Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Ready Ornette

I’ve long been curious about the ludicrously cheap European reissues of classic American jazz material.  My recent purchase of Complete Albums Collection: 1958-1962 allowed me to examine the quality of the packaging and sound of one such release.  The four CD set consisting of Ornette Coleman’s first eight albums set me back $11.99.  I didn’t really need it- I already owned physical copies of several of the albums and each is available on streaming services- but the price proved irresistible.  The skimpy liner notes don’t supply song credits, but Coleman’s co-conspirators including Don Cherry and Charlie Haden come through loud and clear on the wholly acceptable sonics that are housed in a surprisingly sturdy jewel case.  As I rang in the new year with five hours of crucial skronk that was recorded before I was born, I was struck by the marginalization of Coleman’s innovations.  Aside from an occasional rendering of “Lonely Woman,” I almost never detect Coleman’s influence emanating from a bandstand in Kansas City.

I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

I named Edison Lights the KCUR Band of the Week.

I reviewed Danny Embrey’s Dues Blues at Plastic Sax.

Tim Finn quoted my 2016 review of a Bonnie Raitt concert in a story about her upcoming tour with James Taylor.

Maurice Peress has died.  From his obituary in The New York Times: He led the Kansas City Philharmonic from 1974 to 1980, which proved to be an unhappy period. “The audience didn’t want to hear much new music,” he told The Christian Science Monitor in 1989. “I would introduce a new piece, and they would start booing and hissing.”

Ironic listening is one of my pet peeves.  Even so, I can’t stop marveling at this hellish Brazilian knockoff of Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass.

I had hoped that it would have cleared up by now, but I'm still infected by an unhealthy obsession with Tigran Hamasyan. The odd tone poem “Rays of Light” is from the prolific maverick’s next album.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Kauffman Blues

I celebrated when I purchased a half-price seat in the front row for Philip Glass’ appearance at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in 2012.  In hindsight, I should have shed a tear.  The necessity to sell tickets to a recital by one of the most celebrated living composers at a steep discount may have triggered a shift in the tenor of the Kauffman Center Presents bookings.  Concerts by the prestigious likes of Glass have been replaced by the most middlebrow fare imaginable.  Forthcoming bookings include the soft rock master Peter Cetera, the former country hitmaker Sara Evans, the kitschy “Riverdance- The 20th Anniversary World Tour” and the Glenn Miller Orchestra ghost band.

Concerts by Johnny Mathis, Engelbert Humperdinck, the Oak Ridge Boys, Frankie Valli, Patti LaBelle, Kenny G, Michael McDonald, Kansas, Blondie, David Sanborn and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson have also been part of the Kauffman Center Presents series in recent years.  (Appearances by Sweet Honey in the Rock and Herbie Hancock have been among a handful of welcome exceptions to the banal bookings.)  I don’t have a fundamental objection to any of those artists.  In fact, I gladly attended a handful of the shows.  Cheese- particularly when marinated in nostalgia- can be delicious.  It’s what’s not being booked at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts that saddens me.

While the Lyric Opera, the Kansas City Symphony, the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra and the Harriman-Jewell Series regularly present substantial fare on the magnificent venue’s two stages, I harbored high hopes for the Kauffman Center’s in-house presentations.  Before the Kauffman Center opened, organizers intimated that it would usher in a new era of elevated arts in Kansas City.  The ambitious experiment didn’t last long.  I once expected to attend concerts by heralded geniuses such as Nico Muhly, Sonny Rollins and Gilberto Gil.  Instead, I’ll have to make do with ”Glory of Love”.

I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

I named the Chris Burnett Quintet the KCUR Band of the Week.

I pondered the alarming lack of critical attention for Kansas City’s jazz artists at Plastic Sax.

Rick Hall of Muscle Shoals has died.

A few of the distressing developments addressed in an essay by Libby Hanssen have also impacted my work.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, December 29, 2017

Album Review: Boosie Badazz- BooPac

The incendiary Southern rapper Boosie inists that “I’m that n----- now" on his stunning new 90-minute album BooPac.  While I’m not about to challenge the assertion that he’s 2Pac's successor, I’m unable to stifle inappropriate cackles at some of the audaciously awkward lines on bangers like “Motherless Child”, “Me, Myself & I” and “Webbie I Remember”.  I’m not laughing at Boosie- I’m laughing with him.  It’s shocking that a man who’s spent a substantial portion of his life behind bars can be so guileless.

My remembrance of Kevin Mahogany was published at Plastic Sax.

A list of my ten favorite albums of 2017 by musicians based in the Kansas City area is part of a compilation of ballots titled best of 2017 lists from 20 KC music influencers.

I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

Trombonist Roswell Rudd has died.

Jaimie Branch’s Fly or Die would have figured prominently on my year-end listings had I encountered the magnificent free jazz recording before the final days of December.  RIYL: Don Cherry, purposeful chaos, Ambrose Akinmusire.

Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho, a collaboration between Travis Scott and Quavo, is unreasonably engaging.  RIYL: Migos, intoxicants, Future.  Here's “Saint Laurent Mask”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Year-End Clearance

All bets are off.  I suppose it’d be nice to act my age in 2018, but I don’t think it’s in me.  I walked out of a distinguished jazz concert on Sunday.  Blame Brockhampton.

The urgency of Saturation III, the third album of 2017 from self-professed “best boy band since One Direction” obliterated my patience for bop formalism.  How can I relish the sound of June 1964 when “Boogie” is happening in December 2017?  Saturation III isn’t perfect- the new release contains the best and worst songs of Brockhampton’s crazed career- but its vitality makes almost everything else seem stale.

N.E.R.D’s No One Ever Really Dies is similarly inconsistent.  Even so, the highs are the stuff of codeine dreams.  Had I waited another week to publish my year-end best-of lists, Saturation III and No One Ever Really Dies would have placed prominently.

I wish I also embraced Revival.  While I’m predisposed to like Eminem, his new album induces involuntary eyerolls and reflexive raspberries.  I should have known that there’d be side effects to my obsessive listening to Future all year.

I was a guest on Chris Haghirian’s Eight One Sixty radio show on December 5.  I featured tracks by Samantha Fish, Vince Staples, Isaac Cates & Ordained, Brother Ali, Pistol Pete, Bobby Watson and Syd in the year-end best-of program.

An article about my work on behalf of the Kansas City Jazz Calendar is in the December issue of Jazz Ambassador Magazine magazine.

I recently named The Matchsellers, The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra and The Floozies the KCUR Bands of the Week.

John Scott of the Green Lady Lounge is Plastic Sax’s Person of the Year.

My most recent weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star were published here and here.

Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens has died.  He appeared to be in very poor health when the band performed at a community festival in downtown Overland Park in 2016.

Kevin Mahogany has died.

Johnny Hallyday has died.

Keely Smith has died.

The jazz guitarist Mundell Lowe has died.

The jazz drummer Sunny Murray has died.

Leon Rhodes of the Texas Troubadours has died.

The Chicago jazz pianist Willie Pickens has died.

Saxophonist Ralph Carney has died.

Blues man Leo “Bud” Welch has died.

After dreading the obligation for months, I finally hit play on Chuck Berry’s posthumous album Chuck.  It’s fine.

I regret overlooking Downtown Boys’ Cost of Living this year.  RIYL: the Clash, relevant rock, Priests.

The vintage Ghanaian party album Ebo Taylor and the Pelikans has been reissued.  RIYL: Osibisa, highlife, Fela.

Tyler, the Creator’s Tiny Desk Concert outing is vastly superior to his recent perfunctory concert at the Truman.

Dustin Lovelis adds a polished spin to the psychedelia of Syd Barrett and Ty Segall on Been Hit Before.  (Via S.S.)

My former coworker Glenn Jones delivers “A Different Kind of Christmas Carol”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Ten Best Kansas City Music Videos of 2017

I was goaded into pledging to compile a list of my favorite locally sourced music videos of 2017 when I was a guest on Chris Haghirian’s Eight One Sixty radio show earlier this month.  I’m a man of my word.

Bummer- "Freedom Cobra"
I’ll always love rock that’s big, dumb and dangerous. 

Isaac Cates & Ordained- "Hold On"
Harrowing images are paired with unshakable faith.

Ssion- "Comeback"
Just a wee bit over-the-top.

Kawehi- "(Not Another Lame) Fight Song"
A not-so-casual stroll down Massachusetts Street.

Samantha Fish- "Chills & Fever"
Cold sweat.

Stik Figa- "Cold"
Top City in slo-mo.

Pistol Pete- "Konichiwa"
Hijinks at an east side tavern.

Wick & the Tricks- "Tough As Nails"
Party time.

Aaron Alexander- "Faces"
Post-“Get Out” anxiety.

Hermon Mehari- "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face"
Mehari is one of the few Kansas City jazz musicians who bothers to use visuals to promote his work.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Lend Me Your Ears and I'll Sing You a Song: The Top EPs and Reissues of 2017

In my rush to get a jump on the onslaught of year-end music lists, I neglected to include rankings of EPs and reissues in the publication of my top albums, songs and concerts of 2017.

The Top Ten EPs of 2017
1. DJ Shadow- The Mountain Has Fallen
2. Graves- Tomorrow Tape
3. Sudan Archives- Sudan Archives
4. Stik Figa- Central Standard Time
5. Momma’s Boy- Liquid Courage
6. Yaeji- Yaeji
7. Young Thug- Young Martha
8. F*cked Up- Year of the Snake
9. Mastodon- Cold Dark Place
10. Instant Karma- Trying To Find My Mind

The Top Ten Reissues of 2017
1. Mulatu Astatke- Mulatu of Africa
2. The Beatles- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
3. Pop Makossa- The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon 1976​-​1984
4. Can- The Singles
5. Isaac Hayes- The Spirit of Memphis (1962-1976)
6. Prince- Purple Rain
7. Louis Armstrong- The Complete Decca Singles: 1935-1946
8. Alice Coltrane- World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane
9. Jackie Shane- Any Other Way
10. Sweet As Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Sit Down. Be Humble. The Top Albums, Songs and Concerts of 2017

The Top 50 Albums of 2017
1. Kendrick Lamar- Damn
2. Vince Staples- Big Fish Theory
3. Big K.R.I.T.- 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time
4. Lee Ann Womack- The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone
5. Miguel Zenón- Típico
6. Tarkovsky Quartet- Nuit Blanche
7. Matt Otto and Ensemble Ibérica- Ibérica
8. Brockhampton- Saturation II
9. Lorde- Melodrama
10. Bobby Watson- Made In America

11. Víkingur Ólafsson- Philip Glass: Piano Works
12. Carlos Vives- Vives
13. Future- Hndrxx
14. Orchestra Baobab- Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng
15. 2 Chainz- Pretty Girls Like Trap Music
16. Aruan Ortiz- Cub(an)ism
17. Tinariwen- Elwan
18. JD McPherson- Undivided Heart & Soul
19. Yelena Eckemoff- Blooming Tall Phlox
20. Gorillaz- Humanz

21. King Krule- The Ooz
22. Rob Luft- Riser
23. Brother Ali- All the Beauty In This Whole Life
24. Wavves- You’re Welcome
25. Migos- Culture
26. Syd- Fin
27. Jonas Kaufmann- L’Opéra
28. Future- Future
29. Sunny Sweeney- Trophy
30. Uniform- Wake In Fright

31. Tyler, the Creator- Flower Boy
32. Rudresh Mahanthappa and the Indo-Pak Coalition- Agrima
33. Miguel- War & Leisure
34. CyHi the Prince- No Dope On Sundays
35. Brockhampton- Saturation
36. Spoek Mathambo- Mzansi Beat Code
37. Thundercat- Drunk
38. Juana Molina- Halo
39. Samantha Fish- Chills & Fever
40. Omar Souleyman- To Syria, With Love

41. Shabazz Palaces- Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines
42. Future and Young Thug- Super Slimey
43. St. Vincent- Masseduction
44. Taylor Swift- Reputation
45. Rich the Factor- El Factor
46. Willie Nelson- God’s Problem Child
47. Avishai Cohen- Cross My Palm With Silver
48. Lil Uzi Vert- Luv Is Rage 2
49. Juanes- Mis Planes Son Amarte
50. Jay-Z- 4:44

The Top 50 Songs of 2017
(Spotify playlist)
1. Brother Ali- “Own Light (What Hearts Are For)”
2. Kendrick Lamar- “Humble”
3. Lil Uzi Vert- “XO Tour Lif3”
4. Calvin Harris featuring Frank Ocean and Migos- “Slide”
5. Valerie June- “Astral Plane”
6. Vince Staples- “Yeah Right”
7. Lorde- “Liability”
8. Sunny Sweeney- “Bottle by My Bed”
9. Young Fathers- “Only God Knows”
10. Future- “Mask Off”

11. Craig Finn- “God in Chicago”
12. Ibibio Sound Machine- “Give Me a Reason”
13. Fat Joe and Remy Ma- “Spaghetti”
14. Alejandro Fernandez- “Agridulce”
15. Rick Ross featuring Young Thug- “Trap Trap Trap”
16. José James- “To Be With You”
17. Brockhampton- “Junky”
18. LCD Soundsystem- “Emotional Haircut”
19. Mark Eitzel- “The Last Ten Years”
20. Isaac Cates & Ordained- “Hold On”

21. Cardi B- “Bodak Yellow”
22. Eli Young Band- “Skin & Bones”
23. Marvin Sapp- “Close”
24. Stik Figa- “Cold”
25. Sam Smith- “Pray”
26. Alan Jackson- “The Older I Get”
27. Princess Nokia- “Tomboy”
28. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit- “Hope the High Road”
29. Hermon Mehari featuring Kevin Johnson- “Cold”
30. Adriel Favela- “Me Llamo Juan”

31. The Roots featuring Bilal- “It Ain’t Fair”
32. Kodak Black featuring Xxxtentasion- “Roll in Peace”
33. Bruno Major- “On Our Own”
34. Future and Young Thug- “Feed Me Dope”
35. Pokey Bear- “I Can’t Be Faithful”
36. Carlos Vives- “Al Filo de Tu Amor”
37. Migos- “T-Shirt”
38. Rich the Factor- “Luther”
39. Queens of the Stone Age- “Un-Reborn Again”
40. Jonwayne- “These Words Are Everything”

41. A Boogie Wit da Hoodie- featuring Kodak Black “Drowning”
42. Bonobo featuring Rhye- “Break Apart”
43. Chronixx- “Majesty”
44. Pokey LaFarge- “Riot In the Streets”
45. Karriem Riggins with Jessica Care Moore- “Suite Poetry”
46. Pistol Pete- “2bad2good”
47. Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee- “Despacito”
48. Deborah Brown- “Ask Me Now”
49. Rodney Crowell- “It Ain’t Over Yet”
50. J Balvin- “Mi Gente”

The Top 50 Concerts of 2017
1. Lawrence Brownlee and Eric Owens- Folly Theater
2. Salif Keita- Town Hall (New York City)
3. Donny McCaslin Trio- Folly Theater
4. Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band- Gem Theater
5. Arcade Fire- Silverstein Eye Centers Arena
6. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit- Uptown Theater
7. Marilyn Maye- Quality Hill Playhouse
8. Fantasia- Sprint Center
9. Municipal Waste- Providence Medical Center Amphitheater (Warped Tour)
10. Eddie Palmieri- Blue Note (New York City)

11. Garth Brooks- Sprint Center
12. A Place to Bury Strangers- Madrid Theatre
13. Danilo Pérez’s “Jazz 100”- Yardley Hall
14. Thundercat- Granada
15. The Lyric Opera’s “Eugene Onegin”- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
16. Jack DeJohnette Trio- Gem Theater
17. Clutch- Uptown Theater
18. Halestorm- Kansas Speedway (Rockfest)
19. Alaturka- Polsky Theatre
20. Patti LaBelle- Muriel Kauffman Theatre

21. Lecrae- The Truman
22. Motionless in White- Midland theater
23. Sheer Mag- Kaiju (Louisville)
24. DJ Shadow- Madrid Theatre
25. Willie Nelson- Starlight Theatre
26. Aaron Neville and Michael Goods- City Winery (New York City)
27. Lou Donaldson- Tompkins Square Park (New York City)
28. Tech N9ne- Midland theater
29. Rich the Factor- 7th Heaven
30. Xenia Rubinos- RecordBar

31. Queens of the Stone Age- Crossroads KC
32. Marco Antonio Solís- Sprint Center
33. Gerald Spaits’ Sax and Violins- Westport Coffeehouse
34. Hudson- Yardley Hall
35. St. Vincent- Uptown Theater
36. Matt Otto Trio with Anthony Wilson and Shay Estes- Blue Room
37. Ramsey Lewis- Gem Theater
38. Raipillan- Festival Vallarta Azteca del Folclor Internacional (Puerto Vallarta)
39. Chris Brown- Sprint Center
40. Greg Tardy Trio- Blue Room

41. Flying Lotus- Midland theater
42. Janet Jackson- Sprint Center
43. Nick Lowe with Los Straightjackets- Knuckleheads
44. The Lyric Opera’s “Everest”- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
45. Lage Lund with the Albert Marques Trio- Cornelia Street Cafe (New York City)
46. PussyVision- Davey’s
47. Pure Disgust- Encore Room
48. Katy Guillen & the Girls- Boulevardia festival
49. Jimmy LaFave- Folk Alliance Conference
50. Soundgarden- Starlight Theatre

(Original image of Lage Lund by There Stands the Glass.)