Friday, February 29, 2008

Rachel Taylor Brown- Abraham and Isaac

The story has ended.

Half Hours With the Lower Creatures, the new release from Portland's Rachel Taylor Brown, opens with ambient noise that slowly builds into an ominous dreamlike pulse. If Ennio Morricone could be convinced to score a nasty slasher film he would do well to come up with something as eerily evocative. It's an appropriate start to the bleak and often harrowing album. Inevitably, Brown's art-pop will receive comparisons to Tori Amos and Regina Spektor, but it more closely resembles Supper's Ready-era Peter Gabriel. "Abraham and Isaac" is representative of the album's ugly beauty. "You always hurt the one you love," she imagines Abraham sighing as he prepares to sacrifice his son. Half Hours With the Lower Creatures will be released nationally in May. Until then, it's available for purchase at CD Baby.

I watched bits of PBS' broadcast of the New York Philharmonic's North Korean concert last night. The program streams here. I have mixed feelings about such "musical diplomacy." And what's up with optical illusion that makes the audience in the front section seem invisible?

Kansas City Click: Fine trumpeter Terell Stafford graces the stage of the Folly Theater tonight.

The best soul blues lineup possible in 2008 comes to the Hale Center on Saturday. Bobby "Blue" Bland, Latimore, Bobby Rush, Shirley Brown and Marvin Sease are among the attractions.

Dozens of musicians converge on BB's Lawnside BBQ Sunday to raise money for the annual Hope House benefit.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Billie Holiday- I Love You Porgy

No more sadness.

Although he's always been accessible, I hadn't met Chuck D until last night. I write about the experience here. Among the dozens of topics Chuck broached during his lecture was the concept that hip hop is only the latest expression of black musical creativity.

"There are parallels between Billie Holiday and Jay-Z, between Art Tatum and break dancers," Chuck asserted.

With that in mind, here's the incomparable jazz vocalist singing one of the most significant songs about the tragedy of slavery in America. It's an utterly devastating performance. The out-of-print Live At Storyville, captured at the Boston club in 1951, might be my favorite Holiday recording. Here's far lesser but still invaluable video footage of Holiday interpreting the song in a television studio. (The arrangement is atrocious.)

Buddy Miles has died.

Herschel "Speedy" Haworth died Tuesday. The Ozarks-based guitarist worked with Porter Wagoner, Rex Allen and Red Foley.

Kansas City Click: The spirit of Johnny Cash burns brightly in Tom Russell. The outstanding songwriter is at Knuckleheads tonight.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Amalgamated All Stars- Memories


I was saddened to hear that Jamaican music industry veteran Joe Gibbs died last week. But I'm delighted that it compelled me to return to this stunning collection of material he oversaw between 1967-73. It'd been a few years since I spun the disc; it's even better than I remembered. The instrumental featured here is marvelous, yet it's probably the least compelling of the compilation's eighteen tracks. Sir Lord Comic, Lee "Scratch" Perry and the Overtakers are among the standouts on this essential set. Gibbs may be best remembered for his later work, but music doesn't get much more compelling than this.

Erykah Badu's Amerykah is a spectacular mess. Self-indulgent and filled with pointless detours, it sounds like something George Clinton might have orchestrated during a lost weekend in 1973. Needless to say, I like it a lot.

Talk about an act that fits the There Stands the Glass aesthetic: Uncle Monk is a modest old-timey duo that you'd think would be relegated to providing warm smiles at a coffee house's open mic night. But there's a twist. Tommy Ramone is in the band! Uncle Monk is on an extensive tour. I am so there.

Kansas City Click: For Midwestern power pop twits, tonight's triple bill of Ludo, Anything But Joey and Ha Ha Tonka at the Record Bar is pure bliss.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Golden Gate Quartet- Give Me Two Wings

Flew away.

I like to think I'm well-versed in area history.

But a wonderful feature in Sunday's Kansas City Star exposed me to the almost entirely forgotten gospel music legacy of the Jackson Jubilee Singers of Western University. It was all news to me. Sure, accounts of the black abolitionist town of Quindaro, Kansas, are part of most regional Border War histories. Yet I had no idea that "for a time, roughly between 1907 and 1940, (the Jackson Jubilee Singers) were wildly popular with both black and white audiences." It's fascinating stuff.

The Star links to clips of a couple surviving recordings at Emusic. Their sound resembles the Golden Gate Quartet only in passing. But I'm going with what I own. As the Star's story points out, traditional slave songs like "Give Me Two Wings" are part of gospel's subversive tradition. While the lyric is ostensibly about Jesus, the real message concerns a desperate longing for more than just spiritual freedom.

I'll pick up Erykah Badu's new release tomorrow, but the album I can hardly wait to get my hands on is the new Luciano. The two new songs streaming at his MySpace are scorching. (I will not be buying Webbie's new release. The best/worst hit since, "Crank That," "Independent" has already inflicted irreparable brain damage to my poor noggin. "She cook/She clean/Never smell like onion rings!")

Kansas City Click: Luz D'Sol play at Jardine's tonight. They were the subject of a KCUR profile aired yesterday.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Erik Satie- Gnossienne Lent


Jim, my first freshman roommate, insisted on playing music all night long. He hit the automated repeat button on my turntable so that the second side of Pretenders or the first side of Some Girls would play until morning. In spite of that nightmarish experience, I sometimes like to let a CD put me to sleep. This set of Erik Satie's piano music is ideal for that purpose. It's not a proper sedative. To the contrary, it's so fascinating that I can focus on its intricacies rather than allow myself to worry about work, knee pain or the barking dog next door.

Teo Macero died Tuesday. Not to take anything away from Mingus, Miles, Brubeck or Byrd, but it's probably no accident that Macero contributed to many of the greatest crossover albums in the history of jazz.

Kansas City Click: Jazz has its own version of Billy Ray Cyrus. Pianist and bandleader Michael Wolff sired the Naked Brothers. He plays tonight at the Blue Room.

In a symbolic changing of the guard, Snuff Jazz follows Ida McBeth at Jardine's on Saturday night.

Sunday brings an ideal pairing- Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys and the Westport Flea Market.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Aterciopelados- La Misma Tijera


Perhaps it's a reaction to the frigid temperature and the gray winter tundra outside my window, but the music that sounds best to me right now emanates from approximately 1,000 miles south of my current location. Celebrated Colombian band Aterciopelados doesn't worry about classifications- electronica, M.P.B., lounge, cumbia, and pop are all on equal footing on their 2001 release Gozo Poderoso. Here's a video for "El Album", my second favorite song on the Grammy winner.

It'd be a heckuva commute, but this blog post by Steve Pick makes me want to apply for a job at St. Louis' Euclid Records. And while I don't always trust Steve's judgement, his concise dismissal of Holy F*ck just saved me thirty minutes of frustration.

I've managed to capture video images of my dreams. Here's what I experienced at 3:22 a.m. this morning.

Kansas City Click: But for the ice falling from the heavens, I might head for Knuckleheads tonight to catch folk-jazz duo Stereofidelics.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gonzalo Rubalcaba- Preludio Proyecto Latino

Thinking of Cuba in silence.

The combination of the insightful profile in Sunday's New York Times and the glimmer of hope that arrived yesterday for the people of Cuba compels me to offer this post focusing on Gonzalo Rubalcaba. The 44-year-old Cuban expatriate's Avatar was released earlier this month. The pianist's stunning technical proficiency is on display in this solo piece from the out-of-print Mi Gran Pasion. The 1987 date was his first official session as a leader. It's frightening to consider that he's expanded his formidable talent even further in the intervening 21 years.

As I indicated in my previous post, I was floored by Kid Rock's effort Sunday. Yet it might not have been the best show I caught last weekend. The Redwalls' Friday gig was also wonderful. My review is here.

And on Saturday I was one of two dozen people in the audience for Mark Olson at Davey's Uptown Rambler's Club. Here's a two-minute sample of his performance. It ended very awkwardly as fans of metal act Red Line Chemistry began arriving for the bar's late show. The rockers were in no mood for Olson's rootsy songs. It was an extraordinarily uncomfortable clash of cultures.

Kansas City Click: Kentucky's People Noise are tonight's headliners at the Record Bar.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Hank Williams, Jr.- I Can't Change My Tune


Kid Rock taught me a few lessons this week.

I was startled at the visceral reaction I received each time I mentioned to friends that my weekend plans included a Kid Rock concert. The condescendingly elitist views harbored by my associates startled me.

Because I have a jazz site and I usually feature esoteric music at this MP3 blog, I guess some people assume that I maintain an exclusionary sense of superiority. It's actually quite the opposite- as a populist, I desperately long for the music I champion to enjoy a broader base of support.

I can't relate to those who embrace a cloistered sense of isolation within a "scene," be it dixieland jazz or indie rock. I love Bocephus no less than I love Led Zeppelin, M.I.A., Little Richard, Pavement, Miles Davis and Ralph Stanley. They're all part of the same thing to me. (The song featured here is available on this collection.)

Kid Rock understands that. His show didn't just feature guest artists Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers and Rev. Run of Run D.M.C. (That alone is an astonishing thing if you stop to think about it.) Soul, metal, bluegrass, honky tonk, pop, rap, classic rock, DJ scratching and gospel were part of his three hour show. I didn't spot a single member of the 11,000 fans in the Sprint Center last night who didn't embrace every single one of those styles.

It was beautiful.

While many Kid Rock fans headed straight for nearby strip joints after the show, I walked past Temptations and Bazooka's to visit YJ's, a tiny hipster coffee shop that features live jazz on Sunday nights. Between songs, the bass player asked me about my evening. I told him- and the cafe's five customers- where I'd been. While the bassist wasn't judgmental, the others treated me as if I had suddenly transformed into a shotgun-wielding Dick Cheney.

I was tempted to lecture the tiny tribe of small-minded bohemians about the ironies implicit in their undemocratic ideals.

I just got lost in the bossa nova instead.

Kansas City Click: John Proulx, a jazz pianist and crooner in the style of Nat "King" Cole, appears at the downtown Marriott tonight.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Osibisa- I Feel (Pata Pata)

The dance is over.

British-based, African-minded Osibisa were far ahead of their time. The group's unapologetically pop sound defined "world music" before the term was even invented. It worked. Although the band enjoyed a tremendous level of success, they're largely forgotten today. Perhaps the popularity of Vampire Weekend signals the advent of renewed interest in these sounds. This live footage from 1974 certainly deserves a fresh look. The Osibisa catalog is a shambles; you may as well start with this collection.

Back in 1982, taking a girl to a club where the Blue Riddim Band was playing was a pretty good idea. I'm delighted that some old footage recently emerged at YouTube.

How it possible that I went through life without hearing Virgil Thomson's The River until yesterday?

Kansas City Click: A terrific all-ages show starts at the Record Bar this afternoon. Included are the Redwalls, the Abracadabras and Catfish Haven. (The latter band is one of my favorites, even though I invariably end up being the only guy grooving on their primitive soul.)

Mark Olson lays out the cold, hard facts at Davey's Saturday.

I'm not sure if we can be friends if at least some part of you doesn't want to take Kid Rock's "musical journey thru American music" at the Sprint Center on Sunday.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mark Olson- Poor Michael's Boat

Rowed to shore.

Mark Olson, bless his heart, is still on the road. I snapped this photo last September. He plays another gig in my town this weekend.

Olson's old band, the Jayhawks, are one of the definitive folk/country/rock groups of the last quarter century. For a few thousand diehard fans, they meant everything. But for the lack of a couple lucky breaks, Olson might now be filling arenas instead of playing to one or two hundred true believers each night.

"Ain't it funny how big plans fall through," Olson wistfully notes on "Poor Michael's Boat."

It's from 2007's essential The Salvation Blues. It's a painfully honest document about coming to terms with diminished expectations and discovering hidden beauty inside the resulting pain and disappointment. In other words, it's "the salvation blues."

Until I actually watched every excruciating minute of Tuesday's two-hour American Idol broadcast, the show had never inspired strong opinions in me. I kind of like Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia and Taylor Hicks. Never again. From now on I intend to let my friend Tim track the results for me at The Other Door.

Kansas City Click: Kasey Rausch is just one of several Kansas City songwriters participating in the "Love Hangover" event tonight at Davey's.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Herbie Hancock- Bouquet

Dried up.

A handful of people have expressed disappointment that I'm not jubilant about Herbie Hancock's big win at the Grammys. They're overlooking two things.

Sure, I'm a jazz geek. It's true that I'm responsible for Plastic Sax, a regularly updated site devoted to Kansas City jazz. But I love Hank Williams no less than Count Basie, and I'm just as passionate about "Mother Popcorn" as I am about "Yardbird Suite." Graduation was my favorite album of 2007; I also like Amy Winehouse, Vince Gill and the Foo Fighters. I'm unable to treat Hancock's award as anything other than a nice surprise.

Secondly, we're talking about the Grammys. The institution isn't exactly a trendsetter. "It's been 43 years since the first and only time that a jazz artist got an album of the year award," Hancock claimed.

I didn't believe this assertion, so I investigated it here. Sure enough, if you don't count Frank Sinatra, Blood Sweat & Tears, Natalie Cole, Tony Bennett, Steely Dan, Norah Jones or Ray Charles as jazz, Hancock is correct. 1964's Getz/Gilberto, another crossover album made with the pop audience in mind, is the only other jazz-oriented "album of the year" recipient.

All that said, I have the highest regard for Herbie Hancock. He's one of only a handful of artists who didn't just change with the times- he was agent of change. Here's a selective summary of Hancock's career:

*a sideman for Miles in 1963
*a brilliant bandleader in 1964
*a funkateer with the Headhunters in 1974
*a supreme disco king in 1979
*a scratchy hitmaker in 1983
*an aggressive all-star jazzman in 1997
*a Grammy-pleaser in 2007

Maiden Voyage is one of the first jazz albums that blew my mind. Since I know that you'll buy it today if you don't already own it (it's on sale for $7.97), I'll feature something else. Hancock plays pretty on this gorgeous Bobby Hutcherson vehicle from the out-of-print Town Hall Concert from 1985.

Freddie Bell died February 10. He was 76.

Kansas City Click: It's Over and The Autumn Film are at the Record Bar.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Keely Smith- Kansas City

Left town.

Cynics and haters should move along.

I loved last night's Grammy broadcast. Several performances were real treats- John Fogerty with Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, KC's homeboy Eldar, the always-entertaining Kanye West, "Rhapsody In Blue," Feist with a brass band, the excellent gospel segment, the radiance of Beyonce and the Foo Fighters' gig with John Paul Jones and contestant #1.

My favorite bit, however, was the duet with Kid Rock and Keely Smith. What a hoot! It was great seeing the 75-year-old getting some exposure. Her Swing Swing Swing attempted to capitalize on the most recent swing scare. And in spite of- or perhaps because of- her references to the Chiefs, "Kansas City" is also a lot of fun.

I watched the Grammys with a person unfamiliar with rock music. She was delighted that a band would name themselves "The Food Finders."

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra were rock solid Friday. My review is here. I was blown away by Leeland's performance when they opened for Casting Crowns the next night. My review is here.

Pianist Chris Anderson, who played with Charlie Parker, died February 4. He was 81.

Kansas City Click: The Heet Mob crew has their weekly Mic Check Mondays gig at the Embassy.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Walter Hyatt- In November

Time is up.

Unfinished business, indeed. Walter Hyatt was killed in the infamous 1996 ValuJet crash. The gifted singer-songwriter was a part of the same Texas scene inhabited by David Ball, Lyle Lovett and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Here's a loving fan video paying tribute to Hyatt's time in Uncle Walt's Band. A new collection of previously unreleased Hyatt material, Unfinished Business, Volume One, began shipping last month. Details about the project are contained in this story. "In November" is from the out-of-print major label release King Tears. Not unlike Charlie Rich's classic Pictures and Paintings, it's a quiet blend of jazz and country.

I heard a version of this Bach composition as I was falling asleep a couple nights ago. After dreaming up "variations" all night, I realized that I need to spend more time with J.S.

Kansas City Click: L.A. has Metal Skool. Kansas City has the Baloney Ponyz. They rock the Roxy tonight.

On Saturday night Bobby Watson features his new band at the Blue Room.

I'm not sure how a band claiming Wilco, Lyle Lovett and Ryan Adams as influences ends up sounding like Sawyer Brown and Rascall Flatts, but that's just what True North accomplishes. They're playing at the Borders store north of the river on Sunday.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Randolph Walker- Miss Jackson's Daughter

Randolph Walker- Miss Jackson's Daughter (MP3)

Before DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist began their first set last night, Shadow noted that while neither man had previously performed in Kansas City, he'd been a regular customer of the Music Exchange. "R.I.P." he sadly noted. Between that and the early Marva Whitney reference, I was guaranteed to love the show.

I was shocked by the conventional, old-fashioned tone of the performance. Isaac Hayes' concert on the same stage a couple months ago was comparatively pioneering. It seemed like the DJs were performing exclusively for collectors like me. They played lots of deep Southern R&B, Indian psychedelia, spoken word novelty records and De La Soul- I was probably one of five guys in the room old enough to have purchased 3 Feet High and Rising as a new release.

The duo's arbitrary self-imposed "rules" even reminded me of the guidelines I usually employ (and are being broken in this atypical post) at There Stands the Glass.

The incredible song I feature today is exactly the sort of treasure DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist rightfully fetishized last night. Outside of the 7-inch format, the gem from 1970 is only available on this powerful out-of-print compilation.

Kid Koala's opening set was far more adventurous. While he wasn't averse to playing hits by Kanye West and M.I.A., he was best when repurposing blues and jazz tracks. I also liked that he left the stage as a loop of Mac Lethal's "Pound That Beer" continued to skip on one of his turntables.

Tim Finn's review and professional photographs are here.

Kansas City Click: I'll recommend the "prairie vibrations" of reggae act Seedlove even though their MySpace page lists Deepak Chopra (twice) and "10 Foot Ganja Plant" among their influences. The crusty kids are at Spivey's in Lenexa.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Four Tops- Bring Me Together

Fell apart.

I abandoned the vinyl format for newfangled compact discs in 1986. The LP versions of new releases were simply atrocious. I tired of buying increasingly flimsy and warped product. (A music industry conspiracy? No doubt about it.)

But in addition to the limited selection, most CDs were priced upwards of $20. Yet Motown two-fers at 7th Heaven, my neighborhood record store, were $7.97. Once a week I would buy titles by Al Green, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and the Four Tops. What a great investment!

The Temptations deservedly get a lot of credit for incorporating contemporary psychedelic rock into their sound. But the Four Tops forged a more nuanced sound on Still Waters Run Deep. It probably sounds even better now than it did as a new release in 1970. Need to hear more? Here's the album's sublime closing song.

I ran into Howard Iceberg at the Mutual Musicians Foundation on Friday night. That the folk-rock artist was hanging out at a Kansas City jazz jam session speaks to his broad sensibility. He let me know that he's embarked on an ambitious project to record his vast back catalog of songs. He regularly rotates new, downloadable songs at his MySpace page. While he jokes that he sounds "like Tom Waits on a bad day," Howard gives Waits, Dylan, Prine and Ritter a run for their money.

Local trio Trampled Under Foot won the Blues Foundation's annual band competition in Memphis.

Kansas City Click: It seems sacrilegious to suggest a non-Fat Tuesday show. But it's not everyday that DJ Shadow comes to town. Cut Chemist and Kid Koala join him at the VooDoo.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Megan Birdsall- Send My Love

Megan Birdsall- Send My Love

Megan Birdsall, Kansas City's "little jazz bird," had a lousy 2007.

Just as she was on the verge of following Oleta Adams, Karrin Allyson and Kevin Mahogany as the next jazz-oriented vocalist to break out of Kansas City, Birdsall was diagnosed with a painful and severe medical condition requiring expensive surgery.

This orchestrated showstopper from Little Jazz Bird is akin to a Leon Russell production on an old Rita Coolidge album. It's odd to hear Birdsall in this lush setting, because she's a delightfully informal performer. Someone took this live footage the same night I grabbed the photo above. Her playful introduction to "Wichita Lineman" is unspeakably adorable.

Regional jazz promoter Butch Berman died last week. He also played guitar in the bands of Charlie Burton, Sleepy LaBeef and Roy Loney. (Tip via Lee.)

Kansas City Click: It's been a long time since I've endorsed the weekly Rural Grit Happy Hour at the Brick. Bring your beard and your banjo if you want to fit in.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Joe Jackson- The Old Songs

Faded away.

Given the eclectic nature of There Stands the Glass, I feel a strong affinity for the stylistic restlessness that's characterized Joe Jackson's career. Constant genre jumping has limited Jackson's commercial appeal, just as it reduces the audience for this site.

Jackson has excelled at Louis Jordan jump, cocktail jazz, classical composition and pop music. The latter category featured one of the two contemporary personal anthems of my high school experience. (Here's the other one. Oh, what painful memories!)

The fifty-something's Rain was released earlier this week. Initial sales figures indicate that it will fair better than the largely forgotten out-of-print Laughter & Lust. Yet the 1991 album has aged quite well.

"The Old Songs" reflects sentiments familiar to anyone reading these words. Jackson laments the way so many music fans become mired in the past. "I like those songs," he sighs wearily. "But I'd like something new."

Me too, Joe.

Even though many of his fans have already acquired leaked MP3s of its contents, it feels like my 2008 won't really be underway until I'm holding the official version of Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III. Here's an update.

Kansas City Click: The Last Call Girls should feel right at home at Davey's tonight.

Randy Brecker continues his work with UMKC's jazz kids on Saturday.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers visit Park College on Sunday.