Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Lagbaja- Gengen


My globetrotting friend M. lent me a few discs he picked up in Nigeria. We is available domestically in a more attractive package. I love the way in which Lagbaja brings Fela's sound into the new millennium. And at moments, "Gengen" sounds like Bootsy Collins playing "Jungle Boogie" backwards. It's clear that the band is also reworking "Genius of Love." Go figure. A thorough press release about Lagbaja accompanies this YouTube video.

I immediately searched for this video when I heard that Tom Snyder had died. I recall catching this episode when it first aired. The Clash were easily my favorite band at the time, and I was in awe of everything they did. Yet looking at this now, they were, in Snyder's word, "pious."

Kansas City Click: How many people discovered rockabilly via the Stray Cats? Imagine how many fewer Eddie Cochran albums would have sold if the they'd never come along. The trio plays at the Uptown tonight.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Andy Biskin- I Should Talk

No snitching.

Even at this late date, it's somewhat astounding to me that a modest clarinet, trumpet and bass trio can unfurl infinite musical possibilities. This unlikely group's foundation seems to be turn-of-the-20th-century popular music, but it spins in countless, unexpected directions, including old-timey, classical, jazz, ragtime and new music. Henry Threadgill, no doubt, would be pleased by the brilliant interplay of Andy Biskin, Dave Ballou and Drew Gress. Trio Tragico is a mind-blower.

This story in yesterday's Los Angeles Times explores the unlikely relationship between jazz and metal.

My review of last night's Musiq Soulchild and Chrisette Michele show reflects my frustration at not being allowed to fully enjoy the performance.

Kansas City Click: Coulter, a Seattle concern that sounds like vintage OMD, the Pet Shop Boys and Culture Club, are at the Record Bar tonight.

Friday, July 27, 2007

James Booker- One Hell of a Nerve

No more nerves.

Ostensibly recorded in Germany thirty years ago, King of the New Orleans Keyboard finds James Booker in fine form. He plays a ton of piano, delivers a distinctive yodel in the song's hook and offers anecdotal asides to his lucky audience. Booker was the clear spiritual heir of Fats Waller.

My photographs and musings from yesterday's performance by Kansas City cult favorites BCR are Plastic Sax.

My review of last night's Art Garfunkel show is here.

Kansas City Click: Centro-Matic headlines a four-band bill that also includes OK Jones tonight.

Negro Scoe is among the Fringe Festival's performers on Saturday.

Come Sunday, I'll be at the Beaumont for Musiq Soulchild and Chrisette Michele.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tommy Olivencia- Mujeres Como Tu

End credits

You can have Transformers. Take Hairspray. The only new movie I really want to see this summer is El Cantante. It looks to have all the necessary ingredients to satisfy me- an underdog's struggle, plenty of salsa, and J-Lo's... well, you know. I've been listening to a lot of vintage salsa accordingly. Although he didn't record for Fania, Tommy Olivencia 's rise to stardom occurred during the same era. This ebullient song is from the out-of-print 10 Exitos. This video captures a vibrant moment, even if Olivencia's head is obscured by a logo through much of it.

Of this week's new releases, it was a compilation that inspired the most self-examination. With the possible exceptions of Joan Jett and Lita Ford, all 18 of these songs turn my stomach. Each was, in fact, a monster hit, and through osmosis I know every one of them. Am I lacking an irony gene? And how will I react when this collection is playing at the next neighborhood barbecue?

Kansas City Click: Art Garfunkel croons at the Folly Theater.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Phil Woods- Ebullition


Rod at Words and Music recently speculated on what Charlie Parker might sound like had he survived. I'm inclined to believe that Bird's career would have mirrored Miles' forays into new realms like funk and electronica. Phil Woods, one of Parker's greatest disciples, would probably disagree. Those who believe that Woods plays it too straight need to hear Woods' solo on "Ebullition." After Steve Gilmore's extended bass introduction, Woods lets loose at the 3:15 mark. It's real blindfold test material. Hal Crook, Tom Harrell, Hal Galper and Bill Goodwin join Woods on the out-of-print 1989 session Flash.

According to Elbo and Hype Machine, only a handful of the music bloggers they track have mentioned Julieta Venegas. And almost all of those references were merely because the vocalist appeared at Coachella. What in the name of Bishop Allen is going on! Few performances in the last couple of years can possibly be more charming and sexy than Venegas' role in this video.

Kansas City Click: Even though there's nothing in their Coldplay meets Nickelback sound that interests me, I'm tempted to catch Absentstar at the Hurricane tonight just to see why a major label signed the Chicago band. Or perhaps I've already solved that riddle.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Lonely H- Say Your Prayers


Tired people with jaded ears whine that rock'n'roll has run its course. I know a guy who claims that nothing fresh has come along in 25 years. He's unimpressed with my enthusiasm for acts like Wilco, the Flaming Lips and Prince.

I might hit him with The Lonely H. They're not a great band- not yet anyway. What makes The Lonely H so vital is that they represent a new era of blissful ignorance that allows them a musical freedom unavailable to previous generations. The five Seattle-area teenagers know nothing about the context or associations older musicians and fans had made with decades of songs and bands. These kids don't grasp that combining the pomp of Yes and the isolated edginess of Television- as they do on "Say Your Prayers"- breaks several fundamental rules of rock. They don't stop there- The Lonely H mixes and matches elements of CCR, Arctic Monkeys, Roxy Music and Weezer.

Their highly entertaining second album, Hair, is released Tuesday, July 24. In addition to offering insights into the album title, the excellent video of "For Barbara" shows that these fresh-faced pups know not what they do- and the future rock'n'roll is all the better for it.

Kansas City and Lawrence-area readers have four chances to catch Lonely H this week. They have an instore at Kief's Records before playing the Replay on Wednesday. And on Thursday, the band entertains at Zebedee's before a show at the Hurricane.

These guys played a party I attended Saturday night. I couldn't resist thumbing through the "cheat book" on the stage's music stand while they took a break. One of the pages had lyrics and chord changes for the Ramones' "Beat On the Brat." I'm still laughing.

Kansas City Click: The Abel Ramirez Big Band has a weekly Tuesday gig at Tony's, 8621 Quivira.

Harold Budd and Brian Eno- Against the Sky


I don't have a security blanket. And the only pills I pop are Advil. When I get the urge to crawl under my desk, I sometimes reach for The Pearl instead. The out-of-print Harold Budd and Brian Eno collaboration is immeasurably soothing. In fact, it's so mesmerizing that I spaced out for ten minutes while writing this post. It's no surprise that Daniel Lanois is listed as a producer of the 1984 release.

I've launched another music blog. I describe Plastic Sax as "an irreverent and opinonated guide to jazz in Kansas City." My rationalization for the commitment is here.

I got to talking about music with a guy at a party Saturday night. He began raving about Fennesz. I had no idea what he was talking about until I looked him up online. It's embarrassing that I'd been oblivious to the Austrian's great stuff.

Kansas City Click: The great John McEuen returns to the Mountain Music Shoppe tonight. His March show in the intimate room was spectacular.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Booker T & the MG's- Mo' Greens


They can't all be "Green Onions." Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn regrouped in 1994 for the now out-of-print That's the Way It Should Be. The project has its moments, including this slow-burning slab of Memphis funk.

I'm digging the rapidly expanding jazz songbook. A great example is Shay Estes' version of the Church's "Under the Milky Way." Listen here.

Kansas City Click: Guru's Jazzmatazz comes to the Record Bar tonight.

Stellar guitarist Will Matthews is at the Blue Room on Saturday.

Gifted blues-folk-jam boy Noah Earle toughs it out at the Westport Flea Market Sunday evening. Earle sounds like M. Ward on a Tom Rush binge.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bill Charlap- Pure Imagination


I tuned into the fuzzy signal of Lawrence's KANU-FM as I stepped into my car a few nights ago. I was awestruck by a brilliant pianist's lyrical reading of "Autumn In New York." It didn't quite sound like Bill Evans, but it was clearly a jazz giant at work. Was it Kenny Barron? Ahmad Jamal? Thankfully, the DJ back-announced it. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that it was Bill Charlap's new Live At the Village Vanguard. He's been touted to the heavens for years, but the evidence is now incontrovertible that Charlap has a permanent place in the jazz pantheon. This solo piece from the Willie Wonka songbook is from All Through the Night, which features his long-time collaborators, Peter and Kenny Washington. While I prefer his ballad work, here's a recent video showing that Charlap's playing is pretty even on livelier material.

My latest musical obsession is banda star Graciela Beltran. She's pretty, sure, but it's her voice and unique charisma that have me hooked. This video is typical.

I have to admit that the new Spoon is really good.

Kansas City Click: Cry in your beer at the Grand Emporium tonight with the The New Tragedies, Richard Gintowt of OK Jones, and Grant Richard.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sonny Sharrock- As We Used To Sing

The song is over.

The out-of-print Into Another Light is a coveted title among jazz collectors, and not just because of its "none more black"cover. Issued after the death of innovative guitarist Sonny Sharrock, it's a extreme mix of rock, jazz and "out." "As We Used To Sing," recorded in 1991, is my favorite composition. The compact Sharrock solo beginning at the 70-second mark wipes me out. If the drummer sounds like Elvin Jones, that's because it is Elvin Jones. The earthy textures added by fellow Coltrane alum Pharoah Sanders are useful points of entry for less adventurous listeners. Charnett Moffett plays bass.

My immediate impressions of Monday's Bob Dylan show are here.

A local caterer relates an amusing story about her brush with Bob here. Banana puddin'!

Kansas City Click: Paul & the Violent Farmers are what might happen if the Blue Collar Comedy guys wrote songs for a heavily medicated Mojo Nixon. I detest myself for laughing at this repugnant stuff. Unless his MySpace account is an elaborate joke- which is entirely possible- this freak is at a place in Lee's Summit called Sorano's tonight.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Gladys Knight- Greatest Love of All


A family member told me about her dining experience at Gladys Knight's restaurant during a recent trip to Atlanta. She said that the food and atmosphere were good, but that she was startled by the staff's disarming lack of awareness of Knight's career. They're missing out on decades of inspiration. Here's a gospel track from Knight's otherwise secular At Last. Oh, that voice!

"The streets is blazin' with it right now." "In My Chevy" by Cash Image has blown up in Kansas City this summer. But because the artist's MySpace account is so ridiculously tricked out that it's unloadable, I'm forced to refer you to this unflattering video. Welcome to Kansas City.

Kansas City Click: A guy named Bob Dylan is at Starlight tonight. Jimmie Vaughan and Lou Ann Barton open.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Blackhawk- Cast Iron Heart


I'm fascinated by musicians who manage to reinvent themselves to sustain their commercial viability. Bon Jovi seems to be successfully crossing over to the country audience. Henry Paul helped blaze that trail several years ago. He was once a member of the Outlaws, a band famous for recording the second best Southern rock jam. Paul later retooled his talents to become the voice of mainstream country music band Blackhawk. They had a pretty decent run of hits. This formulaic song from a 1995 release is an album track that showcases Paul's distinctive voice and the band's boogie undercurrents.

It pains me to write negatively of music, especially when it's made by a bunch of seemingly nice guys. But my review of last night's O.A.R. show is unkind.

Kansas City Click: A free show featuring Mark Selby and Johnny Ricker is in Olathe tonight.

Lucinda Williams and very special opening act Charlie Louvin play Saturday at Crossroads.

Good ol' Charlie Pride sings at Ameristar on Sunday.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Chris Spedding- Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots

Drove away.

Have you seen La Vie En Rose, the new film about Edith Piaf? I still don't know enough about her career to understand how she wound up recording a Leiber and Stoller song. Here's video footage of Piaf recklessly throwing herself into "L'Homme a la Moto." It's quite odd, and not just because the sound is out of sync. Chris Spedding, on the other hand, seems born to sing the song. It's the single best contribution on this 1993 tribute project. Willie DeVille, Leon Russell, Ivan Lins and Emmylou Harris also appear.

I've been digging the MP3s saxophonist Greg Osby has made available at his site.

Kansas City Click: It promises to be a gorgeous night for O.A.R. and Augustana in Westport.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Astor Piazzolla- Muerte del Angel

Flew away.

Local journalist Sylvia Maria Gross filed an excellent report on the state of post-Piazzolla tango in the United States. It made me feel less guilty about not attending area shows. Dancers dominate the scene, frustrating serious musicians like Beau Bledsoe. It'd be quite a feat to dance to "Muerte del Angel." It's from an out-of-print recording of a 1984 concert.

Brace yourself for the Fourth of July. The Lawrence, Kansas, band makes exactly the sort of perfect indie-pop idealized by most music bloggers. Each of the four songs at their MySpace page is worthy of the breathless raves they'll soon be receiving.

Two things struck me as I listened to Modern Times last night with the All-Star Game on mute. I can't believe I ranked it so low on my 2006 best-of list. It's first-rate Dylan. And secondly, it compliments baseball beautifully. Ichiro!

Kansas City Click: The Old 97's and The Drams are at Crossroads tonight.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Marvin "Smitty" Smith- The Neighborhood


In 1989 I was an ambitious assistant manager at a record store. Many of my colleagues were disinterested teenagers. I also loved Madonna, Neneh Cherry and the B-52s. But no way was I going to tolerate much in-store play of Bon Jovi, Martika and N.W.A. We listened to a lot of Paul's Boutique, 3 Feet High and Rising, Yellow Moon, Nick of Time and Doolittle that year. Yet every time I threw on jazz, my co-workers became apoplectic. Miles, Trane, Chet, Sarah- they hated all of it. The Road Less Traveled saved the day. The Marvin "Smitty" Smith album's melodic strength and constant groove pleased Metallica dudes, 2 Live Crew nitwits and Top 40 fans alike. It's been one of my favorites ever since. That's James Williams on piano, Wallace Roney on trumpet, Robin Eubanks on trombone and Robert Hurst on bass. This video shows Smith working with Don Pullen and John Scofield.

I'll confess that I didn't know anything about Tomahawk until a guy at a record store set me straight last week. Progressive noise and math-rock stars riffing off of Native American music? It somehow works.

Kansas City Click: All the cool kids will be at the Record Bar tonight for Battles. The Pixel Panda open.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Orquestra Was- Forever's A Long, Long Time

Time's up.

I lose my mind for k.d. lang in my review of her Friday night show. It'd be easy to forget that she opened for Lyle Lovett. Among the many stars in Lovett's band was vocalist Sweet Pea Atkinson. Although he sounded great, the Detroit soul singer appeared somewhat frail. Atkinson is backed by Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard and other luminaries on this Hank Williams song. It's the title track of the out-of-print Don Was project Forever's a Long, Long Time.

I monitored quite a bit of the Live Earth concert on television and the internet. Quick observations: Kelly Clarkson sold me on "Sober." The Native American stuff in D.C. was compelling. The Japanese pop acts baffled me. My most exciting discovery was Australian band Ghostwriters. They're exactly what you'd hope members of the Hoodoo Gurus and Midnight Oil sound like together. Two songs stream at their MySpace page.

I caught the debut of local trumpet and cornet legend Gary Sivils' new band last night. They were fine, but I don't know if they'll ever be as exciting as his last group. Sivils has virtually no web presence, but his music is featured to good effect in this video.

I put together a little photo journal of a big metal show I attended last month.

Kansas City Click: Are the kids alright? Find out tonight at El Torreon. A bunch of screamo bands are doing what they do.

Friday, July 06, 2007

k.d. lang- Sweet Little Cherokee

Gone to bed.

I hope to see k.d. lang for the first time when she sings in my town tonight. Can her celebrated voice really be that powerful and emotive? Here's a Western song from the much despised Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. I happen to like everything about the soundtrack. The film's incidental music and its sudden stylistic shifts are very entertaining.

My friend Lee wrote a thoughtful post about the absurdity of jazz's "warrior squirrels" in the peanut gallery. I've used the saw about deck chairs on the Titanic; Lee is much more clever.

Lee and I had only half-jokingly kidded about making a road trip to Branson to see Boots Randolph. Alas, we missed our chance. Here's Boots with Floyd Cramer, Roy Clark and local golfer Tom Watson.

There's no way this video of a seven-year-old Beverly Sills will fail to make you smile. It's safe to say that any exposure to opera I received during my childhood came courtesy either Looney Tunes or Sills.

Longtime personal favorites The Rubinoos are in the news! This video clip is pretty damning.

Kansas City Click: k.d. lang and Lyle Lovett share the stage at Starlight tonight.

The Manhattans and the Spinners are scheduled to play Municipal Auditorium on Saturday.

Otts on the Plaza rocks every Sunday night. This week the noise comes courtesy of Six II Chaos and Tripp Algiers.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The New Birth- Down and Dirty


Although it's nice to hear that Sly Stone wants to take his show on the road, I won't hold my breathe. Besides, his innovations resonate everywhere. This 1970 track by the New Birth is obviously inspired by Stone, although it also hints at the Meters. Fans of Lil Mama's current hit might also appreciate the "We don't need no music" chant. "Down and Dirty" comes from this out-of-print collection and doesn't seem to be available elsewhere.

I'm not prepared to offer a musical evaluation of the new T.I. release, but it gets my vote for the year's most attractive CD packaging. Pick it up and you'll see what I mean.

Kansas City Click: Rich Berry brings acoustic blues to the Plaza tonight.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Jack DeJohnette- Ntoro II

The MP3 is gone.

Kathleen, a coworker at a record store, gave me this oddity as a birthday gift in 1989. While I was touched by the gesture, I detested the CD. What on earth was Jack DeJohnette, one of the world's great drummers, thinking when he recorded this project? I'm sure I hurt Kathleen's feelings with criticism of the recording's primitive synth tones and monotonous musings. Seventeen years later, it sounds groundbreaking and adventurous. Lester Bowie's trumpet work doesn't hurt, either. If you're out there, Kathleen- I'm sorry.

My review of last night's show by the Goo Goo Dolls, Lifehouse and Colbie Caillat is here.

Kansas City Click: Throw on your tie-dye and head down to Jazz (the old Jimmy's Jigger) for Yossarian's Lament.