Monday, December 31, 2018

Concert Review: The Isley Brothers, the Whispers and Glenn Jones at Municipal Auditorium

The woman working at the box office of Municipal Auditorium on Sunday initially refused to sell me a ticket to the the New Year’s Weekend Soul Fest.  “You want to go to this?” she marveled as she pointed at a sign indicating that a concert by the Isley Brothers, the Whispers and Glenn Jones was about to begin.  Moments after convincing the woman to accept $40 in exchange for the least expensive ticket, I was accosted by a security guard who skeptically looked me up and down before asking to inspect my hard-won ticket. “Huh,” she muttered. “Well, have fun.”

Their bewilderment may have been warranted.  I was one of only a handful of white guys in the audience of about 4,000.  The extreme racial disparity blows my mind.  The Isley Brothers are one of the most important bands of the past 60 years.  I grew up on Top 40 hits like “It’s Your Thing,” “That Lady,” “Summer Breeze” and “Fight the Power”.  Not only would there be no Rick James, Prince or even Maroon 5 without the Isley Brothers, the Rolling Stones began their losing effort to catch up to the Isley Brothers with the 1976 album Black and Blue.

A twelve-member ensemble backed front man Ronald Isley and guitarist Ernie Isley in a stellar 90-minute headlining set that included rock and roll, doo-wop, pop, R&B, funk, gospel and gangsta rap.  The sound was mediocre, the production was rudimentary and 77-year-old Ronald leaned against a stool for much of the show, but witnessing the man who co-wrote the 1959 hit “Shout” perform the ancient nugget is still thrilling.  A rendition of the absolutely bananas 2011 hit “Contagious” was just as fun.  And yes, Ernie still shreds.

The Whispers’ 40-minute effort was almost as good.  I expected the 10-piece group to play crossover hits such as “And the Beat Goes On” and “Rock Steady,” but the venerable group surprisingly revived a few wildly anachronistic jams like “Olivia (Lost and Turned Out)”.  Introduced as “The Ambassador of Love, crooner Glenn Jones excelled in a karaoke-style 30-minute opening set that also delighted me.  The staff working the event may not have felt that I fit in, but I would rather have been nowhere else.

Isley Brothers setlist: Fight the Power, That Lady, Between the Sheets Footsteps in the Dark/Today Was a Good Day, Smooth Sailing/Sweet Thing, It’s Your Thing, Twist and Shout, Boney Maroney, Groove With You, Hello, Hello It’s Me, Choosey Lover, Joy and Pain, Jesus Loves Me, For the Love of You, Voyage to Atlantis, Summer Breeze, Down Low, Contagious, Shout

Whispers setlist: It’s a Love Thing, Keep On Lovin’ Me, In the Mood, Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong, In the Raw, Lady, Rock Steady, Olivia (Lost and Turned Out), Say Yes, And the Beat Goes On

Glenn Jones setlist: We’ve Only Just Begun, The Very First Time, A Song For You, Love By Design, Show Me Nobody But You

I reviewed Steve Cardenas’ homecoming concert at Black Dolphin for Plastic Sax.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, December 21, 2018

White Noise

In my extremely limited experience with mind-altering substances, I’ve found that the most rewarding intoxicants allow the user to gain fresh perspectives on familiar topics.  Remaining completely in control while entering a slightly divergent dimension is my idea of a good high.  The remixed version of the Beatles’ White Album offers such an experience.  Even though I’ve been as sober as a judge as I’ve scrutinized the project since its release last month, the tweaks made to the 50-year-old classic make me lightheaded.  It’s the same… but wondrously different.  The dozens of alternate takes and demos that follow the remix induce slightly less potent forms of delirium.

I reviewed Harry Connick’s delightful concert at the Midland theater for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Mopping Up

As an obsessive-compulsive music consumer, I’m frantically attempting to enter the new year without an imposing backlog of unheard music from 2018.  A cursory survey of the most rewarding components of my recent cramming sessions follows.  And yes, the albums are ranked.

Lionel Loueke- The Journey
One of the most important musicians alive turns down the volume and slows the tempo. 
RIYL: Weather Report, offhanded brilliance, Steps Ahead.

Marianne Faithfull- Negative Capability
Not exactly the feel-good album of the year. 
RIYL: looking death in the eye, Leonard Cohen, the bitter truth.

Cupcakke- Ephorize
The rapper’s extremely raunchy- and undeniably hilarious raps- make me blush.
RIYL: Cardi B, The Joy of Sex, Leikeli47.

F*cked Up- Dose Your Dreams
The investment in the 88-minute concept album pays off.
RIYL: George Orwell, Titus Andronicus, Pete Townshend.

Miguel Zenón- Yo Soy La Tradición
Undiluted genius or indulgent puffery?  It’s probably both. 
RIYL: Anthony Braxton, third stream, Rudresh Mahanthappa.

Phonte- No News Is Good News
Mature and nuanced rap.
RIYL: Black Thought, a man without a market, Oddisee.

Jeff Tweedy- Warm
I have nothing but respect for Tweedy. 
RIYL: Fred Neil, real life, Will Oldham.

Khruangbin- Con Todo El Mundo
Mildly diverting lounge music. 
RIYL: Friends of Dean Martinez, the first rehearsal of a Malo cover band, Calexico.

Dem Atlas- Bad Actress
Often overbearing emo-rap.
RIYL: Atmosphere, rappers who want to rock, Grieves.

Joan Shelley- Rivers and Vessels
Another outstanding young troubadour.
RIYL: Sandy Denny, 1970s folk, I’m With Her.

Meek Mill- Championships
There’s a reason the Philadelphian is more celebrated for his travails than for his rapping.
RIYL: corny guys, French Montana, excellent guest features and production.

I list my favorite jazz albums and performances of 2018 at the Kansas City jazz blog Plastic Sax.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

The elegant vocalist Nancy Wilson has died. 

Galt MacDermot, the composer of “Hair,” has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

Many of my colleagues don’t want to hear it, but Champagne Campaign is one of the most popular rock bands in Kansas City.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Here in BFE

Many of my friends and neighbors are committed to propagating the narrative that our town is an overlooked cosmopolitan utopia.  My social media feeds are regularly clogged with links to clickbait stories hyping Kansas City as a bastion of sophistication.  The desperate boosterism of my peers makes them look like self-conscious hayseeds. 

I don’t attempt to hide the dirt under my fingernails.  I’m just as comfortable in the empty plains of central Kansas as I am in a Kansas City jazz club.  That’s why I regret omitting an earworm that reflects my roots from my year-end list only because it was released in November of 2017.  Not only does Morgan Wallen’s “Up Down” hit home, it’s an indelible anthem for flyover country.  (Sadly, the video misses the point.) 

A pair of clips I posted to Instagram this year reflect the cold, hard facts about my town.  I was in the front row for a headlining concert by the Vijay Iyer Sextet at the Open Spaces festival.  Only a few dozen people were in the room.  Open Spaces presentations by Lonnie Holley and Bang On a Can also resembled private salon concerts.  The bacchanal atmosphere I documented amid a massive throng at a Kenny Chesney concert at Arrowhead Stadium demonstrates what actually flies in Kansas City. 

As Waller insists in “Up Down,” “we got what we got, we don't need the rest.”  And that’s good enough for me here in BFE.

My most recent concert previews for The Kansas City Star are here and here.

I reviewed a new album by Greg Carroll and Michael Pagán at Plastic Sax.

Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks has died.  Singles Going Steady turned my world upside down in 1980.  I last saw the band perform at Warped Tour in 2006.

The Memphis saxophonist Ace Cannon has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

The Chicago bluesman Jody Williams has died.

The jazz musician and actor Roger Burton has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, December 07, 2018

If You Know You Know: The Top Albums, EPs, Songs and Concerts of 2018

The Top 50 Albums of 2018
The 131-minutes of byzantine jazz improvisations that crown my rankings is a reflection of the middling year for long-form recordings.  The real action takes place on the subsequent listing of EPs.

1. Dave Holland- Uncharted Territories
2. Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd & SZA- Black Panther: The Album
3. Ambrose Akinmusire- Origami Harvest
4. St. Vincent- MassEducation
5. Rhye- Blood
6. Drake- Scorpion
7. Logan Richardson- Blues People
8. Cardi B- Invasion of Privacy
9. Fatoumata Diawara- Fenfo
10. RP Boo- I’ll Tell You What!

11. Migos- Culture II
12. Cécile McLorin Salvant- The Window
13. Eddie Palmieri- Full Circle
14. Brockhampton- Iridescence
15. Bettye LaVette- Things Have Changed
16. Four Fists- 6666
17. Hailu Mergia- Lnala Belu
18. Leikeli47- Acrylic
19. Blood Orange- Negro Swan
20. Ashley Monroe- Sparrow

21. Anderson Paak- Oxnard
22. Ariana Grande- Sweetener
23. Tyshawn Sorey- Pillars
24. Kelly Hunt- Even the Sparrow
25. Vincent Peirani- Night Walker
26. Rosalía- El Mal Querer
27. Bixiga 70- Quebra Cabeça
28. Brad Mehldau- After Bach
29. Courtney Barnett- Tell Me How You Really Feel
30. Stephonne Singleton- Caged Bird Sings Songs About Red Beard

31. Sons of Kemet- Your Queen Is a Reptile
32. Halestorm- Vicious
33. Jupiter & Okwess- Kin Sonic
34. Rodney Crowell- Acoustic Classics
35. Elza Soares- Deus É Mulher
36. Hélène Grimaud- Memory
37. Fantastic Negrito- Please Don’t Be Dead
38. Nicole Mitchell- Maroon Cloud
39. Jorja Smith- Lost & Found
40. Lonnie Holley- Mith

41. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats- Tearing at the Seams
42. Andrew Cyrille- Lebroba
43. Santigold- I Don’t Want: The Gold Fire Sessions
44. Noname- Room 25
45. Sly & Robbie and Nils Petter Molvaer- Nordub
46. Ben Miller Band- Choke Cherry Tree
47. Rich the Factor- CEO of the Blacktop
48. Matthew Shipp- Zero
49. Anja Lechner and Pablo Márquez- Schubert: Die Nacht
50. Kamasi Washington- Heaven and Earth

The Top 25 EPs of 2018
Kanye West insists that these short-form recordings are albums.  He's wrong.

1. Kids See Ghosts- Kids See Ghosts (23 minutes)
2. Pusha T- Daytona (21 minutes)
3. Nas- Nasir (25 minutes)
3. Radiant Children- Tryin’ (17 minutes)
4. Tigran Hamasyan- For Gyumri (29 minutes)
5. Black Thought- Streams of Thought, Vol. 1 (17 minutes)
6. Peter Schlamb- Electric Tinks (24 minutes)
7. Nubya Garcia- When We Are (25 minutes)
8. Vince Staples- FM! (22 minutes)
9. Open Mike Eagle- What Happens When I Try To Relax (19 minutes)
10. Kanye West- Ye (23 minutes)

11. Valee- Good Job, You Found Me (14 minutes)
12. The Alchemist- Bread (25 minutes)
13. 2 Chainz- The Play Don’t Care Who Makes It (16 minutes)
14. Miles Davis- Rubberband EP (26 minutes)
15. Gilberto Gil- Pela Internet 2 (24 minutes)
16. Earl Sweatshirt- Some Rap Songs (24 minutes)
17. Chanté Moore- 1 of 4 (19 minutes)
18. Teyana Taylor- K.T.S.E. (22 minutes)
19. Soulive- Cinematics Vol. 1 (18 minutes)
20. Amber Mark- Conexão (17 minutes)

21. Diplo- California (19 minutes)
22. AlunaGeorge- Champagne Eyes (18 minutes)
23. Aphex Twin- Collapse (28 minutes)
24. Ezra Collective- Juan Pablo: The Philosopher (23 minutes)
25. Stik Figa, Ron Ron and Greg Enemy- Are The Wiz Kidz (15 minutes)

The Top 10 Reissues, Compilations and Historical Releases of 2018
Caveat: I haven’t made my way through the new version of The White Album.

1. John Coltrane- Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album
2. Prince- Piano & a Microphone 1983
3. Stax Singles, Volume 4: Rarities & the Best of the Rest
4. Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth Boogie in 1980s South Africa
5. Bob Dylan- More Blood, More Tracks
6. African Scream Contest Vol​.​2 - Benin 1963​-​1980
7. Miles Davis- The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6
8. Uncle Walt’s Band- Those Boys From Carolina, They Sure Enough Could Sing…
9. The Dur-Dur Band- Volume 1, Volume 2 & Previously Unreleased Tracks
10. Joe Strummer- Joe Strummer 001

The Top 25 Songs of 2018
Spotify playlist

1. Drake- “Nice For What”
2. Kanye West with Partynextdoor- “Ghost Town”
3. Kids See Ghosts- “Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2)”
4. Janelle Monaé- “Make Me Feel”
5. J Balvin featuring Jeon and Anitta- “Machika”
6. Sa-Roc- “Forever”
7. Nas- “Cops Shot the Kid”
8. Rosalía- “Malamente”
9. Maxwell- “We Never Saw It Coming”
10. Tracey Thorn- “Queen”

11. Pusha T- “If You Know You Know”
12. The Breeders- “Wait in the Car”
13. Christina Aguilera- “Maria”
14. Four Fists- “Joe Strummr”
15. Tech N9ne- “Don’t Nobody Want None”
16. Parquet Courts- “Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience”
17. Chris Dave and the Drumhedz featuring Anderson Paak- “Black Hole”
18. Jimothy Lacoste- “I Can Speak Spanish”
19. Migos- “Auto Pilot”
20. Ben Miller Band- “Akira Kurosawa”

21. Post Malone featuring Ty Dolla Sign- “Psycho”
22. The Go! Team- “All the Way Live”
23. Cardi B- “I Like It”
24. Marsha Ambrosius- “Luh Ya”
25. Doja Cat- “Mooo!”
26. Ashley McBride- “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega”
27. E-40, B-Legit and P-Lo- “Boy”
28. Snoop Dogg featuring Charlie Wilson- “One More Day”
29. Childish Gambino- “This Is America”
30. Mopo- “Tökkö”

31. Ariana Grande- “No Tears Left to Cry”
32. Young Fathers- “Picking You”
33. Jlin- “Carbon 12”
34. Atmosphere- “Virgo”
35. Turnstile- “Generator”
36. Orchestra Akokán- “Un Tabaco para Elegua”
37. Flatbush Zombies- “Chunky”
38. Art Brut- “Hospital!”
39. Marianne Faithfull featuring Nick Cave- “The Gypsy Faerie Queen”
40. The Nels Cline 4- “Imperfect 10”

41. Justin Timberlake with Chris Stapleton- “Say Something”
42. La Luz- “Loose Teeth”
43. Carrie Underwood- “Ghosts on the Stereo”
44. Valee featuring Pusha T- “Miami”
45. Jorja Smith- “Blue Lights”
46. The Bottle Rockets- “Highway 70 Blues”
47. Shame- “Concrete”
48. Germán Montero- “Bumper Choque”
49. The Dirty Nil- “I Don’t Want That Phone Call”
50. Willie Nelson- “Something You Get Through”

The Top 50 Concerts of 2018
All performances are in the Kansas City area unless otherwise noted.

1. Erykah Badu- Sprint Center
2. Vijay Iyer Sextet- Gem Theater (Open Spaces festival)
3. Drake- Sprint Center
4. David Byrne- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
5. Anat Cohen Tentet- Gem Theater
6. Anthony Braxton and Jacqueline Kerrod- American Turners Club (Cropped Out festival in Louisville)
7. Taylor Swift- Arrowhead Stadium
8. Bang on a Can All-Stars with the Kansas City Chorale- Folly Theater (Open Spaces festival)
9. Protomartyr- Zanzabar (Louisville)
10. Four Fists- Riot Room

11. Pink- Sprint Center
12. Lonnie Holley- Swope Park (Open Spaces festival)
13. Injury Reserve- Encore Room
14. Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore- Knuckleheads
15. Bill Frisell, Rudy Royston and Thomas Morgan- 1900 Building
16. Low Cut Connie- Doug Fir Lounge (Portland)
17. Maxwell- Midland theater
18. Ghost- Kansas Speedway (Rockfest)
19. Cyrille Aimée- Folly Theater
20. The Breeders- The Rave (Milwaukee)

21. Flatbush Zombies- Providence Medical Center Amphitheater (Flyover festival)
22. Ryan Keberle & Catharsis- Black Dolphin
23. The Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s “Rigoletto”- Muriel Kauffman Theater
24. Uriel Herman Quartet- Black Dolphin
25. Julien Baker- Vinyl Renaissance
26. Tech N9ne- West Bottoms (Boulevardia festival)
27. Future- Petco Park (Dia de los Deftones festival in San Diego)
28. Kesha- Sprint Center
29. Michael Hurley- American Turners Club (Cropped Out festival in Louisville)
30. Atmosphere- VooDoo

31. The Project H- Westport Coffee House
32. Shania Twain- Sprint Center
33. Ehud Ettun and Henrique Eisenmann- 1900 Building
34. Randy Bachman- Ameristar
35. Drive-By Truckers- The Truman
36. Los Texmaniacs with Flaco Jiménez- Westin Crown Center (KC Folk Fest)
37. Keith Urban- Sprint Center
38. Lonnie McFadden- Black Dolphin
39. Spoon- Crossroads KC (Middle of the Map festival)
40. Emancipator- Crystal Ballroom (Portland)

41. Kenny Chesney- Arrowhead Stadium
42. Vine Street Rumble- Californos
43. Courtney Barnett- Truman
44. Hermon Mehari Quintet- Gem Theater
45. Giorgio Moroder- Truman
46. Twenty One Pilots- Sprint Center
47. Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn and Marty Stuart’s “Sweethearts of the Rodeo”- Folly Theater
48. Lucinda Williams- Starlight Theatre
49. Edison Lights- Town Center Plaza
50. Billy Joel- Kauffman Stadium

(Original image of Erykah Badu by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, December 02, 2018

I Got a Rock

At a moment in which the world’s most lauded rock band can’t be bothered to play rock music, I suppose it’s not surprising that the form will make a poor showing in my year-end rankings.  It’s not as if I’m not trying, but I fail to be moved by most rock recordings.  The most exciting music is being made elsewhere.  A few 2018 rock releases that had yet to receive mention at There Stands the Glass are ranked in order of my preference below.

Shame- Songs of Praise
It’s taken me all year to grasp Shame’s rowdy exceptionalism.  Here’s “One Rizla”.

Art Brut- Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!
Eddie Argos is still the funniest man in rock.  The cautionary “Hospital!” is among the songs that compel me to laugh out loud.

Parquet Courts- Wide Awake!
Garage rock done right.  “Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience” is close to perfect.

Drug Church- Cheer
I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’ve always liked Puddle of Mudd.  Drug Church combine the Kansas City band’s commercial post-grunge with the geeky mania associated with Weezer.  Here’s “Unlicensed Hall Monitor”.

Snail Mail- Lush
Lindsey Jordan is a sad sack.  I ordinarily don’t have much patience for whiners (unless I’m the one doing the fussing), but I can relate to her bad mood.  “Heat Wave” is among the songs that kinda/sorta rock.

Idles- Joy as an Act of Resistance
The breathless praise heaped on this entirely ordinary album is a classic case of embarrassing group-think.  Blood-and-thunder songs like “Colossus” are merely adequate.

Oh, and that new 1975 album?  While it has its moments, I continue to maintain that the British band sounds like One Direction in the midst of a month-long bender.

I yacked about a few of my best-music-of-2018 selections on 90.9 The Bridge’s Eight One Sixty last week.

I ponder Pat Metheny’s de facto boycott of Kansas City at Plastic Sax.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Album Review: Elvis Costello- Look Now

It’s not him, it’s me.  Many of my insightful peers insist that Elvis Costello’s Look Now is his best album in more than a decade.  While they’re probably right, I’m just not in a proper frame of mind to appreciate his baroque throwback pop.  There’s simply too much free jazz, contemporary pop, African funk, Chicago footwork and grimy hip-hop demanding my attention at the moment.  I look forward to revisiting Look Now when I’m in rocking chair mode.  RIYL: Burt Bacharach, Dionne Warwick’s greatest hits, Jimmy Webb.  Here’s “Suspect My Tears”.

I reviewed a concert by Bob Seger and Blue Water Highway for The Kansas City Star.

I reviewed a concert by Twenty One Pilots, Awolnation and Max Frost for The Kansas City Star.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

I reviewed Peter Schlamb’s Electric Tinks at Plastic Sax.

I’ll inflict my taste on unsuspecting listeners of KTGB, 90.9 The Bridge, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 27.

The Chicago bluesman Eddie C. Campbell has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

Patrick Mathé, the founder of New Rose and Last Call Records, has died.  (Tip via SS.)

The British folk prosthetizer Roy Bailey has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

Good intentions and outstanding musicianship don’t always result in worthwhile music. The heartfelt sincerity of Marcus Strickland’s People of the Sun is corny.  RIYL: Robert Glasper, disappointments, Bilal.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Album Review: Leikeli47- Acrylic

Appreciation of laudable art is often hard won.  I almost gave up on Leikeli47’s Acrylic when references to high fashion on the eighth selection “Post That” and Greek life at H.B.C.U.s on the sixth track “Roll Call” (a knockoff of T.I.’s 2003 hit “Rubber Band Man”) irritated me the first time I played the album.  The mind-bending production compelled me to stick with Acrylic.  My perseverance paid off.  Repeated plays of the wide-ranging album revealed that the extremely bright, audaciously funny and vigorously feminist New York rapper is as wonky as Dessa, as accessible as Brandy and as deliriously unhinged as Cardi B.  Yet it’s the consistently surprising sonic textures that include pure pop, murky grime, lovely R&B and spare footwork that make Acrylic one of my favorite albums of the year, even if it took some time to get my head around it.   Here’s “Girl Blunt”.

My review of Ernest Melton’s The Time of the Slave Is Over is at Plastic Sax.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

Roy Clark has died.  Not only was Hee Haw a big part of my cultural education, I recall seeing a few of his albums in my dad’s collection.

Alec Finn of De Dannan has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

The Hawaiian slack key guitarist Cyril Pahinui has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

Anderson Paak’s astounding Oxnard is a throwback to the Death Row era.  Paak delivers SoCal
gangsta rap with a knowing wink.  RIYL: Doggystyle, coming to terms with horrendous misogyny, The Chronic.  Here’s “Tints”.

Even though the Rubberband EP consists of five remixes of a single Miles Davis track from a suppressed 1985 session, the repetition never becomes stale.  Context for the oddly compelling project is available here.

The most surprising aspect of Rudy Royston’s Flatbed Buggy is that the drummer’s frequent collaborator Bill Frisell doesn’t make an appearance.  Even so, the worthy project fits squarely in the instrumental folk-jazz realm associated with the guitarist.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Concert Review: Maxwell at the Midland Theatre

“They don’t make ‘em like they used to, but I think I make ‘em like they used to,” Marsha Ambrosius told an audience of more than 1,500 at the Midland theater as she opened for Maxwell on Wednesday.  The British star with a colossal voice specializes in recreating the sound and feel of Michael Jackson’s ballads.  (She co-wrote his 2002 smash “Butterflies.”)

Accompanied only by her keyboard and an intrusive hype man, Ambrosius ran through a handful of old favorites and excellent new material like “Luh Ya”.  I was disappointed that she entertained only 30 minutes but I was absolutely infuriated when Maxwell and his six-piece band walked off the stage after playing 90 minutes.

I expected more.

Maxwell’s 2008 concert at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City is one of the most rousing exhibitions of soul music I’ve witnessed, and I’ve attended shows by legends including James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes and Prince.  My glowing memory of his 2008 appearance caused me to merely flinch when I discovered that the least expensive ticket at the door last night was $60.

I barely got my money’s worth.

I was among the majority of the people in the “cheap” seats who never stood to dance during the 32nd installment of Maxwell’s 50 Intimate Nights tour.  Anticipating transcendence, I settled for satisfaction.  The absence of a horn section was a nasty surprise, but I was gutted that the setlist didn’t include “We Never Saw It Coming”, a protest song that's the “What’s Going On” of our time.

As much as I love Maxwell’s party material like “Sumthin’ Sumthin’”, “We Never Saw It Coming” is the type of song that differentiates Maxwell from hackneyed nostalgists.  I love Maxwell partly because he’s not a corny mimic of old-time R&B.  He keeps the music vital by giving it a contemporary edge even as he honors soul’s traditions.  Sadly, Maxwell’s concert at the Midland was slightly stale.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Album Review: Tyshawn Sorey- Pillars

Leaf blowers and Pillars are incompatible.  My plan for the daylight hours last weekend was to absorb Tyshawn Sorey’s four-hour epic while doing yard work.  The rudimentary process of gathering and bagging the deep bed of leaves that covers my yard would have allowed me to focus on the intricacies of Sorey’s new triptych.

No dice.

Equipped with blaring leaf blowers, my diligent neighbors glared at me as I made my first attempt of the season to clear my yard with a rake.  The infernal racket of their machines drowned out the hushed segments of Pillars.  I retreated indoors.  Hearing Sorey’s crucial work is far more important to me than keeping up appearances.  Although Sorey is best known in jazz circles, Pillars is in the tradition of classical-based compositions by the likes of Anthony Davis and John Cage. 

The irony of my travails: a few of the most abrasive passages of Pillars resemble the grating drone of leaf blowers.

Recently at Plastic Sax: I reviewed OJT’s New Originals for the Green Lady and experienced an astonishing epiphany at the Kansas City debut of Kamasi Washington.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

Unlike many jazz devotees, I don't revere Roy Hargrove.  I was nonplussed the first time I saw him at a St. Louis club in the early 1990s.  And he was a mess the last time I caught him at the 2014 edition of the 18th & Vine Jazz & Blues Festival.  When he was on, however, Hargrove was among the best artists I’ve witnessed.  I reviewed Hargrove’s band at the Folly Theater for The Kansas City Star, a show that I ranked second on a list of my favorite concerts of 2007.  Hargrove died November 2.

The Residents’ Hardy Fox has died.

Elle King often sings about the people who do her wrong.  She should direct her righteous fury at the knob-twiddlers responsible for the wrongheaded production of Shake the Spirit.  Much as the recordings of Fitz and the Tantrums sterilize the band’s retro-soul attack, Shake the Spirit is rendered lifeless by a sound field that makes her Wanda Jackson-esque attack sound like Pat Boone.  Here’s “Shame”.

Even though I have little patience for astrology, Nao’s pseudo-science themed Saturn captivates me.  RIYL: Janet Jackson at her weirdest, horoscopes, Frank Ocean at his most conventional.  Here’s “Make It Out Alive”.

After Caroline, 43 minutes of delicious skronk by Jason Stein’s Locksmith Isadore, is RIYL Eric Dolphy, bass clarinet, Evan Parker.

Vince Staples’ FM! mixtape is disappointing.  Here’s “Fun!”.

A commendable album is hiding underneath multiple layers of sticky varnish on Carrie Underwood’s Cry Pretty.  Here’s “Love Wins”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, November 09, 2018

The Top Ten Albums of 2018 by Kansas City Musicians

Musicians associated with Kansas City released dozens of albums in 2018.  A few of the most prominent projects aren’t included here.  Rather than acting as a barometer of parochial groupthink, my list contains the ten albums with the most artistic merit.

1. Logan Richardson- Blues People

2. Kelly Hunt- Even the Sparrow

3. Stephonne- Caged Bird Sings Songs About Red Beard

4. Rich the Factor- CEO of the BlacktopCEO of the Blacktop 2 and CEO of the Blacktop 3

5. Janelle Monáe- Dirty Computer

6. The Project H- Everyday, Forever

7. Chen Yi- Concertos for String Instruments

8. Stephen Martin- Vision

9. Tech N9ne- Planet

10. Calvin Arsenia- Cantaloupe

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Concert Review: Dia de los Deftones at Petco Park

I’ve limited myself to a single live music event during my second honeymoon in San Diego.  But man, what a show!  Dia de los Deftones, a festival curated by hometown heroes Deftones, was held just beyond the outfield of Petco Park and spilled over into a street adjacent to the baseball stadium on Saturday, November 3.

Complications with a rideshare caused me to miss the opening act Vowws, but Vein’s ferocious attack on the secondary stage made me feel a lot better about skipping the 2018 edition of Warped Tour.  The cool kids insisting that Vein is one of rock’s best hopes may be right.  Ho99o9, an industrial rock/rap trio in the style of Death Grips and Injury Reserve, was even better.  Failing to get hurt after getting swept into the mosh pit a couple times confirmed my sense that I’m living the life of Riley.

I’ve never managed to get into Rocket From the Crypt.  The veteran San Diego band received a cold shoulder from Deftones fans who shared my indifference.  I felt sorry for Mike Shinoda.  Not only did the music of the cofounder of Linkin Park ironically resemble second-rate Twenty One Pilots, his tribute to his late bandmate Chester Bennington was a major buzzkill.

The set by Future was easily the best effort I’ve witnessed by the rap superstar.  He’s floundered the past couple times I’ve seen him but Future did his best to engage the audience of approximately 5,000.  Unlike Future, Doja Cat didn’t have any baggage to overcome.  The immensely likable Cardi B knockoff gamely delivered her risque material including the hilarious novelty hit "Mooo!".

I had so much fun bouncing between the two stages for six hours that I forgot to eat.  Unfortunately, I remembered to down three Belching Beaver lagers introduced at the festival.  Overcome by a sudden wave of hunger when Deftones hit the main stage, I couldn’t enjoy its headlining appearance.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, October 29, 2018

Jazz Revisionism

When she burst onto the international jazz scene a decade ago, I hailed Esperanza Spalding as The One, a bold, charismatic and visionary artist capable of reversing the flagging fortunes of the form.  Bad call.  Not only is much of Spalding’s work removed from jazz these days, her new album 12 Little Spells is one of the most noxious releases by a critically acclaimed artist in years.  12 Little Spells is so aggressively awful that tracks like “Readying to Rise” resemble parodies of frequently self-indulgent acts like Weather Report, Frank Zappa and King Crimson.  The only song on 12 Little Spells worth revisiting is “Touch in Mine”.

In a much more pleasant reassessment, I’ve come around to Cécile McLorin Salvant.  I long thought the hype surrounding the vocalist was unwarranted.  The critical darling struck me as fey, mannered and slight.  Just as my commendation of Spalding proved to be wishful thinking, I reckoned Salvant’s backers desperately needed her to be something she wasn’t.  The Window changed my mind.  Accompanied only by the spectacular keyboardist Sullivan Fortner on all but one song on the lovely album, Salvant shows that she likely merits a place in the pantheon of the most notable jazz and cabaret talents.

Tony Joe White has died.  “Polk Salad Annie” and “Rainy Night in Georgia” were essential components of the soundtrack of my childhood.

Wah Wah Watson, a guitarist for the likes of Marvin Gaye and Maxwell, has died.

Saxophonist Sonny Fortune has died.

The Indian musician Annapurna Devi has died.

I think I’m going to meet my maker every time I travel between Kansas City and St. Louis.  The Bottle Rockets document the white-knuckle experience on “Highway 70 Blues,” the second track on their new album Bit Logic.  The plaint includes this truism: “if you’re in a hurry to cross Missouri, things might not go as planned.”

Although he wasn’t on the bill, the Louisville bard Will Oldham was the most famous person I encountered at the Cropped Out festival earlier this month.  Oldham’s new solo acoustic set Songs of Love and Horror is RIYL Tom Rush, exposed nerves, Eric Anderson.

James Francies sounds like Robert Glasper’s little brother on his Blue Note debut Flight.

Corporate rock sometimes hits the spot.  I freely admit that I enjoy Myles Kennedy’s Year of the Tiger.  RIYL: Chris Cornell, proficiency, Scott Weiland.  Here’s the title track.

Wolfgang Muthspiel’s Where the River Goes is fine, but I was expecting so much more from the all-star collaboration.  The Austrian guitarist is accompanied by trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Eric Harland on a project that doesn't fulfill its promise.

The Dirty Nil’s Master Volume is a masterful evocation of rock bands ranging from Thin Lizzy to Wavves.  Here’s “That's What Heaven Feels Like”.

Román Filiú’s stellar Quarteria is RIYL Miguel Zenón, Cuban jazz, Henry Threadgill.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Look How Wrong You Can Be: Rod Stewart at the Sprint Center

It seems ridiculous at this late date, but I once cared about Rod Stewart so much that I held a grudge against the star.  Even though I was a punk enthusiast in the late ‘70s, I still loved early Stewart albums like Every Picture Tells a Story.  I took his artistic change of direction exemplified by "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" as a personal affront.  I stopped caring about Stewart altogether twenty years ago.

My date and I regretted our impulsive purchase of $32 tickets as we drove to the Sprint Center last Tuesday, but Stewart immediately won us over.  Whether he was belting out classics like “Maggie May” or dodgy material like “Infatuation,” the preposterous antics of the unabashed ham were charming.  I didn’t hesitate to enthusiastically sing along to "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?"

An older woman seated in front of us googled “Rod Stewart age” in an oversize font on her undimmed phone.  Her curiosity was understandable.  The lusty vigor displayed by Stewart, 73, is genuinely sexy.  I smiled the entire show.  Had he been able to see into the future, my 18-year-old self would have been mortified.  I never liked that kid much anyway.

I opted to post my review of Erykah Badu’s memorable concert at the Sprint Center at Plastic Sax.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

Pilfered from my Twitter account: Joe Strummer lives! After raving about the combat rock of 6666 in a blog post on Tuesday, I paid $17 to catch Four Fists at the Riot Room last night.  I felt as if I was listening to the Clash’s Sandinista! for the first time.  The footage I posted to Instagram amuses me.

I’m looking forward to an imminent beach vacation.  Quebra Cabeça, the fourth album by the Brazilian Afro-funk band Bixiga 70, will likely provide the core of the sunny but slightly sinister soundtrack to my downtime.  Here’s the title track.

Not every selection on Atmosphere’s Mi Vida Local hits home, but Slug’s musings on subjects like parenting and Ant’s discerning beats reveal a promising path forward for aging hip-hop artists.  RIYL: feeling Minnesota, Jay-Z’s 4:44, middle age.

Open Mike Eagle’s What Happens When I Try To Relax is scathing standup comedy set to astonishing music.  RIYL: Shabazz Palaces, punchlines, Dave Chappelle.

Ubiquitous’s new four-song EP has several good moments.  Here’s “What If?”.

I’ve never understood why jazz artists continue to allow producers and engineers to intentionally make their albums sound as if they were recorded in 1956.  The rich sound field of Aaron Parks' Little Big demonstrates the virtues of embracing the fact that it’s 2018.  RIYL: Pat Metheny Group, volume, Brad Mehldau Trio.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Combat Rock: Joe Strummer and Four Fists

Strummer 001, a recently released two-hour compilation of Joe Strummer rarities, confirms what I’d already knew.  The man who died in 2002 did his best work with the Clash.  Even so, hearing Strummer working out new ideas before and after his contributions to the seminal band is fascinating.  I hadn’t heard half of the 32 punk, folk, pub-rock and reggae tracks on Strummer 001.  The previously unissued selections make it clear that Strummer was striving to become a modern-day Woody Guthrie.  He succeeded.

Four Fists’ 6666, a collaboration between underground hip-hop luminaries P.O.S and Astronautalis, is a de facto tribute to Strummer.  Not only is the sixth selection titled “Joe Strummr,” the opening track “Nobody’s Biz” references the Clash’s “White Riot.”  The snippet of a Strummer interview that opens “Unjinxed” highlights Four Fists’ embrace of Strummer’s mandate to create protest music.

With the exception of the title track of Four Fist’s album and a version of Strummer’s garage-band classic “Keys To Your Heart,” all of 6666 is better than anything on 001.  The vitality of Four Fists’ fusion of rap, rock and electronic music honors Strummer’s legacy.  The only thing P.O.S and Astronautalis get wrong is their lament that “Joe Strummer has been dead for too damn long.”  Strummer lives in 6666.

I reviewed Ed Sheeran’s concert at Arrowhead Stadium.

My most recent concert previews for The Kansas City Star are here and here.

I reviewed performances by the Vijay Iyer Sextet at the Gem Theater and Ramsey Lewis and Urban Knights at the Folly Theater for Plastic Sax.

Jazz saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett has died.

The opera star Montserrat Caballé has died.

The experimental musician Takehisa Kosugi has died.

Angela Maria has died.  My fellow music obsessives will appreciate this documentary about the Brazilian star.

Ambrose Akinmusire’s Origami Harvest has replaced Kanye West as the subject of the most heated music-related altercations I'm having with my family and friends.  Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the probable album-of-the-year.

Zinc City is a fever dream in which saxophonist David Binney and pianist Manuel Engel give free reign to their most psychotic impulses.  RIYL: Karl Stockhausen, nightmares, John Cage.

The avant-garde bluegrass of Nathan Bowles’ Plainly Mistaken occasionally sounds like a mashup of Earl Scruggs and Philip Glass.

Spider Bags’ scuzzy Someday Everything Will Be Fine is my kind of rock and roll album.  RIYL: Tav Falco, stage-diving into the abyss, Deer Tick.  Here’s “Oxcart Blues”.

Lovely or fussy?  Artful genius or pretentious twaddle?  Past his prime or a lion in winter?  I won’t argue with either set of assessments of Paul Simon’s In the Blue Light

Donny McCaslin’s concert at the Folly Theater in 2017 was transcendent because the saxophonist’s trio played jazz with the energy, volume and showmanship of a rock band.  McCaslin loses the plot on Blow, a rock album that resembles a forgettable solo venture by a David Bowie sideman.  RIYL: Adrian Belew, miscalculations, Reeves Gabrels.

Prodded by a pal, I reluctantly listened to the Midnight’s Kids, a nostalgic love letter to mid-’80s suburban America in which synth-pop and video games were ascendent.  RIYL: Howard Jones, synth-wave, Yazoo.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Festival Review: Cropped Out 2018

I pogoed at a rapturous performance by the revolutionary rock band Half Japanese five minutes after my mind was scrambled by a collaboration between the heroic titan Anthony Braxton and the imaginative harpist Jacqueline Kerrod in Louisville on Saturday.  The startling contrast between the iconoclastic musicians is what the Cropped Out festival in Louisville is all about.

The annual event represents a paradise for broad-minded aficionados of outsider music.  I heard folk, punk, indie-rock, hip-hop, free jazz, experimental noise, bluegrass, chamber jazz, honky tonk, footwork and a comedian dressed as a opossum at the two-day event.  The music-centric festival isn’t for everyone.  Cropped Out is all about the music.  Organizers can scarcely be bothered with maintaining an online presence.  And while it boasts a glorious view of the Ohio River, the festival grounds at the American Turners Club resemble a condemned country club.

Unlike many of the approximately 750 attendees whose stylistic choices signaled an absolute rejection of the mainstream, my enthusiasm for the esoteric lineup isn’t exclusionary.  I embrace Cropped Out because it allows me to gorge on acts that I might not otherwise see without the hassles associated with major festivals.  I certainly didn’t like everything I heard.  Circuit Des Yeux, the most anticipated act at the festival, did nothing for me.  Thankfully, outings by the two veteran artists that compelled me to attend Cropped Out fulfilled my expectations.  My ten favorite performances:

1. Anthony Braxton and Jacqueline Kerrod- a giant of American music (my Instagram footage)
2. Michael Hurley- a true folk hero (my Instagram footage)
3. Drunks With Guns- surly St. Louis punks
4. Nathan Bowles and Bill MacKay- avant-garde folk (my Instagram footage)
5. Jana Rush- footwork pioneer
6. Half Japanese- bandleader Jad Fair is a rock heretic
7. The Web- disaffected prog-rock
8. Sex Tide- punk rage
9. Quin Kirchner- chamber-jazz (my Instagram footage)
10. Taiwan Housing Project- incendiary rock noise

Next year’s goal: crossing Harold Budd, Evan Parker and Ralph Towner off my bucket list at the Big Ears Festival.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Album Review: John Scofield- Combo 66

John Scofield is so unassumingly exceptional that it’s only natural to take the guitarist and his rapidly expanding catalog for granted.  He tours relentlessly while issuing a steady stream of recordings.  Combo 66, the latest album in his vast discography, is (ho hum) excellent.  Joined by keyboardist Gerald Clayton, bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Bill Stewart, Scofield grooves like a Wurlitzer jukebox stocked with Grant Green and Jimi Hendrix singles.  In addition to acting as a party-starter, Scofield plays with breathtaking grace on lovely melodies including  “I’m Sleeping In.”  Yet it’s Clayton’s singular work on organ and piano that will compel me to return to Combo 66 years from now.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

I reviewed a performance by Ryan Lee’s Mezzo String for Plastic Sax.

The material Otis Rush recorded for the Cobra label in the 1950s epitomizes what I want from the blues (and most other forms of music, really.)  Raw songs like “Groaning the Blues” and “Double Trouble” have terrified, thrilled and inspired me for decades.  Rush died last week.

Charles Aznavour has died.

Latin jazz legendJerry González has died.

Studio wizard Geoff Emerick has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

The most interesting aspect of Giorgio Moroder’s appearance at the Truman last week was the way in which individual members the audience of about 600 responded to each selection.  I was there primarily for the Donna Summer hits, but most people only became fully energized when the influential producer’s contributions to movie soundtracks like “Top Gun,” “Flashdance” and “The Neverending Story” filled the room with processed cheese.

Chic’s It’s About Time doesn’t damage Niles Rodgers’ legacy.  RIYL: “Good Times,” dance floors, “I Want Your Love.”

The lithe production of No Name’s Room 25 won’t bump in anyone’s whip.  Even so, it’s an entirely winning hip-hop album.  RIYL: Dessa, taking a break from Cardi and Nicki, Chance the Rapper.

I remember when Lil Wayne was the best rapper alive.  While it’s not a disaster, Tha Carter V saddens me.

(Original image of John Scofield and Bill Stewart at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2017 by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Concert Review: Lonnie Holley in Swope Park

An ugly truth was revealed 25 minutes into Lonnie Holley’s appearance in Swope Park on the afternoon of Saturday, September 29. More than 100 name tag-wearing people who were part of a Kansas City art tour affiliated with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art left the concert and boarded buses that were parked near the pavilion hosting weekend presentations for the Open Spaces festival. Less than 20 people remained. The small group of Holley’s fans and Open Spaces staff members witnessed an amazing performance.

The music of the celebrated artist with an extraordinary backstory is equal parts Moondog, Nina Simone and Sun Ra. Accompanied by Dave Nelson’s looped trombone and Marlon Patton’s drumming (both men also triggered electronic effects), Holley shouted, pleaded, whispered and whistled as he played keyboards on loose compositions about the presence of God, the nature of time, an epidemic of sorrow and the sacrifices of our forefathers. A piece about emotional and electrical currents resembled an avant-garde version of “Wichita Lineman.” The hypnotic resonance of Holley’s cosmic gospel raised my spirits even as it moved me to tears.

Heavy traffic for The Illusionists show at Starlight Theatre made exiting Swope Park difficult. The professional magicians are entertaining tricksters (my review of a 2016 show by the Illusionists), but I left the park knowing that I’d witnessed Holley conjure real magic.

(Original images by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Album Review: Blood Orange- Negro Swan

I once thought Blood Orange was exceedingly overrated.  The music made by the lionized auteur Devonté Hynes finally catches up to the breathless hype on Negro Swan, one of the most engaging alternative R&B albums to be released in the wake of Frank Ocean’s game-changing 2012 masterpiece Channel OrangeNegro Swan’s glossiest songs could be psychedelic remixes of George Michael’s biggest hits while less structured tracks sound like spontaneous late-night D’Angelo jams.  The spoken word interludes about sexual politics and gender identity don’t address concerns of immediate interest to me, but the passages provide effective transitions between the stylistically disparate selections.  Here’s “Jewelry” and “Saint”.

I reviewed Billy Joel’s concert at Kauffman Stadium for The Kansas City Star.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

I slam everything in an irritable Plastic Sax post.

Chas Hodges of Chas and Dave has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

Good Lord!  The deep 1980s funk on the Dur-Dur Band compilation Volume 1, Volume 2 & Previously Unreleased Tracks saved my soul the other day.  Not even the atrocious sound quality spoils my appreciation of the uplifting music that seems to be based equally on the (Jamaican) Wailers and indigenous African styles.  (Tip via Big Steve.)

The Near East Quartet achieve one of the rarest feats in jazz with “Jinyang”: the creation a compelling music video.  The South Korean group’s ECM debut is imbued with similarly originality.

“The Gypsy Faerie Queen”, a new song by Marianne Faithfull and Nick Cave that “exists in the twilight in-between,” is almost more than I can bear. 

Mandy Barnett’s Strange Conversation has a few nice moments.  RIYL: Patsy Cline, near misses, K.D. Lang.

I expected to like Anthony Roth Costanzo’s Arc.  I was mistaken.  RIYL: Philip Glass, countertenors, George Frideric Handel.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Song Review: Ambrose Akinmusire's “a blooming bloodfruit in a hoodie”

Ambrose Akinmusire’s validation of my hot take on his new song “a blooming bloodfruit in a hoodie” gratified me last week.  Minutes after I suggested that the “essential new ‘a blooming bloodfruit in a hoodie’ is the jazz equivalent of Lou Reed’s monumental ‘Street Hassle’” on Twitter, Akinmusire affirmed the assessment.  Like “Street Hassle,” the coarse 13-minute track is simultaneously funny and tragic as it fluently merges high art and popular music.  The opening selection from the forthcoming album Origami Harvest is one of the most exciting things I’ve heard in 2018 and reinforces my belief that Akinmusire is one of the most vital artists of the new millennium.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

I reviewed the Count Basie Orchestra’s new album All About That Basie at Plastic Sax.

I’d be lying if I suggested I was a fan of Mac Miller.  Even so, his recent Tiny Desk Concert featuring a band that includes Thundercat and Justus West showed Miller evolving toward a musical direction that appeals to me.  Miller died last week.

The rugged saxophonist Big Jay McNeely has died.

Maartin Allcock of Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

Katherine Paul, the woman behind Black Belt Eagle Scout, is less heralded than many of her similarly winsome indie-rock peers, but I prefer her album Mother of My Children to most of the more acclaimed efforts.  Here’s “Indians Never Die”.

Rich the Factor makes a cameo appearance on Rico, the new album by the ostensible drug kingpin and rapper Berner.  Chronixx, Cam’ron and Kevin Gates are also featured.  Here’s the title track.

Cedric Burnside’s Benton County Relic is an admirable blues album.  RIYL: R.L. Burnside, family traditions, T-Model Ford.

I’m still mourning the February death of Jóhann Jóhannsson.  The Icelandic composer’s posthumously released score for the horror flick Mandy also acts as an unsettlingly abrasive soundtrack for the current societal discourse.

Most people think I’m kidding when I tell them I adore Ariana Grande’s recent music.  Maybe they’ll come around to my way of hearing things after they take in the pop star’s interpretation of Thundercat’s “Them Changes.”

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, September 14, 2018

Concert Review: The Bang on a Can All-Stars and the Kansas City Chorale at the Folly Theater

The most prestigious offering of Open Spaces was an artistic triumph and an attendance disaster.  About 100 people showed up for the ambitious collaboration between the Bang on a Can All-Stars, one of New York’s most decorated new music ensembles, and the four-time Grammy Award recipients the Kansas City Chorale at the Folly Theater on Thursday.  Tickets to the Kansas City premiere of “Anthracite Fields”, the oratorio about coal miners that won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Music, were only $20.  The dismal turnout for the once-in-a-lifetime event at the venue with more than 1,000 seats was almost certainly the smallest showing for either acclaimed group in years.

Bang on a Can clarinetist Ken Thomson didn’t bother to use a microphone when he told the small gathering seated near the stage that his group had rehearsed with the Kansas City Chorale the previous two days.  The preparation paid off.  Conducted by the Chorale’s Charles Bruffy, the rendering of “Anthracite Fields” was magnificent.  Bruffy’s 27-member group excelled in the uncharacteristically adventurous context.  A melding of classical, rock and folk elements, “Anthracite Fields” is a sonically jarring but emotionally compelling work.  Composer Julia Wolfe grinned broadly as she was rewarded with a standing ovation at the conclusion of the evening.

Bang on a Can opened the concert with interpretations of two similarly engaging pieces.  Described in the glossy 20-page program for the concert as “an exploration into the use of video to create a framework in which live music can develop,” a madcap reading of Christian Marclay’s “Fade to Slide” showcased Bang on a Can’s ability to transcend labels.  The sensitive playing of cellist Ashley Bathgate during Michael Gordon’s meditation on mortality “Light is Calling” was almost as heartbreaking as the sparse attendance for the crown jewel of Open Spaces.

I reviewed the record-breaking concert by Taylor Swift, Camila Cabello and Charlie XCX at Arrowhead Stadium.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

I implore Kansas City’s jazz artists to redirect their promotional efforts at Plastic Sax.

The promotional video for Cropped Out causes me to my question my decision to attend next month’s outsider music festival in Louisville.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, September 07, 2018

Album Review: Nicole Mitchell- Maroon Cloud

I almost bailed on Nicole Mitchell’s Maroon Cloud after ten disorienting minutes.  Acclimating to the maelstrom created by the flutist’s drummer-less quartet is challenging.  The initial rough sledding serves to heighten the ultimate payoff.  Mitchell, vocalist Fay Victor, pianist Aruán Ortiz and cellist Tomeka Reid revive the most experimental aspects of the Sun Ra Arkestra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago.  Victor insists that “sometimes a sound represents eternity” on “Sound.”  She’s right.  Maroon Cloud has all the earmarks of a timeless avant-garde album.

I created an four-minute audio feature about Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust for KCUR.

I reviewed the Marcus Lewis Big Band’s Brass and Boujee album at Plastic Sax.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

I yakked about Open Spaces on KCUR.

The American Jazz Museum held a press conference to promote a Randy Weston concert in 2010.  Only a television cameraman and I showed up.  Here are my notes documenting the odd event.  The jazz legend died Saturday.

I relate to the locale of the Netflix series Ozark as much as the next Midwestern yokel.  Return, the forthcoming album by William Blackart, acts as a supplemental soundtrack to Ozark.  The Arkansas based singer-songwriter makes hardscrabble roots-rock in the vein of John Moreland.  Blackart’s current tour of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri includes a stop at the Westport Saloon in Kansas City on September 26.

I didn’t want to invest time in Cyrus Chestnut’s Kaleidoscope, but there’s just no denying a piano trio album that ranges from Erik Satie to Deep Purple.

Bruce Soord of the Pineapple Thief didn’t make much of an impression on me when I heard him open a concert for Steven Wilson in 2016.  Dissolution, the new album by the Pineapple Thief, does little to alter that perception.  RIYL: second-tier Roger Waters, dyspeptic pomp, a poor man’s Peter Gabriel.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)