Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Know it's over.
Guitarist Al Viola died last week. He was 87. He's perhaps best known for his work with Sinatra. That gig brought him opportunities to play many additional dates, including this 1962 session backing Jimmy Witherspoon. Sinatra's longtime pianist Bill Miller, who died last year, is also heard here. David Axelrod, currently fashionable among turntablists, produced. This Willie Mabon standard embodies Witherspoon's style- it's a sublime combination of gritty blues and formal sophistication. The song is available on this excellent compilation and on a straight reissue. The unfortunate artwork of Hey, Mrs. Jones is emblematic of those times.
I've previously suggested that 2007 will be a breakthrough year for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Audiences at the SXSW and Wakarusa festivals will be able to request the band's funky cover of "Mystery Train." It's sounds a bit like Garth Hudson and Bonnie Bramlett jamming with the Allman Brothers. Here's a video and MP3 of the song.
Kansas City Click: Brett Dennen is at the Grand Emporium. I conducted a goofy interview with the young singer-songwriter here. I haven't seen him perform; I hope to attend tonight.
Monday, February 26, 2007
It takes less than a second to identify the composer of this track from the out-of-print score of In the Line of Fire. That's how distinctive Ennio Morricone's sound is to movie and music fans. The brilliant Italian received an "Honorary Academy Award" last night.
Christina Aguilera convinced me Saturday night that she stands to be one of the premier artists of the next several decades. My review of her show is here.
Meiway is from the Ivory Coast, and I can't even tell if he's singing in French. Through my penetrating intuitive powers, however, I'm able to discern the subject matter of "Miss Lolo" after viewing this music video. (The easily offended and humorless should stay away.)
Kansas City Clicks: Autumn Defense performs at the Record Bar tonight. A hopeless nerd wrote this show preview.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Kansas musician Kirk Rundstrom died yesterday. My friend Tim wrote a wonderful tribute to the man. Kirk is seen to good effect with Split Lip Rayfield in this live performance near Lawrence. Unlike many people I know, I never fell madly in love with the band. My punk-bluegrass heart belongs to the Bad Livers. I'll let this song from their Delusions of Banjer serve as a tribute to Kirk.
Two drummers have also passed. Ian Wallace died yesterday. He played with everyone from King Crimson to Rodney Crowell. Charles Gocher of the Sun City Girls died February 19. I once had a dormitory neighbor from Arizona who claimed the Sun City Girls as his favorite band. That was a rough summer.
Kansas City Click: Many of the region's best indie-rock bands are on the festival-style lineup Friday and Saturday night at The Record Bar for Oxblood Records' debut release party. I'm especially excited about the chance to see the Pedaljets again. Ambitious folk-popper Joel Kraft plays Prospero's Books on Sunday evening.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
It feels like a shameful confession- I'm on a big European jazz kick. I've been dismissing regular reports that the scene is loaded with creative players backed by a receptive audience. And as undeniable evidence of this trend, not only is Live At Iridium, New York a remarkably exciting set of vibrant jazz, Frenchman Jean Michel-Pilc is literally a rocket scientist. France wins! Even though Pilc showcases several solid originals on the album, I can't resist his insistent take on Monk's "Mysterioso." Download a couple unreleased piano solos at Pilc's MySpace page.
My review of Ashley Tisdale's debut release is here.
Kansas City Click: Mike's Tavern has reopened, and the weekly jam session of UMKC jazz students is back. As I wrote here you never know who'll show up.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
If ever a band could have been helped by the music blogging community, it was The High Llamas of the mid-'90s. The band's smart aesthetic was an ideal fit with today's arty, indie-enthralled bloggers. Alas, the High Llamas' innovative work came a decade early. Before Sean O'Hagan fell hopelessly enamored of Pet Sounds, he issued the now out-of-print Santa Barbara in '92. As the breezy "Travel" suggests, the sound leans heavily on the Byrds and Beatles. It's not as "important" as later albums, but it's exceedingly pleasant. The High Llama's new Can Cladders was released this week.
Kansas City Click: A big hardcore tour hits El Torreon tonight. The cathartic thrash of Trophy Scars is the main attraction.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I've rarely featured music of New Orleans at There Stands the Glass. It's not that I don't love it; releases by Louisiana-based artists compose a large percentage of my collection. The city was a favorite vacation destination, both during Jazz Fest and throughout the year. But now painful personal issues make it difficult for me to even listen to music from the region. I'm putting that aside for Fat Tuesday. Mem Shannon is one of the notable roots-oriented artists participating in a local club crawl tonight. And how can I resist featuring the presciently titled "Wrong People In Charge" from Shannon's 2nd Blues Album?
American Idol is on right now and I'm not watching it. Whatever will I talk about tomorrow? Perhaps I'll mask my ignorance by discussing the background of judge Randy Jackson. His list of credits at All Music awes me. It starts with fusion fiddler Jean-Luc Ponty and goes on to list giants like Dylan, Bruce and Irma. And he played bass on Madonna's "Like a Prayer." That auspicious accomplishment alone keeps me from referencing his less notable works.
Kansas City Click: There's still plenty of time to hop on board tonight's Mardi Gras club crawl. Mem Shannon, Rosie Ledet and Trampled Underfoot are among the artists on stage.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Lost in space.
Wallace Roney's liner notes for his out-of-print 1996 release indicate that he was in the midst of a cultural war within the jazz community. While the Teo Macero production sounds very much like Miles did forty years ago, it's clear that Roney felt like he was under attack by moldy figs. "I don't like using the stage or recordings as report cards of whether I've done my 'homework,'" Roney writes. "...I've done my homework; I don't want to do yours as well." Yikes! Twelve years later, Roney's bringing a DJ to his gig in my town Saturday night. And the new material posted at his MySpace page is fresh and exciting.
I'm digging the Eric Dolphy-inspired sound of Swedish jazz act Exploding Customer. Roney and a few other notables excepted, could the assertion that the most interesting new jazz is happening overseas really be true?
Kansas City Click: If you favor traditional song-based rock by the likes of Counting Crows and Matchbox 20, you'll be right at home at the Hurricane tonight. Cory Ryan heads a bill of like-minded locals. It's guaranteed to be hipster-free. Wallace Roney is at The Blue Room Saturday night. On Sunday, grizzled country outlaw Ray Wylie Hubbard and Gurf Morlix are at Knuckleheads. Hubbard can tell a great story. He narrates this hysterical animated tale.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
There are a gazillion pop-punk bands. And the crazy thing is that so many of them are so good. With all that competition, hundreds of worthy bands, including Let Go, have a hard time breaking through to the mainstream. "Spotlights" is an obvious hit. What makes it for me, other than the overt influence of '80s rock cheese by the likes of Boston and Journey, is the synth bit at the 58-second mark. Their self-titled album contains eleven similar gems.
It's nothing like the typical ghoul patrol. The women buying the final Gerald LeVert album loved the man and his music. I expect it to land in the top five in its first week.
I have yet to purchase the new Rickie Lee Jones album, but after watching this promotional video , I can't wait to start spending quality time with it.
Portugal the Man are one of the better AP Magazine-approved bands. Along with a slew of other acts, they play the Grand Emporium tonight.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
If the purpose of Endless Highway was to draw attention to the Band, the project seems to be succeeding. This out-of-print side project of the late Rick Danko is very compelling. "All Creation," written by Eric Anderson and Danko as a memorial to Richard Manuel, is one of my favorite songs. Danko's craggy croon just wipes me out. If I were to ever make a movie, I guarantee that that I'd have this song- complete with the voices of the Oslo Gospel Choir- play over the closing credits.
The news of Beyonce's recent gig makes me feel like a fourteen-year-old boy again.
Kansas City Click: Isn't it romantic? The vital rock of the Architects, the freak-out noise of Pixel Panda, and more senseless brutality lie in wait tonight at The Grand Emporium.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
In from the cold.
It won't be this good. It's remarkable to hear how slick the Police were at their inception. And Sting has always been... Sting. The reunion announced yesterday will no doubt be an enormous commercial success, and I'm eager to contribute to the cause. One of drummer Stewart Copeland's post-Police projects was Animal Logic. Along with Copeland, jazz-based star bassist Stanley Clarke and singer-songrwriter Deborah Holland, the trio created an odd fusion-pop hybrid. They're heard here in a live performance in Boston from 1989. The EP is out-of-print.
Kansas City Click: If they can navigate to the Beaumont Club through the snow, Head Automatica and Jack's Mannequin will perform in a big rock show at the Beaumont tonight.
Monday, February 12, 2007
I was sorry to hear about the premature passing of the famous blonde bombshell. Judy Holliday, one of her predecessors in that category, has long been a favorite of mine. She too died young. The highlight of her career was her Oscar-winning performance in the movie Born Yesterday. This documentary clip provides a glimpse of her brilliance. Holliday also had a minor recording career. 1958's Trouble Is a Man demonstrates that while Holliday didn't have a great voice, her phrasing and emotive skills were excellent. This Irving Berlin song is a typical selection from the lush strings album.
I'm an unapologetic viewer of the Grammy Awards. Last night's broadcast kept me entertained. I've had my eye on the Dixie Chicks for a long time. That doesn't mean I like their Taking the Long Way. To my ears, it's equivalent to the Rascal Flatts cover of the Eagles' song last night. Even so, congratulations ladies. I was more amused by Burt Bacharach gone wild. And predictably, Gnarls Barkley's ultra-slow performance was stellar.
Guitarist Ronald Muldrow has died.
Kansas City Click: Try The Blue Room.
Friday, February 09, 2007
Keller Williams is a major attraction on the jam band circuit, but the new Dream should expand his audience.The album includes pairings with the likes of Bela Fleck, Fareed Haque, Charlie Hunter, John Scofield, Martin Sexton and Bob Weir. "Cadillac," the collaboration with Weir, is destined to become a treasured classic in the Dead community. My favorite track is Dream's least audacious effort. "Lil' Sexy Blues" features Indian musicians Sanjay Mishra and Samir Chatterjee. It's a revelation. I don't know which is more amusing- the silly video for Dream's "Play This," or the comments from fans who don't quite grasp that it's satirical.
My review of Wednesday night's Incubus and Albert Hammond, Jr., concert is here.
Kansas City Click: This is an entrance! Roby Lakatos, clad in a gold jacket, strolls to the stage through a fawning crowd of Europeans. Maybe he'll find a way to recreate this romantic vibe in Johnson County tonight at the Carlsen Center. Country star Gary Allan plays Ameristar on Saturday night. Is It's Over Kansas City's best rock band? Find out Sunday night at Ott's burger joint on the Plaza.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
I was floored by Incubus last night. The band's rhythm section is among the best I've encountered in a rock band. The Brothers Johnson provide a perfect bridge between Incubus' heavy swing and the next show on my list, venerable smooth jazz act Pieces of a Dream. George and Louis Johnson made a string of great grooves in the late '70s and early '80s. This compilation is out of print; "Tokyo" and the band's big hits, like "Strawberry Letter #23" and "Get the Funk Out Ma Face" are available on other sets.
Tradition compels me to catch up on recent music-related deaths. Jazz critic Whitney Balliett died on February 1. Folkie Eric Von Schmidt died on February 2, as did Spinner Billy Henderson. This cheesy but compelling showcases the beautiful Barbara McNair. She died February 4. And Frankie Lane died February 6. He was 93. This video is a fun look back at his long career.
Kansas City Click: He's based in Nashville now, but Jeff Black will always be a Kansas City boy. He performs his songs at an early show tonight at Davey's Uptown Rambler's Club. While Black has yet to hit it big, fans of Springsteen's Nebraska or Mellencamp's The Lonesome Jubilee should be all over this gig.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Victory at last.
At the intermission of a recent show by The Count Basie Orchestra, a woman regaled me with a tale of how she'd hired Glenn Miller to play a dance in Ohio. He was her favorite artist and she still seemed astounded that the performance only cost her $500. I was astounded once I tallied the years- Miller was killed when his plane went down in Europe in 1944. "Hot Time" is a fascinating bit of musical propaganda was recorded for a domestic radio broadcast on April 22, 1944, eight months before Miller's plane disappeared. This CD contains an hour of such recordings.
Camera Obscura sure are grumpy. The Scottish band seemed miserable as they played to a capacity crowd in Kansas City last night. An occasional smile wouldn't have hurt; neither would stage patter other than complaints about the lights and sound. I was impressed, though, by their ability to replicate the lush sound of their recordings. The four girls in opening act Pony Up looked like high school kids, so much so that they reminded me of Smoosh, the fun children's band from Oregon. Pony Up is capable of playing a thrilling twenty-minute set, but their 45 minutes set exposed their weaknesses.
Kansas City Clicks: I've seen The Wild Women of Kansas City perform in churches, parks and bars. The church gigs are best, perhaps because the incomparable Myra Taylor's bawdy antics seem so out of place in houses of worship. They're back in church tonight at Unity Temple On the Plaza.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
The lions have been fed.
I've been looking forward to tonight's Camera Obscura show for weeks. The title of the Scottish band's best known song, Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken, refers to Lloyd Cole. I'm also a Cole fan, although I must admit that his debut, Rattlesnakes, remains my favorite. Even so, the out-of-print Don't Get Weird On Me, Babe from 1991 has some strong material, including "To the Lions." Geeks will want to know that Cole is backed here by a trio of punk and post-punk all-stars- Robert Quine, Matthew Sweet and Fred Maher.
I predict that casual observers will be surprised by the high chart debut of Jason Michael Carroll next week. Women couldn't wait to buy his CD at my retail job this morning. If you don't know about the dude, you haven't listened to country radio lately. "Alyssa Lies" owns the format, at least in this part of the country. I never change the weeper when it comes on, because I admire its brazen inversion of the riff from "Tuesday's Gone," my favorite Lynyrd Skynryd song.
Kansas City Click: Join me at the Record Bar for the delightfully dour Scottish pop of Camera Obscura. Odd Canadians Pony Up open.
Monday, February 05, 2007
Take your medicine. It may not go down easily, but I prescribe this gentle jazz skronk to help rinse away the taste of the nation's post-game hangover. I like how saxophonist John O'Gallagher teases convention while circling outside jazz tradition. I feel better already. If you think you need a daily dose of Rules of Invisibility, Vol. 2, try Amazon or O'Gallagher's label.
My review of Saturday's concert by the Count Basie Orchestra may have permanently squashed any chance I had at an elected office in this town.
Kansas City Click: I suggest the Rural Grit Monday matinee at The Brick. It's a friendly haven for scruffy acoustic types, of both the folk and anti-folk stripes.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Joe Hunter died at his home February 2. He was 79. "Who?" I hear you ask. Well, Hunter played keyboards on The Contours' "Do You Love Me," "Heat Wave" by Martha and the Vandellas, the Miracles' "Shop Around," and countless other Motown Records classics. As one of the "Funk Brothers," Hunter received some late recognition in the documentary film Standing In the Shadows of Motown. He's heard here on Detroit, a date by bluesman Eddie Burns. It's a far cry from the pop charts, but it's a fitting tribute to a great musician.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Float, Aesop Rock's release from 2000, begins with the revelatory mission statement featured here. The next seventy minutes are packed with similarly dense sounds. It's by turns funny, transcendent and always surprising. Aesop Rock's forthcoming release might be the one that breaks through to the mainstream. But I've said that before.
I can never tell if bands like Black Moth Super Rainbow are an elaborate joke or if they're playing it straight. Either way, I dig these hilarious pysch-prog freakouts.
And in the same way, the deconstruction of this new song by Barr amuses me.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
The party's over.
What songs can you count on hearing at least once a week, year after year? Is it "Welcome To the Jungle"? Maybe it's "Blackbird"? How about "Gin & Juice" or "Fool Hearted Memory"? In my case, I can't escape Latimore's "Let's Straighten It Out." I don't ever need to hear it again, but the song tracks me down via the radio and tavern jukeboxes. And I can count on every local blues and lounge-jazz band to cover the crowd pleaser. But Latimore is so much more than that one song. "If You Were My Woman" is prime deep Southern soul from 1974, and his work for Malaco over the last twenty years is also solid. And Latimore just slays 'em at his steamy performances. This excellent compilation is a good place to start digging in. But please do me a favor and skip the fourth song.
I just heard the introduction of Camera Obscura's brilliant "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken" used as bumper music on Dave Ramsey's financial advice radio show. When worlds collide, indeed.