Monday, September 29, 2008

Subramaniam- Blossom


I rescued Blossom from a cutout bin a couple decades ago. As with many such impulsive purchases, I immediately regretted it. I was going through a jazz purist phase and not even the presence of my hero Herbie Hancock allowed me to forgive the decidedly commercial tone of the 1981 album led by the Indian violinist. Today, the 1981 album sounds absolutely visionary. It's sample heaven. Guitarist Larry Coryell and pianist George Cables are featured on the title track.

Maroon 5 fans are unhappy with my review of Friday's show. I did like Counting Crows and Augustana.

The Sting, starring the late Paul Newman, was my introduction to Scott Joplin.

Big band vocalist Connie Haines died last week. (Tip via BGO.)

Don't forget that the "new" Bob Dylan release begins streaming at midnight at NPR.

Kansas City Click: MGMT opens for Beck tonight at the Uptown.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bobby Womack-Baby I'm Back

Gone again.

Your long, agonizing wait is over. I'll finally let you in on how I'd vote on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 2009 ballot.

I'd opt for Metallica, Run-D.M.C., the Stooges, War and Bobby Womack. I'd take no pleasure in excluding Jeff Beck, Chic, Wanda Jackson and Little Anthony and the Imperials, but four candidates need to be rejected. I just hope Womack's not one of them. I never understood why he doesn't enjoy equal status with, say, Little Milton and Marvin Gaye. Womack split the difference between the former's sophisticated innovation and the latter's mastery of Southern soul.

Womack's "Across 110th Street" has enjoyed a recent vogue, but either "That's the Way I Feel About 'Cha" or "If You Think You're Lonely Now" is probably the definitive Womack statement. "Harry Hippie" is the song that first introduced me to Womack.

This obscure out-of-print recording documents an early '90s London show.

Oh no they didn't! That was my initial reaction upon discovering that Buckcherry had appropriated the Dead Kennedys' "Too Drunk..." on their latest hit. I suppose it was inevitable. Besides, I happen to like Buckcherry. (So sue me.)

Kansas City Click: Spanish folk ensemble La Musgana appears at Unity Temple tonight.

Speaking of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the current incarnations of the Temptations and the Four Tops perform at Starlight on Saturday.

Billy Joe Shaver is scheduled to return to Knuckleheads Sunday.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Muggsy Spanier- At the Jazz Band Ball

The party's over.

I write about jazz at Plastic Sax.

It's a lonely, largely thankless pursuit, but I continue to believe it's a worthy endeavor. And it keeps me thinking about stuff like this:

The majority of the jazz fans here in Kansas City can be grouped into one of two categories. There's the aging white audience for whom Glenn Miller is still the king. This crowd would blissfully sigh at the mere mention of Muggsy Spanier's name.

Then there's the primarily black fans in their 40s, 50s and 60s who came of age to Grover Washington, Jr.'s Mr. Magic and Ramsey Lewis' The In Crowd.

The first group's communal vigilance has kept the scene together for decades. As their numbers dwindle, jazz clubs continue to change formats. For the second crowd, the concept of "jazz" is less rigid. Norman Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, Najee and Mary J. Blige all have equal merit in this more liberal world view. While I applaud this perspective, it's not going to sell many tickets to a Cecil Taylor concert.

If the economy continues its downturn, the federal funds and the charitable grants that have propped up area jazz series and institutions might disappear. Toss in a rapidly aging fan base, and you have to wonder what's to become of jazz in this town.

Who's going to pay money to see the Count Basie and Tommy Dorsey ghost bands? What will happen to the careers of trad jazz guys like Scott Hamilton? And who's going to buy wonderful Spanier collections like this?

I know there are plenty of local musicians willing to step up. But will there be an audience to support them?

"At the Jazz Band Ball" was recorded in New York 69 years ago. I'd love to be able to say that this timeless music will live forever. But seriously- in another 69 years will anyone want to hear it? Watch this appropriately hazy snippet of Spanier in 1963 as an entire culture evaporates.

I'm having a hard time believing that it's Bruce Hornsby and not the late Chris Whitley singing on "20/20 Vision" on Charlie Haden's new release. The entire album streams here.

Kansas City Click: My friend C. would strangle me with his ponytail if I didn't recommend Xavier Rudd's show tonight at the VooDoo Lounge.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stuart Duncan- Whistlin' Rufus

Stuart Duncan- Whistlin' Rufus (MP3)

Who needs Led Zeppelin?

Robert Plant's decision to tour with Alison Krauss rather than working with a reconstituted Led Zep was validated last night during a thoroughly captivating show at Starlight Theater.

The Raising Sand collaboration is just a tad too polite for me. Thankfully, its sedate and genteel qualities were absent Tuesday. As Robert Plant said, the band- T-Bone Burnett, Buddy Miller, Dennis Crouch, Jay Bellerose and Stuart Duncan- was "smokin'."

The show's best moments were inspired by rock'n'roll. They included the tangible sexual tension on "Black Dog," unbound chaos on Townes Van Zandt's "Nothin'" and Plant's vocal on Benny Spellman's "Fortune Teller."

Plant, of course, is an engaging showman. The night's biggest surprise was Krauss' demeanor. Counting individual sets at '80s and '90s bluegrass festivals, I've seen Krauss over twenty times. She's never been more alluring or- dare I say it, sultry- than she was last night. She was more Stevie Nicks than Bill Monroe.

Here's Tim Finn's review.

Alternating between fiddle and banjo, Stuart Duncan seemed to represent the band's connection to bluegrass and Appalachian music. The traditional "Whistlin' Rufus" is from Duncan's fine 1992 solo album.

Nappy Brown died September 20. I'm pretty sure I saw him only once. A Black Top Records package tour featuring Brown, Grady Gaines, Snooks Eaglin, Hubert Sumlin and several other greats stopped at the Grand Emporium in the early '90s. I fondly recall Brown's playful leer.

Kansas City Click: Beppe Gambetta picks at the Mountain Music Shoppe tonight.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Don & Dewey- Jump Awhile


Even though I was never that into Blink-182 (I am quite partial to the Transplants), I was naturally horrified when I learned of Friday's fatal plane crash that seriously injured Travis Barker. The art of rock'n'roll drumming had been on my mind; I'd just received word that Earl Palmer, one of America's most important drummers, had died. Palmer can be heard on essential recordings by Little Richard, Frank Sinatra, Tom Waits, Jimmy Witherspoon, Julie London and Dinah Washington.

He's also the drummer on Richie Valen's "La Bamba" for crying out loud! And it's Palmer that makes Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band's "Express Yourself" one of the funkiest songs of all time.

Palmer worked with Don & Dewey on several of their most famous hits, including "Farmer John" and "The Letter". Those tracks, along with the 1959 instrumental "Jump Awhile" are contained on the absolutely delightful Jungle Hop collection.

Palmer was 83.

I hate the New York Yankees organization just a little less today. I practically fell off my couch last night when I heard Yankee Stadium's organist play a swinging version of Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite" during ESPN's broadcast of the final home game at the landmark. Hey, Kansas City Royals- I'm reluctant to suggest that you copy the Yankees, but how about replacing John Denver with Bird next season?

According to this video, a Mac Lethal DVD titled Bald and Beautiful is "coming soon."

I have no regrets about paying $15 to hear Jim White and the Steel Drivers perform Saturday at the Folly. Even so, it was one of those inconsequential shows that you realize (even as you're enjoying it) is destined to become merely a vague memory in a year or two. Here's Tim Finn's review.

Kansas City Click: The deliberately messed up noise of This Is My Condition will precede The Dead Science tonight at the Record Bar.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Anthony Crawford- The Noise Around Us


Anthony Crawford has the saddest MySpace page I've ever encountered. It's not like it's been abandoned; someone logged in yesterday. It wouldn't be a big deal if his web site wasn't blank.

Why should you care about Crawford's internet woes? The guitarist is in Neil Young's current touring band. They're playing 24 dates between between tomorrow and December 15, including an election night concert in my town.

By definition- at least in my world- that makes Crawford important. The first few seconds of "The Noise Around Us" could easily be mistaken for a track from Young's Harvest Moon. Crawford's sadly overlooked 1993 album was co-produced by Pete Anderson and Dusty Wakeman.

Visit Crawford's MySpace page if you like what you hear; he could use some friends.

I've been inside a few Hard Rock locations, but I've never quite grasped the mania so many people have for the establishments. Officials in Kansas City, Kansas, announced today that a combination Hard Rock casino, hotel and nightclub will be built adjacent to the city's racetrack. A quick glance at Hard Rock's music site indicates that their locations present live music only sporadically.

Kansas City Click: Bobby Watson leads his Live & Learn band tonight at the Blue Room.

I listened to Rapture for the first time in years last night. It still sounds great. Anita Baker will undoubtedly reprise much of that album Saturday night at the Midland by AMC.

The Gem Theater hosts Rich the Factor Sunday. The Kansas City rapper's Bucks Over Fame was supposed to have been released this week, although I'm told that 7th Heaven and Streetside have yet to receive it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Walter "Wolfman" Washington- Just My Imagination

Imagine it.

Ashford-Simpson. Holland-Dozier-Holland. Whitfield-Strong. Even the names of Motown Record's top songwriting teams seem magical. Norman Whitfield died Tuesday.

Many of Whitfield's songs- including "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and "Papa Was a Rolling Stone"- are in constant rotation in our culture of aural wallpaper. One of my favorites, Rose Royce's "I Wanna Get Next To You", has been spared from overexposure.

New Orleans blues and soul mainstay Walter "Wolfman" Washington puts a refreshing spin on Whitfield-Strong's "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)." Appropriately, he uses the song to remember Little Willie John, Nat "King" Cole and Louis Armstrong. It's from a reissue of a fine 1981 release.

Deleting MP3s is the new listening to B-sides.

I seem to miss out on the fun stuff at 7th Heaven. Sliccs Gotcha raps from the roof on this distorted clip.

I never thought I could tire of M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes," but the 18-month-old hit has been ubiquitous the past couple months.

Kansas City Click: Ron Block's former bandleader Alison Krauss (along with Robert Plant) will return to Starlight Theater next week. Block picks and grins in the intimate confines of the Mountain Music Shoppe tonight.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Clay: A Review

I've never featured a theatrical production at There Stands the Glass. I'll gladly make an exception for Clay. I caught the "hip hop musical" last weekend at Kansas City's Copaken Stage. After the Kansas City run ends September 28, Clay opens in New York at Lincoln Center's Duke Theater on October 6.

As this is a music blog, I won't rave about the spectacular performance of Matt Sax. I'll only suggest that Clay feels nothing like a one man show.

Familiar songs by Kanye West and Common filled the theater before the lights went down. That's misleading; Clay's actual music content is far different. I suspect the narrative style of The Streets served as the production's creative blueprint. Mike Skinner's "Blinded By the Lights", with its female vocal hooks acting as a Greek chorus, offers a sense of Clay's tone. Eminem's "Stan" might also have served as an inspiration.

I loved everything about Clay save its anti-climatic conclusion. We're led to believe that the protagonist's first single, the song that is destined to propel Clay and his mentor Sir John to stardom, is a radio hit. The song is just not very convincing.

I suggest that Clay's creative team contact Mike Skinner- quick snap!

Kansas City Click: Tonight's The Beautiful Bodies show at the Beast House sounds like a good time.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bheki Mseleku, 1955-2008


Bheki Mseleku, one of the most compelling pianists in jazz, died last week. Like fellow South African Abdullah Ibrahim, Mseleku brought new concepts and textures to the music. As his career developed Mseleku became associated with English jazz musicians including Courtney Pine. The saxophonist and several other Englishmen assist Mseleku on Celebration, but "Joy" is propelled by precisely the sort of groove I associate with Marvin "Smitty" Smith, the 1992 date's American drummer.

Forget my review. You need to see the incredible photos Keith Myers took of Norman Brown and Chante Moore on Saturday night.

Charlie Walker died Friday. This vintage Walker video will make you smile. (Tip via BGO.)

Richard Wright of Pink Floyd died today.

Soul great Marva Whitney posted a blog update over the weekend.

Kansas City Click: Cut Copy and the Presets will fill the dance floor at the Record Bar tonight.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Two Cow Garage- Your Humble Narrator

Closed book.

Speaking In Cursive, the forthcoming album by Two Cow Garage, is so shockingly good that it's forcing me to reassess the overall health of the alt-country genre.

Between No Depression ceasing print publication and many of the music's best artists following Jeff Tweedy out of the stylistic ghetto, I reckoned the sound was perilously close to receiving a grevious angel's escort to heaven. Yet Speaking In Cursive is no moldy exercise in nostalgia; Two Cow Garage's passionate new songs teem with vitality. I suspect the Ohio band learned a few tricks from the Hold Steady. With the addition of a keyboard player, they now swing as if Guy Clark had hijacked the E Street Band.

Need more? The boys go all helter skelter on a live version of the Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down."

Thinking of "Galveston"... (I've seen Jimmy Webb perform, but until I uncovered this video, I never realized that his ears are even more enormous than mine.)

Sakes alive! This tale about partying with Head East is hilarious.

Kansas City Click: Here's something no other music blogger would write- I'd gladly pay $9.89 to see Puddle of Mudd at the Midland tonight.

Ruben "El Gato Negro" Ramos is Saturday's headliner at Fiesta Hispana.

It's difficult to believe, but Awilo Longomba is supposedly performing Sunday at the Roxy in Overland Park.

(Image from Two Cow Garage's MySpace.)

Irma Thomas- Zero Willpower

Zero sound.

The late career renaissance of Irma Thomas is deeply rewarding for fans of rhythm and blues. Simply Grand, her acclaimed new album, might also provide encouragement to the Marva Whitneys and Ida McBeths of the world. It's possible that their best work may still lie ahead. Thomas' out of print Safe With Me, recorded in 1979, hasn't aged well. This Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham song is probably its best track. Look out for the spoken word bit.

Forget music- Miles Bonny is a great photographer! The images from his European trip on his blog are incredible. The evocative video for "Miles Gets Open" serves as an excellent primer on Bonny's approach and as a travelogue of downtown Kansas City.

Am I just resistant to change, or is "Love Lockdown" the worst song of Kanye West's career?

Kansas City Click: Shawty Lo and an enormous cast of locals- including There Stands the Glass favorite Sliccs Gotcha- are scheduled to appear at Moda Mansion tonight.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New Klezmer Trio- Phrases

Edited out.

My pal BGO suggested that I feature outstanding clarinetist Anat Cohen here at There Stands the Glass. Her intriguing new album was released yesterday. Instead, here's an experimental clarinet showcase by New Klezmer Trio from an obscure collection that also features John Zorn's Masada and the Klezmatics. It's listed for sale here. Fifteen years later, clarinetist Ben Goldberg is an associate of Tin Hat. He makes a racket in this skronky video.

It's been a full year since I last pledged allegiance to The Driftwood Singers. My favorite music bloggers recently wrote about their cosmic encounters in Room #8.

The Popper has a basic but captivating video for "It's Like That." It's pure Kansas City.

Kansas City Click: The Garrett Nordstrom Situation provide the soundtrack at JP Wine Bar tonight.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Adullesence- Something Real

No more reality.

Is Topeka the next hip hop hot spot? I raved about the Kansas capital's Stik Figa three months ago. Now it's Adullesence's turn. "Something Real," one of the tracks on his free download, opens with a deep breath and is anchored by a vintage soul sample. It deserves an audience beyond the state of Kansas. Stik Figa and Adullesence also collaborate under The Only Ones banner.

I reviewed last night's Motorhead, Misfits and Valient Thorr concert.

I caught John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers at Knuckleheads on Friday night.

Kansas City rapper James Christos created a credible video for "Higher (Opus 13)."

A Grand Don't Come For Free was my favorite album of 2004 but the Streets' subsequent output has disappointed me. I have high hopes for the new release based on the free (tagged) download of "The Escapist" from Vice. The video is almost perfect.

Harry Dean Stanton plays the role of an obsessive Bob Dylan bootlegger in a new video for Dylan's "Dreamin' of You."

Kansas City Click: Baltimore's Wye Oak strum at the Record Bar tonight. They're joined by The Expassionates.

(Image from Adullesence's MySpace.)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Chris Connor- Kansas City

No more Kansas City wine.

I usually cringe at every rendition of Leiber and Stoller's "Kansas City." I hear it so often that it's just completely played out for me. The impossibly bright voice of hometown girl Chris Connor, however, adds a refreshing twist to the standard. It doesn't hurt that her accompanyists include Oliver Nelson, Joe Newman and Phil Woods. The 1962 session is included on this outstanding compilation. The eighty-year-old is still among us. Here's live footage from 1995.

I once harbored a schoolboy crush on the waifish "Ways To Be Wicked"-era Maria McKee. And there's no denying the beauty and commercial instincts of Faith Hill. Last night Sarah Buxton found the sweet spot between the two artists at her enchantingly carefree performance on the Power & Light stage. A photo I took doesn't begin to capture Buxton's charm.

Kansas City Click: Excellent jazz guitarist Mike Moreno performs at Jardine's tonight.

The Crossroads Music Festival is Saturday.

The VooDoo Lounge offers the dream bill of Motorhead, the Misfits and Airbourne on Sunday.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Grady Tate- Don't Fence Me In


The sad news of Jimmy Cleveland's passing compelled me to review his credits at AllMusic. The trombonist played on hundreds of sessions for artists including Miles, Billie, Monk, Sonny and Dinah. I also spotted a listing for Grady Tate's Windmills of My Mind. The jazz drummer's 1968 album is comparable to the cosmopolitan classics of Lou Rawls and Mel Torme. It's insanely great. The relaxed blues of "T.N.T." is perhaps the album's least memorable song; I selected it because it features Cleveland's bright brass.

Rich the Factor's contribution to Young Doe's "Flip Flop" is excellent.

The '70s orientation of yesterday's post made me wonder what happened to Mac Davis. Until I punched it up on YouTube this morning, I hadn't heard this 1972 smash since I was a child. Now I know why- "Girl you're a hot-blooded woman-child/And it's warm where you're touching me." Are you kidding? I'm calling the cops right now!

Amy Rigby and Wreckless Eric are touring together. Here's their new joint MySpace page.

Kansas City Click: Country up-and-comer Sarah Buxton sings on the the Power & Light stage tonight.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Jerry Reed, 1937-2008


It should come as no surprise to There Stands the Glass readers to hear I've always been a music nerd. I recall toting a little transistor radio around even before I entered elementary school. Like all kids then and now, I couldn't resist novelty songs. I loved the goofy hits of Ray Stevens, Bobby Bare, Jim Stafford and Jerry Reed. (Heck yeah, I was a country boy.) "Amos Moses" and "When You're Hot, You're Hot" were touchstone songs of my childhood. Of course, there was a lot more to Reed than the cartoonish redneck persona portrayed on "East Bound and Down" and "U.S. Male." "Nervous Breakdown" shows a different side of the talented star. It's on this essential compilation. Reed died Monday.

It seems so unlikely. Peter Hammill is scheduled to appear at the Cashew on October 4!

Kansas City Click: I often feel I'm the only pop music fan in the Kansas City area who has yet to swoon over The Republic Tigers' "Buildings & Mountains." Maybe I'll get it if I attend their free show tonight on the Power & Light stage.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Rachael Davis- Fragile


I can't imagine not having fun at Kansas City's annual Irish festival. I wrote about the opening night here. I was so taken by Millish that I decided to see what other Michigan artists I might be overlooking. Rachael Davis is one of Millish's top MySpace friends. She's a straightforward folkie who reminds me of the tough but tender work of Iris DeMent and Tish Hinojosa. The simple zen of "Fragile" sold me: "I am not who I would like to be/I'm just who I am right now." Taken from Live In Breman, Germany, "Fragile" is also one of six songs Davis has made available for download at her MySpace. Here's a rough video of a live performance.

Why aren't you listening to Tech N9ne? My review of Saturday's concert may answer that question.

Kansas City Click: The Kansas City Ballet performs at 6 p.m. today at Loose Park.

(Image from Davis' MySpace account.)