Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Della Reese, 1931-2017


I marveled at the tart voices of Patti LaBelle and Fantasia on consecutive evenings in March.  Unconventional stylists with piercing voices who value expressiveness more than pretty notes, LaBelle and Fantasia work in the tradition of offbeat R&B shouters like Della Reese and Dinah Washington.  Here’s Reese’s show-stopping reading of “Lonelyville” in the 1958 flick Let’s Rock.  Reese died on November 19.


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I reviewed St. Vincent’s concert at the Uptown Theater.

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I reviewed the Kansas City debut of Flying Lotus for Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I featured TJ Hooker-Taylor in my weekly KCUR segment.

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I hope you enjoy using the Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

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Malcolm Young has died.  I’m so glad that I was able to see him with AC/DC one last time in 2009.

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The country star Mel Tillis has died.

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Jazz drummer Ben Riley has died.

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The former teen idol David Cassidy has died.

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The music industry titan George Avakian has died.

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Banda Magda’s upcoming dates with Snarky Puppy should help the international fusion band secure a much larger audience in North America.  Tigre is RIYL Dengue Fever, futuristic cocktail lounge music, Pink Martini.  Here’s “Le Tigre Malin”.

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Maciej Obara Quartet’s Unloved is RIYL: Euro jazz, Tomasz Stanko, contemplating loss.

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Lettuce’s Witches Stew, a faithful recreation of tracks from Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way, is as pointless as it is impressive.

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Talk about Russian meddling- I’ve become obsessed with the Tarkovsky Quartet’s Nuit Blanche.  The latest release by the chamber quartet named for the Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky is RIYL despair, Jóhann Jóhannsson, contemplating death.

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Sometimes, you really can judge an album by its cover.  Star vocalist Cecilia Bartoli and cellist Sol Gabetta collaborate on festive baroque music on Dolce Duello.  (I don't like it.)

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Sharon Jones’ swan song Soul of a Woman is wonderful.

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I was certain that I would embrace Anouar Brahem’s Blue Maqams.  After all, the imaginative oud player is supported by pianist Django Bates, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette.  Alas, I’m nonplussed.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Album Review: Carlos Vives- Vives


The early darkness imposed by last week’s time change and the predominantly gloomy weather in Kansas City have threatened to turn me blue.  Yet I don’t need a mood therapy light when I have Vives.  The sunny music on Carlos Vives’ tenth studio album plays like a greatest hits collection.  Each of its perfectly constructed 18 tracks is irresistible.  It’s no accident that the colorful video for “La Bicicleta”, the Columbian’s lustrous Latin pop duet with Shakira, has been viewed more than a billion times.  The corny video for “Al Filo de Tu Amor”, one of my favorite tracks, has a measly 41 million views.  The therapeutic sonic sunshine of Vives has rescued me.


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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I featured Stevie Stone on my weekly KCUR segment.

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I bought a $35 ticket to sit in the upper balcony of Muriel Kauffman Theatre to see the Lyric Opera’s production of Joby Talbot's “Everest” last night.  The vertical stage set was reminiscent of the innovative production for Kanye West’s Yeezus tour.  And “Everest” sounded more like “Tommy” than “Turandot.”  So why was I one of the youngest people in the half-full room?

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My review of the Victor Wooten Trio’s appearance at the Madrid Theatre is at Plastic Sax.

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Lil Peep has died.

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Guitarist Dan Devine, a new addition to the Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band, completely changes the dynamic of  the ensemble on the slightly disappointing Body and Shadow.  RIYL: early Pat Metheny, placidity, Ralph Towner.

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Syleena Johnson, the daughter of Syl Johnson, spelled “rehash” wrong in the title of her unnecessary Rebirth of Soul album.  RIYL: Ruth Brown, the good ol’ days, Solomon Burke.  Here’s “Make Me Yours”.

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Yaeji’s self-titled EP is worlds of fun. RIYL: chillout rooms, The XX, alcohol.  Here’s ”Guap”.

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God bless Protomartyr.  I love the vibe of Relatives in Descent even though the songwriting is suspect.  RIYL: the Fall, inebriation, the Hold Steady.  “Don’t Go To Anacita” is the best song.

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ECM Records’ new pact with streaming services makes me feel as if I received an unexpected check in the mail.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, November 10, 2017

I Spit My Heart Out, Looking Out For My Best Interests


The king is dead.  Long live the kings.

Following last night’s slightly disappointing concert by Tyler, the Creator, I’m officially switching my primary deviant hip-hop allegiance to Brockhampton.  Tyler behaved like a semi-responsible adult at the Truman.  That’s not what I want from the disruptive artist I fell hard for in 2011. 

Brockhampton is right on time.  ”Junky” is among the thrillingly subversive anthems on the mind-boggling Saturation 2.  (Saturation, the first album the Texas collective issued in 2017, isn’t quite as transcendent.)

The so-called boy band is loaded with transgressive young talent.  I fully expect two or three of its members to become mainstream stars who will inevitably disappoint me a few years from now.  Until then, the thrill isn’t gone.


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I reviewed Tyler, the Creator’s concert at the Truman for The Kansas City Star.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I named Katy Guillen & the Girls the KCUR Band of the Week.

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Blaque Dynamite’s Killing Bugs is an insanely dense experimental funk album.  RIYL: Flying Lotus, the low end, Thundercat.

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Jerry Granelli’s Dance Hall is like Hudson 2.0.  Veteran jazz cats- in this case a group that includes drummer Granelli, guitarists Robben Ford and Bill Frisell- cover classic rock, blues, jazz and R&B staples by the likes of Bob Dylan, Charles Mingus and Fats Domino.  It’s redundant fun.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, November 06, 2017

Concert Review: Take Me to the River at the Folly Theater


A concert starring the veteran soul and blues men William Bell, Charlie Musselwhite and Bobby Rush was undercut by tedious speechifying and a galling parade of lesser talent at the Folly Theater on Friday.

Apparently intended as an old-school soul revue with an educational component, Take Me to the River was a well-intentioned but woefully misguided presentation that often resembled a patronizing infomercial designed to appeal to PBS viewers who favor Celtic dance specials.  For dedicated roots music aficionados, the show was excruciatingly frustrating.

Despite the presence of organist Charles Hodges and bassist Leroy Hodges- members of the storied Hi Records rhythm section- the first 45 minutes of the show were forgettable.  The Memphis rapper Al Kapone was the only featured entertainer in the opening segment who wasn’t appallingly mediocre.

Each of the three stars was allotted about 15 to 20 minutes.  Even without the dancers that help make his lascivious concerts memorable, Rush, 83, was an astounding force of nature.  Musselwhite affirmed that he’s the greatest living blues harp player.  Bell- the reason I bought $35 rear balcony tickets to the show (I’d never seen him)- looked and sounded half his 78 years.  His set included “I Forgot to Be Your Lover,” but not “Born Under a Bad Sign” or “Private Number.”

Organizers probably hoped that members of the audience of about 700 rushed home to watch the Take Me to the River documentary on Netflix.  That’s the last thing I’ll do after enduring the poorly conceived and extremely disappointing show.  Instead, I’ll begin making plans to catch a proper performance by Bell in 2018.


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I reviewed Marilyn Maye’s return to Quality Hill Playhouse on Sunday.

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Honestly isn’t the album I wanted or expected from Lalah Hathaway.  The glitchy beats and her astounding voice make for an odd pairing, but I suspect I’ll come to embrace the surprising sound.  RIYL: Robert Glasper, legacies, Kelela.  The politically charged video for the title track doesn’t make much sense.

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Enjoying Sam Smith’s The Thrill of It All is a lot like tearing up during sentimental television commercials.  I confess to committing both transgressions in recent days.  RIYL: Dusty Springfield, pablum, Adele.  Here’s ”Pray”.

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I didn’t expect to appreciate Fever Ray’s Plunge, but the album is even more preposterously affected than I anticipated.  RIYL: nails on chalkboards, Björk knockoffs, playing yourself.  Here’s “Mustn’t Hurry”.

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Vincent Herring’s Hard Times is the all-too-rare jazz album that’s capable of connecting with listeners who embrace both Cannonball Adderley and Donny Hathaway.  I’d love to catch this band- saxophonist Herring, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Carl Allen- playing these songs in a crowded club on a Saturday night.

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In theory, Mostly Other People Do the Killing is one of my favorite bands.  The reality is far different.  Loafer’s Hollow, the brainy ensemble’s latest effort, is an attempt to bring avant-garde concepts to trad jazz.  It should be thrilling.  Instead, it’s merely irritating.

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Guitarist Rez Abassi is joined by saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, pianist Vijay Iyer,  bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and drummer Dan Weiss on Unfiltered Universe.  RIYL: John McLaughlin, geniuses, Weather Report.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

No Future


Anyone who has listened to Future more than me in recent months probably has a nasty codeine habit.  The Atlanta artist has overwhelmed his admirers with an avalanche of high-quality, opiate-laced music in 2017.  My addiction is problematic.  As a guy who recently reminded readers of his affinity for overtly Christian rappers, it’s a blessing that I don’t always comprehend Future’s lyrics.  Even so, mesmerizing tracks like ”Feed Me Dope” from Future’s new collaboration with Young Thug match my current mindset.  The audaciously synthetic sound will almost certainly sound hopelessly dated in a year or two, but at this moment, I’m a hopeless fiend for Future.


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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I named the MGDs the KCUR Band of the Week.

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I put Changing the Tune: The Kansas City Women’s Jazz Festival, 1978-1985 into context at Plastic Sax.

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Muhal Richard Abrams has died.  I’m horrified that I never heard the jazz giant perform.  I need to get serious about checking the likes of Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill and James “Blood” Ulmer off my bucket list.

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L’Orange’s The Ordinary Man packs 16 tracks into 39 minutes.  The ratio doesn’t make for a fluid listening experience.  Each track ends just as the groove begins to sink in.  RIYL: spoken word samples, 9th Wonder, short attention spans.

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I’m predictably elated by Kanye West’s verse on CyHi’s “Dat Side”.

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I overlooked Move Upstairs, the wondrous new album by the Como Mamas, when it was released several months ago.  RIYL: Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens, salvation, the Staple Sisters.  Here’s “Count Your Blessings”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Concert Review: Nick Lowe at Knuckleheads


I had no intention of attending Nick Lowe’s concert at Knuckleheads when I woke up last Wednesday.  My itch for nostalgia had been thoroughly sated at the previous week’s Janet Jackson’s concert.  My life partner wasn’t having it.  In an uncommon role reversal, she dragged me to see the Jesus of Cool.  The opening salvo of “So It Goes,” “Ragin' Eyes” and “Without Love” compelled us to shimmy in front of the stage like it was 1987.  The masked surf-rock ensemble Los Straitjackets, Lowe’s backing band, struck the proper balance between reverence and relevance.  I’m pleased as punch that the bride still rock-and-rolls.


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The production at Arcade Fire’s appearance in Independence was the most impressive display I’ve encountered since Kanye West’s Yeezus tour touched down at the Sprint Center in 2013.  Here’s my review for The Kansas City Star.

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George Young, a genuine rock Zelig, has died.  Many of his obituaries fail to mention his role in Flash and the Pan’s forgotten 1976 hit “Hey, St. Peter”.

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Chuck Blackwell, the Tulsa based drummer who performed with the likes of Leon Russell and Joe Cocker, has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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Martin Ain of Celtic Frost has died.

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I prefer Lee Ann Womack’s throwback country on The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone to Margo Price’s more progressive All American Made.  Unconcerned with- and probably indifferent to- the current climate, Womack evokes dusty albums by the likes of Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton and Glen Campbell.  Price sounds as if she’s consciously competing with Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton.  Here are Womack’s “Sunday” and Price’s “Weakness”.

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Big K.R.I.T.’s 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time recalls the era in which the Dirty South ruled hip-hop.  RIYL: T.I. country, Killer Mike.  Here’s “Keep the Devil Off”.

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The rough-and-tumble blues-rock set by Cinderella’s Tom Keifer at Rockfest was one of the year’s most pleasant surprises.  Although The Way Life Goes is substantially cleaner than the show in June, it still impresses me.  Here’s the representative “The Way Life Goes”.

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Kim Wilson’s Blues and Boogie is wild-eyed barroom blues.  RIYL: James Cotton, carousing, Little Walter.

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Not surprisingly, I’m smitten by Agrima, the new album by Rudresh Mahanthappa and the Indo-Pak Coalition.

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I had a violently allergic reaction to Live in Montreal, a duet album by Edgar Castaneda and Hiromi.  RIYL: leaf blowers, Friday Night in San Francisco, ostentatiousness.

(Original image of Nick Lowe by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Fats Domino, 1928-2017


I’ll share an extremely unflattering anecdote as I note the passing of Fats Domino.  I sat next to the noted New Orleans based music journalist Jeff Hannusch, the author of I Hear You Knockin: The Sound of New Orleans Rhythm and Blues, on a bus during a music industry convention in the 1990s.  When the conversation inevitably turned to Domino, I told Jeff that I regretted my recent purchase of the icon’s four-CD, 100-song box set that includes his expansive liner notes.  I explained that the single disc compilation I already owned was more than enough Fats for any reasonable person.  I think Jeff might have quit talking to me.  Not only was I a jerk, I was wrong.  There could never be enough of the Fat Man’s seminal American music.


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I’ve partnered with the Green Lady Lounge to revive The Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I named Freight Train Rabbit Killer KCUR’s Band of the Week.

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My review of a performance by the Owen/Cox Dance Group and the People’s Liberation Big Band at Polsky Theatre is at Plastic Sax.

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Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s The Emancipation Procrastination may be the best of the three albums the polarizing jazz artist has issued in 2017.

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I’ve long been enamored of Chanté Moore.  The Rise of the Phoenix is a delight.  Here’s ”Something to Remember”.

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I lost my taste for Magnetic Fields somewhere along the way.  I’m sure I’d admire a handful of songs on 50 Song Memoir, but I’m not willing to invest the time to find them.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)