Bill Brownlee | KCUR

Bill Brownlee

Music Critic

After spending two decades as a Midwestern sales representative for independent record labels, Bill Brownlee shifted his attention to music and culture criticism in 2006.  His work appears weekly in The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.  He blogs about Kansas City’s jazz scene at plasticsax.com.

Ways to Connect

Matt Hopper is a staple of Kansas City’s jazz scene. A leader of his own bands, he's also a valued accompanist for other musicians. Besides the jam session he hosts every Tuesday at The Phoenix, Hopper plays from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Green Lady Lounge on Thursday, June 9.

Why we're listening to him this week:

Krizz Kaliko
Go (Strange Music)

Genius, the title of Krizz Kaliko’s 2009 album, wasn’t hyperbole. The visionary Kansas City musician’s contributions have been essential to the remarkable commercial success of his longtime collaborator, Tech N9ne. Kaliko’s new release, Go, his sixth solo album for the locally based Strange Music record label, is another impressive showcase of his luminous talent.

http://americanjazzmuseum.org/

After decades on the scene, Ida McBeth's dusky voice and emotional delivery have reached legendary status in Kansas City. It's not just her soulful combination of blues, jazz and gospel styles that delights audiences, either; she's made a habit of surrounding herself with a band that knows how to really dig into a groove. Go on, we dare you to find someone who has seen McBeth perform and doesn't love her music.

https://iknowdwill.files.wordpress.com

Blk Flanl is what happens when rapper Barrel Maker — that's Morgan Cooper — meets producer Conductor Williams, née Denzel Williams. The two may be familiar, not just to fans of local rap, because they've immersed themselves in the community. Cooper makes his living as a cinematographer, and Williams helped coach track at North Kansas City High School. In Blk Flanl, they tackle contemporary social issues with smart lyrics and bold beats, all served with a healthy dose of soul samples, and jazz- and R&B-inspired horns.

https://www.facebook.com/TheNameIsDuncan/

 A lot of hip hop sounds great on record but can disappoint live audiences, especially if it's just one guy with a microphone rapping over a recorded track. Olathe rapper Duncan Burnett avoids that by performing with a live band, often consisting of the best jazz instrumentalists in the area. Burnett's flows don't shy away from his faith, but calling him a "Christian rapper" would be missing the point.

Music Review: Matt Otto's 'Soliloquy'

Mar 29, 2016
Courtesy of Diallo Javonne French

Matt Otto
"Soliloquy" (Jazz Collective Records)

Matt Otto doesn’t resemble an agent of subversion.  Yet the mild-mannered man has instigated a quiet revolution on Kansas City’s jazz scene since he moved to the area in 2009.

Local Listen: The Conquerors

Mar 23, 2016

The Conquerors, a Kansas City band, has a 1967 flavor that works well in these days of throwback sound. KCUR music reviewer Bill Brownlee feels that after much practice, their performances have vastly improved since their 2010 inception.

The Conquerors perform at The Riot Room on Monday, March 28 at 8 p.m.

 

Blue Springs-based David Cook became a hometown hero when he won the 2008 season of “American Idol.” His latest album features sincere, melodic rock with a familiar feel. This week's Local Listen features "Better Than Me," from Cook's 2015 album, Digital Vein.

David Cook performs Friday, March 18, at the VooDoo at Harrah’s Casino.

http://mariathemexican.com

Maria the Mexican is a roots-rock band fronted by sisters Maria Elena and Tess Cuevas, who combine vocal harmonies as part of the band’s blend of rock and Latin elements.

Maria the Mexican performs Friday, March 11, at the VooDoo at Harrah’s Casino in North Kansas City.

Music Review: Logan Richardson's 'Shift'

Mar 1, 2016
Courtesy Logan Richardson

Logan Richardson
Shift (Blue Note)

The booklet that accompanies Logan Richardson’s monumental new album Shift contains four pages of manga-style graphic art. One panel depicts the saxophonist as a child standing on the corner of 18th & Vine in Kansas City’s Jazz District. He soon encounters Ahmad Alaadeen, an area jazz hero who is shown in the miniature comic book diligently tutoring his promising young disciple.

Local Listen: Fullbloods

Feb 25, 2016
Zach Bauman

The members of Fullbloods weren’t born when soft rock groups like Pablo Cruise were in radio rotation in the 70s, but this Kansas City band revives the smooth sound without a smidgen of irony.

Fullbloods will celebrate the release of "Mild West" with performances at the Brick on Friday, February 26, and at Mills Record Company on Saturday, February 27.

Local Listen: The Greeting Committee

Feb 17, 2016
Facebook

This week’s Local Listen zeros in on a recent addition to Kansas City’s music scene, the Greeting Committee. The region’s indie-rock community has welcomed the quartet, and we do the same with a track from their 2015 release “It’s Not All That Bad.” Here is “Hands Down.”

David Basse and Joe Cartwright
Live at Pilgrim Chapel (Lafayette Music)

Live at Pilgrim Chapel, a duet album from two mainstays of Kansas City’s jazz scene, contains 56 minutes of worrisome adventure. While Joe Cartwright is a reliably outstanding pianist, David Basse’s limited vocal range and roguish demeanor add an unsteady edge to the recording.

Local Listen: Organized Crimes

Feb 3, 2016
highdivekc.com

The band name selected by the members of Organized Crimes may recall the nefarious activities that transpired in Kansas City in the first half of the last century, but the group’s music is based on the dreamy alternative rock sound associated with London in the 1980s. Local Listen features “Bel Ray Flats,” the A-side of Organized Crimes’ new seven-inch single.

Local Listen: Hipshot Killer

Jan 20, 2016
Facebook

Mike Alexander is an entrenched Kansas Citian, but he expertly evokes the vintage punk sound of Southern California with his trio Hipshot Killer. “They Will Try to Kill Us All,” the powerful new album by Alexander’s band, breathes new life into the no-frills sound associated with groups like Bad Religion. This week's Local Listen features the typically no-frills Hipshot Killer song “One Good Night.”

Jay McShann was occasionally called the “Man From Muskogee,” but Kansas City was the longtime home of the fondly remembered musician who died in 2006. The 100th anniversary of McShann’s birth in Oklahoma will be celebrated Saturday at the Gem Theater. This week's Local Listen features McShann’s 1982 rendition of “Kansas City.”

The Jay McShann Centennial Birthday Bash will be held at the Gem Theater on Saturday January 16th.

Kansas City’s music scene has long been associated with earthy jazz, down-home blues and abrasive guitar-based rock. Yes You Are intends to alter that perception. Local Listen features “Echo,” a glimmering slice of polished pop by the Kansas City quintet.

Yes You Are performs at the Riot Room on Sunday, Jan. 10.

Courtesy Strange Music

Tech N9ne
Strangeulation Vol. II (Strange Music)

Tech N9ne once boasted, on the title track of his 2009 EP “E.B.A.H.,” that he has an “evil brain” and an “angel heart.” Those contradictory extremes have characterized the Kansas City rapper’s extraordinarily successful career, so it’s not surprising that the two albums Tech N9ne released in 2015 may be the best and the worst recordings in his extensive catalog.

Local Listen: Una Walkenhorst

Dec 23, 2015
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Una Walkenhorst is attempting to establish a career in a city in which her father has been a prominent musician for more than 30 years. As a solo artist and as a member of the Rainmakers, Bob Walkenhorst is one of Kansas City’s favorite sons. Local Listen features the title track of his daughter Una’s album “Scars,” a song that indicates that talent runs in the family.

The Best Kansas City Music Of 2015

Dec 18, 2015

It's becoming a year-end tradition at KCUR's Up to Date: Reviewing the year's best work from area musicians.

This year's panelists are:

Scott Hrabko

In his review of Scott Hrabko’s “Biscuits & Gravity,” KCUR music writer David Cantwell praised the Kansas City singer-songwriter's "sly and warm vocals" and the "slinky rhythms and brooding arrangements" documented on the new album. This week's Local Listen features Hrabko’s wistful reverie “I Dreamed I Quit My Job.”

Scott Hrabko & the Rabbits perform at the Westport Saloon on Saturday, Dec. 19.

thecrowdedstage.com

Claire Adams was one of the Kansas City area’s most eclectic musicians even before she began collaborating with the chamber music ensemble Classical Revolution KC. Adams plays bass in the blues-rock band Katy Guillen and the Girls, and is the front person of the ornate folk-pop group, Claire and the Crowded Stage

For its 100th edition, Local Listen features “Enough,” a song that showcases Adams’ new venture with Classical Revolution KC.

The Count Basie Orchestra
A Very Swingin’ Basie Christmas! (Concord Records)

Founded in Kansas City in 1935, the Count Basie Orchestra celebrates its 80th anniversary with the release of its first Christmas album. With delightful assists from guests including the Christmas mainstay Johnny Mathis, the ensemble upholds its reputation as the greatest blues-soaked big band in jazz on the ebullient if stodgy A Very Swingin’ Basie Christmas!

Local Listen: The Roseline

Nov 25, 2015
Facebook

Colin Halliburton and a rotating cast of collaborators create earnest folk-rock as The Roseline. The Lawrence-based ensemble released the quietly-defiant album “Townie” in June. This week's edition of Local Listen features “Feckless,” a song that displays The Roseline’s troubled optimism.

The Roseline performs at 8:30 p.m. at the Riot Room on Friday, Nov. 27. 

Local Listen: Ebony Tusks

Nov 18, 2015

The convergence of experimental hip-hop and arty indie-rock often yields compelling music. The Lawrence-based trio Ebony Tusks is one of the region’s most exciting practitioners of the hybrid style. This week's edition of Local Listen features Ebony Tusks’ signature song “Everybody Run.”

Ebony Tusks headlines a free show at the RecordBar at 8 p.m. Sunday, November 22. 

Local Listen: Lauren Anderson

Nov 11, 2015
Facebook

Kansas City musician Lauren Anderson has a master’s degree in music therapy, and her gritty new album “Truly Me” is loaded with sonic solace. This week's edition of Local Listen features “One Day,” a brash song that combines Anderson’s love of blues and soul.

Anderson is part of a stellar lineup of blues acts at Knuckleheads on Friday, Nov. 13. The show starts at 6 p.m.

Local Listen: Will Matthews

Nov 4, 2015
americanjazzmuseum.org

As the guitarist of the Count Basie Orchestra, Will Matthews plays swinging Kansas City jazz around the globe. He often performs with an organist and drummer in his hometown when he’s not on the road with the big band. This week's edition of Local Listen features Matthews’ rendition of “Corner Pocket.”

Local Listen: Riala

Oct 28, 2015
Heather Burton / Facebook

Rock fans preferring disorientation to terror will congregate at Californos on Oct. 31. The Halloween party features Kansas City psychedelic rock bands that daze rather than scare. This week's edition of Local Listen features “January” by the atmospheric trio Riala.

The festivities begin at Californos at 8 p.m. Oct. 31. Also on the bill will be After Nations, Temp Tats and Drag Me To Safe Harbour.

Analog Heart Music

David Cook
Digital Vein (Analog Heart Music)

The mania surrounding David Cook was once so frenzied that the audience hardly seemed to notice his most notable opening act — Justin Bieber — at Cricket Wireless Amphitheater in 2009.

Local Listen: Ron Carlson

Oct 21, 2015
Facebook

The guitarist and bandleader Ron Carlson has quietly become an integral component of Kansas City jazz scene during the last couple years. Musicians from New York and Kansas City combine their talents on Carlson’s new album “Kind Folk.” This week's Local Listen features the mainstream swing of “Beatrice.”

Carlson performs with pianist Roger Wilder and bassist Bob Bowman at the Art Factory in Overland Park at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23. 

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