Sunday, October 15, 2017

Kansas City Conundrum


I’ve taken a beating in 2017.  Locally based rock musicians, rappers and jazz artists outraged by my criticism have repeatedly lashed out at me.  That’s fair.  If I dish it out, I have to be willing to endure the consequences.  Partly because I’m the only critic in Kansas City who regularly writes candid reviews of the albums and performances of area musicians, my opinions are often met with howls of shocked indignation.

I do it because I care.

Unlike peers who coddle the musicians who are their friends and neighbors, I gauge music by a single standard.  Using different metrics for locally based musicians would be disrespectful and condescending.  Yet I can’t cite a recent instance of another local observer who has publicly applied a censorious analysis to the music of a Kansas City artist.

Not only does unrelentingly breathless praise quickly become meaningless, the lack of objectivity has dire consequences.   When almost all of the coverage in an artist’s home market consists solely of rave reviews, there’s less incentive for improvement.

Aside from the rapper Tech N9ne, the blues-rock artist Samantha Fish, the pop-oriented Kawehi and the classical ensembles the Kansas City Chorale and the Kansas City Symphony, no locally based act has achieved a substantial national following during the last ten years.  A handful of other artists have had minor hits and/or prestigious label deals, but precious few are presently capable of attracting audiences of 250 or more in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles or New York.

There’s a direct correlation between the dearth of frank criticism and the scarcity of Kansas City artists successfully competing at the national level.  I hope to see more truth-telling and less cheerleading in 2018.  Until then, I’ll resign myself to being perceived as a lone villain.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Concert Review: Lecrae at the Truman


Lecrae isn’t my favorite Christian rapper.  That’d be Kanye West.  Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper are right behind him on my list.  Unlike those artists, Lecrae is burdened with the cumbersome label.  Yet all four rappers address the ways in which their faith influences their perspectives on matters including race and social justice.

Lecrae practically dared the approximately 600 white members of the audience of about 1,000 to walk out of his show at the Truman on Saturday.  In a prologue to “Facts”,” a confrontational song about the separation he feels from his white Christians fans, Lecrae explained that they can’t possibly understand the challenges associated with being black in America.

I didn’t see anyone leave.  Lecrae has already been shunned by listeners who didn’t appreciate his embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement and the secular creep in his hip-hop.  He drew more than 5,000 people to a sold-out concert in Independence three years ago (my review for The Kansas City Star).  Saturday’s dramatically reduced audience consisted of diehard fans.

Accompanied by four musicians and two dancers, Lecrae featured songs from his new album All Things Work Together.  Their renditions of ”I’ll Find You”, ”Blessings” and ”Hammer Time”- songs that struck me as overly commercial when I first listened to the project- made the selections seem profound.  I don’t intend to walk out on Lecrae anytime soon.


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I reviewed Molly Hammer’s debut album at Plastic Sax.

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I named Wick & the Tricks KCUR’s Band of the Week.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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The jazz vocalist and drummer Grady Tate has died.

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Jimmy Beaumont of the Skyliners has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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Kelela’s Take Me Apart is the latest in an extensive list of acclaimed art-oriented (ostensibly) R&B albums released in 2017 that fail to move me.  Among the other notable offenders: Sampha’s Process, Ibayi’s Ash and Moses Sumney’s Aromanticism.  I call shenanigans.  These unbearably pretentious emperors and empresses have no clothes.

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An in-store performance by JD McPherson and his band at Vinyl Renaissance floored me a couple weeks ago.  I hadn’t grasped that the group was truly exceptional.  The passion and the craftsmanship of the musicians make most of the ballyhooed garage-rock bands signed to Burger Records seem like chumps.  ”Lucky Penny” may be the weakest song on the new album Undivided Heart & Soul.

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The Afghan Whigs’ In Spades is a whiskey-soaked fever dream.  RIYL: Nick Cave, rock and roll ghosts, Phil Spector.  Here’s the flesh-filled video for ”Oriole”.

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Baby Talk, a document from a 2015 meeting between The Thing and James “Blood” Ulmer, is skronk heaven.

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Ignore Carla Bruni’s backstory and baggage- her imaginative French Touch is an entirely charming novelty album.  Here’s ”Miss You”.

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Setembro, a hushed Euro-jazz album by Mario Laginha, Julian Argüelles and Helge Andreas Norbakken, is infuriatingly docile.

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Johnny O’Neal’s In the Moment makes the lush life seem so appealing that I’m fighting the urge to put on a suit, make a beeline for the nearest piano bar and drink until I fall off a barstool.  The album’s EPK is engaging, but it doesn’t touch on O’Neal’s health struggles or the sense of wistfulness that permeates the project.

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I draw strength and inspiration from Marvin Sapp’s Close.  Here’s the title track.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, October 06, 2017

Yesterday's Wine


To paraphrase Waylon Jennings’ 1977 hit, I was raised on Hank Williams' pain songs, Mickey Newberry's train songs and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”  Willie Nelson has been a more integral part of my life than any other musician.  He and I have both changed considerably through the decades.  During renditions of “Nuages” and “Funny How Time Slips Away” on Wednesday, the icon and I might have been the only people at Starlight Theatre who believed they were at a jazz concert.  Nelson’s vocal phrasing and guitar technique were squarely in the tradition of Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt and Billie Holiday.  I realize it sounds odd, but Nelson is one of my favorite jazz artists.


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I named the Sextet KCUR’s Band of the Week.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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El Factor, Rich the Factor’s third album of 2017, further confirms what I tell anyone willing to listen to my ranting- the rapper is Kansas City’s most consequential musician.

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Blues man CeDell Davis has died.

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If I were to host a formal cocktail party, I’d make Dee Dee Bridgewater’s covers collection Memphis… Yes, I’m Ready a central part of the playlist.  RIYL: Otis Redding, sophisticated soul, Ann Peebles.

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Our Point of View, a new release by an ensemble appropriately billed as the Blue Note Records All-Stars, is much more than a generic jam session.  RIYL: Ambrose Akinmusire, up-to-the-minute jazz, Robert Glasper.  Here’s ”Second Light”.

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Considering he’s imprisoned, Kevin Gates’ By Any Means 2 is more than adequate.  Here’s “Why I”.

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Sweet Pea Atkinson’s Get What You Deserve is at the center of my wheelhouse.  RIYL: Bobby “Blue Bland, self-aware soul, Bobby Womack.

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Ladilikan, a collaboration between the Kronos Quartet and Trio Da Kali, is a few notches too delicate for me.

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The chitlin-circuit soul of Ms. Jody’s Thunder Under Yonder brings me so much joy that I forgive her for conflating Spanglish and Jamaican patois on a goofy interpretation of “Stir It Up.”

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Jonas Kaufmann is transcendent on L’Opéra.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, October 02, 2017

Tom Petty, 1950-2017


The music of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was so incongruous in the late 1970s that a record store in the Crown Center shops in Kansas City filed the group’s 1976 self-titled album and 1978’s You’re Gonna Get It! in its “new wave” section. 

The mislabeling was somewhat understandable.  When played alongside the polished likes of Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice” on commercial rock radio stations, the rough-and-tumble “Breakdown” sounded entirely alien.

Only when Damn the Torpedoes hit in 1979 did it become completely apparent that Petty’s music was squarely in the center of the American rock and roll tradition.  His appearance at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas, on January 11, 1980, was one of the most powerful performances I’ve witnessed.  (Opening act the Fabulous Poodles weren’t bad either.)

Petty died today.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Review: The Lyric Opera of Kansas City's "Eugene Onegin" at Muriel Kauffman Theatre


I glibly dismissed opera as a teenager.  When people asked me what types of music I liked, I’d respond by saying “everything but opera.”  The ignorant retort was based on my perception of opera as a bastion of privilege.  I didn’t actually attend an opera until about 15 years ago.

I rolled the dice when I bought four tickets to a production of Arrigo Boito’s “Mefistofele” at Teatro dell'Opera di Roma for the equivalent of $75 U.S. dollars.  I expected my young children to revolt after 30 minutes.  Instead, they were spellbound by the operatic portrayal of Satan.  I was similarly transfixed.  (There’s definitely something to the “when in Rome” trope.)

I’ve since begun listening to arias for pleasure, a development partly inspired by my interest in the dramatic rise to stardom of Joyce DiDonato, a fellow Kansan.  I spent $39 (plus the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts’ regressive $6.50 add-on fee) for an upper balcony seat to the Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s production of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” on Saturday.

Spending big money to take in a glacially-paced three-hour Russian opera isn’t everyone’s idea of a solid Saturday night, a truth reflected by the spotty attendance.  A third of the seats in Muriel Kauffman Theatre were empty, a bad look for an opening night.

I would have adored almost every minute of the opera even if I didn’t have an entire row to myself.  The stellar performance of the Kansas City Symphony under the direction of Ari Pelto kept me riveted even when the flimsy plot dragged.  It didn’t hurt that I was smitten by Raquel González.  She was radiant in the role of Tatyana.  I also admired Steven Cole’s cameo as Monsieur Triquet and Jane Bunnell’s portrayal of Filipyevna.

The subtle lighting, sublime special effects and handsome sets transported me to Russia, a bewitchment that was broken by the heedless chatter just outside the theater doors that disrupted quiet segments of all three acts.  Nyet, nyet, nyet!


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I reviewed the Sextet’s new album Blob Castle at Plastic Sax.

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I’m a sucker for the Floozies’ unrepentantly dim-witted party jams.  Funk Jesus is RIYL sunshine, EOTO, beer bongs.

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Mastodon’s output just sounds better than most hard rock/heavy metal recordings.  The new four-song EP Cold Dark Place is RIYL Blizzard of Ozz, pomp, Diary of a Madman.  Here’s the title track.

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Not every reissue of vintage Afropop is worthwhile.  Vincent Ahehehinnou’s Best Woman seems like a desultory rehearsal.

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Kamasi Washington’s 31-minute Harmony of Difference is a digestible cosmic jazz document.  ”Truth” is the longest track.

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“There’s a Flaw in My Flue”!  I finally got around to listening to Bob Dylan’s Triplicate.  He’s clearly trolling, and I love it anyway.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Oh Very Young


I don’t recall hearing nursery rhymes as a kid.  The sing-song hits of Cat Stevens, however, were integral components of the soundtrack of my childhood.  “Wild World” and “Peace Train” are among the ditties that helped shape my worldview at an impressionable age.  The Laughing Apple is rightfully billed as a return to form for the man who now goes by Yusuf Islam.  I can’t resist the nostalgic charm of guileless songs like ”See What Love Did To Me” and “You Can Do (Whatever)”.


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I reviewed Melissa Etheridge’s concert with the Kansas City Symphony at Helzberg Hall.

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Thundercat gave me hope last week.  My notes about his revelatory concert in Lawrence are at Plastic Sax.

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I celebrated the reunion of Hadacol on KCUR’s Up To Date.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Charles Bradley has died.

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Souljazz Orchestra’s spectacular Under Burning Skies sounds like Awesome Tapes From Africa come to life.  Here’s ”Dog Eat Dog”.

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Will Downing’s Soul Survivor is RIYL Charlie Wilson, romance, Joe.  Here’s ”I’m Feeling the Love Again”.

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Riser, the debut album of the London based guitarist Rob Luft, is so startlingly imaginative that it makes the majority of jazz musicians seem like dullards.  RIYL: Lionel Loueke, unorthodoxy, David Binney.

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I take the Christian rapper Lecrae seriously.  That’s why I’m disappointed by the wildly inconsistent All Things Work Together.  Here’s ”Blessings”.

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Joe McPhee makes an unholy racket with Damon Smith and Alvin Fielder on Six Situations.  RIYL: skronk, Anthony Braxton, room-clearing jazz.

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Young Martha, the four-song EP that pairs the eccentric rapper Young Thug with the left-of-center producer Carnage, is correspondingly freaky.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Album Review: Pistol Pete- The 3Pete


The rims on the minivan in the hilarious video for ”Konichiwa” sold me on the Kansas City rapper Pistol Pete.  He’s as funny as Mac Lethal and as funky as Rich the Factor on his new album The 3Pete.

Pistol Pete insists that “I ain’t a rapper, I’m more a storyteller” on “2bad2good.”   The track’s jazz foundation indicates that the title is a likely reference to the Canadian jazz/hip-hop collective BadBadNotGood.  “So Gone” also swings while other tracks reveal the influence of Mac Dre.

The 3Pete concludes with my new theme song “Only Opponent.”  Like Mac Lethal, Rich the Factor and Pistol Pete, I see my most formidable adversary “when I look in the mirror.”


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I featured Molly Hammer in my weekly segment for KCUR.

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I documented a portion of my recent whiskey trip to Louisville at Plastic Sax.

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The one-time Kansan Mark Selby, a graduate of Fort Hays State who co-wrote the Dixie Chicks hit “There’s Your Trouble,” has died.

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Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s first album of 2017 struck me as a pointless recreation of Miles Davis’ Decoy.  A more interesting groove makes Diaspora a much better listen.

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Difficult admission: I’d never heard most of the tracks on the new Can compilation The Singles.  Aside from a few slices of cheese at the end, every song is stunning.

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Rock musician Jeremy Porter wrote an excellent remembrance of Grant Hart.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Puttin' On the Ritz



A base in Greenwich Village on a recent trip to New York City altered my perspective of the ostensible artistic and economic capital of the world.  Aside from the omnipresent scent of urine, there was nothing I didn’t like about the neighborhood (not that I could afford even the least expensive items in many of the rarified shops.)  Finding the willpower to sleep when renowned jazz clubs were within a 15-minute walk was a real challenge.

I didn’t catch Bill Charlap this time around, but the sophisticated tone of the pianist’s new album Uptown, Downtown with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington reflects the urbane ambiance I encountered at tony venues including the Blue Note.  (Here's my footage of a fancy Eddie Palmieri show.)

The host at Mezzrow may have mistaken me for David Lynch when he positioned me at a prime table for a solo concert by Sullivan Fortner even though I was wearing a ratty t-shirt.  I felt like I was at the top of the world as people decked out for fashion shoots and residents of luxury condos envied my spot within arm’s reach of the engaging young pianist.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I laud the Black Dolphin at Plastic Sax.

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Don Williams has died.

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Hüsker Dü was one of my favorite bands in the mid-’80s.  Grant Hart’s warm songs provided vital balance on classic albums like Flip Your Wig.  Hart died Wednesday.

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Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry died last week.  Montgomery Gentry headlined a concert at Providence Medical Center Amphitheater in Bonner Springs a few weeks ago.

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I caught Sheer Mag at Kaiju in Louisville last week.

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Hearing Sammy Hagar’s “Heavy Metal” on KSHE while driving through St. Louis this week made me giddy, but played-out tracks by Jefferson Starship, Pink Floyd Cheap Trick, Tom Petty and Yes just made me sad.

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Instant Karma’s Trying To Find My Mind is RIYL the Pretty Things, Kansas City garage-rock bands, Wreckless Eric.

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Van Hunt’s terrific Popular acts as an accidental Prince tribute.

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Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real’s self-titled release  is a fine outlaw country-ish album.  RIYL: the Grateful Dead, legacies, Sturgill Simpson.

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I admire Matt Wilson’s Honey and Salt: Music Inspired by the Poetry of Carl Sandburg, but I don’t necessarily like it.  RIYL: Ken Nordine, beatniks, Lord Buckley.

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A pithy jam band?  That’s the premise of Hard Working Americans.  We’re All In This Together is RIYL Todd Snider, barroom blues, Widespread Panic.  Here’s the title track.

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In much the same way I crave junk food, I derive enormous pleasure from Playboi Carti’s self-titled mixtape. Here’s “New Choppa”.

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Much of Living Colour’s Shade is stunning.  Here’s the band’s cover of “Who Shot Ya?”

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My lack of enthusiasm for Malija’s Instinct is further proof that I’m not automatically in the tank for every highly-touted Euro-jazz album.  RIYL: Paul Desmond, cold handshakes, Phronesis.

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Mike Stern Trip is an appealing time machine.  RIYL: the Brecker Brothers, jazz fusion circa 1980, We Want Miles.

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Krystian Zimerman’s Franz Schubert: Piano Sonatas has helped to center me in recent days.

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Antibalas’ Where the Gods Are in Peace is more of the same.  That’s a good thing.  RIYL Fela, celestial jams, Lettuce.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Concert Review: Rich the Factor, the Popper and Don Juan at 7th Heaven


“I’m KC!”  I don’t wear Kansas City-branded t-shirts and I’ve never used a #kcpride hashtag.  Yet as the Popper performed his latest anthem about Kansas City in a parking lot on Troost Avenue on Labor Day, I realized that I may be Kansas City’s truest music enthusiast.  Not only did I begin documenting my longstanding devotion to the sound that made the town famous at Plastic Sax in 2007, I have concurrently chronicled the rap scene that’s produced the only other hometown sound to make a significant global impression during that span.

In the four-and-a-half hours I spent at the free outdoor event sponsored by 7th Heaven, Rich the Factor, the Popper and Don Juan were among the prominent artists who expressed appreciation for their longstanding partnership with the scrappy retailer.  Bucking music industry trends, CDs are sold alongside the apparel lines of Kansas City rap heavyweights at the store.

As I wrote in a 2016 album review, Rich the Factor is “a veritable legend on the streets of the city’s urban core.” He affirmed his status during an auspicious headlining performance.  Don Juan performed “I Am the Street” after boasting that “I started that Tech N9ne sh*t” and reminding onlookers of his affiliation with the late Mac Dre.  Rush Borda, Chauncey Clyde and the teen duo Candii Gyrlz were among the other notable acts at the makeshift rooftop stage that validated my obsessive dedication to the most essential Kansas City music.

I posted video snippets of sets by Rich the Factor, Don Juan and The Popper to my Instagram account.  I also documented 7th Heaven’s Taste of Troost party in 2009.


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I named the forthcoming Gorillaz show at the Sprint Center my concert of the month for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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The Project H is KCUR’s Band of the Week.  My on-air segment will appear online in this space.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I recount my experience at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in Tompkins Square Park at Plastic Sax.

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I hope the reports that the Kansas City musician Ben Juneau has died are incorrect.

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Walter Becker of Steely Dan has died.

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Holger Czukay of Can has died.

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I opted to attend Noise Fest at Davey’s rather than the Kansas City Irish Fest at Crown Center last weekend.  Most of the acts I saw at the shambolic event sponsored by Leavenworth’s Big Pharma Records were merely uninspired dudes who manipulated feedback and static.  Only Pussyvision’s riveting freakout redeemed my break with tradition.

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A$AP Mob’s Cozy Tapes Vol. 2: Too Cozy is rude, childish and without any redeeming social value.  Needless to say, I'm all about it.  Here’s “Perry Aye”.

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The members of Algiers and I clearly like a lot of the same records.  It’s odd, consequently, that I can’t get into The Underside of Power.  RIYL Solomon Burke, futuristic gospel, Elvis Presley.  Here’s the title track.

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Eric Revis’ astounding Sing Me Some Cry is RIYL Ken Vandermark, temerity, David Ware.

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While it’s not exactly complex, Lil Uzi Vert’s Luv Is Rage 2 is shockingly multidimensional.  Color me (very) impressed.  Here’s ”How To Talk”.

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New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies turned my world around in 1983.  Even with its overt tributes to Suicide and David Bowie, I hear LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream as a heartfelt homage to the seminal release.

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If Tyler, The Creator is really as miserable as he sounds on Flower Boy, he’s likely going to be utterly despondent when he's 50.  RIYL: cranks, Earl Sweatshirt, misanthropes.  Here’s ”Who Dat Boy”.

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I can’t be sure that I’ve listened to Ozuna’s ridiculously slight Odisea.  His reggaeton is the wispiest music I’ve heard.  Here’s “Una Flor”.

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I don’t loathe Portico Quartet’s Art in the Age of Automation because the ensemble has shifted away from jazz.  I simply can’t stand the sound of soulless ringtones.

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P.O.S’s verses on Shredders’ ”Flipping Cars” are stupendous.

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The gratuitous volume employed by Mogwai at a Matador Records showcase at SXSW in 2001 came just shy of making my ears literally bleed.  I was unable to flee because I was working the show.  I’ve held a grudge against the Scottish band ever since.  Even so, I’ve fallen hard for Every Country’s Sun.

(Original image of Rich the Factor by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Concert Review: Aaron Neville at City Winery


My life partner told me that several acquaintances have asked her which Broadway productions she caught on our recent jaunt to New York City.  Those people don’t know us very well.  Predictably, we haunted music venues. Only one show commanded the exorbitant ticket prices associated with hit musicals.  Aaron Neville was worth it. Accompanied by pianist Michael Goods, the legendary vocalist crooned for 200 people at City Winery.  Although I wasn’t always thrilled with the selections- I would have preferred less Carole King and more Allen Toussaint- Neville still sings like a bird.  Enduring a leisurely version of the Bobby Goldsboro hit “Honey” was rough, but the star made up for his lapse in judgement with readings of “Hercules,” “Mojo Hannah” and a bitterly timely interpretation of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927.”  You can bet I wept.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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For once, I come across as a prescient genius in Tim Finn’s analysis of Taylor Swift’s career.

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I enjoy Queens of the Stone Age’s Villians without reservation.  ”The Evil Has Landed” is my jam.

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I’m down with Najee.  Wanna make something of it?  Poetry In Motion is expertly manufactured functional music.

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Quaint swing isn't usually my thing, but To Love and Be Loved, the new release from the veteran pianist Harold Mabern, charmed me.

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The backstory of Sweet As Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa is horrific.  As for the music, well, I’ve never heard anything quite like it.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Album Review: Youngblood Supercult- The Great American Death Rattle


When a friend recently informed me that the Topeka based Youngblood Supercult had been added to the lineup of Psycho Las Vegas, a festival headlined by the Brian Jonestown Massacre, King Diamond and Mastodon, he and I marveled at the stoner-rock band's low profile in its home market.  The lo-fi sludge of 151-proof songs like “Wormwood” on the new album The Great American Death Rattle effectively recycle the best bits of early Soundgarden, Fu Manchu and Clutch.  Even though the quartet has yet to make much of an impression in Kansas City, Youngblood Supercult is one of the mightiest bands in the Midwest.


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I reviewed a concert by Marco Antonio Solis and Jesse & Joy.

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I featured jazz bassist Micah Herman on my weekly KCUR segment.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I trespassed on a rarifed jazz salon last week.

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Sonny Burgess has died.

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I claimed Sargasso Sea, my introduction to the music of John Abercrombie, from a discount bin at Classical Westport in the late ‘70s.  I haven’t been the same since. Abercrombie died on Tuesday.

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I’m embarrassed for almost everyone associated with the utterly dismal Rich the Factor Presents KC’s the Town Compilation.

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I like A$AP Ferg’s crossover hits more than his club bangers.  Although it sounds like a million bucks, Still Striving is a street album. Here’s ”East Coast Remix”.

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Acoustic Classics II, a new set of re-recordings, is an ideal introduction to the cult of Richard Thompson.

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Three or four songs on Not Dark Yet, a collaboration between sisters Allison Moorer and Shelby Lynne, please me.

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Even though Yelena Eckemoff is accompanied by jazz luminaries including Chris Potter on In the Shadow of a Cloud, the album is less satisfying than Blooming Tall Phlox, the astounding January release she recorded with relatively obscure Finnish musicians.

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Eddie Palmieri’s music has infused me with joy for decades.  Sabiduria is no different.  RIYL: Willie Bobo, life, Tito Puente.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Throw Your Hands in the Air

Before I could even consider pouting because I was working an Idina Menzel concert rather than a nearby outing by Kendrick Lamar last night, I began receiving a series of unsolicited texts about the poor quality of the consequential artist’s show from outraged friends.  While undiscerning status-conscious Stans might rightfully point out that I wasn’t on hand to bear witness to the greatness of Kung Fu Kenny on Wednesday, the judgements of my like-minded pals affirms what remains painfully obvious: live performances by hip-hop/rap stars (including the two times I’ve seen Lamar) are invariably disappointing.  There are exceptions- Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, the Roots and (sometimes) Tech N9ne come to mind- but too often the quality of hip-hop/rap shows is inversely proportional to the monumental vitality of even the most essential recordings.


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I reviewed Green Day’s concert for The Kansas City Star on Friday.

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I reviewed a concert by Logic and Joey Badass for The Kansas City Star on Saturday.

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I reviewed “An Evening With George Gershwin” at MTH Theater on Sunday.

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I reviewed Idina Menzel’s concert at Starlight Theatre on Wednesday.

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I featured Soul Revival on my weekly KCUR segment.

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Me and my big mouth: I inadvertently stirred up race-related trouble in Kansas City.  My mea culpa is posted at Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Aesop Rock’s instrumental score for Bushwick is dandy.  RIYL: Isaac Hayes, tension, Hans Zimmer.

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Single Mothers’ Our Pleasure is RIYL F*cked Up, extremely irritating vocalists, Titus Andronicus.

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Reactionary condemnations of the latest disruptive sound are always a bad look.  Unlike some of my peers, I endorse Lil Peep’s controversial Come Over When You’re Sober.  The successful merger of the aesthetics of Kurt Cobain and Lil Uzi Vert seems like a license to print money.  Here’s ”Brightside”.

(Original image of Joey Badass at his wickity-wickity-wack performance on Saturday by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

You Run Your Mouth, I'll Run My Business


My obsessive-compulsive tendencies compel me to think twice before queuing up compilations of irreproachable music by the likes of the Carter Family, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holiday or Django Reinhardt.  Their timeless works tend to send me down unproductive rabbit holes.  It was with great reluctance, consequently, that I played the first of 136 tracks on the new Louis Armstrong collection The Complete Decca Singles 1935-1946.  I was out of commission for the next six hours and 38 minutes.  Oh, but what glorious waste of time!  Armstrong was such a genius that his interpretations of extremely problematic material, culturally insensitive compositions and pure drek are just as compelling as his classic works.  And when it comes to Armstrong, too much isn’t enough.


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I reviewed a concert by RL Grime, What So Not, Graves and Longer Days at the Midland theater for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed a concert by Primus and Clutch for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed a concert by the Harlem Quartet at Plastic Sax.

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I featured Bloodstone in my weekly segment on KCUR.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I don’t think any album in my old man’s regular rotation annoyed me more than Glen Campbell’s 1969 release Live.  It opens with a over-the-top medley.  The second track is a corny rendition of “White Lightning.”  My whiskey-drinking dad would mimic the vocal effects.  I never got past it.

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Barbara Cook has died.

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DL Menard has died.

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Howard Husock, the father of Eli “Paperboy” Reed, has written a fascinating account of his fleeting relationship with the late blues man Fred Davis.  The Kansas City native was killed in Cleveland in 1988.

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I admire all of the genre-shattering impulses displayed on Paul Jones’ Clean.  His version of jazz is RIYL Philip Glass, chamber music, David Binney.

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Tyler Childers’ Purgatory doesn’t contain a single original idea.  I like it anyway.  RIYL: the young Steve Earle, “real” country, Turnpike Troubadours.  Here’s ”Whitehouse Road”.

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I’m annoyed (and a bit embarrassed) that I immediately fell for Forq’s new album Thrēq.  The quartet melds the most appealing (and dorky) elements of prog-rock and jazz fusion.  RIYL: Brand X, imaginary soundtracks, Bob James.

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Damn hippies!  Power of Peace, a collaboration between Carlos Santana and the Isley Brothers, is far out.

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Hey, John Scofield is pretty good.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Album Review: Shabazz Palaces- Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star and Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines

The overwhelming onslaught of alarming events has compelled many of my friends to embrace intoxicants with renewed fervor.  Even though I’m often tempted to turn to the bottle for deliberative escapism, I’ve found that a pair of gauzy new albums by Shabazz Palaces are capable of transporting me to an alternate reality that allows me to unwind, toy with astral projection and regain a semblance of composure.  I prefer Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines to Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star, but both releases possess some of the most appealing aspects of Sly and the Family Stone, Sun Ra, Future and Linton Kwesi Johnson.


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I hailed Kendrick Lamar in advance of his return to the Sprint Center.

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I featured Mac Lethal in my weekly KCUR segment.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Guitarist Chuck Loeb has died.  He was a leading figure in the final wave of commercially viable and artistically compelling crossover jazz.

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Jan Fichman of 7th Heaven makes a cameo in the video for Rich the Factor and the Popper’s ”Aristocrat”.

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The Kansas City pianist Mark Lowrey oversees an disarming arrangement of Soundgarden’s “Fell On Black Days.”

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Trevor Lawrence Jr.’s Relationships is RIYL Quincy Jones, the intersection of jazz and R&B, the Brothers Johnson.

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Algorhythms turned me on to Matt Cappy’s debut release Church and State.  The jazz-based album by the Philadelphia trumpeter includes an Afro-beat selection and an interpretation of “Nessun Dorma.”

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Arcade Fire’s Everything Now is RIYL Abba, preciousness, Destroyer.

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Numero Group will release a Jackie Shane compilation in October.

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The 2017 Living Blues Awards indicate that the blues clearly isn’t alright.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Concert Review: Warped Tour 2017


A handful of battle-scarred musicians who appeared on the Hard Rock stage at Warped Tour precluded me from being the oldest person at Providence Medical Center Amphitheater on Thursday.  I was attracted to my peers the same way pasty teens were drawn to the white rappers on the bill.

I gladly paid $50 (and an additional $10 to park) to catch the old-school punk bands Adolescents, Sick of It All and T.S.O.L.  Everything else I took in was merely sweat-soaked gravy.

The New York punk veterans Sick of It All were in fighting form.  In spite of their age, they looked like potential victors in a literal battle-of-the-bands.  The California punk oddballs Adolescents (pictured), however, didn’t look so good.  Fortunately, powerful renditions of old classics like “Word Attack” belied their down-on-their-luck countenances.

Wearing a pink suit and deep tan, Jack Grisham of T.S.O.L. expressed frustration that only a few dozen people elected to hear his band’s set.  He mocked know-nothing hoodrats who claimed to advocate anarchy by boasting that his subversive activities had inspired “an F.B.I. file before your parents were born.”

The best of the rest:

  • The Virginia thrash band Municipal Waste was simultaneously hilarious and terrifying as it performed “I Want to Kill the President” and “The Thrashin’ of Christ.”
  • A guitarist from War on Women joined the female punk quartet Bad Cop/Bad Cop for a rendition of “Victoria,” a song about an abuse-inspired suicide.
  • Barb Wire Dolls successfully revived the trash-rock associated with the likes of L.A. Guns and Poison. Only about 100 people bothered to bear witness.
  • The varying crowd sizes that serve as a ruthless barometer of popularity are one of my favorite components of Warped Tour.  Thursday’s most savage sign of the times transpired when 100 rockers banged their heads to Valient Thorr as more than 750 annoyed hip-hop fans impatiently waited for Watsky’s set to begin at an adjacent stage.


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I reviewed Echo & the Bunnymen and Violent Femmes at Crossroads KC.

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The Passion of Charlie Parker isn’t going to be popular in Kansas City.  I  reviewed the all-star album that doesn’t go easy on Cowtown at Plastic Sax.  David Baerwald of David & David, the project’s lyricist, left an apology in the comment section at my other music blog.

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I previewed the Flyover fest for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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I featured the Kansas City vocalist Millie Edwards on KCUR this week.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Chester Bennington of Linkin Park has died.  I last saw him perform at the VooDoo in 2014 when he was filling in for Scott Weiland as the vocalist of Stone Temple Pilots.

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Nicole Atkins has a fine voice.  Yet the elaborate production of Goodnight Rhonda Lee requires a singer with a magnificent voice.  Atkins has a hard time breaking through the retro clutter.  (I reserve the right to be wrong- this album could be a grower.)  RIYL: Dusty Springfield, 1963, Dionne Warwick.  Here’s ”Darkness Falls So Quiet”.

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Terrace Martin Presents the Pollyseeds: Sounds of Crenshaw, Vol. 1 sounds like a potential album-of-the-year candidate in any given moment, but it quickly becomes monotonous.  Here’s ”Intentions”.

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Another John Coltrane tribute album?  Yes, but it’s amazing.  I highly recommend Denys Baptiste’s The Late Trane.

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I can almost smell the distinct funk of New Orleans when I listen to With You In Mind, Stanton Moore’s wondrous tribute to Allen Toussaint.  RIYL: Maceo Parker, worthy tributes, Nicholas Payton.

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I’ll always make time for Sara Evans.  Words is RIYL Patty Loveless, diminishing returns, Lorrie Morgan. “Marquee Sign” is the album’s worst song.

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Charles Lloyd’s late-career renaissance continues with the live recording Passin’ Through.  RIYL: John Coltrane, horrid album art, Joe Lovano.

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Big Reveal


I sat down with Aaron Rhodes of Shuttlecock Music Magazine to discuss a few of my favorite things.

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I reviewed a concert by Blondie, Garbage and the duo of Exene Cervenka and John Doe on Tuesday. 

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I discussed Jake Wells and Mike Dillon on KCUR.

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

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Field Day Fest shook my confidence on Friday. Even though the event received plenty of advance publicity (including a glowing piece I wrote for Ink magazine and The Kansas City Star), the turnout was woeful. I often felt as if I was the only person in attendance who had actually paid the full $15 cover.

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I marked a personal milestone at Plastic Sax.

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Fresh Kid Ice of 2 Live Crew has died. I last saw him perform at the misguided Zombie Pub Crawl in 2014 in the former grocery space to the north of the Uptown Theater.

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The stunning visual component of Juanes’ Mis Planes Son Amarte isn't necessary to appreciate the immediately ingratiating pop album.

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Contemporary doom metal goes corporate on Pallbearer’s Heartless. RIYL: Boston, colorless vocals, Rush. Here’s ”Thorns”.

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George Colligan’s session with Linda Oh, Rudy Royston and Nicole Glover on More Powerful veers between cocktail jazz and skronk.

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Every member of my compound is down with Sudan Archives’ self-titled release on Stones Throw Records. That almost never happens. RIYL: Sampha, something for everyone, Amber Coffman.

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Pharoah Sanders plays on three tracks of bassist Charnett Moffett’s often wonderful Music From Our Soul. RIYL: Jamaaladeen Tacuma, electric jams, Victor Wooten.

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I dig Cody Jinks’ cover of Pink Floyd’s ”Wish You Were Here”.

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I’m charmed by Big Boi’s wildly erratic Boomiverse. RIYL: Outkast, sweating, UGK. Here’s ”In the South”.

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Sevyn Streeter’s startlingly lurid Girl Disrupted is RIYL Brandy, underdogs, Janet Jackson. Here’s ”Before I Do”.

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Based on the melodic pop sensibility of Tenere, I sense that Afous D’Afous is fully capable of taking the place of 311 on the American summer festival circuit. RIYL: Bombino, dancing, Tinariwen. (Tip via Big Steve.)

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Deep Cover


There’s a right way and a wrong way to make an album of cover songs.  Nikka Costa takes the proper approach on the stellar Nikka & Strings: Underneath and In Between.  The unconventional arrangements and unusual instrumentation demonstrate Costa’s healthy irreverence on selections like Prince’s ”Nothing Compares 2 U”.  Her leisurely version of  “Stormy Weather” makes a case for Costa as Etta James’ most worthy heir.  Conversely, Douyé’s impeccably tasteful interpretations of standards like “In a Sentimental Mood” on Daddy Said So are infuriatingly stale.  The inability of elite jazz musicians like Kenny Barron, Ron Carter and Jeremy Pelt to lift the project out of the doldrums makes the effort even more frustrating.  The reactionary conservatism of Daddy Said So sounds like the supper club of my nightmares.


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I reviewed a concert by Iron Maiden and Ghost on Tuesday.

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I reviewed Monday’s outing by DJ Shadow at the Madrid Theatre.

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OneRepublic’s concert at the Sprint Center on Friday was one of my favorite shows of 2017.  No joke.  I reviewed the concert for The Kansas City Star.

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I discussed the Kansas City jazz fusion musician Blair Bryant on KCUR last week.  I inflicted Mike Dillon on listeners of the NPR affiliate earlier today.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I consider Steve Lambert’s new album Seven Stories at Plastic Sax.

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Lord have mercy.  Pokey Bear’s ”Can’t Be Faithful” is a strong contender for my favorite song of 2017.

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21 Savage’s Issa is so bad that it's good. "FaceTime" is among the tracks that are both brilliantly awful and awfully brilliant.

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I love everything about Riverside’s The New National Anthem.  The project overseen by trumpeter Dave Douglas is RIYL Carla Bley, brilliant fun, Old and New Dreams.

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Shredders, a reshuffling of the Doomtree crew, is invigorating.  RIYL: P.O.S, feeling Minnesota, Sims.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Album Review: Rich the Factor- 1,000 (Keep It Ten Hunnid)


As millions of Jay-Z fans parsed 4:44 over the weekend, heedful Kansas Citians studied Rich the Factor’s latest missive.  1,000 (Keep It Ten Hunnid) is another essential document of Kansas City’s criminal underworld.  The album validates the assertions I made in an extensive examination of Rich published by KCUR last year.  The title track includes a statement of purpose: “Rich, why you rap about the drug life? I’m like Pac when he rapped about thug life.”  He notes that “I handle business on the late night and keep my grass cut low for the snake bites” on “Late Night.”  The production continues to reference ‘80s and ‘90s R&B.  “On the Grit” samples the 1990 hit After 7 “Ready or Not,” a sentiment that reflects Rich’s unrepentant grind.


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I reviewed Bruce Hornsby’s appearance at Knuckleheads last Thursday.

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I accorded the Philistines my KCUR Band of the Week designation.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I consider reactions to the American Jazz Museum’s negative publicity at Plastic Sax.

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Pianist Geri Allen has died.  Perfection, her collaboration with David Murray and Terri Lyne Carrington, was my #9 album of 2016.

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A perplexing eight-minute documentary on the creation of Bargou ‘08’s wonderful Targ in Algeria raises more questions than it answers.

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I embrace the glorious pop of Calvin Harris’s Funk Wav Bounces without reservation or irony.  RIYL: Pharrell Williams, 2017, Future.

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Aruan Ortiz’s solo piano album Cub(an)ism is astounding.  RIYL: Cecil Taylor, truly new sounds, Gonzalo Rubalcaba.

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May the Purple Rain never stop falling.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Album Review: Vince Staples- Big Fish Theory


Several obsessive listening sessions with the difficult Big Fish Theory compels me to paraphrase a familiar saying: it’s not the Vince Staples album I want, but it may be the Vince Staples album I need.  Electronica-based production choices presented the initial hurdle.  Where the melange of jazz, funk and R&B employed by Kendrick Lamar- Staples’ most worthy hyper-ambitious California art-rap peer- immediately resonates with me, Big Fish Theory draws on sonics that are outside my wheelhouse.  As for Staples’ lyrical concerns, well, they’re not a lot of fun.  Lamar provides resolution for his apprehensions.  Staples is more ambiguous.  The contrast make Lamar’s entrance on “Yeah Right” the most electrifying moment on an album of challenging music for unsettled times.


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Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s concert at Crossroads KC was wack.  Here’s my review.

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I named Making Movies KCUR’s Band of the Week.

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In a dazzling display of poor judgement, I put off listening to Hudson, the new collaboration between John Scofield, John Medeski, Larry Grenadier and Jack DeJohnette.  The prospect of hearing them cover the likes of “Woodstock” didn’t appeal to me.  I shouldn’t have doubted the brilliant men.  The excellent album isn’t the least bit portentous.  Here’s the title track.

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Tigran Hamasyan’s An Ancient Observer is an enchanting piano-based album.  Here’s "Markos and Markos".  RIYL: Brad Mehldau, Armenia, Ethan Iverson.

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Sometimes I dodn’t know if I should envy the cool kids or laugh at them.

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Outside the Echo Chamber, an astounding collaboration between Coldcut and On-U Sound, overflows with ideas.  RIYL: No Doubt, dub, Lee Perry.

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Even though I think it’s a pointless exercise, I’d be lying if I claimed not to derive great pleasure from Ala.Ni’s You & I.  RIYL: Madeleine Peyroux, fine wine, Blossom Dearie.  Here’s ”Cherry Blossom”.

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Pop Makossa- The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon 1976​-​1984 sounds like an exuberant remix of Nile Rodgers’ discography.  In other words, it’s an instant party.  (Tip via Big Steve.)

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A viable new contender for the title of the worst song of all time features one of the best artists of the moment.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ain’t Nobody Praying For Me: Music Midway in 2017

The Top Songs of 2017 (So Far)
Three topics that have unsettled my home during the last six months- faith, sobriety and formulating an appropriate response to the new political climate- are addressed on Brother Ali’s hopeful anthem.(Spotify playlist)

1. Brother Ali- “Own Light (What Hearts Are For)”
2. Calvin Harris featuring Frank Ocean and Migos- “Slide”
3. Kendrick Lamar- “Humble”
4. Valerie June- “Astral Plane”
5. Sunny Sweeney- “Bottle by My Bed”
6. Lorde- “Liability”
7. Rick Ross featuring Young Thug- “Trap Trap Trap”
8. Young Fathers- “Only God Knows”
9. Future- “Mask Off”
10. Ibibio Sound Machine- “Give Me a Reason”

11. Fat Joe and Remy Ma- “Spaghetti”
12. Alejandro Fernandez- “Agridulce”
13. José James- “To Be With You”
14. Craig Finn- “God in Chicago”
15. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit- “Hope the High Road”
16. Mark Eitzel- “The Last Ten Years”
17. Adriel Favela- “Me Llamo Juan”
18. Stik Figa- “Cold”
19. Rodney Crowell- “It Ain’t Over Yet”
20. Migos- “T-Shirt”

21. Chronixx- “Majesty”
22. Motionless in White- “Loud”
23. Carlos Vives- “Al Filo de Tu Amor”
24. Chief Keef- “Reefah”
25. Ledisi- “High”


The Top Albums of 2017 (So Far)
No contest- 2017 belongs to Kendrick Lamar.

1. Kendrick Lamar- Damn
2. Matt Otto- Ibérica
3. Orchestra Baobab- Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng
4. Future- Future
5. Sunny Sweeney- Trophy
6. Tinariwen- Elwan
7. Juana Molina- Halo
8. Víkingur Ólafsson- Philip Glass: Piano Works
9. Bobby Watson- Made In America
10. Migos- Culture

11. Miguel Zenón- Típico
12. Future- Hndrxx
13. Making Movies- I Am Another You
14. Brother Ali- All the Beauty In This Whole Life
15. Wavves- You’re Welcome
16. Samantha Fish- Chills & Fever
17. Omar Souleyman- To Syria, With Love
18. Syd- Fin
19. Yelena Eckemoff- Blooming Tall Phlox
20. Gorillaz- Humanz

21. Uniform- Wake In Fright
22. Oleta Adams- Third Set
23. Jessi Colter- The Psalms
24. Willie Nelson- God’s Problem Child
25. Lorde- Melodrama


The Top Shows of 2017 (So Far)
My cousin the opera star made me wince from laughing so hard in my front row seat at the Folly Theater.  Eric Owens one-upped him by causing me to sob.

1. Lawrence Brownlee and Eric Owens- Folly Theater
2. Charlie Wilson, Fantasia and Johnny Gill- Sprint Center
3. A Place to Bury Strangers- Madrid Theatre (opening for the Black Angels)
4. Donny McCaslin Trio- Folly Theater
5. Salif Keita- Town Hall (New York City)
6. Greg Tardy Trio- Blue Room
7. Danilo Pérez’s Jazz 100- Yardley Hall
8. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and Strand of Oaks- Uptown Theater
9. Halestorm- Rockfest at Kansas Speedway
10. Jack DeJohnette Trio- Gem Theater

11. Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood- Sprint Center
12. Ramsey Lewis- Gem Theater
13. Patti LaBelle- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
14. Joseph- Madrid Theatre
15. Jessica Care Moore- Black Archives of Mid-America
16. Soundgarden and Dillinger Escape Plan- Starlight Theatre
17. Alaturka- Polsky Theatre
18. Lalah Hathaway- Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival in the Jazz District
19. Pure Disgust- Encore Room
20. Jimmy LaFave- Folk Alliance at the Westin Crown Center

21. Tech N9ne- Midland theater
22. Punch Brothers- Crossroads KC
23. Motionless in White- Midland theater
24. Simone Porter- Folly Theater
25. George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic- Boulevardia in the Stockyards District

(Original image of Lalah Hathaway by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Album Review: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit- The Nashville Sound


By evoking peak-era Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band during Ink’s Middle of the Map Festival at the Uptown Theater in May, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s concert at the Uptown Theater momentarily restored my faith in the viability of traditional rock and roll.  The best songs on the setlist- “If We Were Vampires” and “Hope the High Road”- acted as previews of the forthcoming The Nashville Sound.  It’s a drag, consequently, that those songs are far and away the album’s best tracks.  I’ll probably listen to “If We Were Vampires and “Hope the High Road” for the remainder of my life, but I’m just not down with the rest of The Nashville Sound.


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I wrote a feature about Oleta Adams for KCUR.

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I reviewed Ann Wilson’s concert at the Uptown Theater.

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I reviewed George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic’s appearance at the Boulevardia festival.

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Willie Nelson was rained out on Saturday, but I reviewed opening sets by Dwight Yoakam and Robert Earl Keen.

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Concerts by John Legend and Portugal. The Man were my shows of the week for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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I named My Brothers & Sisters the KCUR Band of the Week.

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I take note of Gerald Spaits latest release at Plastic Sax.

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My weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star are here and here.

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Prodigy of Mobb Deep has died.

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Ben Goldberg School’s The Humanities is RIYL Henry Threadgill, the combination of clarinet and accordion, Don Byron.

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I had a spiritual epiphany while listening to the opening selection of Ahmad Jamal’s excellent new Marseille. Here’s a music video for the fourth track.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Album Review: Juana Molina- Halo


My insomnia has a soundtrack.  When my mind races like a hamster on a wheel in spite of my exhaustion, my imagination generates gentle buzzes, soothing bleeps and reassuring coos.  Juana Molina may suffer from the same curious malady.  Her enchanting new album Halo is precisely what I hear on sleepless nights.


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I reviewed a production of “The Who’s Tommy” on Friday.

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I reviewed “You’ve Got a Friend” at Quality Hill Playhouse on Saturday.

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I reviewed a Punch Brothers concert at Crossroads KC on Sunday.

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I reviewed Muse and Thirty Seconds to Mars at Starlight Theatre on Monday.

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John Legend’s concert at Starlight Theatre is my pick of the week for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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I named Hembree KCUR’s Band of the Week.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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Footage of the late Jimmy LaFave’s powerful performance at the Folk Alliance conference in February has emerged.

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I hopped on the bandwagon for Gorillaz' Humanz last week.

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Ambrose Akinmusire’s A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard doesn’t move me.  RIYL: Wallace Roney, disappointments, Roy Hargrove.

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Benjamin Booker’s Witness is the rare roots-rock album that isn’t afraid of upsetting the apple cart.  RIYL: Gomez, powerful voices, Heartless Bastards.  Here’s ”Believe”.

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Canned arrangements and lackluster production spoil Maysa’s Love Is a Battlefield.  RIYL: Anita Baker, romance, Ledisi.  Here’s the title track.

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Even though I listened carefully to A Social Call, I’m compelled to reserve judgement on Jazzmeia Horn until I catch a live performance.  RIYL: Shirley Horn, jazz hype, Ella Fitzgerald.

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I’ve never attempted to hide my unironic affection for Papa Roach.  Crooked Teeth is RIYL Sevendust, real life, Seether.

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Heliocentrics’ trippy A World of Masks is RIYL Mulatu Astatke, groovy drones, Sun Ra.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, June 05, 2017

Sour Concord Grapes


I’m not one of the three pasty men in the photograph that accompanies a The New York Times report about the latest transmutation of the entity once known as Concord Records.  While I bear a slight resemblance to the executives who oversee the conglomerate, I suppose I lack some of their business acuity.  I certainly had myriad opportunities to get in on the ground floor of the operation.  I regularly interacted with Carl Jefferson, the late founder of Concord Records, as I toiled as a sales rep for independent record labels when his company was strictly devoted to mainstream jazz recordings.  When he wasn’t scolding me about slow payments or the ostensibly light spreads of his latest releases, Jefferson and I had delightful discussions about our mutual admiration of musicians like Ruby Braff.  Even though things have worked out for me, I occasionally regret not striving to become a redoubtable music industry mogul.


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I reviewed the 25th anniversary edition of Rockfest.

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I reviewed Tech N9ne's return to the Midland.

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Future’s concert at the Sprint Center was my show of the week for The Kansas City Star and
Ink magazine.

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I gave Nick Schnebelen my KCUR Band of the Week designation.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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I reviewed Hermon Mehari’s solo debut album at Plastic Sax.

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Danny Cox recalled the summer of 1967 for The Kansas City Star.

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Bern Nix has died.

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The remix of Bob Marley & the Wailers' Exodus is disorienting.  Here’s ”Turn Your Lights Down Low”.

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Mad Decent added just the right amount of production sweetening to Omar Souleyman’s music on To Syria, With Love.  Here’s ”Chobi”.

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Cuong Vu’s Ballet is miraculous free-ish jazz.  RIYL: Bill Frisell, four (brilliant) dudes jamming, Dave Douglas.

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Orrin Evans might be my favorite mainstream jazz pianist.  His presence elevates Sean Jones’ Live From at the Bistro.  RIYL: Hermon Mehari, the St. Louis jazz club, Terrel Stafford.

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Rock may be dead, but the members of Greta Van Fleet are expert necromancers.  Black Smoke Rising is RIYL Led Zeppelin IV, gravedigging, Houses of the Holy.  Here’s ”Highway Tune”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Soft and Warm


I hit the quiet storm trifecta on Sunday.  While watching Will Downing deliver the classic 1998 ballad “Stop, Look, Listen to Your Heart” at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival, I was rocked by a bolt of adult R&B inspiration.  I hustled to the nearby Celebration at the Station to hear Patti Austin perform with the Kansas City Symphony.  At the conclusion of her portion of the massive event, I raced back to the Jazz District in time to catch Oleta Adams revive her 1991 smash “Get Here”.  Rarely has my unironic embrace of slow jams been more rewarding.


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I reviewed the first and second days of the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival for The Kansas City Star.  I pontificate on the inaugural edition of the festival at Plastic Sax.

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Samantha Fish’s two-night stand at Crossroads KC was my show of the week for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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I gave Oleta Adams the KCUR Band of the Week designation.

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Gregg Allman has died.  He seemed frail at a 2015 casino gig I reviewed for The Kansas City Star.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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Mickey Roker has died.

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The new reissue of Mulatu of Africa is unassailably groovy.  The many imperfections of Mulatu Astatke’s 1972 album somehow makes the music even more perfect.  RIYL: Roy Ayers, qi, Sun Ra.

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Robert Johnson has nothing on Willie Nelson.  God’s Problem Child is yet another improbably strong album from the 84-year-old icon.

(Original image of the Celebration at the Station by There Stands the Glass.)