There’s good news and bad news concerning the state of jazz in Kansas City today….
Mostly bad, actually, but let’s start with what passes for the good. Asked on KCUR FM this week to characterize the state of "modern jazz" here, piano man Mark Lowrey was upbeat…if measured.
"It’s kind of like if a tree falls in a forest kind of deal," the former pizza delivery dude said. "There’s a lot of output but not a lot of support."
As evidenced by the recent closings of both Jardine’s and 1911 Main and the financial woes at the Mutual Musicians Foundation.
In Jardine’s case there’s obviously more to the story, but clearly times have been tough on local jazz. For example Jardine’s owner says she had instituted an across-the-board pay cut last fall for the musicians that performed there – with the lone exception of Stan Kessler‘s band the Sons of Brasil.
Ironically, Kesssler was the one who reportedly called the band boycott of Jardine’s after the owner called the police on his stepson.
Hey, at least things have been colorful.
Meanwhile, Theater League honcho Mark Edelman has been casting about, looking for a full time home for his two year-old syndicated jazz radio show, the 12th Street Jump.
The hour-long program started at the Mutual Musicians Foundation as the 12 O’Clock Jump until a falling out with management over the rent sparked a move to the Downtown Marriott. Hence the name change.
That ground to a halt early last fall owing to the hotel’s remodeling.
A deal fell through to move the live show (which airs Saturdays at midnight on KCUR) to Jardine’s, so Edelman struck a deal with 1911 Main downtown. However that ground to a halt when 1911 closed at year’s end.
Edelman’s show originates now in a studio until a new home can be found.
"We’re looking for another venue," he says. "But I don’t want to jump into something – it’s got to be something that will last.
"The show’s now on eight radio stations around the country and we continue to do it every week. But we’re focussed on the broadcast of it not the live show. That’s the most important thing. I mean, we love playing to a live audience, but the rooms we played hold 60 people, and on the radio we’re playing to a live audience of 2,500 to 3,000 people.
"We call it the 12th Street bump because when you look at the local ratings on KCUR there’s a bump. We think that 300 to 400 people are listening to it here."
In a perfect world, where would Edelman originate the show from?
"You know what would have been a great room is that room that closed at 15th and Walnut. I think it closed. I saw Howard Iceberg there and the Pitch did live concerts in there."
But back to the state of KC jazz…
Owing to Kessler’s band boycott, KC transplant Julia Othmer had to cancel her sold out shows at Jardine’s over the holidays. However Othmer’s about to make good late next month at Nica’s 320, at 320 Southwest Boulevard on Wednesday February 22 and Saturday February 25th.
Could Nica’s become the future home of the 12th Street Jump?