Thursday, May 27, 2010

Review: Hank Williams III's Rebel Within

I wouldn't want to trade places with Jakob Dylan, Julian or Sean Lennon or any of Bob Marley's kids. The expectations would be overwhelming. The inevitable pressure on Hank Williams III, however, makes the lot of those men seem like child's play. That's why I easily forgive the erratic performances I've witnessed from both Hank 3 and his father. I can't begin to imagine confronting that family tradition.

On his new album Rebel Within, Hank 3 seems resigned to his family's legacy. Some might view material like "Gettin' Drunk and Fallin' Down, "Drinkin' Ain't Hard To Do," "Tore Up and Loud" and "#5" (a song about heroin addiction) as calculated and cynical. The songs strike me as honest.

My only reservation is that Rebel Within makes me long for vintage Split Lip Rayfield. Hank 3, of course, inherited ownership of this music, but I prefer Kansas country punk to Tennessee country punk.

Still, "If You Don't Like Hank Willams"...

Fans commenting on my review of Tuesday's concert seem to think otherwise, but I actually enjoyed Korn. Even so, the night's musical highlight came when an onstage DJ played the opening of Pantera's "Walk".

I'm haunted by Hobo Tone's Slim4Life jingle.

Jason Harper's account of the demise of the Kansas City Kansas Street Blues Festival is excellent.

Kansas City Click: Guitarists Rod Fleeman and Dan Bliss appear Thursday at Jardine's.

I couldn't write about Hank and not recommend Friday's lineup of Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Outlaws and Molly Hatchet at Starlight.

Sunday's Celebration at the Station is one of my favorite annual events.

The Jazz Disciples play Monday at the Blue Room

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Review: Julian Waterfall Pollack's Infinite Playground

Video EPK for Infinite Playground

Julian Waterfall Pollack ruined everything.

I'd already engraved Brad Mehldau's Highway Rider into the top spot on my Best Albums of 2010 list when I heard Pollack's new Infinite Playground. The excellent project challenges my assumptions. Either Pollack shares Mehldau's gift of pointing toward new directions in jazz, or Mehldau isn't as significant as I'd previously believed.

Pollack and Mehldau, of course, aren't the only innovative young pianists. Jean-Michael Pilc, Eldar, Robert Glasper and Brian Haas of the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey also employ elastic rhythms and favor aggressive drumming while making standards sound brand new. The late Esbjörn Svensson was similarly innovative.

As the winner of the label lottery, Mehldau collaborates with the likes of Joshua Redman and Jon Brion. Pollack may lack Mehldau's resources, but he compensates with limitless imagination. He turns the Beatles "And I Love Her" inside out, punctuates "Summertime" with electronic colors and fuses classical music with jazz on the modernist "Death of Hamlet."

Traditionalists also have points of entry to Infinite Playground. "Cherokee," for instance, is played straight. Elsewhere, fans of McCoy Tyner and Chick Corea will find plenty to like. Additional insights into Pollack can be gleaned from my 2007 interview with the pianist.

I'm not prepared to proclaim that Pollack is Mehldau's artistic equal. For one thing, Pollack is just 22. I do know, however, that the relatively unheralded Pollack deserves wider recognition. There's room for everyone on Pollack's Infinite Playground.

Blues man Willie Pooch has died.

Slipknot's Paul Gray has died.

Usher's "Hey Daddy (Daddy's Home)" is surely the year's most repugnant pop hit.

Kansas City Click: Korn serves as the evening's headliner Tuesday at the Uptown Theater.

Samantha Fish appears at Longbranch Saloon on Wednesday.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Review: Jim Lauderdale at Knuckleheads

Everything you've heard is true. Carrie Rodriguez did, in fact, sing a sultry birthday song to me Sunday. And as Tim Finn wrote in his proper review of the show, it "made every guy in the room wish it was his birthday." The subsequent discovery that my date organized the surprise makes the memory even sweeter. (Watch and listen at Ustream. It's at the 51:33 mark.)

Here, however, are the cold, hard facts- I wasn't at Knuckleheads for Rodriguez. Don't get me wrong. I appreciate her talent. She's "just" a Car Wheels On a Gravel Road-type album away from having a huge career.

I was on hand for Jim Lauderdale. Between his Manuel suit, hilarious Opry-style patter and incredible songs, his acoustic solo set didn't disappoint me. "Twang" was the most recent of the many hits he played. It looked and sounded much like this. Note how he's capable of crooning like a combination of George Jones, Del McCoury and Percy Sledge.

Lauderdale is touring behind Patchwork River, a new collaboration with Robert Hunter. It's fine, but I prefer their stunning Headed For the Hills project. Had he been fielding requests, I could have kept Lauderdale on stage all night.

Only after my date made arrangements with Rodriguez did she realize I was such a Lauderdale fan boy. She suggested that she should have worked with him instead. No. Lauderdale embodies a lot of crucial things to me, but sexy isn't one of them.

I'm not yet prepared to discuss Saturday's Rockfest. Here's my review of the already infamous event.

Light In the Attic provides an interesting conversation between Charlie Louvin and Kris Kristofferson as part of their promotional campaign for Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends: The Publishing Demos, 1968-72.

Anyone who's even remotely interested in Kansas City's hip hop scene needs to see the new video for "We Been On". It features Rondoe, Reece Loc, Rivloc and Flip Flip, all artists from the Fifties. (Tip via Credentials Hip Hop.)

I'm still struggling to get into the new The Hold Steady album. Today's new release from the Black Keys, however, is immediately satisfying.

Pianist Hank Jones, featured at There Stands the Glass in 2007, has died.

"Rainbow In the Dark."

Kansas City Click: The Grisly Hand are at Davey's on Tuesday.

Matt Otto plays Jardine's on Wednesday.

(Original flash-free image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Review: Tender Forever's No Snare

Tender Forever- "Only the Sounds You Made" (YouTube stream)

No Snare, the forthcoming album by Tender Forever, resembles a misguided collection of Joy Division covers intended for children. In other words, it's wonderful. Naive pop darkened by ominous shadows, the June 8 release is perfectly suited for the K Records aesthetic. It's French native Melanie Valera's third effort for the label. Her broken lo-fi bedroom pop is both intimate and anthemic. An eight-component song stem of "Only the Sounds You Made" and details about a remix contest are available here.

Performance art ensemble Quixotic have gone pop. "To Live Free" is available as a free download until May 16.

I adore the new video for Emma Pollack's "Red Orange Green."

Ten days after the fact, I learned that Canadian jazz artist Rob McConnell died May 1.

I don't understand why all the cool kids aren't losing their minds over supergroup Gayngs. It's an amazing project.

Hipsters definitely have no use for the Deftones. Here's my favorite song from the impressive new album Diamond Eyes.

Marc Myers' study of the savvy widows of jazz legends is fascinating.

Kansas City Click: As I Lay Dying headline Thursday's headbanging show at the Beaumont.

Steven Jarvi conducts the Kansas City Symphony in a performance of Mozart, Mahler, Strauss and Schubert on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

A new installment of Mark Lowrey vs Hip Hop takes place Saturday at the Record Bar. It will look and sound like this.

I won't pay your cover charge, but There Stands the Glass readers are welcome to attend my birthday party Sunday at Knuckleheads. Carrie Rodriguez, Jim Lauderdale and Tim Easton are providing the entertainment.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lena Horne, 1917-2010

Was Lena Horne the most physically attractive American entertainer of all time? I think so. The classic beauty died Sunday. The accuracy of my assessment of her music is certainly debatable, but I think of Horne not as a jazz vocalist but as a pre-rock singer of popular music. See her sing a lovely version of "Someday My Prince Will Come" from 1967. The American Jazz Museum would like you to know that they own 1944 footage of Horne singing with Teddy Wilson. You can visit them in Kansas City or watch the clip here.

I've already listened to today's new releases by The Dead Weather and Jim Lauderdale, but the 2010 album I'm currently obsessing over is by Jonas Kaufmann.

Lindsay Shannon, restaurateur and radio personality, is now blogging.

I had mixed feelings about Pat Metheny's concert Friday. Here's my original review. I sort of prefer the Nonesuch rewrite.

Kansas City Click: Rodrigo y Gabriela play their guitars at the Uptown Theater on Tuesday.

Present magazine has a nice feature on Weirdo Wednesday Supper Club at Davey's Uptown.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: The Marilyn Maye Takeover

The girl can't help it.

Slated to play just twenty minutes at the Gem Theater, Marilyn Maye's hour-long set made everything else that transpired at Thursday's event seem like an afterthought.

She's that exceptional.

Accompanied by pianist Billy Stritch, bassist Gerald Spaits and drummer Jim Eklof, the 82-year-old joked and sang for an audience of about 300. Now that Lena Horne has passed, perhaps among living saloon singers only Tony Bennett rivals Maye. Hearing Maye croon "The Song Is You," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Mountain Greenery," "Blues In the Night" and "You Don't Know Me" was like stepping back in time. The great American songbook will, of course, remain after Maye and Bennett are gone, but the unaffectedly old school way of singing them will have vanished.

Maye is also hilarious. Here are three of her quips from Thursday:
"I met my first husband when I was booked in the Drum Room. I was a singer and he was a dancer. So we danced and sang together."

"We don't always play the exact proper melody. There's other notes to be had."

"Creative people like to drink. I know, because I had three very creative husbands."
Oh, by the way, there was also a film premiere Thursday. The thirty-minute "sneak peak" of Kansas City Jazz & Blues: Past, Present & Future was promising. I trust that the sound, sync and lighting issues will be worked out in the final edit. Talking heads included Greg Carroll, Frank Driggs, Chuck Haddix, Jayne McShann, Roger Nabor, Lindsay Shannon and Bobby Watson. David Basse delivers the money line. Leon Brady also has a memorable quote. Upon its completion the documentary almost certainly will become an essential document of Kansas City's music history.

On most any other night, a moment during Diverse's opening set would have been the highlight. Joined by saxophonist Matt Otto and pianist T.J. Martley, the band was tearing into Charlie Parker's "Now's the Time" when trumpeters Stan Kessler and Lonnie McFadden chimed in from the back of the theater. They strolled down adjoining aisles to join Diverse on stage.

Also of note: Young poet Robert Brown (above) delivered a clever piece, smooth jazz artist Marion Meadows played a solo soprano composition and tribute was paid to the late Ed Fenner. The evening concluded with a blues jam.

Only Maye, however, was capable of representing Kansas City's past, present and future. She accepted an honorary trophy before her masterful performance.

"It's a lifetime achievement award," Maye noted. "But I'm not through."

(Cross-posted from Plastic Sax. Original images by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Owsley, 1965-2010

The Semantics- "The Sky Is Falling" (YouTube stream)

Pity the power poppers. In spite of trafficking in the most instantly accessible music imaginable, very few listeners have favored that style since the '70s. Although he was in the fabled group The Semantics (don't miss "The Sky Is Falling") and worked alongside Amy Grant for years, my introduction to Owsley didn't come until I heard his fine 2003 album The Hard Way. It would have sounded good in 1973. It will still sound good in 2023. The native Alabaman complains about the musical landscape in this live performance from 1999. Owsley died last week.

Here's my review of the American Jazz Museum's tribute to Duke Ellington. It featured Clark Terry and Alaadeen.

Drummer Morris Pert has died. I went through a Brand X phase when I was fourteen. What was I thinking?

--- offers a mixtape of summer-oriented throwback jams by the likes of Jodeci, Aaliyah and Brownstone.

Yes, I'm watching Treme. And I'll confess that the Nightingales' "Just a Little Overcome" was new to me. This guy is blogging the series' music.

Kansas City Click: I'll be joining Billy Stritch, Marilyn Maye, Marion Meadows and Jessi Colter (!) for the Thursday film premiere of Kansas City Jazz & Blues: Past, Present and Future at the Gem Theater.

Merle, the nice guy who works the door at Knuckleheads, is the recipient of an organ transplant. The two-day MerleJam begins Friday. Ray Wylie Hubbard headlines.

"Charlie, Last Name, Wilson" headlines at Municipal Auditorium on Saturday.

German Lizarraga Y Su Banda Estrellas De Sinaloa are at Memorial Hall on Sunday.

Will Talib Kweli redeem himself Monday at the Midland? I'm still mad at him for the weak effort he made in Kansas City last year.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Review: Napster 2010

I spent Saturday night with Napster. Our first date went well. In fact, we're now going steady.

You'd be forgiven for being skeptical of my new infatuation. I am, after all, on the rebound. I'd just learned that Lala, my steady flame, will be euthanized at midnight on June 1. I'll miss her.

So when a marketing person from Napster offered to hook me up with a free 30-day trial of a beta version of the service, I gratefully jumped all over it. (I'm told that the "new and improved look isn't going to be fully released until next year.")

While I'm not accustomed to paying for it, and the girl has a couple of personality flaws and physical defects, I still rate her pretty highly. Here's my analysis of her assets:

First impressions.
I had twenty-two May 4 new releases on my "must-hear" list. Napster has 16 of them available in their entirety today:

8 Ball & MJG- Ten Toes Down
Bone Thugs-n-Harmony- Uni-5: The World's Enemy
Pablo Casals- Bach: Six Suites for Solo Cello (Remastered)
Willie Colon & Ruben Blades- Siembra
Court Yard Hounds- s/t
Deftones- Diamond Eyes
The Fall- Your Future Our Clutter
Godsmack- The Oracle
Hillsong United- I Heart Revolution
The Hold Steady- Heaven Is Whenever
Jowell & Randy- El Momento
Cyril Neville- Essential Cyril Neville
The New Pornographers- Together
Doug Sahm- He's About a Groover: An Essential Collection
Trina- Amazin'
Nikki Yanofsky- Nikki

These titles aren't yet available at Napster:

Chris Brokaw & Geoff Farina- Angel's Message To Me
Philip Catherine- Concert In Capbreton
Flying Lotus- Cosmogramma
Ben Goldberg- Baal: The Book of Angels 15
Rudy Ray Moore- Dolomite (Reissue/Expanded with 28 bonus tracks)
Frank Sinatra/Antonio Carlos Jobim- The Complete Reprise Recordings

That's not bad. And while they don't have the Dolemite reissue, Napster lists 35 other Moore albums. That's a whole lot of cussin'! And the absence of the new Sahm was more than made up for by the presence of Groover's Paradise, a 1974 album I've never heard in its original format until today.

Those unsightly feet.
Napster's search engine is horrendous. Users must know exactly how Napster has arbitrarily listed an item. The system is absurdly non-intuitive. Entering "Robyn Hitchcock," for example, doesn't automatically turn up his new album. Napster has separate listings under "Robyn Hitchcock," "Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptions," "Robyn Hitchcok and the Egyptions," "Robyn Hitchcock and The Venus 3," etc. Napster made me struggle to finally find Propellor Time. And classical music? Forget about it! It's just too much work.

The big tease.
I suspect it's a label-driven issue, but it's enormously frustrating that only thirty-second snippets are available for some albums. I've noticed most regularly with several (but not all) releases from the ECM and Nonesuch labels. Forget, consequently, about streaming Pat Metheny's Orchestrion.

No kiss-and-tell.
While I enjoyed the social aspects of Blip, Lala and, that same element can also be intrusive. Napster, as far as I can tell, doesn't publicly reveal my playlist. It's a relief to know that my obsession with vintage Stanley Clarke and with Slipknot's Iowa can stay my dirty little secrets. (Whoops.)

Chantilly lace.
A few additional features also charm me. I love being able to simultaneously view the cover art for every available album under each entry. The "Other Members Like" feature is also attractive.

Her pretty voice.
The sound quality is fine. And unlike Lala, Napster lets me listen to the same song over and over again.

I'm not prepared to get married to Napster. But I think she's going to move in with me. We'll take it one month at a time.

(Random original image by There Stands the Glass. Because Google inexplicably slapped me with a "Blogger DMCA takedown notification" yesterday for a post that featured an photo I found from a band's MySpace account, I'm reluctant to use any outside images.)