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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

I reviewed concerts by Shawn Mendes and Khalid at the Sprint Center for The Kansas City Star.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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.

I write weekly concert previews for The KansasCity Star.

I review Julian Vaughn’s Supreme at Plastic Sax.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, July 04, 2019


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.

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

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

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

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
3. David Sánchez- Carib
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”
3. Black Pumas- “Stay Gold”
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.

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”.

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.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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

Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys has died.

Guitarist Spencer Bohren has died.

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.)

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

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.)

Friday, June 07, 2019

Concert Review: Trombone Shorty and Seratones at Crossroads KC

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue concerts are preposterous.  The garish presentations of the high-energy New Orleans band are completely over-the-top.  Every solo is presented as a heroic achievement.  About 1,000 people lapped up the shameless showboating of the nine-piece band at Crossroads KC on Tuesday, June 4.  It would have been corny if it wasn’t so effective.  The musicians back up their ostentatious grandstanding with stellar ensemble work.  Often billed as a jazz act, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue is actually a jam-oriented funk band with a thick New Orleans accent.  Fans dictate the band’s direction.  More than half the audience used the group’s occasional forays into serious jazz-based improvisations as excuses to yak at their pals on Tuesday.  Most also talked through an opening set by Seratones.  I look forward to catching the soulful Shreveport group in a more accommodating setting.

Mac Rebennack, the Louisiana musician better known as Dr. John, has died.  A few personal notes:
*The Top 40 radio hit “Right Place, Wrong Time” blew my mind in 1973.
*A cutout copy of Desitively Bonnaroo was the first Dr. John album I purchased.
*Bluesiana Triangle is my favorite Dr. John-affiliated album.
*My adamant defense of Dr. John almost came to fisticuffs during a racially-charged argument at a bachelor party.  (I still regret my obstinance.)
*The first of the four or five Dr. John concerts I attended was in 1984.  I reviewed his 2006 appearance at the Beaumont for The Kansas City Star.
*My life partner asked Dr. John about his mojo hand during a question-and-answer session at a 2012 concert at Yardley Hall.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Album Review: Azymuth- Demos 1973-1975

At the risk of oversharing, I’ll divulge the musical component of one of my proven methods of relaxation.  Deploying shuffle mode on a playlist with a few hours of lowkey Brazilian grooves from the ‘70s and ‘80s almost always makes me feel better.  Azymuth is a key component of these emergency decompression sessions.  The group’s Brazilian twist on effervescent instrumental funk and lilting jazz fusion provides engaging but undemanding background music.  The release of Demos (1973-1975), Vol. 1 & 2 is an unexpected windfall.  Most of the 80-minute compilation is musically preferable- if sonically inferior- to Azymuth’s most popular material.  Songs like “Laranjaeiras” are in keeping with watery instrumental jams of the era like Deodato’s reading of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and Bob James’ “Nautilus” while the least pleasing tracks are compelling studio workouts.  The unfortunate inclusion of a seven-minute drum solo that’s of interest only to beat pilferers kills the otherwise sublime restorative vibe.

I reviewed StrangeFest for The Kansas City Star.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

I reviewed Ralph Peterson & The Messenger Legacy’s Legacy Alive, Volume 6 at the Side Door
at Plastic Sax.

Ivan Conti’s impressive new album Poison Fruit doesn’t qualify for inclusion in the playlists I reference above.  Not only does it not fit into my arbitrary time frame constraints, the project by Azymuth’s adventurous 72-year-old drummer includes contemporary electronic and hip-hop elements.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, May 31, 2019

Concert Review: Nashville Pussy, Guitar Wolf and the Turbo A.C.'s at Knuckleheads

I ain’t never scared.  But as I surveyed the audience of about 250 from my perch on the upper deck of Knuckleheads’ outdoor stage on Thursday, May 30, I realized I may have been the most feeble person at the venue.  Every member of Nashville Pussy, Guitar Wolf and the Turbo A.C.’s is capable of knocking me out in seconds flat.  The bikers, the dude in jorts with a glorious mullet and even the 90-pound Guitar Wolf superfan could also have easily made quick work of me.

I didn’t pay the $20 cover charge to get beat up, so I minded my p’s-and-q’s with another sober pal.  The conventional punk band the Turbo A.C.’s were eager to please, but Guitar Wolf didn’t bother with niceties.  The storied Japanese trio played 45 minutes of confrontational noise.  The band took the stage to “Cretin Hop,” but Guitar Wolf sounded less like the Ramones than the sort of cacophony made by Keith Moon and Pete Townshend when they trashed the Who’s stage sets.  While Seiji has led his band for more than 30 years, he often played as if he never bothered to learn how to play guitar.  Needless to say, I loved every moment of Guitar Wolf’s debilitating anarchy.

My pal repeatedly insisted Nashville Pussy is “so badass.”  Rather than risk him tossing me over the railing, I heartily agreed with his enthusiastic assessment of the headliner.  The longstanding quartet exemplifies everything rock and roll should be: sexy, dangerous, defiant and subversive.  Yet Nashville Pussy’s stubborn insistence on musical competency and actual songcraft meant that the night belonged to Guitar Wolf.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

May Recap

Top Five Performances
1. Alisa Weilerstein, Sergey Khachatryan, Inon Barnatan and Colin Currie- Folly Theater
My review.
2. Cardi B- Providence Medical Center Amphitheater
My review.
3. Colter Wall- Madrid Theatre
My Instagram clip.
4. Der Lange Schatten- Blue Room
My review.
5. Combo Chimbita- RecordBar
My Instagram clip.

Top Five Albums
1. Jamila Woods- Legacy! Legacy!
“Are you mad? Yes, I’m mad!”
2. Flying Lotus- Flamagra
My review.
3. Tyler, The Creator- Igor
"Put it in park."
4. DJ Khaled- Father of Asahd
My review.
5. Michael Fabiano- Verdi & Donizetti
It bumps in my whip.

Top Five Songs
1. Mavis Staples- “One More Change”
I feel like going home.
2. Samantha Fish- “Love Letters”
Invisible ink.
3. Luke Combs- “Beer Never Broke My Heart”
Stuff that works.
4. Purple Mountains- “All My Happiness is Gone”
Staring into the abyss.
5. The Get Up Kids- “The Problem Is Me”
Don’t I know it.

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

(Original image of Der Lange Schatten by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Album Review: Flying Lotus- Flamagra

I hit play on Flying Lotus’ Flamagra at exactly 11 p.m. Thursday, May 23.  You’re Dead! was my favorite album of 2014 and I’d waited four years and seven months for the follow-up by the man born Steven Ellison.  My initial reaction to Flamagra was excruciating.  I felt as if FlyLo was simply being weird for the sake of being weird.  I lamented the absence of proper songs during my second pass.  If the third time wasn’t quite the charm, I finally began to comprehend the album’s intent.  Subsequent playthroughs have delighted me.  Flamagra is a cosmic funk album as interpreted by jazz-minded musicians.  The album sounds as if Chick Corea is jamming with Funkadelic on a zero-gravity, low-oxygen rocket to Mars co-piloted by William Burroughs and Elon Musk.  One more thing: the wavy visuals for each song on Spotify suggest a strong drug orientation, but I can attest that Flamagra provides a mind-blowing experience for sober listeners.  “Black Balloon Reprise” is the most conventional track.

I reviewed a performance by the German trio Der Lange Schatten at Plastic Sax.

NPR created a 65-minute overview of the ECM component of the 2019 edition of the Big Ears Festival.  I was in the audience for the Carla Bley Trio and Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin sets featured in the program, but I opted to catch Nate Wooley’s appearance rather than hear the Avishai Cohen Quartet a second time.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Album Review: Craig Finn- I Need a New War

The National’s I Am Easy to Find is a tiresome slog.  I understand why fans insist there’s plenty to admire about the overbearing project, but I’ll turn to the latest release by Craig Finn if I’m inclined to listen to a new collection of sad sack songs by an aging rocker.  The Hold Steady’s front man sounds as drunk and exhausted as ever on I Need a New War.  With the glory days of the Hold Steady in his rearview mirror, Finn confronts the predicaments of middle aged Midwesterners struggling to keep it together on his grim solo album.  More direct and less bloated than I Am Easy to Find, I Need a New War hits uncomfortably close to home.  I need to keep away from sharp objects as I listen to depressive songs like “Grant at Galena”.

I selected the top ten concerts of the summer for The Kansas City Star.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Friday on My Mind

A friend was dumbfounded when I admitted that I had yet to listen to the new release by one of his favorite bands when we met on Friday, May 17.  He couldn’t get his head around the fact that the National’s I Am Easy to Find ranked twelfth in my ranking of the day’s offerings.  I didn’t mean to give offense.  As an ecumenical music obsessive, I’m invariably intrigued by dozens of the hundreds of albums that are issued every week.  Back when I made minimum wage, I could only afford to buy a single album a week.  The streaming era means that every Friday is a bargain-priced holiday.  Ranked by my level of initial interest, a listing of 47 albums released on May 17 follows.  Bitter disappointments and wondrous surprises are always part of the fun.  My assessment will obviously change as I listen to each release.  I’m also sure to discover several additional titles that are currently under my radar.  It’s a good thing my ears rarely tire.

My Preliminary Ranking of Albums Released on May 17, 2019
1. Tyler, The Creator- Igor
2. Brad Mehldau- Finding Gabriel
3. Linda Oh- Adventurine
4. Injury Reserve- Injury Reserve
5. Dave Douglas- Devotion
6. DJ Khaled- Father of Asahd
7. Theo Croker- Star People Nation
8. Hot Suede- Hot Suede
9. Seba Kaapstad- Thina
10. John Zorn- The Hierophant

11. Christone “Kingfish” Ingram- Kingfish
12. The National- I Am Easy to Find
13. Wu-Tang Clan- Of Mics and Men
14. Nil Ciuró- Inwards
15. Jimmy Webb- SlipCover
16. Yolanda Kondonassis- American Rapture
17. Megan Thee Stallion- Fever
18. Jerusalem Quartet- The Yiddish Cabaret
19. Duckwrth- The Falling Man
20. Slowthai- Nothing Great About Britain

21. Rahsaan Patterson- Heroes & Gods
22. Michael Fabiano- Verdi & Donizetti: Opera Arias
23. Jimmie Vaughan- Baby, Please Come Home
24. Josephine Wiggs- We Fall
25. Tanika Charles- The Gumption
26. Turkuaz- Afterlife Vol. 1
27. Ozark Mountain Daredevils- Heaven 20/20
28. Albrecht Mayer- Longing for Paradise
29. Institute- Readjusting the Locks
30. Umphrey’s McGee- Anchor Drop Redux

31. Joanne Shaw Taylor- Reckless Heart
32. Various artists- Sad About the Times
33. Carly Rae Jepsen- Dedicated
34. Larry Fuller- Overjoyed
35. Olden Yolk- Living Theatre
36. The New York Philharmonic- Soloists of the New York Philharmonic
37. Aseethe- Throws
38. Wreckless Eric- Transience
39. Mary Stallings- Songs Were Made to Sing
40. Steel Pulse- Mass Manipulation

41. Martin Outram- Viola Fantasia
42. Rammstein- Rammstein
43. Sam Cohen- The Future Is Still Ringing In My Ears
44. Preston Lovinggood- Consequences
45. Jonathan Dove- The Orchestral Music of Jonathan Dove
46. The Head and the Heart- Living Mirage
47. The Cash Box Kings- Hail to the Kings!

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, May 17, 2019

Another One

“We the Best Music!”  DJ Khaled is ridiculous.  Yet because the hip-hop svengali is in on the joke, I laugh with him rather than at him.  Khaled’s Father of Asahd suffused me with unqualified joy as I drove through Kansas City with the windows rolled down today.  Hearing titans like Cardi B, Nas, Post Malone and Beyoncé rap and sing on state-of-the-art beats accentuated the gorgeous spring day.  The project’s only real flaw is yet another weak Chance the Rapper track.  Aside from providing further confirmation that Chance lost his mojo more than a year ago, Father of Asahd is indeed “another one.”  The star-studded “Holy Mountain” opens the album.

Tyler, The Creator is a weirdo.  That’s hardly news.  Yet with the release of his new album I finally understand that he’s also a card-carrying music nerd.  Every track on the breakup-themed collection Igor seems to be based on either a dusty R&B song or a vintage pop nugget.  His radical remakes of oldies pay homage to the past even as they break new sonic ground.  Here’s “Earfquake”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Concert Review: Alisa Weilerstein, Sergey Khachatryan, Inon Barnatan and Colin Currie at the Folly Theater

While I was tempted by several other noteworthy concerts last Friday, I opted for the auspicious quartet of cellist Alisa Weilerstein, violinist Sergey Khachatryan, pianist Inon Barnatan and percussionist Colin Currie at the Folly Theater upon discovering that almost every seat in the front row was still available a few hours prior to showtime.  The ticket I purchased in Row A provided 130 intimate minutes with the classical music luminaries.

I heard Barnatan’s every inhalation and each dramatic gasp and telling sigh emitted by Weilerstein.  I could also read the sheet music over Barnatan’s shoulder.  Ignoring the 200 people seated behind me in the 1,050-capacity theater allowed me to pretend that the event presented by The Friends of Chamber Music was a private concert intended solely for my benefit. 

Forty-four years after his death, Kansas City still isn’t ready for Dmitri Shostakovich.  An interpretation of the Russian composer’s Symphony No. 15 anchored the program.  Supplemented by two additional percussionists, that ish was lit.  Currie’s solo marimba (!) attack on new music composer Rolf Wallin’s absolutely bonkers Realismos mágicos was the zaniest thing I’ve heard in Kansas City this year. 

I mirrored the mournful expression of MacArthur genius grant recipient Weilerstein during Beethoven’s so-called Ghost trio.  Only Schoenberg’s “Verklarte Nacht” failed to move me.  A critic for The Washington Post felt differently.  The newspaper deemed the ensemble’s concert at the Kennedy Center on the previous night worthy of a review.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

I reviewed a performance by Havilah Bruders and Paul Shinn at Plastic Sax.

Imagine a mash-up of Nina Simone and Kendrick Lamar.  “Basquiat” is among the songs on Jamila Woods’ Legacy! Legacy! that meet that lofty speculative standard.  I need to spend more time with the album before verifying that  it’s as good as Solange’s When I Get Home, my presumptive album of the year. 

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Kansas City's (Not So) Hot 100

While trying to devise an appropriate headline for the online component of my new audio feature about the Greeting Committee for KCUR, I toyed with the premise that the indie-pop quartet is Kansas City’s most popular band.  Is that true?  I dove into Spotify’s statistics to gauge how Kansas City acts past and present stack up.  The following ranking is based on the service’s monthly listeners metric.

1. Tech N9ne 2,789,000
2. Janelle Monaé 2,748,000
3. Puddle of Mudd 2,481,000
4. Count Basie 2,342,000
5. Kevin Morby 1,230,000
6. Pat Metheny 804,000
7. Melissa Etheridge 735,000
8. Bob Brookmeyer 538,000
9. Ben Webster 538,000
10. Charlie Parker 495,000

11. Oleta Adams 416,000
12. Coleman Hawkins 375,000
13. Dreamgirl 311,000
14. Lester Young 297,000
15. Krizz Kaliko 281,000
16. Burt Bacharach 254,000
17. The Greeting Committee 188,000
18. David Cook 181,000
19. Stevie Stone 179,000
20. Norman Brown 173,000

21. The Get Up Kids 167,000
22. Mac Lethal 159,000
23. Karrin Allyson 141,000
24. Ces Cru 137,000
25. Big Scoob 130,000
26. Big Joe Turner 127,000
27. Radkey 120,000
28. The Floozies 119,000
29. Gene Clark 114,000
30. Jay McShann 113,000

31. Bloodstone 95,000
32. Kutt Calhoun 93,000
33. Samantha Fish 87,000
34. Nicolette Larson 83,000
35. Making Movies 71,000
36. Iris DeMent 70,000
37. JL 69,000
38. Kevin Mahogany 67,000
39. Hembree 59,000
40. Me Like Bees 54,000

41. Danielle Nicole 53,000
42. Brewer & Shipley 52,000
43. Joyce DiDonato 51,000
44. Reggie and the Full Effect 47,000
45. 77 Jefferson 45,000
46. Julian Vaughn 45,000
47. Krystle Warren 42,000
48. Mackenzie Nicole 38,000
49. Miles Bonny 35,000
50. Madison Ward and the Mama Bear 31,000

51. Listener 30,000
52. Nathan Davis 28,000
53. Eldar Djangirov 27,000
54. Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 27,000
55. Marva Whitney 26,000
56. The Anniversary 24,000
57. Joey Cool 21,000
58. Rich the Factor 21,000
59. Shy Boys 21,000
60. Chris Connor 16,000

61. Black Oxygen 15,000
62. Ubi 15,000
63. Various Blonde 15,000
64. Beautiful Bodies 14,000
65. Kelley Hunt 14,000
66. The Republic Tigers 12,000
67. Ha Ha Tonka 11,000
68. Coalesce 10,000
69. Jo Jones 10,000
70. Missouri 10,000

71. Shooting Star 10,000
72. Buck Clayton 9,000
73. Evalyn Awake 9,000
74. Bobby Watson 9,000
75. The Kansas City Symphony 8,000
76. Blair Bryant 6,000
77. Godemis 6,000
78. Kyla Jade 6,000
79. Julia Lee 6,000
80. Pageant Boys 6,000

81. The Rainmakers 6,000
82. 57th Street Rogue Dog Villians 5,000
83. The Kansas City Chorale 5,000
84. Bennie Moten 5,000
85. Trampled Under Foot 5,000
86. The Casket Lottery 4,000
87. The Marcus Lewis Big Band 4,000
88. Fat Tone 3,000
89. The Life and Times 3,000
90. Behzod Abduraimov 2,000

91. Calvin Arsenia 2,000
92. Mess 2,000
93. Radar State 2,000
94. Shiner 2,000
95. The Architects 1,000
96. Rex Hobart & the Misery Boys 1,000
97. Info Gates 1,000
98. Walter Page’s Blue Devils 1,000
99. Logan Richardson 1,000
100. Virgil Thomson 1,000

Notes and caveats:

*My listing- the product of three hours of racking my brain for every consequential artist from the Kansas City area- almost certainly contains several glaring omissions.  Yet before you call me an idiot for overlooking an artist, be advised that many ostensible hometown heroes are streamed by only a few hundred users each month.

*The number for Charlie Parker includes his separate listings for the Charlie Parker Quartet, the Charlie Parker Quintet, etc.  I also combined multiple entries for Count Basie, Pat Metheny, Bennie Moten and Ubi.

*Spotify updates its statistics daily.  The numbers for artists with popular new releases such as the Get Up Kids are sure to change dramatically in the following weeks.

*I recognize that the listening habits of Spotify users don’t necessarily reflect overall music consumption.  Even so, it’s among the most accurate gauges of what’s actually getting played.

*Although Eminem was born in St. Joseph, he’s not considered a local. Besides, his 28,811,000 monthly listeners make everything on my list look like a pitiful scrap.  (Khalid is currently the #1 artist in the world with 49,685,000 monthly listeners.)

*Sevendust has 1,055,000 monthly listeners, but only vocalist Lajon Witherspoon lives in the Kansas City area.

*So, is the Greeting Committee (#16) currently Kansas City’s most popular band?  Kinda sorta.

*EDIT: I’m arbitrarily boycotting Topeka artists. Here are the numbers on four notable Top City acts: Kansas- 5,362,000, Origin- 24,000, Youngblood Supercult- 21,000, Stik Figa- 7,000.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Album Review: PnB Rock- TrapStar Turnt PopStar

My dreams are often set in airports, subway stations and on highways, but last night my unconscious placed me in the role of a fashion photographer on the red carpet of a music awards show.  That’s the surprising power of PnB Rock’s tellingly titled TrapStar Turnt PopStar.  On the surface, the glossy synthetic rap album differs little from the recent work of Juice Wrld and Travis Scott.  Yet the empty musical calories of rudimentary songs like “I Like Girls” taste so good that I can’t tear myself away from the hallucinatory project.  “Middle Child” is the best track.

I reviewed the Flyover festival at Providence Medical Center Amphitheater for The Kansas City Star.

I grade the 2019-20 season of the Folly Jazz Series at Plastic Sax.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

The immaculate sheen Kneebody applies to songs including Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” and the Band’s “King Harvest” on By Fire fills me with so much rage that I want to throw bricks through the windows of shiny performing arts centers.  RIYL: Snarky Puppy, transcribing solos, Sting.

Had I not seen Rhiannon Gidden and Francesco Turrisi preview the album at the Big Ears Festival in March, the duo’s enthralling intercontinental folk collaboration There Is No Other would almost certainly have struck me as insufferably twee. 

I hope album narrations catch on.  Mark de Clive-Lowe offers insights into his latest release for the 21 Soul label.

(Original image of a highway fire by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Blame It On My Youth

My Twitter feed was inundated with posts about Kind of Blue and Time Out for International Jazz Day yesterday.  Refusing to play into the hands of cynical marketers and self-serving institutions, I didn’t write any replies.  Yet the clickbait posts soliciting answers to questions like “which jazz records changed your life?” prompted me recall becoming a discerning jazz enthusiast in the 1980s.  Then, as now, my ears were open to all genres, so jazz albums had to be just as exciting as groundbreaking music by the likes of the Clash, Prince, Public Enemy and Talking Heads.  The ten albums on the following list that I purchased as new releases in the 1980s met that standard.  Without these titles in my life during that formative decade, I may not have made a lifelong commitment to jazz.

1. Jack DeJohnette- Special Edition (1980)
2. Pat Metheny- 80/81 (1980)
3. James Blood Ulmer- Free Lancing (1981)
4. Miles Davis- Decoy (1983)
5. Wynton Marsalis- Black Codes (From the Underground) (1985)
6. John Zorn- The Big Gundown (1985)
7. Ornette Coleman- In All Languages (1987)
8. Henry Threadgill- Easily Slip Into Another World (1988)
9. Bobby Watson & Horizon- No Question About It (1988)

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image of the Tennessee Theater at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, April 28, 2019

I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say

The New Yorker published a cartoon in 1992 that depicts excited children shouting “Dad! Dad! Wake up! They just discovered another Marsalis!” as they invade the bedroom of a sleeping man.  The gag remains relevant 27 years later.  I recently learned that Wynton Marsalis’ son Jasper creates musique concrète as Slauson Malone.  The fascinating A Quiet Farwll, 2016-2018 alludes to the jazz, classical and funk associated with his famous family but is more closely aligned with rap-adjacent sonic experiments like Earl Sweatshirt’s Some Rap Songs.  Where A Quiet Farwll, 2016-2018 acts as nightmare fuel, Wynton Marsalis’ soundtrack for the the biopic Bolden is suffused with joy.  Marsalis was the obvious candidate for the task of bringing the music of the unrecorded Buddy Bolden to life.  As with the initial recordings of Louis Armstrong, Marsalis' presumably accurate rendering of Bolden's joyfully defiant party music foreshadows much of what would follow, including the eerie sonic collages of one of the youngest members of America’s foremost musical dynasty.

I reviewed the Chicago Plan’s appearance at the Blue Room for Plastic Sax.

I suspect that the cover art of Ayanna Witter-Johnson’s Road Runner is a tribute to the image that adorns Joan Armatrading’s Track Record.  The art-pop collection is recommended if you like Esperanza Spalding, the new sound of London, Sting.  Here’s “Nothing Less”.

White Denim’s Side Effects is a potent dose of jam-soaked psych-rock.  RIYL: Syd Barrett, kaleidoscopes, Umphrey’s McGee.  Here’s “NY Money”.

As a spot-on replication of vintage soul, Kelly Finnigan’s new The Tales People Tell surpasses Durand Jones & the Indications’ impressive 2019 album American Love Call.  

Schoolboy Q’s Crash Talk is evenly divided between despicable trash and memorable brilliance.  “Numb Numb” Juice” reveals the rapper’s worst and best impulses.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)