Monday, August 31, 2009

Review: Lee "Scratch" Perry at the Beaumont

Why do I even bother going to reggae shows? I don't touch ganja and I'm notoriously impatient. I'm just not equipped to "be happy".

It was disappointing but not surprising, consequently, that the guy working the door of the Beaumont Club a couple nights ago warned me that the night's headliner, Lee "Scratch" Perry, wasn't even in the building when I arrived after ten. As I forked over thirty dollars, I advised the bouncers that I'd burn the place down Scratch-stylee if the legend wasn't on stage in an hour's time.

The Westport club was nearly torched.

After an hour of listening to his backup band riff tediously- they resembled a Robin Trower tribute act that had just learned to play reggae three months ago- an unmistakable voice cried, "Hello hello hello hello hello hello hello!"

My frustration evaporated as one of my true musical heroes appeared from behind a curtain. Nothing he performed was remotely as good as this or even this. I was pleased, however, that he still possesses an obsession with fire. As a woman says in that loony clip, the Upsetter "lives in a sort of different dimension." I even caught a glimpse of it when I looked into the eyes of the 73-year-old legend as I shook his hand.

Joel Francis wrote a proper review of the show. And the Pitch's photographer has a really nice camera.

Kansas City native Chris Connor has died. Here's Steve Paul's obituary. The jazz vocalist was featured at There Stands the Glass in 2008.

Kansas City Click: AU makes new age music for hipsters. The group drones Tuesday at the Pistol Social Club.

(Original images by There Stands the Glass.)

Review: Diverse

Best wishes.

Diverse. What an atrocious name for a band! Not surprisingly, the group's song titles are similarly lame.

Those two objections aside, I absolutely adore the self-titled debut album by Diverse. In fact, it's my favorite jazz album recorded in the Kansas city area since Passages, the 2006 release by the late vocalist Gregory Hickman-Williams.

Diverse recalls the pleasant grooves of seventies albums by the Blackbyrds, Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine and Grover Washington, Jr. Yet Diverse is anything but a throwback act. The rhythm section, for instance, often implies an keen awareness of hip hop.

Not every note in Bobby Watson's hands-off production is perfect, but everything seems entirely heartfelt and completely honest. It's the musical equivalent of a veteran basketball coach doing little more than tossing a ball on the court and telling his team to play hard. And the five young members of Diverse do just that. Each is an outstanding player, but it's the inventive efforts of drummer Ryan Lee and keyboardist John Brewer that contribute the most to the band's unique identity.

Diverse works best as a cohesive whole; no one moment is definitive. Still, fans of the classic Blue Note sound will be impressed by the opening line of "Vitality." It sounds as if it was pulled from an unreleased Kenny Dorham date. The melodic "B-Day Song" could be mistaken for a Robert Glasper cover of a Chick Corea tune. And Najee would applaud the breezy "Sojourner." The cumulative effect makes Diverse an ideal soundtrack for both backyard barbecues and intimate candlelit dinners.

Diverse doesn't play smooth jazz. But their jazz goes down smooth.

I will happily pay money too see both Adam Lambert and Allison Iraheta perform in 2010. Here's my review of last night's American Idol arena show.

Jason Harper covered a few of last weekend's Charlie Parker-related events in the Kansas City area. He offers a dispatch from the Sunday's graveside function and editorializes about what he characterizes as Saturday's "Bird Flu". I was there too- this fuzzy shot was taken Saturday- and generally concur with his assessments.

Kansas City Click: The New Familiars join the Rural Grit crew Monday at the Brick.

(Original image of Diverse trumpeter Hermon Mehari by Plastic Sax.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Robert Lee Nighthawk- My Friend Has Forsaken Me

Friends no more.

My seemingly perverse obsession with the state of jazz has placed me on the periphery of today's fierce "Can Jazz Be Saved?"-related infighting. While it has also seen better days, the blues is no such mortal danger. It will never die. The immediate appeal of this track, recorded in Aurora, Illinois in 1937, remains universal. Twenty-five early sides by Robert Nighthawk, a.k.a. Robert Lee McCoy, are featured on this compilation. And everyone simply must see this incredible footage. Nighthawk's tough performance- "I'm gonna murder my baby..."- is fantastic, but it's the crowd's response that's completely mesmerizing. (For the record, I dance like the guy at 3:03.)

A new video from Miles Bonny was filmed at several of Kansas City's most scenic locations.

Call me square and old-fashioned. I love Anthony Hamilton's "The Point of It All".

The 2nd Annual International Conference on Minimalist Music begins next week in Kansas City.

After much deliberation, I've decided not to feature the late Rashied Ali. I simply don't possess the right music for a There Stands the Glass post. Go here instead. The remarkable jazz drummer died August 12.

Kansas City Click: Young jazz act Diverse perform at the Blue Room on Friday.

Two concurrent events- the Yardbird Jazz & Film Festival and the Bird Lives Festival- take place Saturday in the vicinity of 18th & Vine. Details are here.

The legendary Lee "Scratch" Perry is at the Beaumont on Sunday.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ellie Greenwich, 1940-2009


It's an almost incomprehensible concept, but someone actually wrote "River Deep, Mountain High". Surely, it seems, something so monumental must have existed since the beginning of time. "Be My Baby", "Then He Kissed Me" and "Leader of the Pack" are also integral contributions to today's popular culture. Click the links if you need to be reminded of each song's epic grandeur.

While it's true that we wouldn't remember these songs quite as fondly were it not for the contributions of giants like Phil Spector and Tina Turner, each classic was written or co-written by Ellie Greenwich.

Greenwich died yesterday. This disc includes the entirety of her 1968 and 1973 solo albums. The glorious "Baby Baby Baby" was included on the former.

I probably gained more insight into the minds of teenage girls from Greenwich than from Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy and Judy Blume combined. Consequently, I'm willing to forgive Greenwich for "Chapel of Love", a ditty that makes even happily married men cringe.

Soulja Boy? Is that you? (He just wants to be "Successful.")

The new Raekwon is- dare I say it?- great.

Bongo Berry, a Kansas City-area children's musician, died unexpectedly yesterday. He was 55. He seemed like the picture of health when I saw him at Jiggle Jam in May.

Kansas City Click: Look At These F***ing Hipsters Sorry- wrong blog. French Horn Rebellion perform Thursday at the Record Bar.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The V-Roys- Wind Down

Wound down.

Steve Earle was a bummer Saturday night. Don't misunderstand- artistically, his performance was excellent. But the combination of the solo-acoustic format and Earle's focus on Townes Van Zandt's sad songs didn't exactly make for a good time. Here's my review. I saw Earle tour behind Guitar Town and Copperhead Road, and I longed for a similarly rocking band. Earle certainly knows how it's done. He produced, for instance, the The V-Roys's excellent 1996 debut Just Add Ice. It represents precisely the sort of Southern blues-rock that I was hankering for Saturday.

John E. Carter of the Flamingos and the Dells died August 21. I pulled out "Stay In My Corner" for the first time in years when I heard the bad news. It sounds better than ever.

Joe Schwab of Euclid Records displays a few amazing folk art album covers.

Here's my review of last night's Lil Wayne concert.

Kansas City Click: Deke Dickerson returns to Knuckleheads on Tuesday.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Jim Dickinson, 1941-2009


"I got a honky tonk heart and a juke box brain," Calvin Russell sings. "I got the rock and roll rhythm flowing in my veins."

Russell might have written that line specifically for Jim Dickinson, the producer of his excellent 1999 album Sam. Russell explains his career in this remarkable video.

Dickinson's list of credits reads like the soundtrack to the Saturday night of my dreams. The Flamin' Groovies. The Rolling Stones. Toots & the Maytals. Big Star. Bob Dylan. Tav Falco. Furry Lewis. Mudhoney. The Texas Tornados. The Replacements. Joe "King" Carrasco. Green On Red. Aretha Franklin. He even produced two of my favorite surprises of recent years, Lucero's Nobody's Darlings and the Tarbox Ramblers' Fix Back East.

Dickinson died August 15.

Kanye West is pushing There Stands the Glass favorite and my fellow Kansan XV at his blog.

In her blog at MySpace, Kansas City, Kansas, resident Marva Whitney announced today that her "first solo show in New York in 40 years" will take place on September 26. How about a gig here, Marva?

Maybe I should try to hitch a ride to next weekend's Nebraska Pop Festival with the Transmittens.

Kansas City Click: I don't think it's supposed to be a secret show, but Dave Alvin's Friday gig at the Folly Theater sure seems that way.

Lakeside will take the audience at Saturday's Soul Food Festival at Parade Park on a "Fantastic Voyage".

Lawrence pop masters Mammoth Life perform at the Record Bar on Sunday.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Review: George Strait's Twang

Twang EPK at YouTube

If you've heard one George Strait album, the mantra goes, then you've heard 'em all.

Then why am I the proud owner of over a dozen of Strait's 38 albums?

I bought his first album, Strait Country, as a new release, in 1981. The first song on that first album, "Unwound", is still one of my favorites. And Strait sings "El Rey" , the final song of his predictably fine new release Twang, in Spanish. The two tracks serve as bookends for (literally) days of great music.

Sure, a lot of it is formulaic and sappy. But Strait is also the most prolific and expert practitioner of my most cherished country music tradition- the drinkin'-to-forget song. "Living For the Night" is Twang's real keeper in that category.

Strait name-checks Hank Williams on the title track and Louis Armstrong on "Where Have I Been All My Life." Guys like me love that stuff.

I also appreciate the fact that it took Strait to finally break the six-week stranglehold that Michael Jackson's Number Ones had on the top of the charts. Loyal readers of There Stands the Glass know that I cried when M.J. died. But the tears I shed as I listen to Strait's hurtin' songs have an entirely different taste.

It's fitting then, at least from my perspective, that "King George" displaced the King of Pop.

Until Tuesday, I'd never seen Over the Rhine. They absolutely floored me. I had no idea what I'd been missing. Here's my review of their stellar performance.

Between the sets of Ari Hest and Over the Rhine, I snuck into the Blondie show down the street. The veterans looked and sounded phenomenal. And I got to hear "Hanging On a Telephone"!

I encourage you to share the Gnawledge.

This Blue Note/Wu-Tang mash-up is dope. (Found via NPR's jazz blog.)

Kansas City Click: The rarest of events in Kansas City- an in-store performance- takes place with Micro Giant at Streetside Records Thursday. It's followed by a proper gig at the Riot Room.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Les Paul, 1915-2009


Is it supposed to sound like that? That's the question I ask myself every time I hear Les Paul. Even the squarest selections on this terrific compilation crackle with weird experimentation. "Brazil," a track from 1947, is typical. Perhaps the enormous attention paid to Paul's death will inspire a new generation to discover the innovator's work. Nothing against Hendrix, but the world would certainly be a better place if more guitarists were also influenced by Paul's imaginative catalog.

James Christos blasts KPRS.

Kansas City Click: What are the chances that my favorite Blondie song will be performed Tuesday at Crossroads?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Review: Blind Pilot at the Record Bar

Maybe it's time I stop making fun of my friend.

"Henry" and I are both incorrigible music fiends. We have an informal contest to see which one of us can catch the most live performances. (I'm at about 200 for 2009 but Henry is winning.) The funny part is that we have wildly different tastes. I'm obsessed with the Knowles sisters, hip hop, metal and jazz. Henry favors girly folk singers. We don't share much common ground.

Partly because I recently featured the band at There Stands the Glass, Henry insisted meet up Thursday for Blind Pilot's show at the Record Bar.

My friend is on to something. Blind Pilot was absolutely exquisite.

Working as a sextet, their delicate chamber folk completely enchanted me. Intricate arrangements featuring unlikely instruments including vibraphone, harmonium, trumpet, banjo and dulcimer were tasteful rather than fussy. Bandleader Israel Nebeker isn't exactly charismatic, but it didn't matter. Blind Pilot's music is best experienced while gently swaying with eyes closed.

The capacity audience consisted largely of attractive young women and simpering men. Thankfully, Henry's calming presence kept me on my best behavior during Blind Pilot's hypnotic 55-minute set. Consequently, I didn't spoil a man's marriage proposal during this song. (She said "yes.")

This rough fan footage reveals the night's sole flaw- insanely inconsiderate chatter from the back of the room. Blind Pilot could use a few more uptempo songs like this to win over the oblivious few.

I'm not sure if I'm strong enough to forsake mercilessly mocking Henry and his love of what I call "NPR rock."

But we'll always have Blind Pilot.

The opening set by Sons of Great Dane was solid, but I was too distracted by the audience's bizarre behavior to give the Kansas City band my full attention. The room was packed, yet everyone excluding myself stood no closer than six feet from the stage. It's as if the entire audience was wearing dog shock collars to avoid an invisible fence. The moment Sons of Great Dane's set ended, the crowd rushed to the lip of the stage.

Even Henry laughed at that lame move.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Mike Seeger, 1933-2009

Thanks, Mike.

"If he dies I'll tan his skin and if he lives I'll ride him again." The line from The New Lost City Ramblers' version of "Old Johnny Booker Won't Do" is an apt way to remember the late Mike Seeger. He died August 7. Few individuals contributed more to the ongoing rediscovery and reinvention of American music. Yes, Mike was the half-brother of Pete, but where the latter is notoriously strident, Mike seemed to focus on music. Honestly, I'd consider trading Pete's entire catalog for two or three collections of Mike's straightforward folk music. He relates charming stories about his childhood here. "Old Johnny Booker Won't Do" is from the Rambers' wonderfully titled Out Standing In Their Field. I wholeheartedly recommend virtually everything by the Ramblers as well as all of Mike's solo albums.

I took no pleasure in trashing Wednesday's Blues Traveler concert. This fan footage is all too representative.

Get a load of all that hair! I like the new video for Lonely H's "The Singer." The song is like a mash-up of The Eagles' "Peaceful Easy Feeling" and Johnny Paycheck's "(Don't Take Her) She's All I Got." And yeah, that's intended as a compliment.

I defy anyone not to like Brother Ali's new track.

My friend and neighbor Mike Webber is interviewed about his stint at Caper's Corner record store.

Alas, it looks like There Stands the Glass will return to its status as an obituary site for the foreseeable future. I'll try to toss in a few non-death posts in an attempt to stave off the unrelenting gloom.

Kansas City Click: Hobo Tone appears at Bodyworks Friday.

The Avett Brothers, two of my favorite beardos, open for Railroad Earth Saturday at Crossroads.

Carolin Pook's Sunday gig at Jardine's looks promising.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Review: Yonder Mountain String Band at Crossroads

Banjos and mandolins sound sublime when they ricochet off buildings in midtown Kansas City.

Other obligations forced me to arrive late and leave early to last night's Yonder Mountain String Band concert at Crossroads. My inconvenient schedule allowed me to experience an unexpectedly effective psychedelic sound mix outside the gates of the outdoor venue. Crossroads has a reliably solid sound system, but the echo-laden remix enjoyed by hundreds of fans who chose to enjoy the show from nearby parking lots was in many ways superior.

The other not-so-surprising revelation was that I could smell the crowd of 2,000 from a block away. (That explains the accompanying image.)

Once inside Crossroads I joined one of the happiest, hoopiest crowds I've encountered in a long time. And why not? Music like this goes down easy on a warm summer evening.

One of the night's biggest cheers came in response to a Split Lip Rayfield reference. But where Kansas' alternative bluegrass act works with a punk and metal sensibility, Yonder Mountain evokes Jerry Garcia.

Grateful Dead t-shirts abounded for good reason. With their long pauses between songs and sincere roots-based jams, the Colorado band resembles the Dead in both spirit and approach.

The cumulative effect was so delightful that I seriously considered growing dreadlocks and joining the tribe. Only later did I realize that it was just the secondhand smoke talking.

It's the talk of the town. In a music trivia match Monday at the Record Bar, my teammates and I failed to identify a Charlie Parker track. How humiliating! My excuse? Emcee Robert Moore seemingly used a remastered mix that sounded too contemporary to be a Parker recording. Still, I'm deeply shamed.

Kansas City Click: Do you have the time to listen to Green Day whine Wednesday at Sprint Center?

Blind Pilot recently opened for the Decemberists at the Uptown. They're headliners at the Record Bar on Thursday.

(Original image taken at There Stands the Glass' family homestead near Hutchinson last weekend. I'm told that the plant "grows naturally" in the area.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Willy DeVille, 1950-2009


Garland Jeffreys. Robert Gordon. Gary U.S. Bonds. Joe Gruschecky. I discovered each of them through Bruce Springsteen. Bruce was among my favorite performers during my formative years. I accumulated albums by artists with any kind of affiliation with the star. That's how I discovered Willy DeVille, or more precisely, Mink DeVille, his band at the time. Although DeVille never developed more than a cult following in the United States, it's certainly not because he wasn't worthy of wider recognition. Just check, for instance, the credits on Victory Mixture. It's loaded with stars of soul, blues, funk and the New Orleans sound- Wayne Bennett, Eddie Bo, Dr. John, Leo Nocentelli and Allen Toussaint play on the 1990 date. DeVille died August 6.

I take no pleasure in throwing a miniscule wrench in the marketing machinery, but watching a crass sales pitch for The Beatles: Rock Band on a home shopping channel Sunday night made me nauseous.

I identify the single most encouraging moment of 2009 on the Kansas City jazz scene over at Plastic Sax.

I encountered The Kansas City Bear Fighters for the first time last week. I can't wait to catch these oddballs again.

Kansas City Click: Consider the Source and Mouth get jammy Tuesday at the Czar Bar.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Review: Sugarland's Live On the Inside

60-second advertisement at YouTube

Sometimes it seems as if "Don't Stop Believin'" is the biggest song of 2009. The Journey staple is often used to escort audiences out of arenas after concerts. I also saw it unite a crowd of 46,000 baseball fans at Dodger Stadium earlier this week.

Anyone wondering about the potential source of new songs in the tradition of "Don't Stop Believin'" needs to get hip to Sugarland. Don't be fooled by the mandolins or the twang of vocalist Jennifer Nettles. Sugarland is the new Journey. Their new DVD/CD Live On the Inside, is brimming with gargantuan melodies, universal lyrics and delectable, Journey-flavored cheese.

Almost all of Sugarland's songs demand to be sung by drunks in dives, tweens at slumber parties and celebrants at pre-game parking lot barbecues. They're that good. "Steve Earle," a ditty about the songwriter's wives, is one of the few songs that doesn't apply.

As one would expect, the concert footage showcases the band at their loose, fun-loving best. Clever renditions of songs by Beyonce, the B52's, Kings of Leon, Pearl Jam and R.E.M. demonstrate the band's crossover approach.

In fact, most Sugarland fans are probably more familiar with Aerosmith than with Willie Nelson. And I guarantee that almost all of them know the words to "Don't Stop Believin'."

Live On the Inside is a Wal-Mart exclusive. Buy it for $12 here.

Former Kansas City, Kansan, and There Stands the Glass favorite Mad Marlon has a new video for "Say My Name".

My friend Jason is amused that the word verification for his most recent comment at Plastic Sax was "UNCOL." Here's a screenshot. The indignities I face as a jazz blogger...

Here's a virtual diary entry I wrote about getting kicked out of record stores.

Kansas City Click: The Pitch's annual music showcase goes down Thursday in Westport.

Atmosphere was great last time around. They're at the Beaumont on Friday.

Alaadeen hits the Blue Room on Saturday.

Motley Crue's extravaganza comes to the Sprint Center on Sunday.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Billy Lee Riley, 1933-2009


"My gal is red hot. Your gal ain't doodley squat." Rockabilly boasts thousands of great lyrics, but perhaps none are better than Billy Lee Riley's "Red Hot". The rockabilly giant died August 2. The Los Angeles Times' fascinating obituary of Riley recounts a great story about Riley's reaction to Sam Phillips' alleged suppression of the song. It's worth noting that much of Riley's original Sun sessions are pure blues. The instrumental "Thunderbird" is just plain greasy.

While in Los Angeles earlier this week, I heard a DJ play a track from a Jerry Garcia solo album. It was shockingly great. I'd never heard the Bert Jansch-style psychedelic folk-rock song. I'm quite agitated that I'm now compelled to dig into Garcia's catalog, a project I never expected to undertake.

Kansas City Click: Longtime rivals for the title of Kansas City's premier melodic metal band, Red Line Chemistry and The Leo Project battle tonight on the Power & Light stage.