Tag Archives: Kansas City

Ya gotta look for the good news

After an arduously steamy summer, the weather has broken, though it seems to me that there is absolutely nothing broken about the weather; it’s as right as it could be: cool, breezy, sunny. Amazing. Much of the lawn is dead; work is brain-snappingly crazy, everything’s a mess. Yeah, sports shouldn’t matter, but the Royals remain only a promise (next year, I swear, next year, it’s gonna happen), the Chiefs are just plain gonna suck and the Big 12 is no longer imploding. Now it’s exploding. This is big stuff to those of us in Kansas City. You don’t have to pretend to understand. But look at our sports landscape; the Big 12 is all we got. For as long as I have been here, it’s offered brilliant games and sometimes relentless rivalries. Border War? Lots of teams talk about a Border War but Kansas vs. Missouri was an actual war: it was one of the critical sparks that burst the country into the conflagration of our never Civil War. For some of us Kansans, there is an underlying (or perhaps more visible) sense that some of the folks on the Missouri side are still replaying that particularly ugly moment of American history. Now it seems, it all goes away courtesy of the massive egos of Texas. Thanks, Longhorns. I suppose your record will be better when you’re playing in your very own league against a handful of handpicked non-BCS teams.

K-State, my alma mater, will be even more irrelevant than it already is. KU, where my money (and my kids) go, will hie itself thither to the Big East, I suppose, but am I supposed to like that? Will MU, my wife’s alma mater go to the Big Ten as Missouri’s always triangulating governor had hoped? Or to the SEC? Who the hell knows and now, I guess I’m trying to say, who the hell cares?

My friend JK cracks open a JJ Pruem Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese 1983 and laughs. He only cares about Fantasy Baseball so he’s happy. The wine smells somewhat muted, but then it starts showing fruits that are still fresh and clean. Honey notes are everywhere; citrus, both dried and fresh, sweet pie apples; in the mouth, the sugars are starting to show more complexity than overt sweetness. There is something about these old sweet Rieslings that show less and less sweetness as they age and more and more complexity. What have thosee sugars become?

We watch the Royals give away another game (dammit, they still have a potent offense and they can field now; they don’t stupid mistakes, like they used to, so I care, I really do), and kick back, grinning at the wine. And then there’s something, a bit mushroomy, that pops up. Hmm. It takes another ten minutes or so, deep into the first glass before I state the obvious: uhm, this is corked. Yep, JK replies, since he’s already concluded the same. Hmm. Damn. It still tastes pretty good.

We watch some more baseball; pour a second glass and wait for the corkiness to get worse, like it always does, only it doesn’t. It just sits there, like a fat little annoying troll, but one that is a bit forgetful, a bit off task. That’s to say, you think it’s corked, and then it doesn’t seem so corked, and then it does, and there you go, it’s somewhere in between. Now, this is theoretically impossible: it’s either corked or it ain’t. But this one seems to be neither or both, I’m not sure how to call it. So here’s what I decide: it’s a beautiful day; the wine is cold. Let’s just drink it faster and enjoy it as much as we can. And we do.

Owen/Cox Dance Group

Okay, let’s start with the premise that I have no free time. NO FREAKING FREE TIME, whatsoever. So, when I take the time to go to a dance performance (and this is coming from a former modern dancer, however brief was my career) and I don’t know anything about any of the dancers, no reviews, nothing, well, something’s up.

What’s up? Brad Cox, one of Kansas City’s greatest assets, one of the more exciting young musicians in the da U. S. of A. (imho) is married to the woman who is dancing and choreographing, and Brad is playing, along with some of the most brilliant musicians I am lucky enough to know, and yeah I’m there. Okay?

But two nights in a row? Yeah, I did that. I saw the Owen/Cox Dance Group on Thursday night — dragging my wife, who is dragging her ass, she’s the mother of two teenagers, works and is grad school and, hell, she’s married to ME for chrissakes, so like she’s already done for the day, and I drag her out to this show.

The next night I bring my mom and my eldest daughter, just so someone can sit there next to me as I grin from ear to ear or nearly start sobbing midway through various dances.

Jennifer Owen has some wonderful things to show us. For one, she’s a wonderful dancer, as are many in her troupe of nine. For another, she is an inspired choreographer, at least at times, and every time she is at least intelligent and imaginative. How many dances have you seen that make you laugh? In a good way.

Brad and some of the brilliant musicians he is fortunate enough to assemble have offered me, without question, some of the most engaging musical moments I have experienced in the last decade.

And, at the risk of seeming to ignore other moments, there are two dances back to back to I must regard as simply diabolical. The first is terrifying: “When Jesus Wept”, a rather typical Brad Cox haunt comprised of two songs intertwined, threads woven together like the rope that forms the device of “Strange Fruit”, the heart-stopping Billie Holliday tale of torture and lynching.

Brad, as I said, has great musicians in tow. Nathan Granner and Valery Price handle “When Jesus Wept” with heart and soul. When Krystle Warren adds her warm, almost other-worldly voice to Strange Fruit in the midst of it all, and as Jerome Stigler demonstrates suffering and death, I defy any person with eyes and ears to save their own heart from bursting.

“When Jesus Wept” is followed by a solo, Jennifer dancing to another song with gospel roots, The River is Wide, and it seems that the song and dance will act to heal the wound exposed by the trauma preceding it. No such.

The song’s opening affirmation of love winds to its inevitable loss, the song and lights fading as love dies away. No solace here but plenty of truth. If art can rip away the curtains by which the quotidian hides reality, then these two dances are still changing the way I look around me days later.

Btw, to those annoying snobs who somehow believe that I’m speaking from a relative position, that is to say, that I’m saying these musicians are exciting for Kansas City, I’d look forward to a brief conversation about what is good and great around the world. I travel a lot and I see a lot of music and dance. This is the real shit, people.

Count yourselves unlucky to live elsewhere.

May 28, 2005

Brad Cox is a fantastic pianist and composer who lives at present in Kansas City and we are the richer for it. An afternoon concert for the Memorial Day weekend and Brad has assembled one of his large scale bands, tenor sax, baritone sax, flautist (also piccolo), drummer, stand-up bass, a gifted accordionist who plays with a band here called Tango Lorca, and three singers.

Part of the afternoon is given to re-tooled gospel tunes. As usual with Brad, there are songs I should recognize but can’t. He twists a Zeppelin tune into a signature changing nightmare. Or dream.

Brecht and Weill’s Alabama Song is delightfully recognizable. The three singers trade the verses about; it’s wonderful and silly. Since the theme of the show is war, they do a version of Randy Newman’s Let’s Drop the Big One Now.