The most sensational scandal in the modern Kansas City Jazz history is unfolding before our eyes…
If you thought jazz was dead in this town, think again. Granted, lip service from the usual suspects and the undying passion of ardent aficiondos aside, jazz isn’t exactly a popular art form these days.
Far from it.
Don’t get me wrong though. There’s a ton of quality live jazz around town spearheaded by artists like Mark Lowrey, Brandon Draper, Megan Birdsall, Danny Embrey, Lonnie McFadden, Shay Estes, Hermon Mehari and Mark Southerland. It just doesn’t get much media attention, and outside of venues like the Folly, Mutual Musicians Foundation and Jardine’s, not a lot of foot traffic.
Speaking of foot traffic…
A pair of former Jardine’s servers and a handful of their friends layed down a small town news style photo op for Fox 4 tonight around 7:30 p.m. The servers and scab friends picketed Jardine’s for Channel 4’s 9 and 10 p.m. news. Is it actually that easy to get on local television news these days?
I thought you had to be murdered or die in a fire or car crash.
Face it though, outside of Channel 4’s shooting jazz fish in a barrel tonight, most red-blooded, Chiefs-loving Kansas Citians look at jazz as little more than dinner music or something their grandparents allegedly got off on.
Even when TV news dresses it up with a super scarey, alleged arm scratch from a 98 pound woman.
That aside, when Plaza jazz joint Jardine’s went dark two weeks back, some local TV new departments went tabloid with “reports” of wholesale staff firings and other unthinkable transgressions. Hardly the stuff of the Penn State or Syracuse malfeasances on the tawdry scale, but slow news weeks are news weeks too.
Credible news operations like the Star and local jazz blog Plastic Sax took the high road, while Fox, lead the TV news charge, throwing everything but Charlie Parker’s plastic sax at Jardine’s, while failing to get the club’s side of the story.
The bottom line: however many generations later, Kansas City jazz is the talk of the town once again.
The rumors and TV coverage helped spark a boycott by some leading musicians in KC’s jazz community.
“Almost the entire jazz community has quit – they will not work for me," Raja says. "This is a joke – it’s stupid…They just destroyed their meal tickets. The entire jazz community quit on me, because why? Because I fired two employees and the others left?”
Yet despite the alleged efforts of a certain sax-blowing parent of one Jardine’s servers, Raja continues to be open and book acts, including guitarist Jerry Hahn and crooner David Basse this week. And she says she’s willing to bury the hatchet with the bands that betrayed her and hope for better days ahead..
As for the club’s future, “It’s my game now, it’s my club,” Raja says. “I’m not worried about it, I’ll do my job. I have shed all my tears. And for every tear that I’ve shed, I will make it better for myself and my new team. I’m not going to be a blues club. I’m not going to be a country club. I’m going to be the best jazz club in the world.”