Friday, October 16, 2009

Weekend This 'n That

The weekend seems a good time for a few short thoughts.


A discussion has swirled of late around one-time local pianist and now Sony Classical label prodigy Eldar Djangirov’s recent performance at the Folly Theater and the paltry crowd it attracted. The talk can be read on the excellent KC jazz blog Plastic Sax, here. But one important point which stands out to me has yet to come up.

What the hell was the Folly thinking in bringing back Eldar just five months after he played Jardine’s? There may well be many reasons the crowd totaled only about 350, but without doubt one of them is that there is a limited number of folks around here willing to pay thirty bucks to again hear a jazz performer they just heard. Sure it’s a different venue, but the venue is selling to the same audience. And the jazz audience is small to begin with (remember, just 3% of music sales). Only a small percentage of that small percentage will double dip in a short time span.

When I organized jazz festivals, Jimmy McGriff was among our headliners one year. But I got word that another local group was looking to bring him to town a few months before the fest. I refused to sign the contract until I was assured he would not book the earlier gig. I couldn’t have expected much of an audience had Jimmy played KC just months prior. The same applies to the Folly.


It will be interesting to see how the crowd size compares for Jimmy Cobb at the Gem Saturday night, with a group celebrating the 50th anniversary of Miles Davis’ best selling album, Kind of Blue. But I will not be there. A review from a previous stop for this group said they played each song of the album, in order. If true, I’m not sure a live album recreation is what I'd want to sit through.


Instead, I’ll spend my money at The Blue Room on Monday night.

I started listening to jazz when Miles Davis, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan were still performing. I’ve not faithfully kept up with the young performers who followed those greats. Until recently. Between discovering the spectacular young talent now populating KC, and reading a few blogs championing young players with national renown, I’m learning new names.

One of them is guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. An American who now resides in Europe, All About Jazz has called him “the next big thing in the world of jazz guitar.” What I see on You Tube and hear on iTunes has me intrigued and excited to see him live Monday night.

Much more excited, in fact, than by the thought of seeing a 50 year old album recreation.


Bassist and composer Ben Allison is another name I’ve learned. The New York Times says he “has a knack for assembling hardy and sophisticated ensembles like this one” which performs in New York this weekend. Among those hardy and sophisticated band members is Steve Cardenas.

I’m sure many in town remember when Steve was a hot young guitarist in Kansas City, and a musical highlight of Ida McBeth’s band.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. Re: Jimmy McGriff - that's why they have those clauses in artist's contracts now - the 30/30 as it's sometimes called. But it doesn't always work out, and one promoter is left frustrated with a marketing roadblock. Because of my line of work, I'm all too familiar with it. It probably wasn't a good idea to bring Eldar back so quickly.


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