Friday, January 29, 2010

Lonnie Liston Smith- Sunset


My vinyl copy of Lonnie Liston Smith's out-of-print Live! is pretty banged up. Its condition indicates that the 1977 release probably spent a lot of time on a turntable in the late '70s. In sweetly nostalgic fashion, its balance of dated fusion and solid funk still resonates with me. Saxophonist Dave Hubbard is featured on "Sunset," the album's meditative closing track.

Joel Francis interviews Professor Griff.

Last night I caught part of a terrestrial radio program featuring obscure local prog-rock and metal bands from the '70s and '80s. Members of one of these acts were following all over themselves in gratitude for the attention. That's cool. A quick Google search revealed that none of those knuckleheads has bothered to establish even the most rudimentary of web presences. That's not cool. I did, however, stumble upon several references to Starcastle, a band I hadn't considered in twenty years. Their comprehensive tour log fascinates me. I'd forgotten that I'd seen the band at World of Fun when I was a kid.

One doesn't have to be a Joe Lovano geek to appreciate this promotional video about his recent injury, the dichotomy between art and commerce and the difference between influences and individualism.

Kansas City Click: Oriole Post, the Parade Schedule and Grisly Hand play the Czar Bar on Friday.

Anvil hit the Riot Room on Saturday.

Jazz returns to the Record Bar on Sunday in the form of the Black House Improvisors' Collective .

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review: Sarah Borges at Knuckleheads

My companion didn't allow me to get a good photograph of Sarah Borges last Thursday at Knuckleheads. She nodded at the men pointing cameras at the attractive roots-rock musician.

"Don't be one of those creeps," she pleaded.

I have to admit that it did look a little pervy. Of the thirty people attending the matinee show, six or seven were guys lining up shots of Borges. She's certainly worthy of the attention. The Boston-based artist sounds like a combination of Wanda Jackson and Loretta Lynn and looks like a rockabilly version of Sarah Silverman.

She's funny too. She scolded the audience for not being louder (couldn't she see that people can't clap or drink while they're holding cameras?), talked about roadkill and fantasized about abandoning the music business. Let's hope that doesn't happen. I hope to catch Borges at least once more in 2010.

I promise to leave my camera at home.

My head says "no" but my heart says "yes." After resisting it for weeks, I've finally succumbed to Sade's idiotic "Soldier of Love."

Kansas City Click: There Stands the Glass favorites The Life and Times return to the Record Bar on Thursday.

(Sketchy original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Review: Everclear at the Midland Theater

It would be disingenuous of me to claim that Everclear's performance Tuesday at the Midland Theater was great. As Tim Finn's review suggests, sound and voice issues were real problems. But I'd also be lying if I said I didn't love hearing all those hits again. The sturdy songs Art Alexakis writes, as Finn noted, don't go out of style. I also admire Alexakis for keeping it real. He knows the score and appreciates his audience accordingly. Although it was a simple gesture, his shout-out to Kansas City club The Hurricane (now the Riot Room) meant a lot to longtime fans.

Jimmy Wyble, guitarist for Bob Wills and other legends, died January 16. This video just breaks my heart.

I always thought of Swayzorbladez as the heavy-set white guy who's always jumping on stage at hip hop shows. But the man won a prominent freestyle battle last weekend. Shows what I know.

Kansas City Click: Cedric Burnside and Lightin' Malcolm will attempt to hypnotize the audience at the Record Bar on Wednesday.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Art Alexakis: An Exclusive Interview with There Stands the Glass

At the risk of tarnishing his formidable street cred, I'll divulge that Art Alexakis was utterly charming when I interviewed him last week. In addition to his uncommon graciousness, Alexakis spoke with a candor rare in rock stars.

It's tempting to wax nostalgic while considering Alexakis' band Everclear- I still get chills when I hear 1995's "Heroin Girl"- but it's unwise to think that Alexakis' best days are behind him. He's an indefatigable survivor.

Everclear's In a Different Light Tour brings the band to Kansas City's Midland Theater on January 26.

There Stands the Glass: You're 47. How do you continue to stay musically inspired?

Art Alexakis: I don't like a lot of the contemporary rock bands right now. I don't really like what they're doing. I don't find it very exciting. It's kind a retread of stuff that's already been there. It makes me work harder to find something within me that feels new and exciting and still feels honest to what I'm about.

Good things can inspire you and bad things can inspire you.

I remember seeing Cheap Trick opening up for Kansas who I wasn't a fan of. I was set on fire. It was 1976-77. I went home and stole my friend's copy of In Color. I go, "Is this your cassette?" And he goes, "Yeah." I go, "OK, thanks." He goes, "Give it back!" I said, "I'll give it back in a couple weeks." I don't think I ever gave it back.

You can go see a horrible band, or who you think is a horrible band, and it can inspire you too. I'm better than that. That sucks. And people are buying that? People are into that? I hate that. It inspires me even more into doing what I do. I think that's a personality thing.

TSTG: I'm encouraged by older artists like Bob Dylan and Neil Young who remain artistically challenging. Do you have any such role models?

AA: Neil Young still pushes the envelope. On the flip (of the) coin, you've got Billy Joel and Elton John going out and doing their hits. I'm not deriding that. I'm going to go see that. I love Elton John and I like some Billy Joel and I'm excited to see the show.

But it's a different universe than what the Neil Youngs and the Bob Dylans are doing. I can almost guarantee you that Elton John and Billy Joel probably have more friends that Neil Young and Bob Dylan. The people pushing the envelope are not the nicest people in the world to hang out with. They're just not. You don't get it all in life. You can try, but you don't get it all.

When I'm in that studio mode I'm not a pleasant person to be around. I know it. I work really hard not to be a total asshole.

I specifically like to be away from my family so that I don't come home still thinking, "I've almost got that bass sound of that one part in that one song..." I'm tuned into the minutiae and my wife wants me to change a diaper? Who does she think she is!

I get like that.

It's better if I'm kept in a little cage of a hotel room somewhere and placated with sugar, because that's my drug of choice these days. Give me a couple of Hersey bars with almonds and let me watch a little pay-per-view and I'm fine.

TSTG: What makes for a good song?

AA: Emotion, articulation and drama are all really important to me. You have to tell a story that resonates with people. And you got to tell it with a melody that hooks them. It's not rocket science. It either resonates or it doesn't. Take all the technology and all the crap away and it's about what connects with people. No one's been able to put their finger on it. Some people are better than others, I would say luckier.

My A&R guy back in '94 convinced me to put an extra chorus on "Santa Monica". That's been the basis of this whole career ever since.

Was he right? I guess so. Would it have worked without it? Who knows? We'll never know. Do I care? No! Did it make the song any worse? If anything, it went a little bit longer than I thought it needed to. When I produced it I just made it more exciting. I threw some stuff on top and had the drummer open up the cymbal a little bit more. I just took it up more so it wasn't boring to me.

It was an old-school pop-rock formula but it worked.

TSTG: What can long-time fans expect at an Everclear concert in 2010?

AA: I don't jump as high as I used to. I still jump around. I'm still putting every ounce of my energy into it. I can still hit all the notes. I still play with passion.

My band is better than ever. We're still hungry. When we walk on stage we're ready to explode.

I believe in rock'n'roll. I love the power of rock'n'roll. I don't know if it's going to be around when I'm a grandfather. But man, I still feel it.

(Here's excellent fan footage from a January 20 show.)

TSTG: Have you stayed in touch any members of Frogpond? (Alexakis produced Count To Ten, the Kansas City band's 1996 debut album.)

AA: We had a falling out after the first record.

The first record was mainly just to get to the second record. I told them I would do the first record if they committed to doing the second record because I liked the new songs. But the label wanted to put something out. So I took them into the studio before they were really ready and we got that album out of them. I thought it sounded pretty good for as much work as we put into it.

Then they wanted to work with other people. When people get a little taste of success and the record labels start pumping them full of hot air it becomes kind of a thing...

Wow, man, I haven't heard that name in years!

(Note: My questions were edited for brevity.)

2 Dope Boyz offer a new Mac Lethal track. So angry...

Kansas City Click: Ces Cru top Friday's bill at the Riot Room. It'll look and sound a lot like this.

Mark O'Connor's band pays tribute to Django Reinhardt Saturday at the Folly Theater.

D.R.I. wreak havoc Sunday at The Record Bar.

Michael Pagan performs Monday at Jardine's.

Advance tickets to Everclear's concert Tuesday at the Midland Theater are only $9.33. See you there.

(Image of Alexakis by jahat.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kate McGarrigle, 1946-2010

Au revoir.

I never completely connected with the music of Kate and Anna McGarrigle. Their albums- I acquired six or seven of them through the years- are too urbane, inscrutably feminine and Canadian (yeah, I said it) to resonate with me. I also longed for more immediately accessible songs like "Heart Like a Wheel." (Don't miss this lovely rendition.) I suppose that makes me a hopeless barbarian. The French Album, currently out-of-print, is my favorite, probably because I can enjoy the sisters' harmonies without worrying about the lyrics. Kate McGarrigle died Monday.

I'm not ashamed to say that I've always liked Staind. I've gladly spent money on their CDs and willingly purchased concert tickets to see them. That revelation might make my review of a recent Aaron Lewis concert all the more damning.

Wu-Tang vs The Beatles. What could be better?

Teen jazz phenom Matt Chalk is performing at The Grammys. I interview him at Plastic Sax. And this post at Plastic Sax elicited twenty comments filled with venomous name-calling and hurtful accusations. Go figure.

Kansas City Click: According to Back To Rockville, this is the schedule for Wednesday's Haiti benefit at The Record Bar: "The lineup: 6:30 to 7:05 p.m., Bob Walkenhorst and Jeff Porter; 7:15 to 7:50 p.m., Danny Cox; 8 to 8:35 p.m., Sara Swenson; 8:45 to 9:30 p.m., the Elders."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Carl Smith, 1927-2010


Carl Smith died January 16. This obituary examines his rich life and tremendous musical contributions. At least a dozen of the twenty songs on this budget compilation are life-affirmingly brilliant. Just buy it already. (The CD is out of print, so the MP3 version will have to do unless you want to pay a collector's premium.) And don't overlook this song's message. "You've got to laugh and dance and sing..."

Things didn't go particularly well at Aaron Lewis' concert Sunday. Here's my review.

Here's a story about Shae Lee. I've seen the eleven-year-old perform. The kid does a mean Tina Turner.

Kansas City Click: I hope to hit William Sanders' recital Tuesday at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas. Details are here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bobby, Jimmy, Teddy and Yabby


"I Don't Want To Know" indeed. The last 72 hours have been marked by a deluge of bad news for music lovers. Instead of spreading a series of death notices out over a week, I'll mention six sad items all at once.

It began with the awful word of Jay Reatard's passing. A couple months back I downloaded the free EP Matador offered. It's fantastic. I swore that I wasn't going to miss Reatard the next time he came through town.

Word of the disaster in Haiti came next. Wyclef Jean protege Jimmy O was killed. Here's a heretical (but compelling) video.

Poor Teddy Pendergrass! You wanna know how old I am? I bought a couple Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes 45s as a child. This was one.

Then I learned that prolific jazz drummer Ed Thigpen died. He was 79.

Bobby Charles' death also hit me hard. Much like Jesse Winchester, Charles was a tasteful singer-songwriter who- intentionally or not- stayed out of the spotlight. "I Don't Want To Know" is from a star-studded 1998 album. Yes, that's Sonny Landreth on guitar.

This morning I read that reggae musician Yabby You died on Tuesday. His best sides were compiled by Blood & Fire.

Please let it stop for a while.

It's about time! Gil Scott-Heron is back in the game. Here's his new video.

Friend and loyal There Stands the Glass reader Rick alerted me to this amusing video for "On the Cover of AARP" by a reunited version of early '70s psych-folk band The Kansas City Jammers.

I'm really digging the juxtaposition of the cracked female blues voice with the patented ECM chamber jazz sound on the new album by Tord Dustavsen.

Kansas City Click: I intend to catch Friday's performance by jazz collective Black House Improvisors' Collective at Paragraph Gallery.

Kansas City band du jour The Grisly Hand plays Saturday at the Riot Room.

Aaron Lewis sings Sunday at The Midland.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

H.W.- Smile

The smile is gone.

H.W. is the self-proclaimed "Brad Pitt of uncool." That's reason enough for me to like him. The Boston-based rapper came to my attention because "Sh*thead", the lead track on the album A Year's Worth of Worry, uses a beat by Mac Lethal. H.W. is not a groundbreaking talent, but I admire his self-deprecating grind. And as the amusing sample of this track suggests, H.W. makes me smile. The entire album is available as a free download here.

I wonder how indie rock advocates will react when they discover that the majority of Vampire Weekend's audience now consists of fans of Colbie Callait, Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz.

And speaking of worlds colliding, how about this supposedly spontaneous collaboration between Brother Ali and Justin Timberlake? (Warning- turn your speakers down before clicking on the link.)

I like more than just the album title of Charlie Hunter's Gentlemen, I Neglected To Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid.

Have you studied the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival lineup yet?

Kansas City Click: The Troubadour's Music Club meets Wednesday at Bulldog. This week's featured artists are Tony Ladesich, Betse Ellis and Terrrence Moore.

Dale Watson returns to Knuckleheads on Thursday.

(Image from the longlivehw photostream at Flickr.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Alaturka- Layla


Intrigued by his new Alaturka project, I conducted an extensive interview with guitarist Beau Bledsoe at Plastic Sax, my Kansas City jazz site. The entire interview is here. "When I was in Istanbul there were a lot of artists trying to fuse Turkish music with jazz music with fairly dismal results," Bledsoe suggested. "I would often think to myself that if I could only get some of my KC jazz musician friends to Istanbul, they could really cause some damage!" Did Bledsoe succeed? Judge for yourself. Alaturka's "Layla" isn't to be confused with the Derek and the Dominos song. It's "an old middle eastern tune," Bledsoe notes.

Mick Green of Johnny & the Pirates has died.

I reviewed Allen Toussaint's concert Friday. And here are my notes from Saturday's Jazz Winterlude festival at Johnson County Community College.

Kansas City Click: The Record Bar offers the Honky Tonk Supper Club on Tuesday.

(Image of Alaturka by Mike Strong.)

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Straubs- Will the Opry Ever Know My Name

Long live The Straubs.

I'm not going lie. I salvaged this autographed album from a used bargain bin with the sole intent of mocking its excruciatingly awful cover art. Dig those bellbottom jumpsuits! Check out those awkward smiles! And how about that hair! It doesn't get much worse than this. But the self-referential aspirational song "Will the Opry Ever Know My Name" mutes my meanness. The "small town boy from Kansas" didn't make it. There's a reason. The undated album is pretty pedestrian. The Straubs do a disco sendup of "Orange Blossom Special," suck all of the soul out of "Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain" and offer a faithful cover of "Crackers," perhaps the worst hit of all time. Aside from this post, there's not even a trace of their existence online. "The Straubs just won't be happy until the Opry learns our names." I'm so, so sorry, Straubs.

Based on everything I've heard and seen, I truly hope that Lil Wayne's repeatedly delayed rock album never sees the light of day. Love you, Weezy, but Nickelback isn't the ideal band to use as your blueprint.

Kansas City Click: Allen Toussaint is at the Folly Theater on Friday.

The Jazz Winterlude festival continues at JCCC on Saturday.

I'm told that the Sam Wiseman Group, which includes Matt Otto, Seth Lee and T.J.Martley, will perform Sunday at the Record Bar. They'll pay tribute to Lennie Tristano.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Preston Shannon- Take Your Time

Time's up.

Willie Mitchell died yesterday. I'm sure that dozens of bloggers are paying tribute to Mitchell by featuring tracks by Al Green, Ann Peebles and O.V. Wright. And that's as it should be. Popular music doesn't get much better. Yet Mitchell never stopped working. He even had a regional Southern soul hit in the mid-90s with Preston Shannon's "The Clock." It's from Midnight in Memphis, a fine album that was co-produced by Mitchell and recorded in Mitchell's studio. Mitchell co-wrote "The Clock" and "Take Your Time," the track featured here. Thanks, Mr. Mitchell.

Marva Whitney is recovering at home in Kansas City, Kansas, after suffering a stroke in Australia. Here's a new MySpace blog post.

There Stands the Glass favorites Blind Pilot have issued a new live EP.

Jason Harper's final column as music editor of The Pitch is must-reading for Kansas City music fans.

My friend Chris makes suggestions on what to do in Kansas City this weekend.

Kansas City Click: Olympic Size are scheduled to play The Bulldog Wednesday.

Elaine McMillian corrals a bunch of singer-songwriters Thursday at the Czar Bar.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Remy Zero- Motorcycle

Rode away.

Remy Zero was a nice little band. Minor hits like "Gramarye" still sound good. Album tracks like "Motorcycle" sound better still. Both are on the superb 1998 album Villa Elaine. Drummer Gregory Slay died January 1.

Rowland S Howard of the Birthday Party died December 30.

I realize this is meaningless coming from a grown man who continues to champion "Party In the U.S.A." , but if Ke$ha's domination of 2010 continues I might not make it past February.

Kansas City Click: I forgot about Bobby Rush as I made my best shows of the decade list. He and Vickie Baker bring their incredibly entertaining show to Knuckleheads tonight.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Bobby Watson & Horizon Thrill at the Blue Room

"So much music," Bobby Watson sighed Saturday night. "So little time."

So deliriously rhapsodic was Watson's brilliant performance that I was prepared to abandon all other music as I sat ten feet from the stage of the Blue Room. Why listen to anything else? Watson and the all-star band Horizon were that good.

Watson's first solo of the night was riveting. The entire vocabulary of the jazz saxophone- including Jimmy Forrest's "Night Train," Ornette Coleman's new directions and yes, the living legacy of Charlie Parker- pour out of Watson when he's on. And was he ever on! I wouldn't have traded Watson for Sonny Rollins, Joshua Redman or Rudresh Mahanthappa.

His bandmates recognized that it was Watson's night. All sensational pianist Edward Simon could do was grin in admiration. The bop-oriented setting didn't give Simon many chances to showcase his true strength. Only during a sublime duet with Watson on "Love Remains" did Simon offer a glimpse of his wholly unique combination of classical, Latin American folk musics and third stream jazz.

Watson was clearly inspired by the joyous drumming of Victor Lewis. An animated musician, Lewis knowingly smiled as he pushed Watson and trumpeter Terell Stafford, punctuating their solos with emphatic grunts. The supple bass work of Peter Washington, one of jazz's most unselfish stars, was stellar.

Only Stafford seemed frustrated with Watson's dominance. A tremendous player, his position of Director of Jazz Studies at Temple University makes him the equivalent of Watson in Philadelphia. His solos became increasingly brazen. While a couple of his efforts inspired Watson to dance a la Thelonious Monk, it was no use. Watson was untouchable. Even the saxophonist's support work behind each soloist added intriguing depth and unexpected textures to the performance.

It's not for nothing that Watson was recently named the Plastic Sax Person of the Decade.

Could I have experienced my favorite live performance of the year just 48 hours into 2010? It's quite possible. Many in the audience of approximately 125 might agree. Steve Paul was one of them. His proper review of the show is no less enthusiastic. (Cross-posted from Plastic Sax.)

Joel Francis spent New Year's Eve in Oklahoma City with the Flaming Lips. Here's his report.

Kansas City Click: Making Movies plays Jerry's Bait Shop in Lee's Summit on Monday.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Saturday, January 02, 2010

New Year's Eve Eve with Hot Club of Cowtown

I celebrated New Year's Eve a day early.

While many of my best friends danced to the wondrous sounds of Hearts of Darkness on December 31, I was watching Gran Torino in my basement. (It's not The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, but I liked it.)

Knowing that my New Year's Eve would be a dry one, I cut loose a day early at Knuckleheads. Hot Club of Cowtown was on the bill.

The room was so tightly packed that I initially feared I wouldn't be able to drink properly. The ruthlessly efficient solo bartender was slowed by the frilly drinks ordered by the unusually upscale crowd. It was a struggle to keep the two-dollar 16-ounce Natty Lights flowing.

About 225 paid $15 in advance or $18 at the door to squeeze into the roadhouse. Area jazz venues (I'm looking at you, Jardine's) should consider booking the band for an extended run. They may emphasize Western swing and rockabilly, but as their name indicates, they're plenty familiar with Django Reinhardt and Stepane Grappelli.

Elena Jame's playing is just as much infused with the swing tradition of Claude "Fiddler" Williams as it is the crossover style of Alison Krauss. Her interaction with guitarist Whit Smith and upright bassist Jake Erwin is a joy. Their retro sound is hardly unique but the spirit they inject into their performance gives old songs like "Cheek to Cheek" new life. Their original songs aren't half bad either. While the audio is iffy in this recent video, it captures much of the trio's charm.

A full hour passed between the end of Hot Club of Cowtown's set and the first song by Outlaw Jim & the Whiskey Benders. I guess the latter band wanted to give the crowd a chance to prepare for the enormous aesthetic transition. Where Hot Club of Cowtown evokes Paris of the '30s and Los Angeles of the '50s, Outlaw Jim & the Whiskey Benders sound like Luckenbach circa '73.

Everything you need to know about the band is contained in these two facts: the lead singer wore a Marshall Tucker Band t-shirt and they opened with Willie Nelson's "Me and Paul." And before you get the wrong idea, irony doesn't exist at Knuckleheads. Even on the eve of New Year's Eve.

My friend Chris loves music every bit as much as I do but our interests only occasionally intersect. Here's his best-shows-of the-decade list.

Here's an remarkable list of forty hip hop albums and mixtapes released by Kansas City-area artists in 2009.

Demencha reviews the brand new mixtape from Stik Figa. Do you have Hello, Goodbye yet? It's excellent.

Kansas City Click: You'll find me at The Blue Room tonight for Bobby Watson & Horizon.

Lee McBee's longstanding series of Sunday shows at B.B.'s Lawnside BBQ continues in 2010.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)