x
the_deli_magazine

This is a preview of the new Deli charts - we are working on finalizing them by the end of 2013.


Go to the old Top 300 charts

Cancel

deli kc

Victor and Penny Harness "Electricity"

(Photos by Chandra Ramey)
 
The Kansas City Jazz Duo Creates a New Spin From Classic Chemistry
 
Can music based on vintage tastes and ideals create something new? According to Victor & Penny, something as simple as a hook, a dress, or the right recording engineer creates a viable chance. When they planned to bring a specific genre of music into the Kansas City mainstream, they made sure it was based in craft, personality, and style. Against all odds it works and chances are, you'll love it.
 
You have most likely seen or heard their brand of ragtime jazz around town at several venues as diverse as recordBar, Hotel Phillips, Kauffman Center, and The Green Lady Lounge. Sometimes they play as a duo, sometimes they incorporate a full outfit known as The Loose Change Orchestra with trombone, upright bass, and clarinet.
 
Who are Victor & Penny?
In a word, they are “unique.” They create songs out of a time that harbors authentic musicianship and charm, yet the act telegraphs progressive idealism through virtuosity, fashion and playfulness. They find a joyous sound out of some of the darkest musical standards of the classic jazz age, as if blowing soap bubbles through a flophouse opium pipe. But it's not all fun and games. The duo creates music based in an era of serious songwriting skills. Watching them create tunes on stage prompts you to applaud time and time again before the song comes to a close because it's something made with love, humor, and blood.
 
“The way we present ourselves is vital to the way the audience perceives us,” says singer and ukulele player Penny (known locally as Erin McGrane). “We want to show respect for our audience by looking sharp. That also helps to set the stage and mood for our show.”
 
Victor (known around Kansas City as Jeff Freling) continues the thought. “The music and the presentation go hand-in-hand. As we continue to refine and expand our stage presence, we present a more sophisticated show.”
 
Sophisticated is a good description for this musical favorite about town. When you walk into a Victor & Penny showcase, the duo ushers you through classic jazz standards with the energy and vigor of a revival-era tent pastor, as they are unabashed converts to the art form. It's based in an honest love for the intricacies of the style.
 
“We offer the audience more than just a concert,” McGrane says. “We offer stories and a chance to get to know us as people, which is another way to connect to the audience and enrich the experience.“
 
Which is true: they're 100-percent show business, but their connection is real and based in the classic ideals of traveling theater. They parry corny jokes, natural chemistry, and undeniable musicianship out of quick scenarios in clubs, media appearances, and even impromptu videos in their car. Their semi-formal attire contrasts with the easygoing attitude on stage as they sway and jump between old standards and new treasures.
 
So it begs the question; in a town so focused on indie rock and stylized blues, how would they make an impact by focusing on early jazz standards? It's all about the lure of the common experience. McGrane says, ”In college, I got into 1930s vocal music from groups like the Boswell Sisters and the Mills Brothers. Jeff was listening to a lot of early guitarists like Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian when we reconnected, and we found a common pool of tunes that we loved.”
 
 
Recording Electricity
Victor & Penny recorded a new album titled Electricity in August of 2015 and the finished product will soon be available here. They made the journey to Nashville's Sputnik Sound to create it with producer Mitch Dane, who made his cake working up alt-country gold with acts as varied as Woody Pines and Jack White. Even though the producer's tastes were outside Victor & Penny's specific genre, the moment they met with Mitch, they knew it was a special match due to his musical taste for the eclectic side of early Americana and his impressive collection of classic recording gear in his inspiring studio.
 
Did the experience live up to expectations? According to Freling, yes. After speaking with Dane, they immediately hit it off and the day-to-day labors allowed the trio to create something truly special.
 
“Working in Nashville was a great experience and we had the opportunity to partner with a producer to help us rearrange some older tunes and bring a fresh perspective to our music,” Freling says.
 
How did Victor & Penny begin?
According to them, it all came together in Chicago.
 
“Jeff and I met during college years when our rock bands played together in the local KC scene,” says McGrane.
 
Freling adds, “We reconnected in Chicago a few years ago. Erin was working up there as a commercial actress and I had been playing strings on stage with Blue Man Group for many years. We hadn’t seen each other in almost 15 years.”
 
 
Playing the Circuit
This kind of authentic atmosphere means the world to this turn-of-the-century jazz duo because they rely on a certain balance of classic and contemporary to create their singular stage presence. They work hard to create a personable and accessible feel that draws both new and schooled fans of jazz history into their realm.
 
“The tunes that we’re drawn to are endlessly fun to sing and to improvise over musically,” says McGrane. “For example, the melody on ‘Lazy River’ by Hoagy Carmichael is instantly recognizable and much trickier to sing and play than it sounds. It’s just beautiful. ”
 
Freling finishes the thought. “We love to do what we call sonic archaeology and dig for lesser-known songs from the early part of the last century. Our original material combines all of our personal influences to create a modern sound with a vintage vibe.”
 
So yes, it's true. A partnership born from a shared love of musical history proves something new can come from it all. The unique voice Victor & Penny creates gives music lovers in Kansas City an opportunity to participate in a true love of the artform. Experience their brand of musical joy at the Folk Alliance International Conference from Wednesday through Sunday. Check out their schedule here.
 
 
 
 
 
 
--Andrew Schiller
Andrew Schiller has been playing music and writing features for a couple of decades. To earn gear and beer money, sometimes he wakes up and travels to an office of some sort inhabited by your garden-variety marketing types.
 

 

Album review: Be/Non - "Moi Ou Toi" 7"

If you’ve been around the KC music scene for a while, there’s a good chance that, if you haven’t actually heard Be/Non, you’ve at least heard of them. The brainchild behind the band, Brodie Rush, created Be/Non over 20 years ago, and has remained the only constant member. Since then he has had many different supporting lineups, and has released several full-length albums, including A Mountain of Yeses, Esperanto at the Pantheon, Incognito, and RAN. These recordings are mostly artsy, progressive rock, with plenty of eccentric accents. While they may be interesting to certain ears, the majority of the songs are not going to appeal to the masses, which is probably just fine with Rush.
 
In 2011, Be/Non teamed up with now-defunct Earwaxx Records to record the 7” vinyl single, “Moi Ou Toi,” and the B-side, “Not Tonight.” Earwaxx folded soon after the record was pressed, and little became of the endeavor. Four years later, Haymaker Records decided to re-release the tunes on vinyl and digital formats, along with the bonus tracks “Che Che Coolie” and “Ice Fight.” I’m glad they did, as the songs deserve a second chance.
 
“Moi Ou Toi” (Me Or You), was originally featured on RAN in its demo form. It has transformed over the years to its current minimal version, consisting mainly of a drum machine from a keytar and a guitar played through a cheap Pignose amp. It’s lo-fi electro pop, yet is quite thought-provoking. The smooth, Leonard Cohen-esque vocals and driving rhythm are hypnotic. My first listen was spent nodding my head to the beat, while trying to comprehend the lyrics. “’Moi Ou Toi’ is a song about blame and liars,” Rush says. It’s erotic: “I am the piston in the shaft / I am the bullwhip smacking your ass.” It’s contradictory and almost eerie: “I am your alibi / I am the creep in the foyer.” The whispered chorus, “Moi ou toi,” adds to this. “Creeps tend to whisper,” Rush confirms. Few songs are intriguing, relaxing, and exciting at once. “Moi Ou Toi” somehow manages to be all three.
 
The flip side, “Not Tonight,” is a very different sound at first. Up-tempo acoustic guitars with an Indian influence play along to an intricate beat coming from what sounds like a cajon box drum. There is a noticeable influence from Led Zeppelin and The Beatles, both musically and through Rush’s vocal style. The lyrics, while sung in a flat, no-nonsense way, seem very melancholy under the surface. “Forgive me for taking the time to be real, but nothing can disturb you…alone, I am.” Towards the end of “Not Tonight,” an electronic beat takes over and the guitars fade away; perhaps indicating that the song’s protagonist is doing the same.
 
Rush admitted that both sides of the record are “a challenging listen.” I would agree that they will challenge the listener to think about what they are hearing, but would argue that they can be easy for fans of various genres to enjoy. Be/Non is a band that has few boundaries, and probably won’t be loved by everyone. Moi Ou Toi stays true to the band’s long history, but offers something for most.
 
 
Be/Non will be one of the featured artists at KC PsychFest and recordBar’s 10th anniversary party this weekend. They will be playing night 2 on Saturday at 9 p.m. Facebook event page.
 
--Brad Scott
 
Brad loves music, Boulevard beer, and his family. Not necessarily in that order.
 

 

Barry Lee interviews Deli KC editor Michelle Bacon (Part 2 of 3)

Listen in as KKFI 90.1 station manager Barry Lee and The Deli KC editor and all-around musician Michelle Bacon converse about growing up in Kansas City, playing music, and the current local music scene in a special three-part audio verite series.
 
Click below to hear part two of the series.
 
Here is the link to part 1. Stay tuned for the final installment tomorrow.
 
 

And if you’re interested in hearing any of Michelle’s bands, Bandcamp links are below. You might as well listen to her do something she does much better than speaking.

Free Hit Counter
 

|
|

- news for musician and music pros -

Loading...