Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall From Kansas?


I’ve long felt like a provincial yahoo. 

I’m an expert on budget hotels in Amarillo but I’ve never traveled to Africa.  I’ve walked countless streets in small towns in central Kansas but I know only a couple hundred words of Spanish.

A visit to Carnegie Hall last week made me feel like less of a rube.  I’d never made it to the storied concert hall during a handful of previous visits to New York City.

An unamplified performance by my fellow Kansan Joyce DiDonato with the Philadelphia Orchestra in the Perspectives series she curates was sufficiently loud in my $40 balcony seat.  The program was dominated by material from DiDonato’s Stella di Napoli, my ninth favorite album of 2014.

A duet between DiDonato as Romeo and Laura Claycomb as Juliet during a selection from Vincenzo Bellini’s “I Capuleti e I Montecchi” is one of the most stimulating things I've witnessed.  My cousin Lawrence Brownlee was also impressive.

The New York Times reviewed the concert.


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An appearance by Charlie Wilson was no less memorable than shows I’ve witnessed by James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Isaac Hayes.  Here’s my review.

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I reviewed a concert by Maroon 5, Magic! and Rozzi Crane.

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I caught a performance by Noah Preminger’s quartet while in New York.

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I contributed a Local Listen segment on the New Riddim to KCUR.

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Earl Sweatshirt’s new I Don’t Like Sh*t, I Don’t Go Outside… initially strikes me as a rehashed version of his amazing Doris”Grief” sounds like a suicide note.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Album Review: Ghostface Killah and Badbadnotgood- Sour Soul


2014 was a miserable year for hip-hop.  Very little in the genre thrilled me.  Yet the first few weeks of 2015 represent an embarrassment of hip-hop riches. 

Along with an alarming portion of the rest of the world, I’m listening to Kendrick Lamar’s new album at the moment.  (Jazz and funk!)

Not taking the chart-topping release by my sworn enemy into consideration, Cannibal Ox and Doomtree have already released albums that are better than any hip-hop titles that came out last year.

While it’s not in the same class as Kendrick’s To Pimp a Butterfly, Sour Soul, the new collaboration between Ghostface Killah and Badbadnotgood, is very good. 

Ghost, of course, is the most notable voice of the Wu-Tang Clan. I once thought of the Canadian band Badbadnotgood as a “fake jazz” collective, but the group has since come a long way in a short time.

With each play of Sour Soul, Ghost’s rhymes become increasingly funny.  The album makes me happy.  Here’s a video for ”Ray Gun”.


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I reviewed the Chieftains’ short and cheesy concert at Helzberg Hall. 

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I contributed a feature about Drakkar Sauna to KCUR.

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I indulge in a so-called guilty pleasure at Plastic Sax.

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Danielle Nicole Schnebelen’s new EP is impressive.  I prefer it to the output of her former band Trampled Under Foot.  RIYL: Etta James, blue-eyed soul, Wilson Pickett.

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Daevid Allen of Gong has died.  When I went through my prog-rock phase, Allen was still one of the leading lights of the form.

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New MC Lyte?  I guess I’m in.

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I put off listening to Butch Walker’s new album for weeks.  Having lost my most of my taste for sensitive rock, I figured it wouldn’t be my thing.  I was wrong.  Afraid of Ghosts is RIYL: Lindsey Buckingham, songs about death, Matthew Ryan.

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There’s nothing unique about Tim Warfield’s Spherical, but the Monk tribute is excellent nonetheless.  RIYL: Charlie Rouse, all things Monk, Coleman Hawkins.

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Big Steve’s endorsement of the project compelled me to audition the Mavericks' fine new Mono.  The flat sound field can be remedied by playing the album through a portable speaker.

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No one asked me, but I believe that the verdict in the Gaye-Thicke/Pharrell Williams is a travesty.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Concert Review: Homegrown Buzz Showcase


Knowing my basketball team was bound to lose on Saturday afternoon, I hedged my bets by attending the Homegrown Buzz Showcase in the Power & Light District.

I kept one eye on television monitors- there’s no shortage of screens in the entertainment district- and both ears on music.

I caught complete sets by five acts and small samples of a few other bands. Three artists stood out.

Various Blonde isn’t perfect- there are a couple elements that could stand a little improvement- but its outing in a crowded restaurant verified my assertion that Various Blonde’s is one of Kansas City’s best rock bands. 

Brandon Phillips covered Iron Maiden, Elvis Costello, Jawbreaker, Leonard Cohen and a song by his band the Architects in his solo set.  It’s not the first time I’ve fallen under his spell.

I’ve seen a lot of mainstream pop, rock, R&B, hip-hop and country acts on the KC Live! stage.  It was a nice change of pace, consequently, to see the post-hardcore band Maps For Travelers make a mighty noise on the big stage.

About that game- my team lost on a last-second shot.


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I reviewed Bill Frisell’s appearance at White Theatre.

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I reviewed Helmet’s show at the RecordBar.

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I reviewed Live at the Living Room, the new album by Victor & Penny Loose Change Orchestra and Their Loose Change Orchestra.

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I contributed a segment on Millie Edwards to KCUR.

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Lew Soloff has died.

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Brandon Phillips of the Architects throws down the gauntlet in an essay for Alternative Press.

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The Kansas City Chorale’s Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil was released this week.

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I’m tempted to think that Cannibal Ox made Blade of the Ronin with me in mind.  It’s right in my wheelhouse.  RIYL: Wu-Tang Clan, hip-hop in 1993, Ultramagnetic MCs.

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I guess Estelle isn’t the artist I thought she was.  The new album True Romance isn’t very good.  RIYL: Solange, disappointments, Jazmine Sullivan.  Here’s ”Conqueror”.

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The production on Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise is excellent.  Too bad about the rapper.  Here’s a video for the opening track.

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Rhiannon Giddens has doubled down on the retro thing.  Her debut album is RIYL: Judy Collins, calculated realness, Mimi Farina.

(Original image of Various Blonde’s Josh Allen by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Right Profile


As a typical teenager, I viewed the world in black and white. 

I took the nascent punk revolution at face value and renounced my affinity for everything that didn’t conform to the new sound.  I spent the better part of a year attempting to be a purist, an absurd challenge for a kid who grew up loving Waylon Jennings, Michael Jackson, Elton John and Stevie Wonder. 

It’s almost impossible to overstate the impact of London Calling.  When my favorite band embraced jazz, reggae, rockabilly and blues in 1979, I was freed from the false stylistic constraints of punk.

I wasn’t alone.  Thousands of Midwestern kids like me would soon welcome a new wave of Los Angeles bands like the Blasters and Los Lobos. 

J.D. McPherson’s excellent Let the Good Times Roll reminds me of that era.  The smart, funny and soulful album is as solid as anything that came out of the roots revival of the early 1980s.


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I reviewed Aaron Lewis’ concert at the VooDoo.

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I created a Local Listen segment about Maps For Travelers for KCUR.

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The lineup of the 2015 edition of Rockfest represents a step up from recent years.

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Orrin Keepnews has died.

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EarthEE, the new album by THEESatisfaction, is very good.  RIYL: Shabazz Palaces, funkateers, Erykah Badu.

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Ibeyi’s self-titled album is just a tad too precious for my taste.  RIYL: Dirty Projectors, public radio, Cibelle.  Here’s Ghosts.

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Jacky Terrasson is the exactly the type of brash ambassador that jazz desperately needs.  That said, his new album Take This makes me want to listen to Slayer.  Here’s the album trailer.

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If Spoon wasn’t really good, the band might sound like Diamond Rugs. Cosmetics also resembles an  inferior version of the Latin Playboys or Morphine.

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Gang of Four's What Happens Next is depressingly uninteresting.

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Bob! How could you? (I love that man.)

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I don’t even know who I am anymore.  A couple tracks on Diana Krall’s easy listening album Wallflower brought me to the brink of tears.  RIYL: Julie London, elevators, Andy Williams.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ooh! My Head


People keep asking me what I think of the latest release by my nemesis Drake.  They don’t like hearing that I’ve been too busy attending shows to listen to much new music.  My reviews and/or notes, listed in the order of how much I enjoyed each event of the past eight days:
1. Merle Haggard at the Uptown Theater
2. Blackberry Smoke, the Temperance Movement and the Ben Miller Band at the Uptown Theater
3. The Hot Sardines at the Folly Theater
4. Hellyeah and a handful of forgettable bands at the Midland
5. Thursday’s offerings at the Music Fair portion of the Folk Alliance International Conference.

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Clark Terry has died.  I believe a 2010 concert at the Gem Theater was his final performance in Kansas City.

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Lesley Gore has died.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Concert Review: Guy, K-Ci & JoJo, El DeBarge and Doug E. Fresh at Municipal Auditorium


While I’ve been to worse concerts, the disparity between the high quality of artists’ recorded output and embarrassingly inept performances has rarely been greater than it was at Municipal Auditorium last Friday.

Even after Bobby Brown canceled due to a well-reported family tragedy, I wasn’t about to miss a show that included appearances by grown-and-sexy hit-makers Guy, K-Ci & JoJo, El DeBarge and Doug E. Fresh.

Fresh's opening set with the Get Fresh Crew was the highlight of the evening.  While billing himself as “the world’s greatest entertainer” is a laughable conceit, “the original human beatbox”’s old-school presentation was a lot of fun.

El DeBarge is one of the most under-appreciated artists in popular music.  His career may have been derailed by personal problems, but every time I see him perform I feel as if I’m witnessing a man with talent commensurate to that of Michael Jackson.

K-Ci & JoJo was a mess.  Cedric "K-Ci" Hailey dominated the proceedings like a deranged preacher of a sinister church.  His voice remains powerful, but the presentation was downright creepy.  Even renditions of the wonderful songs from the Jodeci catalog were off-putting.  How did the guys behind great hits like ”Wanna Do You Right” go so wrong?

Guy's headlining performance was so incompetent that members of the audience of about 2,500 were booing even before the duo hit the stage. 

The pioneers of New Jack Swing repeatedly missed their introductory cues.  When Guy finally arrived it was immediately apparent that Teddy Riley- the group’s primary creative force- was absent.  Not only were a third of the harmonies missing, the backing tracks were also muddled.  (DeBarge’s keyboard and the Get Fresh Crew’s turntables were the only instruments performed on Saturday).  Adding insult to injury, Aaron Hall kept mistakenly insisting that he was in Kansas.

People walked out in droves.  I captured the embedded image the moment the lights went up at the show’s conclusion to document the fiasco.


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I reviewed Todd Snider’s appearance at Knuckleheads on Saturday.

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Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Bird Calls is the leading candidate for my favorite album of 2015.  I hail the recording at Plastic Sax.

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My Local Listen feature on the Bon Ton Soul Accordion Band aired on KCUR last Friday.

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Kansas City organist John Obetz has died.

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Jazz drummer Richie Pratt​ has died.

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I've been woefully negligent in addressing the recent passing of Don Covay.  A trip to my basement  The Museum of Dead People reminded me of his enormous significance.  An out-of-print 1994 compilation ($170 at Amazon and worth every penny) opens with ”Bip Bop Bip”.  The unhinged 1957 raver recorded with the Upsetters is everything that’s been missing in musical diet of late.  Covay went on to write or co-write hits including “Pony Time,” “See Saw” and “Mercy Mercy.”  In his liner notes, Billy Vera suggests that Mick Jagger based his singing on Covay’s style.  I think he’s right.  The excellent 1973 hit ”I Was Checkin’ Out While She Was Checkin’ In” demonstrates that Covay kept up with the times through the early 1970s.

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Steve Strange has died.

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Danny McCullough of the Animals has died.  (Tip via BGO.)

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Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear performed on The Late Show with David Letterman.

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Admirers of the blues mural at BB’s Lawnside BBQ will be interested in a reception with the artist on Sunday, February 22.

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Monta At Odds created a video for “Android Dreams.”

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Gary Shindler reviewed a concert that featured Vinnie Appice, Kofi Baker, Ripper Owens and Uli Jon Roth.

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After spotting Africa Express Presents’ In C Mali on Big Steve’s playlist, I cued up the project on a lark.  I had it pegged as an amusing novelty.  I was hooked after five minutes.  At the 20-minute mark I was on cloud nine.  I had an out-of-body experience around the 30-minute juncture.

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Insane Clown Posse knows what’s up.  (Not kidding.)

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The Rez Abbasi Quartet plays acoustic versions of jazz fusion classics on Intents and Purposes.  I’m all about it.  RIYL: John McLaughlin, remixed nostalgia, Chick Corea.

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Eddie Henderson’s Collective Portrait is lovely.  RIYL: Gary Bartz, Sextant, George Cables.

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The Paradox of Independence, a new live album by Tisziji Muñoz and Marilyn Crispell, is RIYL: James “Blood” Ulmer, skronk, Arto Lindsay.

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The Cursive-like rocker “The Ideal Husband” aside, I don’t have much use for Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear.  Even so, I’m glad so many people like it.  The value of my dusty crate of overwrought 1970s folk albums just went up.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, February 09, 2015

Concert Review: Timbers at Coda


A few minutes before Timbers performed at Coda on Saturday afternoon, I thought it’d be amusing if the alt-country band dared to cover the Pitbull and Ke$ha hit “Timber.”  I didn’t have to wait long.  As soon as the pedal steel player began riffing at the top of the set, I realized that Timbers would open with the novelty song.  The band’s ability to mock its name allowed me to forgive its occasional forays into tepid folk.  Although the capacity audience of more than 50 included lots of children, the band’s toughest songs inspired a friend to suggest that the matinee show had a “Davey’s at 2 a.m.” vibe.


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I reviewed Tesla’s concert at the Midland theater.

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I contributed a Local Listen segment about Marcus Hampton to KCUR.

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Joyce DiDonato sang a Henry Purcell composition at the Stonewall Inn.

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The Prism Quartet’s Heritage/Evolution features contributions by the likes of Dave Liebman, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Greg Osby.  RIYL: The World Saxophone Quartet, skronk, the 29th Street Quartet.  The group features the Kansas City based Zach Sherman.

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New Riddim’s Second Sight is RIYL: the Blue Riddim Band, 2 Tone, the Slackers.

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Essiet Okun Essiet’s Shona displays a few interesting variations on mainstream jazz.  RIYL: Bobby Watson, all about that bass, Ron Carter.

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I have yet to hear Bob Dylan’s homage to Frank Sinatra, but I have played Hiss Golden Messenger’s Southern Grammar EP a couple times.  It’s a spot-on homage to Planet Waves.

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I’m mystified at the backlash directed at Sam Smith by viewers of the Grammy Awards.  His duet with Mary J. Blige was the highlight of the broadcast.  Besides, I’m a fan of “Stay With Me.”

(Original image of Timbers at Coda by There Stands the Glass.)