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.

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Denny Ilic

Strange Music, the record empire that's home to the rapper Tech N9ne, has entered a whole new realm with Friday's release of Mackenzie Nicole's debut album "The Edge." The pop record, by the teenage daughter of Strange Music co-founder Travis O'Guin, is a dramatic departure from the label's abrasive and hugely successful hip-hop.

It seems Nicole was raised for this moment.

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Though it's firmly rooted in jazz, The Project H also appeals to fans of rock and R&B.

At the end of March, a flurry of sales briefly placed their new record, "Everyday, Forever" in the top ten of iTunes' jazz album chart; they celebrate its official release on Wednesday.

Howard Iceberg

Howard Eisberg is a Kansas City attorney who creates wry music under the pen name of Howard Iceberg.

Witty, self-deprecating and often profound, he's Kansas City's equivalent of the revered singer-songwriter John Prine.

Eisberg performs and records with a folk-based aggregation of musicians named the Titanics. On his new album "Netherlands," they're supplemented by a handful of Kansas City jazz cats including Rich Hill, Charles Perkins and Doug Auwarter.

Reggie and the Full Effect / Facebook

The clown prince of pop-punk and emo-rock, and the pride of Liberty, Missouri, James Dewees is the founder and primary artistic force in Reggie and the Full Effect.

Dewees began drumming for the seminal Kansas City punk band Coalesce in the 1990s; at the end of that decade, he joined the beloved Kansas City emo-rock band the Get Up Kids. He's also been hired as a ringer by prominent bands including My Chemical Romance.

Florian Kalotay

Even Kansas City sports fans love the elite opera star Joyce DiDonato, who grew up in the area and graduated from Bishop Miege High School in 1987.

DiDonato returns this weekend to perform with the Kansas City Symphony, interpreting works by Leonard Bernstein and Hector Berlioz while Michael Stern conducts.

Since becoming a star, DiDonato has used her prominent platform to advocate for social causes, including support for the LGBTQ community.

Brewer and Shipley

The Midwestern natives Michael Brewer and Tom Shipley — known to rock fans of a certain age everywhere as Brewer & Shipley — relocated to Kansas City from Los Angeles in 1968, soon after their debut album "Down in L.A." was released by A&M Records in 1968.

The duo is best known for their 1970 hippie anthem “One Toke Over the Line.” It's an enduring cultural touchstone, as are Brewer and Shipley themselves, who celebrate their 50th anniversary with a concert at the Uptown Theater on Friday.

Paul Andrews

David George is a veteran Kansas City rocker.

Olivia Fox

Olivia Fox is the Kansas City-based folk-pop trio of Aubrey Callahan, Lauren Flynn and Tiffany Smith. Formed in 2016, it's one of the most fully realized musical acts in Kansas City. The polished group is radio-ready and eminently marketable.

That's clear on “Play the Game,” the lead track of the group’s self-titled 2017 EP. As synthetic beats contrast with traditional folk harmonies, the hushed song becomes a wondrous combination of tension and tranquility — as enticing as a romantic whisper.

Courtesy Stan Kessler

Anyone who's stepped inside a Kansas City jazz club during the past several decades has probably run into Stan Kessler, the impish trumpeter known for amusing pranks and soulful solos.

Kessler has played music in Kansas City for 40 years, serving as the jazz scene's crafty institutional memory and passionate conscience. He's seen a lot of ups and downs, but his new album, "Skywatcher," makes a career-defining statement, showcasing his formidable talent at the same time as it demonstrates the vitality of the regional scene.

James T. Lundie

Julia Othmer is an art-rock musician in the vein of Tori Amos and Peter Gabriel. Although she currently lives in Los Angeles, Othmer claims Kansas City as her hometown and returns to visit her parents and friends several times a year.

Othmer says she intends to "be on the road a lot" in 2018 to promote her forthcoming album "Sound. That includes a stop at Knuckleheads this weekend.

Courtesy of Rubeo

The Kansas City artist Joe Rubeo, whose stage name is simply Rubeo, began making music just five months ago. He's released only two songs, but says he has a couple albums' worth of material ready to record.

He uses a phone app called Auxy to produce his tracks.

“It’s definitely been a game-changer for me," Rubeo says, "and I feel like I’m just beginning to scratch the surface on its capabilities,” he says.

Courtesy Lonnie McFadden

A consummate entertainer, Lonnie McFadden is a Kansas City institution.

He's best known as the trumpet-playing half of the tap-dancing McFadden Brothers, in which Lonnie and his brother, Ronnie McFadden, entertain Las Vegas-style in the vein of Sammy Davis Jr. and Louis Prima.

Courtesy Edison Lights

The members of Edison Lights are battle-scarred veterans of Kansas City’s rock scene.

The primary vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, Chris Doolittle, was a founding member of the Front, a local hard rock band that achieved a modicum of mainstream success in the late 1980s. Edison Lights marks his return to the rock scene after dedicating himself to raising a family for the past 20 years.

Courtesy BurnettMusic.com

Christopher Burnett is a prominent Kansas City saxophonist, band leader, instructor and raconteur. He also operates Artists Recording Collective, a record label that has released dozens of albums by jazz musicians from around the world.

Courtesy The Floozies

The Floozies, a Lawrence based electro-funk duo, are one of the region’s most popular party bands. Their celebratory, dance-oriented concerts, accentuated with colorful lighting and video displays, have made the band a fixture on the summer festival circuit.

Brothers Mark (drums) and Matt (guitar) Hill have been honing their self-described “future funk” for more than a decade. In September they released their most fully realized album, the irreverently titled "Funk Jesus."

Courtesy Kansas City Jazz Orchestra

The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra is the region’s most prominent big band, dedicated to preserving and advancing the tradition of iconic Kansas City jazz ensembles led by William “Count” Basie, Andy Kirk and Bennie Moten. Guest vocalist Marilyn Maye, after all, performed at the band's debut concert in 2003.

Mathias Kang

Andrew Morris, a guitarist and vocalist from Indiana, and Julie Bates, a fiddler and vocalist with roots in the Kansas City area, have released two albums as The Matchsellers.

They're an old-timey, folk and country duo whose between-song banter is as entertaining as their music. Among their two shows in upcoming days is the “Cover Me, KC” benefit for the Midwest Music Foundation, which Bates organized, with a roster of well-known area musicians covering one another’s compositions.

Courtesy Edison Lights

The history of rock and roll is littered with lurid stories about the abhorrent behavior of male musicians. Chris Doolittle, who set aside a promising music career to help provide for his wife and children, is one of the good guys.

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Son of the blues legend Johnnie Taylor, the Kansas City-based T.J. Hooker-Taylor performs at the annual Thanksgiving breakfast dance at the National Guard Armory in Kansas City, Kansas.

Organizers claim this year's party is the 68th annual Thanksgiving blues dance in Kansas City. Many of the revelers wear their holiday finest and sip on premium liquor (libations are B.Y.O.B.; a breakfast buffet is included with the price of admission).

Courtesy Stevie Stone / Facebook

Stevie Stone, a Kansas City-based rapper signed to the Strange Music label, is a regular presence at Tech N9ne concerts. But his show on Saturday is the final date of a 28-city tour he headlines in support of his new album "Level Up."

Courtesy Katy Giullen and The Girls / Facebook

By adding a contemporary twist to the straightforward blues-rock that’s long resonated among area audiences, guitarist Katy Guillen, bassist Claire Adams and drummer Stephanie Williams have become one of the most reliably entertaining groups in Kansas City.

On Saturday, Katy Guillen & The Girls celebrate the release of their third album, "Remember What You Knew Before." It's not simply more barroom boogie.

Brandon Cale / Courtesy The MGDs

The sharp-dressed MGDs are one of Kansas City’s most accomplished party bands, strongly influenced by New Orleans groups such as the Radiators, the Iguanas and the Neville Brothers.

Much of the MGDs repertoire features vocals, but soulful grooves and joyous instrumental solos are the group’s strength.

Keyboardist and vocalist Damon Parker fronts the band, which also includes guitarist Scott Middleton, trumpeter Teddy Krulewich, saxophonist Rudy Vasquez, bassist Greg Bush and drummer Matt Davis.

Courtesy Freight Train Rabbit Killer

Freight Train Rabbit Killer, the duo of Kris Bruders and Mark Smeltzer, is a unique presence on Kansas City’s music scene, performing theatrical gothic American roots music while wearing suits and masks.

Bruders is also known for his work in the roots-rock band Cadillac Flambé, while Smeltzer is one of Kansas City’s most prominent folk/old-timey musicians.

Courtesy Roman Numerals / Facebook

One of the region’s most notable indie-rock bands a decade ago, Roman Numerals were Ryan Shank on drums, Shawn Sherrill on keyboards and bass, Billy Smith on guitars and vocals, and Steve Tulipana on bass, guitars and vocals.

Tulipana and Sherrill went on to open the highly successful RecordBar in Westport. Their band's last recent performance was the penultimate show at the venue's original site on January 1, 2016. RecordBar has since re-opened at 1520 Grand Boulevard, which is where Roman Numerals reunite on Saturday.

Courtesy Wick and the Tricks

Aligned with the riotgrrrl and queercore punk movements, Kansas City's Wick & the Tricks celebrate the release of a new four-song, 7-inch limited edition vinyl "Not Enough" at Davey’s Uptown Rambler’s Club on Saturday.

Courtesy The Sextet

The Sextet is a jazz group led by bassist Robert Castillo, with saxophonist Max Levy, trumpeter Teddy Krulewich, trombonist Trevor Turla, guitarist Peter Marten and drummer Fritz Hutchison. Their penchant for soulful grooves and elements of funk will appeal to fans of like-minded Kansas City jazz groups like the Project H and Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle.

Courtesy Fred Wickham

Named for an elixir advertised on Hank Williams’ radio broadcasts, Hadacol was once among Kansas City’s most notable bands, attracting national attention in the late 1990s. 

This week, brothers Fred and Greg Wickham (vocals and guitars) and bassist Richard Burgess reunite, with Matt Brahl on drums (the band's original drummer was Scott McCuiston) to celebrate the release of Fred Wickham’s new album "Mariosa Delta."

Courtesy Ryan Heinlein

Individual jazz musicians regularly hit multiple spots in a single night, but it’s far less common for an entire band to play three venues in a 12-hour span. But that's what The Project H, led by trombonist Ryan Heinlein, is doing in different parts of town on Saturday.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Micah Herman is a fine Kansas City jazz bassist. Although he’s not as recognized as other area jazz bassists Bob Bowman, Jeff Harshbarger, Dominique Sanders and Gerald Spaits, Herman is a similarly formidable player.

On Thursday night at The Ship, Herman leads what he promises will be “one big bebop jam session” as part of Kansas City's annual Charlie Parker Celebration, a series of performances intended to honor the legacy of the late genius from Kansas City.

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.

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