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.

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Courtesy Soul Revival

Soul Revival is a Kansas City group that performs a sophisticated form of contemporary R&B. Desmond Mason, an accomplished keyboardist, composes and orchestrates their music, while Derick Jolliff-Cunigan is the primary vocalist.

After a series of performances at out-of-the-way venues, Soul Revival graduates to the prestigious RecordBar on Saturday, where, in addition to performing original compositions, they'll cover hits by the likes of Musiq Soulchild and Luther Vandross.

Courtesy Bloodstone

Bloodstone, a silky soul band that rose to prominence in the 1970s, is one of the most commercially successful groups to emerge from Kansas City.

Their classic R&B slow jam “Natural High” peaked at #10 on Billboard’s pop chart on July 21, 1973. Bloodstone was so popular that the band starred in the 1975 blaxploitation movie Train Ride to Hollywood.

Courtesy Mac Lethal / Facebook

A hip-hop wisenheimer, Mac Lethal has successfully toggled between dual careers as a sardonic rapper and as a social media and television personality.

Facebook / Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame

The diminutive Kansas City vocalist Millie Edwards, occasionally introduced to audiences as "the little woman with a big voice," performs Sunday alongside Lori Tucker and Geneva Price as the Wild Women of Kansas City.

Edwards is equally adept at belting out cabaret, pop, blues and jazz material and performs regularly as a solo act at The Phoenix.

Courtesy Jake Wells / Facebook

Jake Wells' music exemplifies the craze for soulful troubadours. The Kansas City-based Wells, who plays at the Riot Room on Thursday, has released just three songs, but his most popular, "Roll Like Thunder," has been streamed more than 500,000 times on Spotify since its release in 2016.

Courtesy Mike Dillon / Facebook

An heir to the legacy of Frank Zappa, Mike Dillon is a musical satirist and acerbic provocateur.

Dillon's work has been documented in an extensive discography of unconventional jazz, rock and funk albums as a titanic figure in the outsider music scene. Currently based in New Orleans, Dillon — who performs at the Brick on Friday — once lived in Kansas City while performing in bands including the experimental jazz collective Malachy Papers. 

Courtesy Blair Bryant

Blair Bryant is a young contemporary jazz bassist who says he's mastered more than 14 instruments.

Courtesy The Philistines

A seasoned collective of Kansas City musicians who make psychedelic rock together as The Philistines perform at one of Kansas City's most interesting bars, a hidden West Bottoms gem called The Ship, on Saturday.

Brian Slater / Courtesy Making Movies

One of Kansas City’s most accomplished rock bands, Making Movies tours extensively and collaborates with prominent artists — but this weekend they're part of a free concert in downtown Lawrence.

That free show comes as the band — brothers Diego and Enrique Chi, who are Panamanian immigrants; and brothers Juan-Carlos and Andres Chaurand — is enjoying a wave of national attention.

Courtesy Oleta Adams

Fireworks lit the sky behind Oleta Adams as she headlined 18th and Vine's Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend — but they were intended for the audience a couple of miles away at Union Station, where the Kansas City Symphony was performing its annual Celebration at the Station.

Paul Andrews

My Brothers & Sisters is a large Kansas City collective that adds psychedelic flourishes to rock, funk and soul. In characteristically purple prose, the band refers to itself as “the ascetic bloodhounds of immortal sonic ecstasy.”

They deliver a powerful live performance. The nine or more musicians who squeeze onto stages during My Brothers & Sisters shows induce wide smiles and uninhibited dancing.

Courtesy Hembree

Hembree is one of Kansas City’s most popular indie-rock bands, and has an opening slot for Elvis Costello & the Imposters at Crossroads KC on Friday.

In spite of Hembree’s popularity, the band isn’t an obvious candidate to open for Costello. The British star is a dazzling lyricist, while Hembree’s appeal is rooted in its moody sound.

The band rose from the ashes of the defunct Americana band Quiet Corral, but Hembree’s polished sound bears little resemblance to Quiet Corral’s folk-rock.

Courtesy Nick Schnebelen

Nick Schnebelen, a member of the powerhouse Kansas City blues-rock band Trampled Under Foot, is a flashy guitarist. In 2008, the same year Trampled Under Foot was named the top band at the International Blues Challenge, he claimed the Albert King Award as the top guitarist.

Courtesy Oleta Adams

A popular lounge singer in Kansas City in the 1980s, Oleta Adams had a massive pop hit in 1991 with the heartfelt ballad “Get Here.” She's back in town on Sunday for a main-stage performance at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Julian Vaughn

The smooth-jazz bassist and Kansas City native Julian Vaughn joins respected smooth-jazz guitarist — and retired New York Yankees slugger — Bernie Williams at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on May 20, in an event billed as Jazz & Jackie: A Monarchs Salute to Jackie Robinson.

Courtesy Ensemble Iberica

Ensemble Ibérica, a Kansas City based ensemble dedicated to “the music of Ibéria (Spain and Portugal) and the colonial Americas,” interprets the music of southern Mexico and South America at Monday’s Tierra del Sol concert.

Alicia Solo

As the dynamic singer of the now-defunct Beautiful Bodies, Alicia Solombrino was a whirlwind front person, displaying as much energy with her free-spirited stage antics as any contemporary Kansas City musician.

Courtesy Eddie Moore

Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle, a youthful group of forward-thinking jazz-based musicians, is one of Kansas City’s most accomplished ensembles.

The core Outer Circle band currently consists of keyboardist Moore, guitarist Adam Schlozman, bassist DeAndre Manning and drummer Zach Morrow. The band occasionally tours (it has a gig in Austin later this month) and Moore hosts a weekly jazz jam session every Wednesday at Californos and a monthly showcase at the Tank Room, in which he collaborates with hip-hop artists.

Courtesy Katy Guillen & The Girls

Katy Guillen & the Girls — the blues-rock trio of guitarist Katy Guillen, bassist Claire Adams and drummer Stephanie Williams — is one of Kansas City’s most accomplished bands, touring regularly throughout the country.

Courtesy Second Hand King

Working as Second Hand King, the locally based Joe Stanziola is a self-described “doo-wop rap” artist.

Courtesy Victor & Penny

The delightful vocalist Erin McGrane and the accomplished guitarist Jeff Freling lead the Kansas City ensemble Victor & Penny.

They once described their music as “antique pop,” but now they say it's "swing-infused folk-jazz" — based on the gypsy jazz tradition, it's a nostalgic sound more closely rooted in styles associated with Paris and New Orleans than Kansas City.

Courtesy Everette DeVan

Hammond B3 organist Everette DeVan is a beloved dean of Kansas City’s jazz scene.

Though the popularity of DeVan’s good-time, organ-based jazz peaked about 50 years ago, the throwback style gets revived several times a week at the Green Lady Lounge. Organist Chris Hazelton and guitarist Matt Hopper are among the younger Kansas City musicians DeVan has mentored.

Courtesy The Elders

The Kansas City based Celtic-rock band The Elders has long been one of Kansas City’s most popular bands, performing regularly at prominent civic gatherings including the Plaza Lighting Ceremony on Thanksgiving.

On Saturday, the band oversees another annual tradition: The Elders’ 15th annual hoolie.

In honor of their featured status this week, we're playing "Meetings of the Waters," off of the band's seventh studio album, 2014's Story Road.

Courtesy Mello Music Group

Stik Figa
Central Standard (Mello Music Group)

Central Standard, the latest release by the Topeka-based rapper Stik Figa, chronicles the struggles of a man begrudgingly beginning to accept that his musical career is unlikely to yield fame and fortune.

Courtesy Momma's Boy/Facebook

Momma’s Boy is a new addition to the area’s thriving garage-rock revivalist scene, one that includes notables like the Conquerors and Psychic Heat.

3 reasons we're listening to Momma's Boy this week:

1. The band celebrates the release of its debut EP, Liquid Courage, at two shows this weekend.

2. Three of the four members of Momma’s Boy played together in high school.

Wikipedia Commons

The Ozark Mountain Daredevils started playing together 45 years ago in Springfield, Missouri, but Kansas City has always been the band’s secondary base.

3 reasons we're listening to the Ozark Mountain Daredevils this week:

1. On Friday, the Daredevils play a concert with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band that's a benefit for the Medicine Cabinet, a charity that provides "short-term emergency medical assistance for those in need in the metropolitan Kansas City area."

Courtesy A La Mode

A La Mode is a Kansas City hot jazz ensemble led by guitarist Clayton DeLong and vocalist Jesica “Baby J” Poell, with performances this weekend.

3 reasons we're listening to A La Mode this week:

Kristi Yarcho

The Blackbird Revue is a Kansas City based folk-rock ensemble led by the husband-and-wife team of Jacob and Danielle Prestidge that headlines a show at RecordBar on Thursday, January 19.

3 reasons we're listening to the Blackbird Revue this week:

1. The Blackbird Revue is relocating to Los Angeles.

Courtesy Dino Massa

The Dino Massa Kansas City Quintet
Echoes of Europe (Artists Recording Collective)

Echoes of Europe, a collaboration between the Italian pianist Dino Masso and jazz musicians based in the Kansas City area, is the result of a chance encounter in Naples in 1990.

Courtesy Lincoln Marshall / Facebook

Lincoln Marshall is the Kansas-based rap duo of Approach (Sean Hunt) and MilkDrop ( John-Alan Suter). They're on the bill for this weekend's Sound Machine concert, a monthly event that's envisioned as a miniature version of the annual Middle of the Map Fest.

3 reasons we're listening to Lincoln Marshall this week:

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