Friday, January 30, 2009

John Martyn, 1948-2009


When I first began toiling at record stores my various managers inevitably turned out to be huge fans of John Martyn. While I respected Martyn, I never became a member of his small but rabid cult following. My bosses were the usually the types with tastes for expensive stereos and designer drugs. I've never been a part of those scenes, either. So when I played this live 1990 Martyn disc yesterday for the first time in a decade I was shocked at what I heard. The Dave Matthews Band sounds almost exactly like late-period Martyn. Mumbled vocals, odd vocal cadences, saxophone accompaniment, melodic bass guitar, loose improvisational feel- all suggest that Matthews was, in fact, Martyn's informal apprentice. Martyn died yesterday. (Tip via BGO.)

I'm saddened by the deaths of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Billy Powell and Welsh guitarist Mickey Gee. (And again, both tips via BGO.)

Even with a new album and his half-time show at the Super Bowl looming, I don't recall a time when my enthusiasm for Bruce Springsteen has been lower. I'm just not feeling it, Boss.

Kansas City Click: The Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey will likely bring many first-time visitors to Jardine's tonight.

John Scofield stars at the Folly Saturday.

Combichrist shocks The Record Bar on the Lord's Day.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Christopher Hollyday- Impromptu

Planned closure.

Most jazz fans, myself included, can't resist hyperbole. Breathless superlatives and exaggerated claims of greatness are probably attempts to compensate for the moribund state of the music. It's never more gaudy than the giddy hype that often accompanies The Next Big Thing. Poor Grace Kelly is the victim du jour. "Maybe Grace Kelly is the one," Phil Woods gushed about the teenager. "You never know." Almost twenty years ago saxophonist Christopher Hollyday was the subject of lavish praise. He was only 19 when he recorded On Course for a major label. It is, in fact, very good. Alas, Hollyday didn't become Wynton Marsalis, Norah Jones or Harry Connick, Jr. In fact, he dropped largely out of public view. Here's an udpate.

Buddies are already ribbing me about my flattering review of last night's Jewel concert. She's not Leonard Cohen. So what? People didn't buy tickets to hear "Sisters of Mercy."

Make time to screen the remarkable video for P.O.S.'s "Drumroll." Life during wartime, indeed.

Kansas City rapper The Popper is pleased that he has a "Black President To Represent Me".

Kansas City Click: Makuza should engage dancers tonight at the Blue Room.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Left Handed Scientists- 33 Degrees

The experiment has ended.

I reluctantly attended a Cornel West lecture last week. I left inspired. (Here are my notes.) West's even-keeled talk was almost entirely devoid of inflammatory rhetoric or half-baked conspiracy theories. I'm not much for crazy talk, but when the mood strikes me I turn to acts like Left Handed Scientists. Kill Your Computer is loaded with intriguing political concepts and sci-fi lunacy. They're like a backpack-wearing Wu-Tang Clan. I bought my copy of their impressive 2008 underground album directly from San Diego's Access Music.

I like Slipknot. There- I said it. Here's my review of Saturday's show with Coheed & Cambria and Trivium.

"Oh, we got both kinds. We got Country and Western." - Honky tonk barmaid on the music played at her establishment in The Blues Brothers, 1980

"Music seriously is one of the most important things to me, regardless if it's "punk" or "emo" it has helped me through some bad times and also made really rad times even better." - Newsletter from a highly respected record label, 2009

Kansas City Click: Clint Ashlock leads the Monday jam session at the Blue Room.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Imperials- Backyard Compost


As I sat in a bar prior to the AC/DC show (see below) the other night, the bartender cued up "The Witch" by the Sonics. I'd forgotten that the primitive relic from 1964 is a perfect distillation of everything I love about rock'n'roll. Yet The Sonics were just one of the era's countless garage rock bands based in the Pacific Northwest. This excellent compilation contains over two dozen examples of the R&B-oriented side of the scene.

Men are idiots. We drool. We guzzle beer. We laugh at crude bodily functions. And we love AC/DC. I saw the band perform Wednesday. So good! So big! So dumb! I'm still smiling. I also appreciated The Answer. The Irish band opened with a throwback set of heavy boogie straight from the playbooks of Blue Cheer, Humble Pie and Thin Lizzy. A free download of "Highwater or Hell" is available at their MySpace. (Here's a proper review of AC/DC's effort.)

I reference The Bon Ton Soul Accordion Band at my personal blog today. And while it remains wildly unpopular, I'm still really proud of my work at Plastic Sax.

Kansas City Click: Kings of Leon touch down at the Uptown Theater tonight.

Slipknot, Coheed and Cambria and Trivium attack Sprint Center on Saturday.

Angela Winbush, Slave and Blue Magic are among the acts scheduled to appear inside the acoustically problematic Municipal Auditorium on Sunday.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

David "Fathead" Newman, 1933-2009


I was shocked the first time I saw David "Fathead" Newman in person. In the era prior to internet and cable, a man's name conveyed a lot. And "Fathead," obviously, had a great one. His resume was even more impressive. One of the most important sidemen of the 20th century, Newman participated in classic sessions with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway and many others. So it was all the more shocking to discover that this musical giant was a skinny, unassuming guy. He's heard here- fittingly, I think- on a relaxed 1969 session. That's Charles Kynard on organ, Blue Mitchell on trumpet, Grant Green on guitar, Jimmy Lewis on bass and Mickey Roker on drums. Newman died January 20. (Tip via AZ.)

I'm trying to avoid getting sucked into this season of American Idol. Thankfully, a very knowledgeable pal covers the show with appropriate vitriol at The Other Door. The site's tagline is "We watch American Idol so you don't have to." What a service!

Kansas City Click: I intend to stop by The Phoenix tonight. A guitarist without a MySpace account is booked at the downtown jazz club.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Klaatu- Perpetual Motion Machine


I'm nonplussed by the new Animal Collective album. Its deliberate obtuseness strikes me as a mash up of folk weirdos the Incredible String Band, the arty pretentiousness of a Rick Wakeman solo album and the melodic sense of Klaatu. The latter band, famously, were not the Beatles. Nor were they Electric Light Orchestra or the Moody Blues. Klaatu's body of work, however, is charming precisely because it's more modestly unassuming. "Perpetual Motion Machine," from 1978's Sir Army Suit, is typical. If, by chance, you're not hip to Klaatu, the obvious place to start is "Calling Occupants (Of Interplanetary Craft)," the first track of their first album. Here's a fan video.

I rarely reveal specific details about my previous life. I'm compelled to mention, however, that as both a former vendor and former employee of a Florida-based concern, I saddened by this news.

I just can't understand why Kansas City hip hop artist Mon. E.G. didn't include me in his new video. What's Rick Ross have that I don't?

Kansas City Click: The Good Foot perform at Davey's tonight.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Fail At Rascal Flatts

I thought it would be fun. Boy, was I wrong.

I have deep admiration for the shiny gloss and technical perfection displayed on Rascal Flatt's hits. I happily sing along to their songs when I monitor country radio in my car. Yet until last night, I'd never seen them perform.

It's going to take some time to recover.

Their concert Saturday night at the Sprint Center was excruciating.

Just how bad was it? I witnessed almost 300 live music performances in 2008. In the 18 days of the new year, I've already caught 15 live acts. I disliked Rascal Flatts' effort more than any of those shows. In fact, the last time musicians made me so miserable was during Shania Twain's dismal concert at Kemper Arena in 2003.

It's not that Rascal Flatts didn't try. Their light show and extended stage were impressive. And the band gave it their all. Yet the aggressive blandness and shameless pandering- "I see some of the greatest country music fans in the entire world"- rubbed me the wrong way.

But what do I know? I was seated amid a sea of ecstatic twelve-year-old girls and delirious gay men. They loved it.

"I thought black was supposed to be slimming," a man seated next to me hissed as opening act Jessica Simpson strutted across the stage in a tiny black dress.

Whatever. I thought she was gorgeous. And she can sing.

Simpson's obvious charms, however, are poorly suited to an arena setting. She could be a spectacular cabaret singer in the tradition of Peggy Lee and Marilyn Monroe. I'd happily pay top dollar to see her perform in a small club.

Rascal Flatts? Not so much.

(Here's a proper review of the concert.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sweet Water- Stereo

No stereo. No mono. Just silence.

"Don't stay away for too long," Sweet Water warns on "Rock Steady". The band achieved more than a few moments in the international spotlight in the '90s with songs like "Superstar". Their first album in ten years, Clear the Tarmac, streets January 20. The wry pop smarts Sweet Water shares with Pavement, Weezer and the Lemonheads remains intact. I wish more bands would stay away longer if I knew that they, like Sweet Water, would come back with a vengeance.

I received a Facebook friend request from a person with a name I didn't recognize. It's facile of me, I know, but I immediately scrolled to his notes in the "Favorite Music" category. "80's music," the stranger wrote. "Cars, Asia, Def Leppard, INXS, A Flock of Seagulls, The Cure, REM... Anything but Country except Faith Hill, Shania Twain, and Garth Brooks." It's unintentional on the part of my potential "friend," but that's an incredibly damning summation of the state of contemporary country music.

Kansas City Click: Cedric Burnside and Lightnin Malcolm team up tonight at Knuckleheads.

I intend to catch the new ringleaders of the Saturday afternoon jam session at Jardine's.

Jessica Simpson opens for Rascal Flatts at the Sprint Center on Sunday.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Neko Case- People Got a Lotta Nerve

I lost my nerve.

I vividly recall the first time I saw Neko Case perform. I slowly gravitated from the back of the tavern to the lip of the stage. She was doing a straightforward roadhouse country thing back then (I'm guessing it was '97 or '98.) It was extraordinarily hot inside the venue, and I wondered how a thick sheen of sweat could make Case look magical while people looked as my drenched carcass in disgust. She's since become a celebrated standard-bearer of the refined roots crowd, part Tom Waits and part Johnny Cash. The approach hasn't always resonated with me. This tough, Paisley Underground-style song, however, has me eagerly anticipating the March release of Middle Cyclone.

I didn't see it coming. Scott Weiland was great last night. Not so surprisingly, the Architects were also excellent. Here's my review.

Kansas City Click: A date with a slab of ribs will prevent me from attending the "Gems of the Baroque: France, Spain and Latin America" concert at KU's Edwards campus tonight.

(Original blurry image of Neko Case in 2007 by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Andy Scott- Rainy Day

No more rain.

They don't write songs like that anymore. Andy Scott's "Rainy Day" crushes that cliche. It's just one of several songs on his new album Don't Tempt Fate that evoke the nonchalant depth of Hoagy Carmichael's 1956 date as a leader. "Who Doesn't Call," complemented by an engaging animated video, is another. It doesn't hurt that Scott's cast includes Sam Yahel on keyboards, Ross Traut on guitar and Victor Lewis on drums. Madeleine Peyroux sings on one track. Fans of Jessie Harris and Mose Allison will be enthralled by Scott.

Show of the year? Less than two weeks into January and the year in live music may have already peaked for me. Here's my review of an extraordinary Lil Wayne concert.

It's so cool that Beyonce's new single is about the New Wave rock band Devo. Check the hook- "I-I like Devo, I-I like Devo, I-I like Devo."

I freaked out at Jay McShann's birthday party last night.

Kansas City Click: Independence's own Alo Key visits the Record Bar tonight.

Scott Weiland does his thing at the VooDoo Lounge on Wednesday.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Delaney Bramlett, 1939-2008


Don't misinterpret the delayed acknowledgment of Delaney Bramlett's death at There Stands the Glass' as disinterest in the singer, songwriter and musician. Leon Russell aside, Bramlett was my favorite artist among his generation's gifted assortment of American roots rockers. His style felt exceedingly honest and sincere. Here's his New York Times obituary. Check this surreal version of "Never Ending Song Of Love," a song he co-wrote with Bonnie Bramlett, for further proof of Bramlett's cultural significance. The original version is contained on this essential collection that's currently selling for only nine dollars at the major online retailer. Even without the fantastic liner notes, it'd be a bargain.

The first nominee for my favorite song of 2009 is Scooter Smiff's "Head of My Class". No, I'm not kidding.

Kansas City Click: Lil Wayne, T-Pain, Keyshia Cole, Gym Class Heroes and Keri Hilson hit the Sprint Center tonight.

Joshua Bell fiddles at the Folly on Saturday.

Jardine's hosts a fund-raising party for their new piano on Sunday.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Mad Marlon- Guerrillas In the Trunk


The internet persona of Mad Marlon is no less compelling than that of the most popular viral video stars. The 87 videos the self-proclaimed "Wyandotte Ambassador" posted a couple months ago are astoundingly odd. Yet those curiosities would be of little interest to me if the new material from his forthcoming release wasn't so mind-bendingly outstanding. In a genre filled with copycats, Mad Marlon owns a refreshingly unique and subversive voice. Call him the Kool Keith of Kansas. Wayward Blog and Demencha have also taken note of the "futuristic thug."

Everybody knows that time changes everything. My opinion of Ron Asheton's work on guitar is no exception. I was shocked when I bought Raw Power as a kid. "This guy can't play," I thought. I also made certain that my folks never spotted the album cover. After guitarists like Greg Ginn, Dr. Know and Keith Levene changed my perception of noise, I fully embraced Asheton's sound on the Stooges albums. I eventually got to see him play at this in-store event. But my tastes had changed once again. Now I can hardly bear to hear Asheton's blues-less, nihilistic sound. Asheton was found dead in his home earlier this week.

Kansas City Click: Shay Estes croons at Jardine's tonight.

Monday, January 05, 2009

John Cage- Prelude II, The Seasons


I can scratch another item off my list of mandatory life experiences.

Last night I witnessed The People's Liberation Big Band perform John Cage's 4'33". I laughed out loud through much of it. My full account is at Plastic Sax.

Margaret Leng Tan interprets several of Cage's piano works on the immensely listenable Daughters of the Lonesome Isle. I'm featuring the disc's briefest piece. It's only 48 seconds, yet after listening to it on repeat for ten minutes I feel like I'm only beginning to comprehend its structure and conceptual ambition.

I reveal the status of my compulsive music addiction here.

Kansas City Click: The Sham top tonight's bill at the Record Bar.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Transmittens- Meet Me At the Swings

Recess is over.

Transmittens aren't just cute. There's something genuinely profound about the way Lawrence duo Jen Weidl and Danny Rowland contrast childlike innocence with adult impulses. "Meet Me At the Swings" is willfully silly, yet lines like "is your name Ernie or Bert?" take on deeper, almost sinister, meaning. The pair told told Richard Gintowt that they hope to attract the attention of K Records. That makes sense. Additional insights into the act can be gleaned from their unreasonably adorable video for "Cow Clouds."

I'm still pouting about failing to win Monday's music trivia contest at the Record Bar. My account is posted here.

Kansas City Click: Roots rocker James Intveld plays Knuckleheads tonight.

The mighty Hammerlord hit the Riot Room Saturday.

The People's Liberation Big Band crowd into the Record Bar on Sunday.

(Image of Transmittens from their MySpace page.)