Kansas City, say thank you for jazz…
The Chiefs may suck, Royals disappoint, politicians irritate, the economy drags us down— but then there’s jazz. Seven nights a week, fifty-two weeks a year, our town boasts a fine line-up of musicians and the dedicated (and daft) club owners who keep the lights on, booze flowing and stages lit.
I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful for that.
Jazz makes our town special. It’s what KC contributed to world culture, where we left our mark, what we’ll be remembered (and celebrated) for long after the Plaza becomes an outlet mall. That tradition remains vibrant today thanks to the valiant efforts of the folks who run the Blue Room, Jardine’s, the Phoenix, the Majestic, Chaz on the Plaza, the Drum Room, 1911 Main and their suburban cousins, West Chase Grille, Gaslight Grill, and Take Five.
I try to check out the jazz scene wherever I travel and I can assure you– outside NYC and maybe LA, there’s no place with more jazz to offer, week in and week out. Chicago has maybe four clubs, St Louis a couple. I don’t know DC, Boston or Philly, but I’ll bet little ole Cowtown more than competes. Do it on a per capita basis, and KC’s live jazz scene is awesome.
Look around this weekend and you’ll see what I mean.
Friday night, you can catch vocalist Megan Birdsall and Mark Lowery at Jardine’s; Rich Hill, Bram Wijnands and world class guitarist Rod Fleeman at the Majestic; Stan Kessler and Joe Cartwright at Take Five (151st and Nall); the vivacious Monique Danielle at the Drum Room; trombonist Dave Scott at the Blue Room; entertainer extraordinaire Lonnie McFadden at the Phoenix; Max Groove at Chaz and the ubiquitous Alice Jenkins at Cafe Trio. Saturday night Ida McBeth holds court at Beena’s place, Kerry Strayer joins the aforementioned Professor Cartwright at West Chase, the Sons of Brasil make things mellow at 1911 Main, Tim Whitmer mans the 88s at the Phoenix, Charles Williams continues his streak at Skies at the Hyatt Regency and they jam all night at the Mutual Musicians Foundation. Sunday belongs to the Wild Women at Jazz at Jardine’s, which follows its weekend hat trick with Karrin Allyson in town for shows Monday and Tuesday.
Great young players keep the flow of talent moving and grooving. A big holiday thank you to Bobby Watson and the UMKC jazz program, along with half a dozen other ed outlets, for instilling in these up and comers the KC heart and soul of Andy Kirk, Mary Lou Williams, Jay McShann, Basie, Parker, Pres, Joe Turner, and all of the warped but wonderful legends who wrote KC’s chapters in music history.
In all this Happy Thanksgiving, there’s a note of sorrow, too. Stephanie Laws and Trio ends their long running gig at Benton’s in Crown Center– that room goes away after this weekend. But, per above, there’s alot of jazz to be thankful for. We’ll miss Ms Laws in that lovely venue, but look forward to lots of great music every place else.
Thanks, Kansas City jazz, for that.