Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Top Musicians, Albums, Songs and Concerts of the Decade

I created this survey as a companion to a Kansas City compendium that serves as the outline for my appearance on the radio program Eight One Sixty on Tuesday, July 2.

The Top Ten Musicians of the Decade
1. Kanye West
2. Kendrick Lamar
3. Jóhann Jóhannsson
4. St. Vincent
5. Flying Lotus
6. Bill Frisell
7. Rihanna
8. Drake
9. Taylor Swift
10. Future

The Top 25 Albums of the Decade
1. Kendrick Lamar- Good Kid, M.A.A.D City 2012
2. Kanye West- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 2010
3. Frank Ocean- Channel Orange 2012
4. Rihanna- Anti 2016
5. Earl Sweatshirt- Doris 2013
6. Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp a Butterfly 2015
7. Kanye West- Yeezus 2013
8. Chance the Rapper- Coloring Book 2016
9. St. Vincent- Strange Mercy 2011
10. Ambrose Akinmusire- When the Heart Emerges Glistening 2011

11. Kanye West- The Life of Pablo 2016
12. Jlin- Autobiography 2018
13. Kendrick Lamar- Damn 2017
14. Vince Staples- Summertime '06 2015
15. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah- Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah 2012
16. Jill Scott- Woman 2015
17. Solange- When I Get Home 2019
18. Robert Glasper- Black Radio 2012
19. Killer Mike- R.A.P. Music 2012
20. Jóhann Jóhannsson- Orphée 2016

21. Beyoncé- Beyoncé 2013
22. Brad Mehldau- Highway Rider 2010
23. Brockhampton- Saturation II 2017
24. Miranda Lambert- The Weight of These Wings 2016
25. Drake- Scorpion 2018

The Top 25 Songs of the Decade
1. Kanye West- “Ultralight Beam” 2016
2. Tyler, the Creator- "Yonkers" 2011
3. Nicki Minaj- "Beez in the Trap" 2012
4. Pusha T featuring Kendrick Lamar- “Nosetalgia” 2013
5. Lorde- "Royals" 2013
6. Drake- “Nice For What” 2018
7. Kendrick Lamar- “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” 2012
8. Ledisi- "Pieces of Me" 2011
9. Taylor Swift- “Getaway Car” 2017
10. Akwid- "California" 2010

11. Run the Jewels- “Close Your Eyes (And Count to F*ck)” 2014
12. Nas and Damian Marley- "As We Enter" 2010
13. Leela James- "Tell Me You Love Me" 2010
14. ASAP Rocky- "Purple Swag" 2013
15. Kanye West- "Power" 2010
16. Pusha T- "Numbers on the Boards" 2013
17. Cardi B- “Bodak Yellow” 2017
18. Skating Polly- "Alabama Movies" 2014
19. Rick Ross featuring Kanye West and Big Sean- "Sanctified" 2014
20. E-40 with YG- "Function" 2012

21. Das Racist- "Rainbow In The Dark" 2011
22. Waka Flocka- "Hard In Da Paint" 2010
23. Rihanna with Kanye West and Paul McCartney- “FourFiveSeconds” 2016
24. Rosalía- “Malamente” 2018
25. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment- “Sunday Candy” 2015

The Top 25 Concerts of the Decade
1. Kanye West- Sprint Center 2013
2. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- Midland theater 2014
3. Joyce DiDonato with the Philadelphia Orchestra- Carnegie Hall (New York City) 2015
4. Bobby Rush- Living Room at Knuckleheads 2013
5. Deftones- VooDoo Lounge 2011
6. Chance the Rapper- Midland theater 2015
7. The Dubliners- Royal Albert Hall (London) 2012
8. Mary J. Blige- Sprint Center 2013
9. David Byrne- Muriel Kauffman Theatre 2018
10. Maze- Municipal Auditorium 2014

11. The Art Ensemble of Chicago- Tennessee Theater (Knoxville) 2019
12. Miranda Lambert- Sporting Park 2013
13. Pharaoh Sanders- Blues Alley (Washington D.C.) 2014
14. Salif Keita- Town Hall (New York City) 2017
15. Lawrence Brownlee and Eric Owens- Folly Theater 2017
16. Erykah Badu- Sprint Center 2018
17. Future- Petco Park (San Diego) 2018
18. Philip Glass and Tim Fain- Helzberg Hall 2012
19. Anthony Braxton and Jacqueline Kerrod- American Turners Club (Louisville) 2018
20. Miguel- Midland theater 2015

21. Bettye LaVette- Knuckleheads 2014
22. Juan Gabriel- Sprint Center 2015
23. Enrico Rava's Tribe- Winningstad Theatre (Portland) 2012
24. Merle Haggard- Uptown Theater 2015
25. Os Mutantes- Granada 2010

(Original image of the Soul Rebels at the Gem Theater in 2017 by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Top Kansas City Musicians, Albums and Concerts of the Decade

I created the following lists in advance of my appearance on the weekly radio program Eight One Sixty.  At 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 2, Chris Hagharian and I will discuss some of my favorite music in an ambitious episode titled “Best of the Decade: 10 Years, 2010-2019.”

The Top Ten Kansas City Musicians of the Decade
1. Bobby Watson
2. Joyce DiDonato
3. Janelle Monaé
4. Pat Metheny
5. Tech N9ne/Krizz Kaliko
6. Marilyn Maye
7. Logan Richardson
8. Matt Otto
9. Eddie Moore
10. Making Movies

The Top 25 Kansas City Albums of the Decade 
1. Logan Richardson- Shift 2016
2. Pat Metheny- Orchestrion 2010
3. The Grisly Hand- Country Singles 2013
4. Janelle Monaé- The ArchAndroid 2010
5. Tech N9ne- All 6's and 7's 2011
6. Stik Figa- The City Under the City 2013
7. Making Movies- A La Deriva 2013
8. Peter Schlamb- Tinks 2014
9. Kelly Hunt- Even the Sparrow 2018
10. Bobby Watson- The Gates BBQ Suite 2010

11. Rich the Factor- Smile 2016
12. Joyce DiDonato- Stella di Napoli 2014
13. Matt Otto and Ensemble Ibérica- Ibérica 2017
14. Karrin Allyson- ‘Round Midnight 2011
15. The Get Up Kids- There Are Rules 2011
16. Deborah Brown- All Too Soon 2012
17. Steve Cardenas- West of Middle 2010
18. Samantha Fish- Chills & Fever 2017
19. Krizz Kaliko- Kickin' & Screamin' 2012
20. Iris DeMent- Sing the Delta 2012

21. Hermon Mehari- Bleu 2017
22. Ces Cru- 13 2012
23. The Project H- We Live Among the Lines 2014
24. The Architects- Border Wars (2013, 2014 and 2017)
25. My Brothers & Sisters- Violet Music, Vol. 1 2014

The Top 25 Kansas City Concerts of the Decade
1. Marilyn Maye- Jardine's 2010
2. Bobby Watson and Horizon- Blue Room 2010
3. Pat Metheny- Uptown Theater 2010
4. Tech N9ne- Rockfest at Penn Valley Park 2015
5. Janelle Monae- Liberty Hall 2010
6. Logan Richardson- Blue Room 2016
7. Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle- Tank Room 2016
8. Deborah Brown- Gem Theater 2011
9. Lauren Krum with the Project H- Westport Coffee House 2015
10. Lonnie McFadden- Black Dolphin 2018

11. Rich the Factor- 7th Heaven 2017
12. Matt Otto Quartet- Blue Room 2011
13. The Grisly Hand- Take Five Coffee + Bar 2013
14. Karrin Allyson- Jardine's 2010
15. Diverse- Grant Recital Hall 2011
16. The Appleseed Cast- Riot Room 2013
17. Peter Schlamb’s Electric Tinks- RecordBar 2015
18. Stephonne Singleton- Tank Room 2016
19. Be/Non- Scottish Rite Temple 2016
20. The People's Liberation Big Band- RecordBar 2012

21. Alaturka- Jardine's 2010
22. Trampled Under Foot- Knuckleheads 2016
23. Bach Aria Soloists- All Souls Unitarian Church 2011
24. Ebony Tusks- Midland theater 2016
25. The Greeting Committee- Boulevardia 2019

(Original image by There Stands the Glass. From left to right: Andrew Ouellette, Bobby Watson, Tivon Pennicott, Chloe McFadden, Lonnie McFadden, DeAndre Manning, Tyree Johnson, Matt Hopper, Ronnie McFadden.)

Sunday, June 23, 2019

June Recap

Top Five Performances
1. Rickie Lee Jones- Crossroads KC
(My review.)
2. X- Knuckleheads
(My Instagram clip.)
3. Snarky Puppy- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
(My review.)
4. Trombone Shorty- Crossroads KC
(My review.)
5. The Greeting Committee- Boulevardia
(My review.)

Top Five Albums
1. Santana- Africa Speaks
A shockingly wonderful surprise.
2. Prince- Originals
3. David Sánchez- Carib
4. Bill Callahan- Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest
My kind of weirdo.
5. Bruce Springsteen- Western Stars
Drive fast, fall hard.

Top Five Songs
1. Kate Tempest- “Hold Your Own”
Pep talk.
2. Freddie Gibbs, Madlib and Anderson Paak- “Giannis”
3. Black Pumas- “Stay Gold”
4. Billy F. Gibbons- “Hot Rod”
That guitar, though.
5. Nérija- “Riverfest”
London’s grooving.

I conducted the same exercise in May, April, March, February and January.

(Original image of members of Trombone Shorty’s Orleans Avenue by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Concert Review: Rickie Lee Jones at Crossroads KC

Seeing Rickie Lee Jones for the first time is akin to discovering that Santa Claus is real.  It turns out that Jones really is an old-school beatnik who has no choice but to inhabit a rarefied realm in which ‘50s-era West Coast jazz and Dylanesque folk intersect.

I paid $40 for a magical 95-minute trip to Coolsville, a place where Jones raps several lines of Cypress Hill’s “(Rock) Superstar” one moment and casually mentions that she recorded her 1991 album Pop Pop with jazz luminaries including saxophonist Joe Henderson and bassist Charlie Haden in the next without seeming the least bit incongruous.

Most members of the absurdly small audience of about 300 at Crossroads KC on Sunday were Jones’ generational peers, a circumstance that allowed me to ride the rail to get an intimate view of her interactions with percussionist Mike Dillon and two crackerjack multi-instrumentalists.  I didn’t dare snap a photo.  A testy performer, Jones directed her ire at a smoker, an annoying blurter and even a passing motorcyclist in the first few minutes of the show.  I didn’t want to be her next target.

Jones went full torch singer on “Company”, delivered a bebop interpretation of “Bye Bye Blackbird” and oversaw a hot jazz reading of “Nagasaki” that she admitted was based on the 1937 arrangement by the Mills Brothers.  Without the studio polish that ruined the original recording, a version of the devastating junkie blues “Living It Up” tore me to pieces.

I won’t bother making a Christmas list in December.  Santa came early this year.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Concert Review: Boulevardia 2019

I abandoned Boulevardia ninety minutes before rain washed out the headlining acts Dashboard Confessional and Ha Ha Tonka on Saturday.  Abstaining from alcohol allowed me to focus on 13 performances.  Capsule reviews of my five favorite sets follow.

The Black Creatures
I’d been so nonplussed by the Black Creature’s postings at Bandcamp that I’d planned to pass on the duo’s set.  An urgent impulse to take refuge from the sun led to a wonderful discovery at a small indoor stage.  The Black Creatures’ psychedelic neo-soul recordings don’t reflect front person Jade Green’s charming stage presence.

The Greeting Committee
Vindication!  I recently came under fire for claiming that the Greeting Committee is Kansas City’s most popular rock band in an audio feature I created for KCUR.  The thousands of drunk bros and middle-aged admirers who joined the group’s core fan base of young women in singing along to greasy-kid-stuff songs like “Hands Down” proved my point.

Katy Guillen and the Drive
Kansas City loves boogie.  Guillen’s new power trio satisfies Kansas City’s abiding passion for the ‘70s guitar-rock associated with groups like Foghat, Humble Pie and Mountain.  Light rain during the group’s set enhanced my appreciation of its throwback sound.

Kelly Hunt
A publicist recently attempted to pique my interest in the re-release of the debut album by the Kansas City folk artist Kelly Hunt by unknowingly including pull quotes from my rave review of Hunt's 2018 album in her pitch.  Hunt may be my favorite musician in Kansas City.

DJ Jazzy Jeff
Does anyone else remember the 2009 brouhaha that followed DJ Jazzy Jeff’s ostensible ouster from the Power & Light District?  Saturday’s benign set was even less threatening than the Greeting Committee’s frothy rock that preceded it.  The jock jams-themed mix blended Tupac, Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” J Balvin, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Toto’s “Africa” and (tons of) Bruno Mars with the DJ’s own hits including “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”.

I reviewed the Kansas City debut of Snarky Puppy at Plastic Sax.

(Original image of DJ Jazzy Jeff by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Heartbreak Mountain

To the best of my knowledge, I don’t harbor any repressed memories.  Even so, I possess a psychological warehouse of unpleasant recollections that I choose not to dwell on.  A handful of selections on The Complete Capitol Singles 1971-1975, a recently released collection of material by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, plunged me back to what must be a composite memory from my childhood.  I’m alone in a parked sedan that reeks of fresh cigarette smoke and stale Coors even though the windows are down.  Second-tier country songs play on the AM radio as I pick at the sun-cracked artificial leather seat.  Thanks to the new compilation, I now know that I was hearing "The Good Ol' Days (Are Here Again)", “Made in Japan” and “Heartbreak Mountain”.  Buck and his boys were running on empty and I was just trying not to be noticed.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

I reviewed Universal Pulse, a 2004 alliance of Mike Dillon, Earl Harvin and Arny Young, at Plastic Sax.

Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys has died.

Guitarist Spencer Bohren has died.

I don’t recall previously hearing any of the 20 revelatory songs on the 83-minute Outro Tempo II: Electronic And Contemporary Music From Brazil, 1984-1996 compilation.  While the insufferable pop production techniques associated with the era are represented, most artists subvert the harsh digital sound with acoustic flourishes that sound deliriously strange to a guy who was raised on country radio in the northern hemisphere.  (Tip via Big Steve.)

Rainford is the Lee “Scratch” Perry album of my dreams.

This show was among the Santana concerts I attended at the Uptown Theater about 40 years ago.  I fondly recall the sustained guitar notes and the Latin percussion workouts at the jam-oriented shows.  The new album Africa Speaks isn’t merely a return to form, it’s a significant upgrade on the band’s vintage sound.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, June 07, 2019

Concert Review: Trombone Shorty and Seratones at Crossroads KC

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue concerts are preposterous.  The garish presentations of the high-energy New Orleans band are completely over-the-top.  Every solo is presented as a heroic achievement.  About 1,000 people lapped up the shameless showboating of the nine-piece band at Crossroads KC on Tuesday, June 4.  It would have been corny if it wasn’t so effective.  The musicians back up their ostentatious grandstanding with stellar ensemble work.  Often billed as a jazz act, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue is actually a jam-oriented funk band with a thick New Orleans accent.  Fans dictate the band’s direction.  More than half the audience used the group’s occasional forays into serious jazz-based improvisations as excuses to yak at their pals on Tuesday.  Most also talked through an opening set by Seratones.  I look forward to catching the soulful Shreveport group in a more accommodating setting.

Mac Rebennack, the Louisiana musician better known as Dr. John, has died.  A few personal notes:
*The Top 40 radio hit “Right Place, Wrong Time” blew my mind in 1973.
*A cutout copy of Desitively Bonnaroo was the first Dr. John album I purchased.
*Bluesiana Triangle is my favorite Dr. John-affiliated album.
*My adamant defense of Dr. John almost came to fisticuffs during a racially-charged argument at a bachelor party.  (I still regret my obstinance.)
*The first of the four or five Dr. John concerts I attended was in 1984.  I reviewed his 2006 appearance at the Beaumont for The Kansas City Star.
*My life partner asked Dr. John about his mojo hand during a question-and-answer session at a 2012 concert at Yardley Hall.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Album Review: Azymuth- Demos 1973-1975

At the risk of oversharing, I’ll divulge the musical component of one of my proven methods of relaxation.  Deploying shuffle mode on a playlist with a few hours of lowkey Brazilian grooves from the ‘70s and ‘80s almost always makes me feel better.  Azymuth is a key component of these emergency decompression sessions.  The group’s Brazilian twist on effervescent instrumental funk and lilting jazz fusion provides engaging but undemanding background music.  The release of Demos (1973-1975), Vol. 1 & 2 is an unexpected windfall.  Most of the 80-minute compilation is musically preferable- if sonically inferior- to Azymuth’s most popular material.  Songs like “Laranjaeiras” are in keeping with watery instrumental jams of the era like Deodato’s reading of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and Bob James’ “Nautilus” while the least pleasing tracks are compelling studio workouts.  The unfortunate inclusion of a seven-minute drum solo that’s of interest only to beat pilferers kills the otherwise sublime restorative vibe.

I reviewed StrangeFest for The Kansas City Star.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

I reviewed Ralph Peterson & The Messenger Legacy’s Legacy Alive, Volume 6 at the Side Door
at Plastic Sax.

Ivan Conti’s impressive new album Poison Fruit doesn’t qualify for inclusion in the playlists I reference above.  Not only does it not fit into my arbitrary time frame constraints, the project by Azymuth’s adventurous 72-year-old drummer includes contemporary electronic and hip-hop elements.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)