Flamenco, folk, Mexican marimba, jazz and then some crazy-ass jazz – my kid has seen it all. In his short life he’s been to over six concerts – that’s more than one a week, not a stat many can claim. But as musicians (and as a critic), there’s no way we can just stay at home when good music is happening. But since good music sometimes translates into loud music, and awakened babies sometimes translate into loud babies, noise reduction headphones were a must.
And yes, some of the shows (let’s say for estimate’s sake – most of them) have been at bars. Venues that offer food and have great live music, but bars all the same. And our favorite is the RecordBar, especially on Sunday nights for Jeff Harshbarger Presents An Alternative Jazz Series.
Twice a month, the first and third Sundays, the RecordBar becomes the best jazz venue in Kansas City, despite the fact that it’s a rock club. Harshbarger showcases some of the best local and touring artists in this series: Matt Otto’s Folk Jazz, Crosscurrent, Roger Wilder Quartet, Hermon Mehari, Dave King, Todd Sickafoose, Allison Miller, Snuff Jazz and Urban Noise Camp and, most frequently, the People’s Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City.
Most first Sundays of the month, the PLBB perform their version of controlled insanity. The group is comprised of some of Kansas City’s busiest musicians and prolific composers. The socialist manifesto of the ensemble embraces new compositions and arrangments, all written specifically for the wacky instrumentation (bassoon and horn and slide guitar and oboe? in a jazz big band?), allowing anyone the opportunity to write for the group, as tightly defined or loosely described as they want. Many of the compositions come from the members themselves, including band leader Brad Cox, saxophonist Peter Lawless, bassoon/percussionist Patrick Alonzo Conway, and bass clarinetist Russell Thorpe, and also include arrangements of the likes of John Zorn, John Cage. and Terry Riley.
But it’s not all about the music. There’s a certain amount of circus flair, social commentary and mental institution mentality, together with audio/visual components from time to time. You might come for the music, but you come back for the show. They’ve performed an homage to the Who simultaneous with the Who’s Superbowl half-time show, a group proxy gay marriage for John Cage and Merce Cunningham using lyrics by Michael Jackson for the ceremony, and a video retelling of the Fall of Man using stop-animation with pipe-cleaner Adam and Eve, to name just a few spectacles. And this anything-goes approach to music making has attracted a devoted audience.
This Sunday will mark the third anniversary for the series and the ensemble’s participation. They’ll do a year-end retrospective, playing the music premiered by the ensemble in the last calendar year.
So if you missed any shows this year – or are wondering what this is all about – come out to the RecordBar this Sunday.
I recommend the Appetite for Destruction pizza. And headphones for the under-one crowd.