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  • Writer's pictureJAM


Happy Hour at Upcycle Piano Craft 3945 Main Street, KCMO

As I walk in late, to Upcycle Piano Craft’s monthly jazz event, I feel at home immediately. Thirty-some jazz folks sit around casually, on piano benches and chairs, moving their bodies to the irresistible rhythm of Paganova. led by the prolific pianist, composer, and arranger Mike Pagan, Paganova includes Mike’s son Louie on bass, Ray DeMarchi on drums, and saxophonists Brett Jackson and Mike Herrera.

“It’s impressive Pagan has the professionalism and charisma to get these guys to hang with him.” remarks Steve Wilson, co-owner of the venue, pointing out that saxophonist Mike Herrera is also important to this group.

It is an evening of profound original works written by the hip-looking ponytailed Pagan. And for those who think they only like jazz standards, these beautiful numbers have the absolute feel of standards.

Blue Park is a Kansas-City-hard-driving number that at first show-cases Herrera and Jackson improvising together fluidly. Eventually DeMarchi takes over letting his pounding drums roll; then suddenly he leaves a lot of silent space here and there; and then just as suddenly he very quietly taps out a pattern for what seems like several minutes as the audience hangs on every tip-tap and loudly applauds as he ends his solo, swinging back into the melody.

“Michael Pagan, has turned this place into a concert hall tonight,” said Jazz Ambassador President David Basse, “the rapt crowd is thoroughly enjoying the show.”

Next Pagan calls for Bahaii. This is not a Pagan original but a tune by saxophonist, John Klemmer and it features Jackson on tenor sax, and Louie, hair in a man bun, effortlessly fingering his five-string electric bass, which allows for a more melodic approach.

Pagan returns to an original with Prelude in Fusion, reminiscent of Chick Corea’s Light as a Feather, kicked off by the reed virtuoso Herrera on soprano sax. He’s joined by Jackson on tenor who plays low notes sounding almost like a baritone (which he often plays). Then Louie steps in for another strong solo. Pagan comes in with piano power followed by DeMarchi. Near the end Herrera and Jackson come back in together just before Pagan pounces on the appropriate keys while jumping up from the bench to bring the composition to an abrupt and powerful end.

“When I wrote this next song, Napoli” Pagan says, “I was teaching music theory and decided to use Neopolitan chording.”

This final creative composition again has a Latin-groove but this time with a strong Italian influence that sounds like a joyful festival song. Jackson takes the first solo and then Louie joins on bass. They are all obviously energized as they jauntily play their parts.

A high-powered energy ruled the evening. All the while Pagan was literally bouncing on the piano bench, sometimes actually standing up or rising off the bench to assist the high-powered energy of the five artists giving it their all, ending in a rollicking culmination of joy and excitement.

Paganova recently completed its first full length studio recording which will be available later in 2023.

Happy Hour at Upcycle Piano Craft 3945 Main Street, KCMO happens the first Tuesday of each month from 4:30 to 7:30 pm. You can hear beautiful live music, enjoy refreshments, mingle with musicians & fine instruments, all compliments of the owners.

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