn’t heard an Arnold song in years.  The New Adventures of… should be nothing more than a nostalgic curiosity.  Yet every song hits home.  Most tracks, including the opening selection “Baby Blue”, are soulful love letters to a simpler time.  But there’s also funky disco, ornate pop and an absolutely bonkers rendering of Bob Dylan’s “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie.”  As Bob and P.P. put it, “that's what you need man, and you need it bad.”


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I reviewed Lauryn Hill’s concert at Kauffman Stadium for The Kansas City Star.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I address the inherent challenge of honoring the past while embracing the present at Plastic Sax.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, August 16, 2019

Album Review: Mike and the Moonpies- Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold

I’ve long thought of Mike and the Moonpies as a likeable Texas honky tonk band that’s coated in the same red dirt as dozens of interchangeable ensembles.  The group’s new album Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold elevates Mike and Moonpies from the slag heap to the showroom. 

As someone who was raised on countrypolitan albums by the likes of Charlie Rich, the woozy songs of three-named Texas outlaws like Jerry Jeff Walker and cheesy country radio hits by cornballs including Conway Twitty, listening to Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold feels like going home.

The accents provided by the London Symphony Orchestra are likely to elicit comparisons to the occasionally ornate work of Sturgill Simpson, but the 31-minute Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold moves me in ways that Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music never did.

While they engage in country clichés, songs like “If You Want a Fool Around” and “You Look Good in Neon” transcend the genre.  And the opening lines of the title track- “I think I'll buy us all a round/We can toast the cheapest silver/That high and lonesome sound/The nights we don't remember” buckle my bum knee.


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My audio feature about the Kansas City blues artist Heather Newman aired on KCUR this morning.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Enigmatic ECM

A chill went down my spine when the ECM Records spokesman Steve Lake revealed that dozens of the label’s out-of-print albums were in the process of being digitized during a panel discussion at the Big Ears Festival in March.  The deluge of castoffs from my favorite record label recently hit streaming services.  I’m drowning in improvised European sounds.  Capsule reviews of ten titles follow.  While none of the ostensible duds by prominent artists and obscurities by relative unknowns are unheralded masterpieces, each merits the consideration of listeners with similar predilections.  The albums are listed in order of my personal preference.


Enrico Rava Quartet- Ah (1980)
Thrilling post-bop.

Tom van der Geld and Children at Play- Out Patience (1977)
Akin to a new age version of Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch.

Rena Rama- Landscapes (1977)
Echoes of Old and New Dreams.

Enrico Rava Quartet- Opening Night (1982)
Intermittent brilliance.

Jack DeJohnette’s Directions- Untitled (1976)
Eccentricities indulged.

Arild Andersen- Lifelines (1981)
The trumpet and flugelhorn of Kenny Wheeler shine on the date led by the Norwegian bassist.

Steve Kuhn Quartet- Last Year’s Waltz (1982)
The live recording with vocalist Sheila Jordan is entirely unlike an ECM production.

Hajo Weber and Ulrich Ingenbold- Winterreise (1982)
Enchanting guitars.

Om- Kirikuki (1976)
Imagine a collaboration between the ethereal flautist Paul Horn and the noisy guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer.

Gary Burton Quartet- Easy as Pie (1981)
His least rewarding album.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image of Hyeyoung Shin’s “Tide” at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Concert Review: Mary J. Blige and Nas at Starlight Theatre

An acquaintance made a distressing confession on Thursday morning.  Citing gun violence and festering social divisions, she told me she was dumbfounded by her daughter’s decision to become pregnant.  Had my friend joined me at the Mary J. Blige and Nas concert at Starlight Theatre that evening, her heartache might have been mended.  Blige offered a generous form of spiritual healing to members of the audience 6,000.

At the risk of committing blasphemy, I’ll suggest that Blige suffers for our sins.  Her unfiltered exploration of pain makes Blige one of the best performers of the new millennium.  She collapsed during a cathartic rendition of “No More Drama” and conducted her signature inelegant dance moves to chants of “go Mary” as if violent physical exertion might expel emotional trauma.

Blige exudes a sense of selflessness, but Nas is in it for himself.  Even though he and a backing band ran through many of his essential hits, his set was wack.  Nas said he didn’t recall the last time he performed in the area- this disappointed fan knows that his previous Kansas City appearance was with Damien Marley at the Beaumont Club in 2009- and repeatedly made the common faux pas of insisting he was in Kansas.  He doubled down on his geographical ignorance by asking “is this where Dorothy got lost?”

Nas’ indifference caused him to slip a few notches on my rap G.O.A.T. list.  My estimation of Blige, however, continues to grow.  If the $45.50 I paid at the gate doubled as a faith-based offering, Blige’s testimony represents one of the most rousing sermons I’ve heard.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Album Review: Cory Wong- Motivational Music for the Syncopated Soul

I’ve long harbored a reverie about hanging out in off-the-strip Las Vegas taverns that feature old-school lounge acts.  Never having been to Sin City for anything but harried business trips as an adult, I don’t even know if joints like that still exist.  The sounds on Cory Wong’s Motivational Music for the Syncopated Soul are precisely what I have in mind.  The opening track could be a collaboration between Bruno Mars and Snarky Puppy.  Other selections sound as if members of Celine Dion’s pit band are on a woozy jazz bender.  “Today I’m Gonna Get Myself a Real Job” resembles an outtake from the score of La La Land while “Starting Line” is cheesy chorus line-style pop.  The pep talk freakout “Compassion Pass”- “you’ll never be as good at being Pat Metheny as Pat Metheny is at being Pat Metheny”- is worthy of prime Was (Not Was).  Much like Las Vegas, Motivational Music for the Syncopated Soul is garishly tacky and curiously beguiling.


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I  featured tracks by Jay McShann, Drugs and Attics, Anderson.Paak and Solange on a Best Music of 2019 (So Far) segment on KCUR’s Up To Date.

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I made a contentious appearance on 90.9 The Bridge’s Thursdays with Timothy Finn show.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

July Recap

Top Five Performances
1. Khalid- Sprint Center
(My review.)
2. Ehud Ettun and Henrique Eisenmann- 1900 Building
(My review.)
3. Alessia Cara- Sprint Center
(My review.)
4. Gov’t Mule- Crossroads KC
(My Instagram clip.)
5. Ryan Keberle & Catharsis- National World War I Museum and Memorial
(My review.)


Top Five Albums
1. Laura Jurd- Stepping Back, Jumping In
The British whiz kid can do no wrong.
2. Avery R. Young- Tubman.
Good news from Chicago.
3. J. Cole and Dreamville- Revenge of the Dreamers III
Number one with a rubber bullet.
4. Torche- Admission
Coerced confessions.
5. Elew- Cubism
Kurt Rosenwinkel’s compositions stripped bare.


Top Five Songs
1. Beyoncé- “Spirit”
Luxury brand pop.
2. A$AP Ferg- “Floor Seats”
Front row.
3. Volbeat- “Pelvis on Fire”
Goofing on Elvis.
4. Miranda Lambert- “It All Comes Out in the Wash”
So fresh and so clean, clean.
5. Willow- “Time Machine”
Kate Bush meets Future.


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

(Original image of Gov’t Mule by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Big Shoulders of Avery R. Young, Chance the Rapper and Resavoir

Avery R. Young’s Tubman. is a historically-minded, gospel-oriented song cycle emphasizing liberation theology.  Clearly influenced by Syl Johnson’s urgent 1970 album Is It Because I’m Black, the murky blend of gospel, blues and soul on Tubman. is another momentous statement from Chicago.  The curtains of the mysterious project are parted for Young’s appearance on a daytime television show in his hometown.

Gospel also informs the highly anticipated album by a far more popular Chicago artist.  As the programming director of the hypothetical radio station The Juice, I’d immediately put a third of the tracks on Chance the Rapper’s The Big Day into heavy rotation.  In the real world, however, The Big Day is a massive disappointment.  I continue to adore Chance’s outlook, but the transcendent magic that characterizes his best work is missing. 

The Big Day would have benefitted from a more open embrace of Chicago’s thriving jazz scene.  The city threatens to overtake New York as the jazz capital of the world.  Resavoir’s thrilling new self-titled album on the essential International Anthem label documents a transportive component of Chicago’s improvised music scene that bears little resemblance to anything on the conventional The Big Day or the gritty Tubman..

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

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Twinkle Twinkle, Kurt Rosenwinkel

I never spent much time with the music of Kurt Rosenwinkel.  While it’s fun to blame my unfamiliarity with most of his catalog on a petty dislike of his hats, my ignorance stems from never having seen a performance by the acclaimed guitarist, composer and bandleader.  I’ve blown off chances to see him in New York City, and I didn’t catch him at his two area appearances in recent years (at the Blue Room in 2009 and at the KU Jazz Festival in 2013.)

Eric Lewis, the genre-bending artist who works as Elew, just issued a new solo piano album of Rosenwinkel compositions on Rosenwinkel’s in-house record label.  The stunning project reveals that Rosenwinkel’s songs merit comparison to the likes of Wayne Shorter and Pat Metheny.  Cubism inspired me to go down a rabbit hole.

I began my Rosenwinkel binge with Do It 1992.  Released in April, the goofy 23-minute project features a throwback drum production.  I moved on to Caipi, a bossa nova-inspired pop album released in 2017.  It’s jarringly weird.  I jumped back to the 2003 album Heartcore.  How I regret missing this stunningly prescient project!  Rosenwinkel anticipates the sound collages popularized by James Blake, Kanye West and Justin Vernon a decade later.

By the time I finally get around to studying the remainder of Rosenwinkel’s extensive catalog, I won’t be thinking about hats.


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I reviewed concerts by Shawn Mendes and Khalid at 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 reviewed the return of Ehud Ettun and Henrique Eisenmann to the 1900 Building at Plastic Sax.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Buked and Scorned at Open Spaces

Partly because an obscenely large portion of my 2019 budget is dedicated to musical tourism, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the fallout from the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival (2017) and the Open Spaces festival (2018).  Both city-sponsored, artistically-thrilling endeavors were financial debacles.  An otherwise fascinating new article in The Pitch buries the lede.  Emily Park reports that “only 4,000 tickets were collected” for the three concerts at Starlight Theatre promoted by Open Spaces as The Weekend.  Just 4,000 of the cumulative 24,000 tickets that were available for concerts at Starlight Theatre headlined by the Roots, Janelle Monaé and Vijay Iyer were sold.  Even if all three concerts were condensed into a single show, paying customers would have filled only half of the 8,000-capacity Starlight Theatre.  Sometimes I hate being right.  As I predicted at the time (including on a segment of KCUR’s Up To Date program dedicated to the topic), the attendance figures for the most recent area concerts by the Roots (1,200), Monaé (2,000) and Iyer (200) indicated that trouble was brewing.  I was roundly ‘buked and scorned for forecasting the easily calculable outcome.  In an ongoing effort to fill the artistic void in Kansas City caused by the disaster, I’m currently planning my third music-oriented trip of 2019.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed an appearance by Ryan Keberle & Catharsis at the National World War I Museum and Memorial at Plastic Sax.

(Original image of a woefully attended Open Spaces performances by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Juice

I was horrified by the playlist designed to accompany outdoor grilling that a Kansas City radio station proudly posted to its social media accounts on the Fourth of July.  Funk-free, devoid of soul and socially comatose, the misguided song selection forced me to question the station’s mission.  I devised a new radio format as a corrective.  Inspired by the irresistible Lizzo song, I named the new concept The Juice.  It’s an adventurous twist on urban adult contemporary radio.  Edifying rap hits, adventurous R&B tracks, lush neo-soul, an expansive variety of oldies and a bracing jolt of progressive jazz add grit to the grown-and-sexy foundation.  The Juice’s unorthodox playlist of essential new music and proven classics would appeal to listeners in a wide range of demographic categories.  In fact, I’m confident The Juice would place among the top 15 stations in the Kansas City market.  Here are five hours of representative programming on The Juice.

(Original image of Kansas City's skyline by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Book Review: Bitten by the Blues by Bruce Iglauer

I checked the index immediately after purchasing Bruce Iglauer’s Bitten by the Blues at a used bookstore.  I was relieved that neither my name, the name of my former boss or the distribution company he owned were listed.  Enduring Iglauer’s furious outbursts decades ago left permanent emotional scars on my psyche.

As the founder of Alligator Records suggests in his 2018 autobiography, Iglauer played the role of “bad cop” to cash-strapped independent record label distributors in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.  He was right to demand past-due money, of course, but my beleaguered colleagues and I at the Olathe-based company were often plugging holes in a moldering dike.  As a buyer/sales rep/warehouse worker sympathetic to Iglauer’s concerns, I was the only person at the company willing to allow him to rage at length.

Iglauer maintains an even keel in Bitten by the Blues. He provides an excellent summation of the era’s independent record label distribution business in a temperate tone and shares sales data, the financial terms of recording contracts and the painful erosion of his retail and distribution networks with admirable candor.

I’m obviously partial to geeky music obsessives.  Iglauer’s effusiveness throughout Bitten by the Blues is charming.  The “and-then-I-released-this-album” format gets tiresome, but his raves compelled me to return to several Alligator titles including Roy Buchanan’s When a Guitar Plays the Blues, Professor Longhair’s Crawfish Fiesta and Michael Burk’s Show of Strength for the first time in years.

I share Iglauer’s disappointment in the general conservatism of the blues audience and appreciate his grim acknowledgment that the blues is in an artistic and commercial tailspin.  Iglauer helped shaped the direction of the blues but he’s frustratingly powerless to reverse its flagging fortunes.  Alas, even a flare-up of Iglauer’s fearsome rage won’t help the music locate its missing mojo.


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I write weekly concert previews for The KansasCity Star.

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I review Julian Vaughn’s Supreme at Plastic Sax.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Superfecta

Gallivanting in Louisville and obsessively compiling lists in advance of an appearance on a radio program has prevented me from posting timely links.  Here’s a portion of what I’ve been up to when not indulging in the sorts of sinful behaviors depicted in the accompanying photo.


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I’m proud of the audio feature I created for KCUR about the release of a new Jay McShann album.

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I blathered about my favorite Kansas City music of the decade on KTGB’s Eight One Sixty program on Tuesday.

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I reviewed Aaron Parks’ Little Big concert at the Blue Room.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.  The new batch is here.  Last week’s recommendations are here.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Top Musicians, Albums, Songs and Concerts of the Decade

I created this survey as a companion to a Kansas City compendium that serves as the outline for my appearance on the radio program Eight One Sixty on Tuesday, July 2.


The Top Ten Musicians of the Decade
1. Kanye West
2. Kendrick Lamar
3. Jóhann Jóhannsson
4. St. Vincent
5. Flying Lotus
6. Bill Frisell
7. Rihanna
8. Drake
9. Taylor Swift
10. Future


The Top 25 Albums of the Decade
1. Kendrick Lamar- Good Kid, M.A.A.D City 2012
2. Kanye West- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 2010
3. Frank Ocean- Channel Orange 2012
4. Rihanna- Anti 2016
5. Earl Sweatshirt- Doris 2013
6. Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp a Butterfly 2015
7. Kanye West- Yeezus 2013
8. Chance the Rapper- Coloring Book 2016
9. St. Vincent- Strange Mercy 2011
10. Ambrose Akinmusire- When the Heart Emerges Glistening 2011

11. Kanye West- The Life of Pablo 2016
12. Jlin- Autobiography 2018
13. Kendrick Lamar- Damn 2017
14. Vince Staples- Summertime '06 2015
15. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah- Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah 2012
16. Jill Scott- Woman 2015
17. Solange- When I Get Home 2019
18. Robert Glasper- Black Radio 2012
19. Killer Mike- R.A.P. Music 2012
20. Jóhann Jóhannsson- Orphée 2016

21. Beyoncé- Beyoncé 2013
22. Brad Mehldau- Highway Rider 2010
23. Brockhampton- Saturation II 2017
24. Miranda Lambert- The Weight of These Wings 2016
25. Drake- Scorpion 2018


The Top 25 Songs of the Decade
1. Kanye West- “Ultralight Beam” 2016
2. Tyler, the Creator- "Yonkers" 2011
3. Nicki Minaj- "Beez in the Trap" 2012
4. Pusha T featuring Kendrick Lamar- “Nosetalgia” 2013
5. Lorde- "Royals" 2013
6. Drake- “Nice For What” 2018
7. Kendrick Lamar- “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” 2012
8. Ledisi- "Pieces of Me" 2011
9. Taylor Swift- “Getaway Car” 2017
10. Akwid- "California" 2010

11. Run the Jewels- “Close Your Eyes (And Count to F*ck)” 2014
12. Nas and Damian Marley- "As We Enter" 2010
13. Leela James- "Tell Me You Love Me" 2010
14. ASAP Rocky- "Purple Swag" 2013
15. Kanye West- "Power" 2010
16. Pusha T- "Numbers on the Boards" 2013
17. Cardi B- “Bodak Yellow” 2017
18. Skating Polly- "Alabama Movies" 2014
19. Rick Ross featuring Kanye West and Big Sean- "Sanctified" 2014
20. E-40 with YG- "Function" 2012

21. Das Racist- "Rainbow In The Dark" 2011
22. Waka Flocka- "Hard In Da Paint" 2010
23. Rihanna with Kanye West and Paul McCartney- “FourFiveSeconds” 2016
24. Rosalía- “Malamente” 2018
25. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment- “Sunday Candy” 2015


The Top 25 Concerts of the Decade
1. Kanye West- Sprint Center 2013
2. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- Midland theater 2014
3. Joyce DiDonato with the Philadelphia Orchestra- Carnegie Hall (New York City) 2015
4. Bobby Rush- Living Room at Knuckleheads 2013
5. Deftones- VooDoo Lounge 2011
6. Chance the Rapper- Midland theater 2015
7. The Dubliners- Royal Albert Hall (London) 2012
8. Mary J. Blige- Sprint Center 2013
9. David Byrne- Muriel Kauffman Theatre 2018
10. Maze- Municipal Auditorium 2014

11. The Art Ensemble of Chicago- Tennessee Theater (Knoxville) 2019
12. Miranda Lambert- Sporting Park 2013
13. Pharaoh Sanders- Blues Alley (Washington D.C.) 2014
14. Salif Keita- Town Hall (New York City) 2017
15. Lawrence Brownlee and Eric Owens- Folly Theater 2017
16. Erykah Badu- Sprint Center 2018
17. Future- Petco Park (San Diego) 2018
18. Philip Glass and Tim Fain- Helzberg Hall 2012
19. Anthony Braxton and Jacqueline Kerrod- American Turners Club (Louisville) 2018
20. Miguel- Midland theater 2015

21. Bettye LaVette- Knuckleheads 2014
22. Juan Gabriel- Sprint Center 2015
23. Enrico Rava's Tribe- Winningstad Theatre (Portland) 2012
24. Merle Haggard- Uptown Theater 2015
25. Os Mutantes- Granada 2010

(Original image of the Soul Rebels at the Gem Theater in 2017 by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Top Kansas City Musicians, Albums and Concerts of the Decade

I created the following lists in advance of my appearance on the weekly radio program Eight One Sixty.  At 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 2, Chris Hagharian and I will discuss some of my favorite music in an ambitious episode titled “Best of the Decade: 10 Years, 2010-2019.”


The Top Ten Kansas City Musicians of the Decade
1. Bobby Watson
2. Joyce DiDonato
3. Janelle Monaé
4. Pat Metheny
5. Tech N9ne/Krizz Kaliko
6. Marilyn Maye
7. Logan Richardson
8. Matt Otto
9. Eddie Moore
10. Making Movies


The Top 25 Kansas City Albums of the Decade 
1. Logan Richardson- Shift 2016
2. Pat Metheny- Orchestrion 2010
3. The Grisly Hand- Country Singles 2013
4. Janelle Monaé- The ArchAndroid 2010
5. Tech N9ne- All 6's and 7's 2011
6. Stik Figa- The City Under the City 2013
7. Making Movies- A La Deriva 2013
8. Peter Schlamb- Tinks 2014
9. Kelly Hunt- Even the Sparrow 2018
10. Bobby Watson- The Gates BBQ Suite 2010

11. Rich the Factor- Smile 2016
12. Joyce DiDonato- Stella di Napoli 2014
13. Matt Otto and Ensemble Ibérica- Ibérica 2017
14. Karrin Allyson- ‘Round Midnight 2011
15. The Get Up Kids- There Are Rules 2011
16. Deborah Brown- All Too Soon 2012
17. Steve Cardenas- West of Middle 2010
18. Samantha Fish- Chills & Fever 2017
19. Krizz Kaliko- Kickin' & Screamin' 2012
20. Iris DeMent- Sing the Delta 2012

21. Hermon Mehari- Bleu 2017
22. Ces Cru- 13 2012
23. The Project H- We Live Among the Lines 2014
24. The Architects- Border Wars (2013, 2014 and 2017)
25. My Brothers & Sisters- Violet Music, Vol. 1 2014


The Top 25 Kansas City Concerts of the Decade
1. Marilyn Maye- Jardine's 2010
2. Bobby Watson and Horizon- Blue Room 2010
3. Pat Metheny- Uptown Theater 2010
4. Tech N9ne- Rockfest at Penn Valley Park 2015
5. Janelle Monae- Liberty Hall 2010
6. Logan Richardson- Blue Room 2016
7. Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle- Tank Room 2016
8. Deborah Brown- Gem Theater 2011
9. Lauren Krum with the Project H- Westport Coffee House 2015
10. Lonnie McFadden- Black Dolphin 2018

11. Rich the Factor- 7th Heaven 2017
12. Matt Otto Quartet- Blue Room 2011
13. The Grisly Hand- Take Five Coffee + Bar 2013
14. Karrin Allyson- Jardine's 2010
15. Diverse- Grant Recital Hall 2011
16. The Appleseed Cast- Riot Room 2013
17. Peter Schlamb’s Electric Tinks- RecordBar 2015
18. Stephonne Singleton- Tank Room 2016
19. Be/Non- Scottish Rite Temple 2016
20. The People's Liberation Big Band- RecordBar 2012

21. Alaturka- Jardine's 2010
22. Trampled Under Foot- Knuckleheads 2016
23. Bach Aria Soloists- All Souls Unitarian Church 2011
24. Ebony Tusks- Midland theater 2016
25. The Greeting Committee- Boulevardia 2019

(Original image by There Stands the Glass. From left to right: Andrew Ouellette, Bobby Watson, Tivon Pennicott, Chloe McFadden, Lonnie McFadden, DeAndre Manning, Tyree Johnson, Matt Hopper, Ronnie McFadden.)

Sunday, June 23, 2019

June Recap


Top Five Performances
1. Rickie Lee Jones- Crossroads KC
(My review.)
2. X- Knuckleheads
(My Instagram clip.)
3. Snarky Puppy- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
(My review.)
4. Trombone Shorty- Crossroads KC
(My review.)
5. The Greeting Committee- Boulevardia
(My review.)

Top Five Albums
1. Santana- Africa Speaks
A shockingly wonderful surprise.
2. Prince- Originals
Oh-we-oh-we-oh!
3. David Sánchez- Carib
Sailing.
4. Bill Callahan- Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest
My kind of weirdo.
5. Bruce Springsteen- Western Stars
Drive fast, fall hard.

Top Five Songs
1. Kate Tempest- “Hold Your Own”
Pep talk.
2. Freddie Gibbs, Madlib and Anderson Paak- “Giannis”
Freak.
3. Black Pumas- “Stay Gold”
Dusty.
4. Billy F. Gibbons- “Hot Rod”
That guitar, though.
5. Nérija- “Riverfest”
London’s grooving.

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

(Original image of members of Trombone Shorty’s Orleans Avenue by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Concert Review: Rickie Lee Jones at Crossroads KC

Seeing Rickie Lee Jones for the first time is akin to discovering that Santa Claus is real.  It turns out that Jones really is an old-school beatnik who has no choice but to inhabit a rarefied realm in which ‘50s-era West Coast jazz and Dylanesque folk intersect.

I paid $40 for a magical 95-minute trip to Coolsville, a place where Jones raps several lines of Cypress Hill’s “(Rock) Superstar” one moment and casually mentions that she recorded her 1991 album Pop Pop with jazz luminaries including saxophonist Joe Henderson and bassist Charlie Haden in the next without seeming the least bit incongruous.

Most members of the absurdly small audience of about 300 at Crossroads KC on Sunday were Jones’ generational peers, a circumstance that allowed me to ride the rail to get an intimate view of her interactions with percussionist Mike Dillon and two crackerjack multi-instrumentalists.  I didn’t dare snap a photo.  A testy performer, Jones directed her ire at a smoker, an annoying blurter and even a passing motorcyclist in the first few minutes of the show.  I didn’t want to be her next target.

Jones went full torch singer on “Company”, delivered a bebop interpretation of “Bye Bye Blackbird” and oversaw a hot jazz reading of “Nagasaki” that she admitted was based on the 1937 arrangement by the Mills Brothers.  Without the studio polish that ruined the original recording, a version of the devastating junkie blues “Living It Up” tore me to pieces.

I won’t bother making a Christmas list in December.  Santa came early this year.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Concert Review: Boulevardia 2019

I abandoned Boulevardia ninety minutes before rain washed out the headlining acts Dashboard Confessional and Ha Ha Tonka on Saturday.  Abstaining from alcohol allowed me to focus on 13 performances.  Capsule reviews of my five favorite sets follow.

The Black Creatures
I’d been so nonplussed by the Black Creature’s postings at Bandcamp that I’d planned to pass on the duo’s set.  An urgent impulse to take refuge from the sun led to a wonderful discovery at a small indoor stage.  The Black Creatures’ psychedelic neo-soul recordings don’t reflect front person Jade Green’s charming stage presence.

The Greeting Committee
Vindication!  I recently came under fire for claiming that the Greeting Committee is Kansas City’s most popular rock band in an audio feature I created for KCUR.  The thousands of drunk bros and middle-aged admirers who joined the group’s core fan base of young women in singing along to greasy-kid-stuff songs like “Hands Down” proved my point.

Katy Guillen and the Drive
Kansas City loves boogie.  Guillen’s new power trio satisfies Kansas City’s abiding passion for the ‘70s guitar-rock associated with groups like Foghat, Humble Pie and Mountain.  Light rain during the group’s set enhanced my appreciation of its throwback sound.

Kelly Hunt
A publicist recently attempted to pique my interest in the re-release of the debut album by the Kansas City folk artist Kelly Hunt by unknowingly including pull quotes from my rave review of Hunt's 2018 album in her pitch.  Hunt may be my favorite musician in Kansas City.

DJ Jazzy Jeff
Does anyone else remember the 2009 brouhaha that followed DJ Jazzy Jeff’s ostensible ouster from the Power & Light District?  Saturday’s benign set was even less threatening than the Greeting Committee’s frothy rock that preceded it.  The jock jams-themed mix blended Tupac, Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” J Balvin, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Toto’s “Africa” and (tons of) Bruno Mars with the DJ’s own hits including “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”.


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I reviewed the Kansas City debut of Snarky Puppy at Plastic Sax.

(Original image of DJ Jazzy Jeff by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Heartbreak Mountain

To the best of my knowledge, I don’t harbor any repressed memories.  Even so, I possess a psychological warehouse of unpleasant recollections that I choose not to dwell on.  A handful of selections on The Complete Capitol Singles 1971-1975, a recently released collection of material by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, plunged me back to what must be a composite memory from my childhood.  I’m alone in a parked sedan that reeks of fresh cigarette smoke and stale Coors even though the windows are down.  Second-tier country songs play on the AM radio as I pick at the sun-cracked artificial leather seat.  Thanks to the new compilation, I now know that I was hearing "The Good Ol' Days (Are Here Again)", “Made in Japan” and “Heartbreak Mountain”.  Buck and his boys were running on empty and I was just trying not to be noticed.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed Universal Pulse, a 2004 alliance of Mike Dillon, Earl Harvin and Arny Young, at Plastic Sax.

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Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys has died.

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Guitarist Spencer Bohren has died.

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I don’t recall previously hearing any of the 20 revelatory songs on the 83-minute Outro Tempo II: Electronic And Contemporary Music From Brazil, 1984-1996 compilation.  While the insufferable pop production techniques associated with the era are represented, most artists subvert the harsh digital sound with acoustic flourishes that sound deliriously strange to a guy who was raised on country radio in the northern hemisphere.  (Tip via Big Steve.)

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Rainford is the Lee “Scratch” Perry album of my dreams.

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This show was among the Santana concerts I attended at the Uptown Theater about 40 years ago.  I fondly recall the sustained guitar notes and the Latin percussion workouts at the jam-oriented shows.  The new album Africa Speaks isn’t merely a return to form, it’s a significant upgrade on the band’s vintage sound.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)