Vibraphonist Joe Locke, one of the leading figures on the instrument today, is one of those rare players who can play just about anything with anybody in jazz.
That skill has served him well with artists including pianists Kenny Barron and Geoffrey Keezer, trumpeter Eddie Henderson and too many others to name. And it allowed him to graduate from sideman to leader quickly.
Now Locke is doing something that’s all too rare. He’s leading a band that holds onto its jazz credibility while entertaining people whose tastes may not embrace jazz very closely.
Locke, who comes to the Gem Theater on Saturday, is fronting a band that grooves like crazy while not compromising on melody and meaty chord changes. And he has a secret weapon, singer Kenny Washington, a 5-foot-2 dynamo with a four-octave range, powerful swing and good taste.
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For sheer entertainment value, this might be one of the best jazz shows of the year.
Even when they aren’t playing his music, the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra and other bands all over the world owe a lot to Stan Kenton. So every now and then, the KCJO takes some time to put Kenton’s music on the stage again.
The orchestra, featuring some of the best players in town and directed by Clint Ashlock, performs its latest Kenton program at 8 p.m. Friday in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $25 to $50. Call 816-994-7222 or go to KCJazzOrchestra.net.
M times 3
This is likely to be the best full-tilt improvisation show we’ll see for a while. A free-jazz supergroup of sorts calling itself Trio M, with three major players in the field, swoops into Overland Park on Sunday.
The group has pianist Myra Melford, a Guggenheim fellow who keeps many solo, group and multimedia projects going at the same time; bassist Mark Dresser, another widely experienced player who uses electronics, his bare hands and his wits to extend the capabilities of his instrument; and drummer Matt Wilson, known to Kansas City through previous appearances with his Arts and Crafts band, a player who can swing like crazy or head off into deep space, or do both at the same time.
The trio performs at 7 p.m. Sunday at Take Five Coffee + Bar, at 6601 W. 135th St., Suite A-21 in Overland Park, behind Von Maur. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door.
▪ There’s power in an enduring musical friendship, as bassist Bob Bowman and guitarist Danny Embrey illustrate every time they play together. And those two have a long friendship, stretching well over three decades, with drummer Steve Houghton, a brilliant player and educator who’s made impressive music with Woody Herman, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Toshiko Akiyoshi and many others.
Decades ago, Houghton made his first recording as leader with a trio consisting of Embrey, Bowman and himself. That trio gets back together for two gigs in the Kansas City area this week, at 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., and 8 p.m. Saturday at Take Five Coffee + Bar.
▪ Last time around, trombonist Jason Jackson was featured in this space. He and tenor saxophonist Rob Scheps are winding up their Midwest tour with an ambitious gig, playing newly arranged music of Wayne Shorter, at 7 p.m. Thursday at Take Five Coffee + Bar. Their quintet is expanding to a sextet for this show, and other musical guests are expected.
▪ Drummer Matt Kane, on the New York scene now, is proud of his Kansas City connections — so proud that he’s displaying them for all the world to see on his new CD. The disc, “Acknowledgement,” consists of tunes by Bobby Watson, Pat Metheny and Kane mentor Ahmad Alaadeen.
Kane’s back in town this week for gigs with a version of the group that made the CD — he calls it his Kansas City Generations band. The group performs at 8:30 p.m. Friday and 9 p.m. Saturday at the Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd.
▪ The Sons of Brasil are featured on the next Jazz Vespers at 6 p.m. Sunday at the First Baptist Church of Kansas City, at Red Bridge and Wornall roads.
▪ The Blue Room also has multi-instrumentalist Dwight Foster in charge of the Monday jam at 7 p.m. Keyboardist and singer Rich Hill appears at 7 p.m. Thursday, and singer Ida McBeth returns at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
▪ Other highlights at the Green Lady Lounge include the Foundation 627 Big Band at 8:30 p.m. Sunday. The jazz groups from Kansas City Kansas Community College and Southwestern Community College of Creston, Iowa, have a showcase at 7 p.m. Monday. The group Dojo performs at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Organist Ken Lovern’s OJT is on at 9 p.m. Wednesday, 9 p.m. Thursday and midnight Saturday.
▪ Take Five Coffee + Bar also has the debut of drummer Brandon Draper’s Flux Trio, with tenor saxophonist Matt Otto, guitarist Luke Polipnick and some well-deployed electronics, at 8 p.m. Friday.
▪ Broadway Jazz Club, 3601 Broadway, has the duo of trumpeter Stan Kessler and singer and pianist Kathleen Holeman at 7 p.m. Wednesday; pianist T.J. Martley with bassist and singer Bryan Hicks at 7 p.m. Thursday; and bassist Tyrone Clark’s group at 7 p.m. Friday, followed by bassist Gerald Spaits’ group at 10:30 p.m. Singer Angela Hagenbach presents a poetry and jazz event at 7 p.m. Saturday, followed by a poetry jam with Glenn North at 10:30 p.m.
▪ The group Shades of Jade performs at 8 p.m. Thursday on the Jazz Underground series at the Westport CoffeeHouse Theatre, 4010 Pennsylvania Ave.