Diverse

Album review: Diverse - Our Journey

If you’re looking for a Thelonious Monk reincarnate jazz style, you’ve found it in Diverse’s Our Journey.
 
Hermon Mehari’s raw trumpet, Ryan Lee’s toe-tapping drums, and Ben Leifer’s soulful bass all create a groovy, vibrant experience. This album is a serene soundscape of honest-to-roots swing jazz, while incorporating a soulful Kansas City 18th and Vine roots heritage. It’s a technical collection and in some ways experimental. Also on the album are pianist Tony Tixier (from Paris) and alto saxophonist Logan Richardson. It was recorded by Andre Charlier in Paris, mixed by Brendan McReynolds, and mastered by Mike Nolte. Our Journey is a follow up to Diverse’s first self-titled album released in 2009.
 
Take a breath and listen to this wise and prophetic classical jazz journey. It’s like walking into true legendary jazz at The Blue Room or Green Lady Lounge, a more recently opened downtown hot spot. So while you’re at home cleaning the dishes, playing with the cat and relaxing, take the dazzling ride and listen to this album. Let it take you. It begs to be seen live. Before you know it, you’ll be sitting at the back of the Foundation catching a whiff of Kansas City tradition. 
 
Because I wanted to get a sense of how the album was recorded, I asked McReynolds what direction Mehari gave him when mixing the album. According to McReynolds, his motivation was “to just mix it like it was a jazz club in Kansas City. Very intimate and very tight. It’s like walking into a place you have never been before and feeling comfortable.”
 
Whether it’s the time signature changes and beautiful technical work, or the sometimes wildly manic nature of jazz itself, each track is an imminent adventure. “Motherland” is a spirit awakening exploration. It’s a night dressed to the nines at a martini bar probably, having the time of my life, or maybe a night spent writing by the light of the moon. The final track on the album, “Rest in Peace,” offers a unique two-stick lassoing of the beat and melancholic trumpet. A funky groovy bass line bathes the soul with a warm dance to permeate the senses.
 
Our Journey is a testament to Kansas City’s rich jazz and blues culture and connects with a wide range of audiences. Choose your own journey with this album. It is a must listen.
 
--Chris Wenske
 

You can catch Diverse at The Riot Room on Thursday, September 4. Reach will be DJing the first set, followed by Diverse, and then New Orleans duo Hildegard, led by Cliff Hines. Doors open at 7:00.

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Album review: Reach - Live at recordBar

(Photo by Brian Slater)
 
It’s been a hot minute since I have come across a live album from a Kansas City local act. In all actuality, I haven’t come across many. Sure, a live track here and there, a live demo album, and so on. But a real, full-length live album? If there had to be one to listen to, it would be from local emcee Reach.
 
I have only seen Reach perform live on one occasion—last year at the Midwestern Audio Vol. 1 release show at recordBar, where this live album was recorded. During the set I saw, Reach played with jazz group Diverse backing him—something that is entirely different than hip-hop artists, who often perform with just a DJ. Reach’s Live at recordBar album is similar to his Midwestern Audio performance. Having a live jam band—Mouth—and adding three talented backup singers (Schelli Tolliver, Vance Ashworth, and Sausha Brooks) and DJ Ataxic sets Reach apart from the rest.
 
Right off the bat you are hit with the feeling that you’re actually standing in recordBar. Reach introduces his band to you, the eager showgoer, before seamlessly sliding into “Burnin,” the opening track of his just-over-an-hour performance. The 21-track, 1.2-hour-length album is quite impressive when taking into consideration the amount of energy the emcee exudes. The tempo set by the band gives no hints that the set is mellow, and Reach has a persistent energy through the duration of the album.
 
High-tuned, riffy guitar sets the mood of each song. Sometimes jazzy, sometimes urban, sometimes unbelievable drums build the backbone, while plucky and prominent bass lines fill out the body. The ambiance created is done with the work of the backup vocalists, beautifully harmonizing and occasionally soloing. Everything is stitched together with the flawless flow coming from Reach himself.
 
The sounds and content of the songs seem to take you back to the original hip-hop ethic. Selfless lyrics about trying to support his child and live life as humbly as possible fill out his repertoire. Reach writes lyrics about earning his respect, and proving that he has worked for what he has. He doesn’t get caught up discussing his swag or his game; they are occasionally mentioned, but the majority of his songs are light-hearted, with tinges of seriousness.
 
Emcee Reach’s flow is undeniable. He doesn’t miss a single beat while performing his extensive set. Slow songs, fast songs, and even a freestyle are not too much for Reach. The participation of the crowd drives the energy of the album throughout.

--Steven Ervay
 
 
 

You can catch Reach at recordBar once again on January 8, where he will host the second installment of Let The Beat Build, a collaborative, improvisational urban jam session. The opening session will include Approach, Lou Rip, Les Izmore, Brad Williams, Nate Holt, and Reach, and the following two sets will be open to the public. This is a great opportunity for artists of different styles, from emcees to poets to musicians. Facebook event page. 

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Show review: Midwestern Audio Compilation Release Party, 9.23.12

(Photo of Everyday/Everynight)

More often than not, a bill of diverse acts just doesn’t work. When you're a show promoter, you typically don't set up a group of guylined cock rockers with a charming folk duo. 

Fortunately, sometimes it runs smoothly and flows naturally. The Midwestern Audio, Vol. 1 double CD compilation from Midwest Music Foundation glides smoothly along, just as its release party did on September 23, featuring six acts featured on the compilation.
 
Gemini Revolution, opened up the night with an avant-garde, psychedelic, chilling performance. The trio returned only days before from performing POP Montreal, and left the trickling-in crowd wanting more. Dedric Moore, Delaney Moore, and Mika Tanaya are also part of the experimental and somewhat more accessible Monta At Odds, and brought an otherworldly, intergalactic vibe to their music. Whether this form of free jazz infused with electronic pop is your cup of tea or not, there was no doubt that Gemini Revolution played music on its own terms, and brought an eerie, nail-biting soundtrack to get the evening started.
 
 
While Gemini Revolution set up the scene for the evening’s festivities, the next act took it to an exhilarating apex. Reach brought a compelling performance with help from the Diverse jazz trio. Witnessing each act on its own is a spectacle of musicianship, ingenious lyrics and astounding rhythms, but the combination of the two put the audience in awe of its splendor. While Hermon Mehari supplied smooth, poignant trumpet melodies, the rhythm section added a compelling, vital component that the audience couldn’t take its eyes off of. And then there’s Reach, who has proved in his years of being an emcee in Kansas City that he has true starpower and talent, with the rare ability to keep a crowd energized while depicting real life in brilliant rhyme schemes.
 
 
The natural progression of a psychedelic trio to a jazz/rap collective to jazz/blues swing group may seem like an odd mashup, but Grand Marquis provided a refreshing backdrop to a lineup that continued to build in dynamics and potency. This five-piece group—who recently recorded a session at the historic Sun Studio in Memphis—made sure the mostly indie pop/rock audience would take notice and spring to its feet. Dressed to the nines, Grand Marquis helped transform the recordBar into a speakeasy for about 45 minutes. The group played a mix of big band standards and originals with a swinging New Orleans jazz flair. Like Diverse, Grand Marquis reminded us of the vibrant history of Kansas City music, but also showed us how the sound remains relevant today.
 
 
The last two bands of the night provided the crowd with the heaviest dose of indie pop and rock. Antennas Up highlighted the show with its signature dancey, mind-melding synth pop power. Complete with The Ryantist’s Space Invaders drum kit, the energetic four-piece took us on a stellar ride through the universe, but not in the same way as Gemini Revolution. As the night’s opener astonished the audience with its finesse of taking unstructured music and making it accessible, Antennas Up blasted the crowd into space with clear vocal harmonies and plenty of boops and beeps to keep listeners intent on their aural surroundings.
 
 
Everyday/Everynight wrapped up the evening in true form to any headlining act. Shimmering guitars, echoing vocals, and enormous atmospheric noises made the group’s music simultaneously beautiful and excitingly aggressive. Frontman Jerad Tomasino took a moment to acknowledge Midwest Music Foundation for putting together a free local compilation, which includes 41 tracks from some of the most talented musical acts in the area.
 
You can find tracks from all of these acts on the Midwestern Audio, Vol. 1 compilation. It's available for FREE at Love Garden Sounds in Lawrence and other stores around the Kansas City. Brenton Cook, who compiled the CD, will be handing out copies this Saturday at Earwaxx Records during an in-store event with featured bands Be/Non and Appropriate Grammar. It's also available for download at the Bandcamp link below.
 

--Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor-in-chief of The Deli - Kansas City. She also has a weekly column with The Kansas City Star and reviews music for Ink. She plays with Deco AutoDrew Black and Dirty Electric, and Dolls on Fire. She flosses daily. Do you?

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Photos: Plaza Art Fair, 9.21 and 9.22.12

(Above photo: Diverse)

Last weekend, hundreds gathered at the Plaza Art Fair for art, food, music, and fun. The Ink stage hosted some of Kansas City's most popular bands. See our photos below, from Todd and his budding photographer son, Ian Zimmer.

Cadillac Flambe

Photo by Ian Zimmer:

Photo by Ian Zimmer:

The Grisly Hand

Photo by Ian Zimmer:

Sons of Great Dane

Photo by Ian Zimmer:

Victor & Penny

Diverse

Not A Planet

Beautiful Bodies

All uncredited photos by Todd Zimmer. Please do not use without permission.

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