Friday, January 19, 2018

Whoa

I watched surfers from a beachside dive while on vacation in San Diego yesterday.  The soundtrack was similar to the sounds I’d heard at multiple Southern California establishments this week.  Rather than irritating me as they do when I encounter them in my Midwestern home, new millennium reggae songs from the likes of  Rebelution, Sbid, Iration and Damian Marley tickled my ears in an unfamiliar way.  Otherwise subdued barflys banded together for a hearty singalong when the 311 hit “Amber” popped up on the playlist.  I may have joined in.


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I shared tracks by Deborah Brown, Matt Otto with Ensemble Ibérica, Samantha Fish, Lee Ann Womack, Future and Alejandro Fernández on a KCUR program titled “From Kansas City And Beyond, The Best Music Of 2017”.  Bonus: I made a case for Rich the Factor as my favorite Kansas City artist.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I reviewed Lonnie McFadden’s Live at Green Lady Lounge at Plastic Sax.

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Denise LaSalle has died.

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“Fast” Eddie Clarke of Motörhead and Fastway has died.

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Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries has died.

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The crossover gospel artist Edwin Hawkins has died.

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The press materials for Suss’Ghost Box imply that the New York group’s “ambient country” concept is groundbreaking.  It’s not.  Calexico, Bill Frisell and B.J. Cole are among the artists that have previously explored the Ennio Morricone-influenced terrain.  That observation doesn’t mean that I don't take enormous pleasure in Ghost Box.

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The albums Jack Antonoff produced for Lorde, Taylor Swift and his band Bleachers provided satisfying pop kicks in 2017.  Børns’ Blue Madonna offers a similar sort of immediate gratification.  Here’s “I Don’t Want U Back”.

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I intended to bail on Anderson East’s Encore until I recognized the opening lyric of the album’s fifth song.  His surprising cover of Ted Hawkins’ “Sorry You’re Sick” is a nice surprise.  Even so, does the world need another painfully sincere blue-eyed soul singer in the vein of Ray LaMontagne, Allen Stone and Amos Lee?  Here’s
“Girlfriend”.

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”Do you like it hardcore?” Yes, Fools Gold and Masayoshi Iimori, I do.

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Listening to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Wrong Creatures is the rock and roll equivalent of rewatching the anodyne John Hughes movie The Breakfast Club.  RIYL: the Black Angels, vinyl reissues of the Velvet Underground, the Kills.  Here’s “Little Thing Gone Wild”.

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The video for Inara George’s lovely chamber-pop song “Young Adult” is charming.

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New Stravinsky!  The world premiere recording of the recently rediscovered “Chant Funébre” by Riccardo Chailly and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra on Stravinsky: Chant funŠbre; Le Sacre de Printemps is a swirling mind-bender.

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Umphrey’s McGee’s It’s Not Us is a typically frustrating affair.  The jam band is best during noisy freakouts that evoke King Crimson’s Discipline.  The group is intolerable when it sounds like a third-tier version of the Police.

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I’m invariably delighted on the rare occasions when I encounter a music enthusiast who is even geekier than I.  Cole Cuchna pores over every note and lyric of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy on the second season of his Dissect podcast.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

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.


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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I named Edison Lights the KCUR Band of the Week.

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

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

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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.”

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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.

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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”.


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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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

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

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Rick Hall of Muscle Shoals has died.

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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.


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My remembrance of Kevin Mahogany was published at Plastic Sax.

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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.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Trombonist Roswell Rudd has died.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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

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

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

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

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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.

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Kevin Mahogany has died.

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Johnny Hallyday has died.

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Keely Smith has died.

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The jazz guitarist Mundell Lowe has died.

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The jazz drummer Sunny Murray has died.

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Leon Rhodes of the Texas Troubadours has died.

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The Chicago jazz pianist Willie Pickens has died.

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Saxophonist Ralph Carney has died.

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Blues man Leo “Bud” Welch has died.

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

1.
Bummer- "Freedom Cobra"
I’ll always love rock that’s big, dumb and dangerous. 

2.
Isaac Cates & Ordained- "Hold On"
Harrowing images are paired with unshakable faith.

3.
Ssion- "Comeback"
Just a wee bit over-the-top.

4.
Kawehi- "(Not Another Lame) Fight Song"
A not-so-casual stroll down Massachusetts Street.

5.
Samantha Fish- "Chills & Fever"
Cold sweat.

6.
Stik Figa- "Cold"
Top City in slo-mo.

7.
Pistol Pete- "Konichiwa"
Hijinks at an east side tavern.

8.
Wick & the Tricks- "Tough As Nails"
Party time.

9.
Aaron Alexander- "Faces"
Post-“Get Out” anxiety.

10.
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.)