Thursday, April 8, 2010

This 'n That 'n New Metheny (Not That One)

1987, and we were looking for headliners for the Kansas City Jazz Festival. We needed at least two, one to cap each night of the event. I was an organizer back then. I don’t remember who we signed first, but we found a pair of outstanding trumpet players were available: Wynton Marsalis and Mike Metheny.

I do remember we were thrilled to grab both. Wynton’s celebrated group included pianist Marcus Roberts. And Mike hadn’t lived in the KC area for over a decade, had released a new CD the year prior, and around here was plenty well known.

On the festival stage, Wynton’s performance was clinical. A friend later told me that his wife turned to him during the show and asked, “When does this get fun?”

Nobody asked that during Mike’s performance. His EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) was new to us, the first time most at the fest had heard it live. We were enthralled. And trumpet and flugelhorn kept the crowd equally captivated.

I’m remembering this now because now we have the delight of a new Mike Metheny CD, the just-released 60.1.

Some of the album’s music trends a bit more electronic than my personal old-fashioned taste. But there’s variety here. Old-fashioned me gravitates first towards the lively blues, C.C. and Water. Then Mike’s haunting EVI draws me into and leads me through the film-noire-ish Blue Smoke. And I’m entranced by both piano and horn on the lyrical ballad Laurie.

Besides, with sidemen like pianists Roger Wilder and Paul Smith, bassist Bob Bowman, guitarist Danny Embry and drummer Brandon Draper, this is a collection of KC talent I treasure.

I understand Mike’s little brother has a new CD out, too. I hear it’s some fancy thing that he’s doing shows all over the world to support. Mike’s CD, on the other hand, was recorded right here with some of Kansas City’s best musicians.

If I could only afford one, I know which I’d choose.

60.1 can be ordered from Mike’s web site, here.


At last, a way to find out who’s playing at The Majestic each night! And the lineup is better than I thought.

Their apparently abandoned Twitter account is again active with tweets, including a few each day announcing that night’s talent. On my one weekend visit, several months back, the jazz club music was a rather sorry lounge sound. But the tweets are listing combos well worth a new look (Bram Wijnands and Steve Lambert last week, for instance, I’m sorry I missed).

Sadly, their web site as yet offers no calendar, so there’s little way to plan in advance. If you added one, Majestic, I’d gladly link to it. Because your tweets show that many nights you’re featuring more legit jazz than is sometimes found in a certain other downtown jazz spot.

The Majestic’s tweets can be found here.


Speaking of online calendars, why, when I go to R Bar’s, do I first find reviews from 2009? Am I the only one looking at an entertainment calendar for a current listing of entertainment? Why make us scroll past praise and last week’s schedule for the info we seek? Why not put it front and center on the page where it’s promised?

And maybe the listing could be complete? This week I can see who’s playing Thursday and Saturday but not Friday. Why?

R Bar doesn't feature jazz every night, but often enough that it's worth checking who's there. I know I’d enjoy drinks and a meal while hearing David Basse, then Millie Edwards (next week) or Shay Estes (the week after). In fact, I see on Shay’s web site she’s booked there each month through July. It’d be nice to be able to find that out on the venue’s site, too.

I feel another post ranting about marketing coming on.


For a couple of our sterling young jazz musicians, a scraggly look seems to be in vogue. That doesn’t work for me, guys. I don’t expect coat or tie, but a respectable appearance is merely showing respect for the audience. I’m not naming names – I have no desire to embarrass anyone – but I’ll bet they know who they are.

If I left a bigger tip, would you guys consider a haircut?


So how do I remember who played the jazz festival 23 years ago? Well, there may not be many other jazz fans with a fest poster autographed by both Wynton Marsalis and Mike Metheny on their wall.

(Mike’s new CD, 60.1…it's at his web site, here.)

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