Tuesday, December 31, 2019

I Feel a Lot More Like I Do Now

Sleepy LaBeef has died.  I caught at least five performances by the towering musical encyclopedia in the 1980s.  It’s really not much of an achievement.  LaBeef seemed to roll through town every few months, and I was neck-deep in roots music in that bygone era.  LaBeef was on the same touring circuit as Luther Allison, Marcia Ball, Lonnie Brooks, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Joe “King” Carrasco, Otis Clay, Eddie Clearwater, Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Joe Ely, John Lee Hooker, the Morells, Queen Ida, Hound Dog Taylor, Koko Taylor, Barrence Whitfield and Webb Wilder.  I attended plenty of shows by each of those acts as a young man.  My allegiance to conventional bar bands seems entirely peculiar now.  Hooker aside, I don’t think I listened to a single song by anyone on that list in 2019. As LaBeef sang, I feel a lot more like I do now than I ever did before.

I write concert previews for The Kansas City Star every week.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, December 29, 2019


Dozens of neglected 2019 releases are still in my virtual queue.  I haven’t heard a note of potentially excellent albums by artists including Benjamin Bernheim, Ali Farka Touré, Gang Starr, Joe Henry, Londynn B, Thurston Moore and Xylouris White.  I got around to checking out recent efforts by Soweto Kinch and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra only after publishing my best-music-of-2019 list.  Kinch blends the trad-jazz of New Orleans with London grime on the 64-minute concept album The Black Peril.  The harmonious mashup of the styles associated with Jelly Roll Morton and Dizzee Rascal validates my assertion that jazz and rap are marginally different components of the same continuum.  The Iceland Symphony Orchestra introduces four new works on the riveting Concurrence.  Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s “Metacosmos” sounds like an instant classic and Páll Ragnar Pálsson’s composition “Quake” may be even better.

Bobby Watson is The Plastic Sax Person of the Decade.

From the Redemption of Kanye West department: “Mary” isn’t actually an opera.  Instead, it’s like an extremely ambitious variation of a church’s traditional Journey to Bethlehem presentation.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, December 27, 2019

Redemption Songs

Mea culpa.  Just two months after I retracted my longstanding support of Kanye West following the release of the loathsome Jesus Is King, the troubled icon redeemed himself with the release of the Sunday Services Choir’s glorious Jesus Is Born on Christmas.  It’s the gospel album I wanted from West all along.  The consecrated versions of West’s “Ultralight Beam” and “Father Stretch” as well as a reworking of SWV’s “Weak” will receive the most attention, but the rest of the selections are just as powerful.  My favorite tracks are “Follow Me,” a loopy workout that bounces between the church and the dance floor, and “That’s How the Good Lord Works,” a praise song as invigorating as a riverside baptism in January.  The best part?  West never opens his mouth.  (Almost) all is forgiven.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

I consider Eldar Djangirov’s new solo piano album Letter to Liz at Plastic Sax.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Hold Your Own: The Top Albums, Songs and Performances of 2019

The 50 Top Performances of 2019
1. The Art Ensemble of Chicago- Tennessee Theatre (Knoxville, Big Ears Festival)
2. Lauryn Hill- Kauffman Stadium
3. Logan Richardson’s Blues People- Capsule
4. Alisa Weilerstein, Sergey Khachatryan, Inon Barnatan and Colin Currie- Folly Theater
5. Rickie Lee Jones- Crossroads KC
6. Tomeka Reid, Nicole Mitchell and Mike Reed- St. John’s Cathedral (Knoxville, Big Ears Festival)
7. Jupiter & Okwess- 1900 Building
8. Meredith Monk’s Cellular Songs- Bijou Theatre (Knoxville, Big Ears Festival)
9. Little Joe Hernandez- Barney Allis Plaza
10. The Art Ensemble of Chicago- Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Chicago Jazz Festival)

11. Carrie Underwood- Sprint Center
12. Wilco- Midland theater
13. Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl- The Mill & Mine (Knoxville, Big Ears Festival)
14. Khatia Buniatishvili- Folly Theater
15. The Greeting Committee- West Bottoms (Boulevardia festival)
16. Max Richter with Grace Davidson and the American Contemporary Music Ensemble- Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater (Austin)
17. The Sextet- RecordBar
18. Khalid- Sprint Center
19. Kane Brown- Silverstein Eye Centers Arena
20. Elton John- Sprint Center

21. Tech N9ne- Silverstein Eye Centers Arena
22. Ehud Ettun and Henrique Eisenmann- 1900 Building
23. Riyaaz Qawwali- Cathedral of Saint John the Divine (New York City)
24. Mary J. Blige- Starlight Theatre
25. Rodney Crowell- 04 Center (Austin)
26. Matt Otto, Danny Embrey and Brian Steever- Black Dolphin
27. Bobby Watson & Horizon- White Recital Hall
28. Cardi B- Providence Medical Center Amphitheater
29. The Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet- Jay Pritzker Pavilion (Chicago Jazz Festival)
30. Al Foster Quintet- Smoke (New York City)

31. Orville Peck- RecordBar
32. Leo Wadada Smith- The Standard (Knoxville, Big Ears Festival)
33. X- Knuckleheads
34. Nadia Larcher with Ensemble Ibérica- MTH Theater
35. Gov’t Mule- Crossroads KC
36. Alessia Cara- Sprint Center
37. Squeeze- Chicago Theatre
38. Aaron Parks’ Little Big- Blue Room
39. Metallica- Sprint Center
40. AACM Great Black Music Ensemble- Fred Anderson Park (Chicago)

41. Lana Del Rey- Uptown Theater
42. Snarky Puppy- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
43. The Metropolitan Opera’s “Iolanta and Bluebeard’s Castle”- Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (New York City)
44. Eric Church- Sprint Center
45. Stanley Clarke Quartet- Church of Scientology Center of Kansas City
48. Celine Dion- Sprint Center
49. Mama Said String Band- Churchill Downs (Louisville)
50. Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax and Pamela Frank with the Kansas City Symphony- Helzberg Hall

The Top 50 Songs of 2019
Spotify playlist
1. Purple Mountains- “All My Happiness is Gone”
2. Billie Eilish- “Bury a Friend”
3. Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus- “Old Town Road”
4. Ariana Grande- “NASA”
5. Kate Tempest- “Hold Your Own”
6. 2 Chainz featuring Kendrick Lamar- “Momma I Hit a Lick”
7. Rapsody featuring D’Angelo and GZA- “Ibtihaj”
8. Lauren Daigle- “You Say” (piano version)
9. Reba McEntire- “Stronger Than the Truth”
10. Michael Kiwanuka- “Living in Denial”

11. Summer Walker with PartyNextDoor- “Just Might”
12. Bonnie Prince Billy- “In Good Faith”
13. Jon Pardi- “Heartache Medication”
14. Sarathy Korwar featuring MC Mawali- “Mumbay”
15. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib featuring Anderson Paak- “Giannis”
16. Tropkillaz featuring J Balvin, Anitta and MC Zacc- “Bola Rebola”
17. 10k.Caash featuring Matt Ox- “Kerwin Frost Scratch That”
18. Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus- “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” (acoustic version)
19. Townes Van Zandt- “Sky Blue”
20. José James with Ledisi and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah- “I Need Your Love”

21. Natti Natasha- “Pa’ Mala Yo”
22. Randy Rogers Band- “Drinking Money”
23. Charles Bradley- “Lucifer”
24. Tyler Childers- “All Your’n”
25. PJ Morton featuring Jazmine Sullivan- “Built For Love”
26. Kanye West- “God Is”
27. Brittany Howard- “He Loves Me”
28. Lana Del Rey- “Bartender”
29. P.P. Arnold- “Baby Blue”
30. Lizzo- “Jerome”

31. Megan Thee Stallion- “Big Drank”
32. The Highwomen- “Cocktail and a Song”
33. Leonard Cohen- “The Hills”
34. Bill MacKay- “Birds of May”
35. Kvelertak- “Båtebrann”
36. Luke Combs- “Beer Never Broke My Heart”
37. Beast Coast- “It Ain’t Easy, It Ain’t Easy”
38. City Girls- “JT First Day Out”
39. Dinosaur Pile-Up- “Back Foot”
40. Wilco- “Bright Leaves”

41. Bill Frisell- “Everywhere”
42. Keaton Conrad- “What Am I Supposed To Do?”
43. Fontaines D.C.- “Roy’s Tune”
44. Pusha T featuring Kash Doll- “Sociopath”
45. Tiwa Savage- “49-99”
46. Fidlar- “By Myself”
47. Gucci Man- “Mr. Wop”
48. Karol G- “Punto G”
49. Tedeschi Trucks Band- “Hard Case”
50. Mavis Staples- “One More Change”

The Top 50 Albums of 2019
1. Jamila Woods- Legacy! Legacy!
2. Solange- When I Get Home
3. The Art Ensemble of Chicago- We Are On the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration
4. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds- Ghosteen
5. Tyler, The Creator- Igor
6. Miranda Lambert- Wildcard
7. Kris Davis- Diatom Ribbons
8. Mike and the Moonpies- Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold
9. Caroline Shaw and the Attacca Quartet- Orange
10. Flying Lotus- Flamagra

11. Earthgang- Mirrorland
12. Little Simz- Grey Area
13. Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan- Epistrophy
14. Jóhann Jóhannsson- 12 Conversations With Thilo Heinzmann
15. Lee “Scratch” Perry- Rainford
16. Brockhampton- Ginger
17. Brother Ali- Secrets & Escapes
18. Laura Jurd- Stepping Back, Jumping In
19. J. Cole and Dreamville- Revenge of the Dreamers III
20. Raphael Saadiq- Jimmy Lee

21. Sampa the Great- The Return
22. Anderson Paak- Venture
23. Alasdair Roberts- A Fiery Margin
24. Santana- Africa Speaks
25. Calvin Weston- Dust and Ash
26. Matana Roberts- Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis
27. Torche- Admission
28. Brooks & Dunn- Reboot
29. Beyoncé- Homecoming
30. Jamie Branch- Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise

31. Hilary Hahn- 6 Partitas for Violin: Antón García-Abril
32. Beast Coast- Escape From New York
33. Aldous Harding- Designer
34. Michael Fabiano- Verdi & Donizetti
35. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah- Ancestral Recall
36. Avery R. Young- Tubman
37. Oren Ambarchi- Simian Angel
38. Terri Lyne Carrington- Waiting Game
39. Samantha Fish- Kill or be Kind
40. Danny Brown- Uknowhatimsayin?

41. Miguel Zenón- Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera
42. Volbeat- Rewind, Replay, Rebound
43. YBN Cordae- The Lost Boy
44. Romeo Santos- Utopia
45. Rhye- Spirit
46. Jimmie Vaughan- Baby, Please Come Home
47. Angel Bat Dawid- The Oracle
48. Becky G- Mala Santa
49. Black Mountain- Destroyer
50. DJ Shadow- Our Pathetic Age

The Top 25 Reissues, Reconstructions, Reimaginings, Compilations and Historial Releases of 2019
1. Eric Dolphy- Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 N.Y. Studio Sessions
2. Prince- 1999 (Super Deluxe Edition)
3. Prince- Originals
4. John Coltrane- Coltrane ‘58: The Prestige Recordings
5. Marvin Gaye- You're the Man
6. Jay McShann- Live in Tokyo 1990
7. Anthony Braxton- Quartet (New Haven) 2014
8. Burial- Tunes 2011-2019
9. Prince- The Versace Experience
10. Azymuth- Demos (1973-1975), Vol. 1 & 2

11. The Time for Peace is Now: World Spirituality Classics 2: Gospel Music About Us
12. The Band- The Band: 50th Anniversary
13. Oklahoma! (2019 Broadway Cast Recording)
14. Esbjörn Svensson Trio- Live in Gothenburg
15. Leonard Cohen- Thanks for the Dance
16. Miles Davis- Rubberband
17. Outro Tempo II: Electronic And Contemporary Music From Brazil, 1984-1996
18. Stan Getz Quartet- Live at the Village Gate, 1961
19. Creedence Clearwater Revival- Live at Woodstock
20. David S. Ware- Théâtre Garonne, 2008

21. Soul Jazz Records Presents: Bunny Lee Dreads Enter the Gates With Praise
22. Mogadisco: Dancing Mogadishu (Somalia 1972-1991)
23. The Beatles- Abbey Road (Super Deluxe Edition)
24. Mary J. Blige- Herstory Vol. 1
25. Attarazat Addahabia- Al Hadaoui

The Top 10 EPs of 2019
1. Drugs and Attics- Clean Their Room
2. Earl Sweatshirt- Feet of Clay
3. Kevin Abstract- Ghettobaby
4. Zara McFarlane- East of the River Nile
5. Channel Tres- Black Moses
6. Rico Nasty- Anger Management
7. Kitten- Goodbye Honeymoon Phase
8. The Greeting Committee- I’m Afraid I’m Not Angry
9. Lil Peep- Goth Angel Sinner
10. Shredders- Great Hits

(Original image of the Art Ensemble of Chicago at the Chicago Jazz Festival by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Personality Test

Several people expressed displeasure in my attendance at an event sponsored by the Church of Scientology of Kansas City on Tuesday, December 17.  I have no meaningful personal experience with the group, but I can verify a friend’s assertion that the majority of organization’s representatives on hand at Stanley Clarke’s concert are inordinately attractive.

I paid $40 to attend a 2016 concert in Atlanta by the most important bassist in the history of jazz fusion.  I wasn’t about to pass on an opportunity to see him for free.  A meager audience of about 250 consisting of jazz geeks, homeless men and Scientologists heard Clarke, trumpeter Mark Isham, pianist Rusian Sirota and tabla master Salar Nader play for about an hour in a heated tent catacorner to the stately Scientology building at the intersection of 18th Street and Grand Boulevard.

The setlist- “India,” “Brazilian Love Affair,” “Lover Man” (a duet between Clarke and Isham), “Three Wrong Notes” (a duet between Clarke and Sirota), “Spain,” “School Days” (Clarke’s only turn on electric bass) and “Sleigh Ride”- covered every base a fan could want.  And given the frigid conditions- my feet went numb on the icy pavement- the quartet’s hour-long outing was just the right length.

In contrast to the heavy-handed tone of the Kansas City Symphony’s pricy benefit concert (I was given a ticket) starring Yo-Yo, Ma, Emanuel Ax and Pamela Frank on the previous night, the Scientologists’ proselytizing was easily digestible.  The Symphony's conductor and artistic director Michael Stern said that “young people” were no longer listening to “music.”  His haughty attitude offended me far more than the subtle sloganeering of the Scientologists.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image of Clarke, Isham and Nader by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, December 15, 2019

When You Are Sad and Lonely and Have No Place to Go

Even though the last ten days have been miserable for me, I managed to pull off the enjoyable items listed below.  And yes, I’m putting a lot of satisfying time into compiling my year-end lists.

I reviewed Tech N9ne’s Gift of Rap concert at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena for The Kansas City Star.

I named Logan Richardson the Plastic Sax Person of the Year.

I yakked about my favorite music of 2019 on the weekly radio show Eight One Sixty.

I write concert previews for The Kansas City Star every week.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, December 07, 2019

The Top Albums, Songs and Performances by Kansas City Musicians in 2019

Favorite Albums and EPs by Kansas City Artists
1. The Sextet- Among Friends
2. Samantha Fish- Kill Or Be Kind
3. Matt Villinger- All Day
4. Heather Newman- Rise From the Flames
5. Making Movies- Ameri’kana
6. Adam Larson- Listen With Your Eyes
7. Rich the Factor- The Tonite Show
8. Jay McShann- Live in Tokyo
9. Keaton Conrad- Nova
10. Drugs and Attics- Clean Their Room

11. Dylan Pyles- Popular Songs for the Heart
12. Hmph!- Hmph!
13. The Get Up Kids- Problems
14. Wing Walker Orchestra- Hazel
15. Joyce DiDonato- Songplay
16. Norman Brown- The Highest Act of Love
17. Jan Kraybill- The Orchestral Organ
18. Kevin Morby- Oh My God
19. The Greeting Committee- I’m Afraid I’m Not Angry
20. Julian Vaughn- Supreme

21. Merlin- The Mortal
22. A’Sean- One Big Happy Family
23. The Kansas City Chorale- Artifacts: The Music of Michael McGlynn
24. Le Grand- Plastic Jazz
25. Calvin Arsenia- LA Sessions

Favorite Songs by Kansas City Artists
Spotify playlist
1. Keaton Conrad- “What Am I Supposed to Do?”
2. Drugs and Attics- “Dad Party”
3. Samantha Fish- “Love Letters”
4. The Sextet- “To Be Determined”
5. Heather Newman- “Rise From the Flames”
6. Pat Metheny- “America Undefined”
7. Reggie B and the Popper- “Not Funky”
8. Sara Morgan- “Church in a Bar”
9. Tech N9ne- “Like I Ain’t”
10. The Sluts- “Break Their Heart”

11. Ubi- “Gameshow”
12. Norman Brown- “Free”
13. The Get Up Kids- “The Problem Is Me”
14. Stik Figa- “More or Less”
15. The Freedom Affair- “Rise Up”
16. Matt Villinger- “Shot Roulette”
17. Godemis- “Eye Zkreem”
18. Making Movies- “Accidente”
19. Puddle of Mudd- “Uh Oh”
20. Brody Buster’s One Man Band- “Week Long”

21. JL and Joey Cool- “That’s Him”
22. Drop Dead XX- “Betty Ford”
23. The Creepy Jingles- “Atom & Evolution”
24. Nick Schnebelen- “Crazy All By Myself”
25. Other Americans- “Neon Sunrise”

Favorite Performances by Kansas City Artists
1. Logan Richardson’s Blues People- Capsule
2. The Greeting Committee- West Bottoms (Boulevardia)
3. The Sextet- RecordBar
4. Ensemble Ibérica- MTH Theater
5. My Brothers & Sisters- The Brick (Crossroads Music Fest)
6. Bobby Watson & Horizon- White Recital Hall
7. Jerry Hahn and Danny Embrey- Recital Hall at the Carlsen Center
8. Making Movies- KC Live
9. Heather Newman- Legacy Park Amphitheater
10. Doubledrag- Riot Room

11. Matt Otto Quartet- Black Dolphin
12. The Kansas City Symphony- Helzberg Hall
13. Una Walkenhorst- Songbird Cafe (Middle of the Map Fest)
14. Ben Tervort’s Classically Trained- Westport Coffee House
15. Rod Fleeman and Gerald Spaits- Green Lady Lounge
16. Brian Scarborough Quintet- RecordBar
17. Tech N9ne- KC Live (StrangeFest)
18. Soul Revival- Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
19. Peter Schlamb Trio- Capsule
20. Guitar Elation- Green Lady Lounge

21. Midwest Chamber Ensemble- Lutheran Church of the Resurrection
22. ARQuesta Del SolSoul- RecordBar
23. Katy Guillen’s Womanish Girl- The Brick (Middle of the Map Fest)
24. Black Creatures- West Bottoms (Boulevardia)
25. Jason Vivone & the Billy Bats- PorchFestKC

(Original image of the Matt Otto Quartet at Black Dolphin by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Everybody’s Got a Bomb

I went from pariah to popular kid in my college dorm hours after acquiring 1999 on October 27, 1982.  Few of my peers appreciated my compulsion to blast current albums- the Clash’s Combat Rock, the Gap Band’s IV and Steel Pulse’s True Democracy were in heavy rotation- at the start of the fall semester.  Prince’s instant classic made my cinderblock room with the dorm’s loudest stereo a hub for teenagers of multiple races, nationalities and sexual orientations.  Everyone loved 1999.

Wading through the five-hour-and-53-minute sprawl of the new Super Deluxe Edition of 1999 incites déjà vu.  We’d listen to all four sides of the album for hours on end during weekend dorm parties.  The bacchanal genius would have approved of the D.M.S.R. he instigated.

Almost all contemporary pop music contains echoes of 1999, so it’s difficult to appreciate how bracingly innovative Prince’s unifying funk sounded 37 years ago.  I’ve been startled anew by the freshness of a few of the tracks on the box set.  For instance, “Purple Music” sounds like Thundercat’s next single.  I’ve long believed Fulfillingness’ First Finale was the album that had the most profound impact on my life.  It’s time to amend that declaration.  If Stevie Wonder informed my childhood, Prince redirected my second decade with 1999.

My latest concert previews for The Kansas City Star include shows by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Kitten.

I was put on the hot seat by Steve Kraske for 30 excruciating minutes on KCUR’s Up To Date.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, December 01, 2019

November Recap

Top Five Performances
1. Logan Richardson’s Blues People- Capsule
My review.
2. Wilco- Midland theater
My review.
3. Lana Del Rey- Uptown Theater
My review.
4. Bobby Watson & Horizon- White Recital Hall
My review.
5. Doubledrag- Riot Room
My review.

Top Five Albums
1. Miranda Lambert- Wildcard
My review.
2. Matt Villinger- All Day
My review.
3. Brother Ali- Secrets & Escapes
My review.
4. Terri Lyne Carrington- Waiting Game
Dreams and Desperate Measures, the 42-minute suite that concludes the contentious album, is perfect.
5. Cecilia Bartoli- Farinelli
Baroque bops.

Top Five Songs
1. José James with Ledisi and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah- “I Need Your Love”
The collaboration of my dreams.
2. Earl Sweatshirt- “East”
West of the moon.
3. Norah Jones featuring Tarriona Tank Ball- “Playing Along”
I knew she had it in her.
4. Atmosphere- “Bde Maka Ska”
Slug takes the plunge.
5. Michael Kiwanuka- “Living in Denial”
Haunting throwback soul.

I conducted the same exercise in October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February and January.

(Original image of Wilco by There Stands the Glass.)