News Column

Weekend swings with big bands

April 23, 2014

By Joe Klopus, The Kansas City Star



April 23--Sometimes in jazz, it's good to look back. We need to stay in touch with our musical past, our heritage -- to feel the swing again in its most exciting form, to be reminded of when that old music was new and edgy, to be reminded of what worked then and what still works now.

We have two great opportunities to do all that this weekend, with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra and a return appearance by the Count Basie Orchestra.

The KCJO's gala show, on Saturday, goes for nostalgia -- the concert is called "The Greatest Big Band Hits of All Time" -- and then again, it doesn't. After all, the band (directed by Clint Ashlock) is full of strong individuals, the best players in town, so nobody will be content to replicate the sounds of a record from the 1930s or '40s. So even if the music follows the old rules, it's a new ballgame.

The concert features music from Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra and yes, a little Basie. It's at 8 p.m. Saturday in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $30 to $75; call 816-994-7222 or visit kauffmancenter.org.

Meanwhile, the Basie orchestra's show, at Johnson County Community College on Sunday, brings that Kansas City-originated institution back to town for the first time since 2007. Though he's been gone for 30 years, Basie's music has proved itself timeless again and again. And this is the band with the institutional memory to make sure it's done right.

There have been some changes in Basie land since 2007. Most notably, the band has a new leader, trumpeter Scotty Barnhart. He's the first leader since Basie's death who wasn't hired in some capacity by Basie himself. (Barnhart was about 20 years old when Basie left our planet.) But Barnhart is a strong swing man whose friends and musical allies have included Clark Terry, Ellis and Wynton Marsalis and Tony Bennett. In other words, a wonderful choice for the tricky job of making Basie's music swing properly -- for knowing when to hold back and when to go for it.

The Basie orchestra, going almost nonstop since 1935 and featuring Kansas Citian Will Matthews in the important guitar role, performs at 7 p.m. Sunday in Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College. Tickets are $25 and $35; call 913-469-4445 or visit jccc.edu.

Noteworthy

--The Black House Collective has a stack of new music and a 16-piece ensemble to perform it, next at 9:30 p.m. Friday at the Charlotte Street Foundation Open Studios event in the Town Pavilion, 1111 Main St. It's the 12th Black House workshop since its founding in 2009, but the first to feature a guest artist, flutist Mary Fukushima. There are new works from Hunter Long, Russell Thorpe, Teri Quinn, James Henry and Brian Padavic, plus an excerpt from the Philip Glass opera "Akhnaten."

--Take Five Coffee + Bar, 5336 W. 151st St. in Leawood, has its Final Friday show with vibraphonist Peter Schlamb's quartet at 8 p.m. Organist Chris Hazelton's trio performs at 8 p.m. Saturday.

--The Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., has Miguel "Mambo" DeLeon and Carte Blanc at 7 p.m. Thursday; the vocal group Book of Gaia, with singers Angela Hagenbach, Nedra Dixon and Pamela Baskin-Watson, at 8:30 p.m. Friday; and the Jazz Disciples plus singer Luqman Hamza (it's been too long!) at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Bassist Ben Leifer and his Plus Minus group are in charge of the Monday jam at 7 p.m.

--The Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., has tenor saxophonist Brett Jackson's quartet at 9 p.m. Thursday; pianist Tim Whitmer's trio at 5:30 p.m. Friday, followed by Chris Hazelton's Boogaloo 7 at 10 p.m.; Brad Allen's trio at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by organist Ken Lovern's trio at 10 p.m.; guitarist Jerry Hahn's trio at 6 p.m. Sunday, followed by the Foundation 627 Big Band at 9 p.m.; a jam led by bassist Bob Bowman and pianist Roger Wilder at 9 p.m. Monday; trumpeter Stan Kessler's group at 9 p.m. Tuesday; and Lovern's trio at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

--The Broadway Jazz Club, 3601 Broadway, has Brazilian music from the group Arara Azul at 7 p.m. Thursday; organist Dave Creighton's group at 5:30 p.m. Friday, followed by singer Eboni Fondren at 9 p.m.; singer Angela Hagenbach at 6 p.m. Saturday, followed by singer Megan Birdsall at 9:30 p.m.; bassist Gerald Spaits' trio at 7 p.m. Tuesday; and pianist Joe Cartwright's trio at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

--Broadway also has two special events. At 4 p.m. Sunday, biographer Chuck Haddix talks about the life and music of Charlie Parker in a session sponsored by the UMKC Jazz Friends. At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, it's another live "12th Street Jump" recording session, this one saluting pianist Mary Lou Williams and composer Irving Berlin.

To reach Joe Klopus, call 816-234-4751 or send email to jklopus@kcstar.com.

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Source: Kansas City Star (MO)