Let me start with the obvious: Last night’s Marilyn Maye Show at Jardine’s might have been the single most inspiring thing I’ve seen in my adult life.
Let’s get the “business” out of the way for all of the cynical d-bags looking to weight useless “journalistic ethics” in a blog post. Yes, KCC has an affiliation with Jardine’s; also just about everybody in Kansas City has a crush on the proprietor Beena Rajalekshimi who was turning heads in one of her amazing dresses from Hobbs last night. Kansas City is home to a vast array of contradictions and conflicts but in the end — Nothing was more important at the performance than the performance of an enduring, iconic Kansas City Jazz Legend.
Without question, the mostly silver-haired crowd was completely enthralled by Maye singing old standards from “That Old Devil Moon” to A medley dedicated to Ray Charles. It was awe inspiring to watch the crowd take part in an impromptu sing-along when Maye started into “Goody Goody” by Ella Fitzgerald.
Jardine’s provides an intimate venue for all of its performers but the rapport that Maye built with the crowd in such a short time was intense. Make no mistake, these were intense fans coming out to see her on a Friday Night but as Maye chatted back and forth with the crowd they seemed more like old friends. Additionally, my favorite part of the chatter during the set was when Maye described an old school interview given by her drummer of 47 years, Jim Eklof. She noted that the drummer’s reply to a question about how he kept pace with Maye’s elcelctic choice of tempo for her songs was simple: “He said, for the printed word now, that he just watched my ass.” This saucy bit of humor and even a few leg kicks were completely captivating coming from the 82 year-old lady who has helped to shape the current pop-culture conception of Jazz thanks in no small part to her record number of appearances on the Johnny Carson Show.
The highlight for me was simply to watch this lady enjoying her art form and performing it expertly for adoring fans. The word legend gets tossed around very lightly in this media saturated age — But without question Marilyn Maye’s appearances at Jardine’s are akin to a legend coming home.