Monday, January 25, 2016

New Thoughts Next Week



Last week I offered nary a post as the next issue of Jam magazine came together. It should start hitting the streets later this week, featuring stories that look both back and ahead at jazz in Kansas City. This week, another writing assignment monopolized the weekend, so we’re postless again.

But recently I’ve been struck by both the continuity and change embracing jazz in Kansas City today. Let’s look at that next week.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Hootie is a Hundred

Last week was big for Kansas City jazz. A resolution directed directed the City Manager to find funding sources for $18 million in improvements – curiously up from the $7 million announced just a week and a half earlier – to the 18th and Vine District. This could include improvements to the Jazz Museum, the Mutual Musicians Foundation, the Paseo YMCA, a new district home for Friends of Alvin Ailey, a parking garage, and some suspiciously not-yet-publicly-defined demolition along Vine (an incredibly historic street as long as you don’t destroy the remaining history there).

But more on that another time, because this week is bigger. This Tuesday, January 12th, would have been Jay “Hootie” McShann’s hundredth birthday.

Another resolution passed by the City Council this past Thursday, January 7th read:

RESOLUTION NO. 160010

Declaring January 12th – 16th as Jay “Hootie” McShann Week in recognition of his 100th Birthday and his life, artistry, contributions to Jazz and lengthy career.

WHEREAS, Pianist, Composer, Bandleader, Recording Artist and Singer, James Columbus “Jay” “Hootie” McShann was born January 12, 1916, in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and died on December 7, 2006 in Kansas City at the age of 90; and

WHEREAS; McShann received several national and international awards and recognitions to include the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, Blues Hall of Fame, Rhythm and Blues Foundation, Paris All-Star Tribute to Charlie Parker, The Rolling Stones recording of "Confessin' the Blues", character in 1940’s crime-fiction novel, The Hot Kid, written by Elmore Leonard in 2005, 1991 Grammy Award Nominee for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance, and in 2003 for Goin' to Kansas City - Best Traditional Blues Album; and

WHEREAS; from the 1960’s until his passing, James Columbus McShann remained a prominent pianist, bandleader and vocalist often teaming with violinist Claude “Fiddler” Williams and vocalist Jimmy Witherspoon; and

WHEREAS; the City of Kansas City will join with the Jay McShann family (Jayne McShann-Lewis, Linda McShann-Gerber and Pamela McShann), American Jazz Museum, Historic Jazz Foundation, GEM Theater, UMKC Marr Sound Library and Elder Statesmen of Kansas City Jazz in celebrating his 100th Birthday; NOW THEREFORE;

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF KANSAS CITY:

That the Mayor and Council hereby declare the week of January 12th – 16th as Jay “Hootie” McShann Week in Kansas City; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Resolution be spread upon the Minutes of the Council in testimony thereof and that a copy hereof be presented to the family of Jay McShann in token of the Mayor, Council and citizens of Kansas City’s highest esteem with which Jay McShann is held in their hearts and minds.

(You can find a link to the resolution, pictured at the left, on the city’s website here.)

I’m not going to presume to lecture anyone who holds even a passing interest in this blog on the importance of a legend like Jay McShann. Until his death nine years ago, Jay McShann defined Kansas City jazz. Out in the world today, names like Count Basie and Charlie Parker may be more widely recognized. But nobody meant more to Kansas City jazz than Jay McShann.

This coming Saturday, his daughter invite the city to celebrate Hootie’s hundredth birthday at the Gem Theater. The evening opens with a presentation by Chuck Haddix on McShann’s history and importance to jazz. Then Joe Cartwright sets the tone for the night leading an ensemble with Gerald Spaits and Todd Strait – McShann’s regular accompanists in his later years – and a trio of vocalists performing Jay’s standards. The wonderful pianist Benny Green takes the stage in a special performance. And Bobby Watson assembles a collection of Kansas City All-Stars to salute Hootie. A new collection of McShann memorabilia will be on display in the Gem.

A reception starts about 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 16th. The music starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Resolve to be there.


Monday, January 4, 2016

The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra Rhapsodizes

The personality of The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra (KCJO) has evolved under each of its three artistic directors.

Listen to its first CD from a decade ago without anyone telling you who it is, and you could be excused if you guessed this was some of the best of the 1980s-vintage Basie band. Under artistic director and co-founder Jim Mair, the breezy swing, with classy brass and sterling solos barreling over hard-driving rhythm, showed us what the music born in Kansas City had grown up to be. And, heck, I’ll take Lisa Henry’s vocals on that CD over the Basie band’s Carmen Bradford any day.

Kerry Strayer’s time leading the band was, tragically, far too brief. While under Jim the orchestra would venture beyond classic swing, with Kerry it stretched a bit further while never ignoring its roots. I briefly served as KCJO’s business manager when Kerry took over. His plans to perform Bobby Watson’s Gates BBQ Suite in concert concerned some of the orchestra’s board members. That, they felt (without ever actually hearing the suite, but that’s another story), was not the kind of big band music this orchestra performed. Kerry and I reassured them it would be an amazing show. Of course, it was.

The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s new CD, Rhapsody, under the direction of artistic director Clint Ashlock, captures an orchestra continuing to grow. Here’s a band of extraordinary talent, many of whom have played together now for a dozen years, emphasizing fresh arrangements performed with crisp precision and a modern elegance.

A somber yet playful Prelude #2 (Blue Lullabye) opens Rhapsody. You hear an exact performance in this music. This isn’t the devil-may-care whimsy of KCJO’s first Basie-induced CD. This isn’t what the Orchestra would have recorded a decade ago.

Next is the album’s centerpiece, Clint Ashlock’s arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue. Joe Cartwright takes over the keyboards, and his piano is our guide through this 27-minute Gershwin classic. There’s an exactly-played joyousness to the ensemble sections, which contrasts with the glib looseness of Clint’s trumpet and David Chael’s alto solos. Then contrast that further with the wicked sultriness of Brad Gregory’s tenor turn. This composition is a journey of wonderful twists performed with refined, never trite, vigor by Kansas City jazz masters.

The CD is filled out with fresh arrangements of big band standards. David Aaberg’s voicing on Swinging on a Star and Brad Gregory’s take on Emily – featuring Jeff Hamer’s loose and light trombone – return the orchestra to its beginnings. We have a selection from each of the band’s two most-often heard vocalists, Kathleen Holeman on Embraceable You and Ron Guiterrez on Alfie. Two of Clint’s arrangements close the CD: Every Time We Say Goodbye, starring Mark Cohick on baritone sax, and the controlled raucousness of I Got Rhythm.

This band takes a category that was new more than eighty years ago – big band jazz – and performs it so a listener in 2015 is intrigued. They grow the music with refinement. You hear it in their Kauffman Center performances – which now regularly draw over 1000 fans to each show – and it’s documented here.

That’s how a jazz orchestra approaching its teen years can thrive.

Rhapsody is available on The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra website, here.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Snapshots of 2015

Quotes from posts this year:

*****

This is what I remember first: Saturday afternoon at The Phoenix, with Milt Abel on bass and Tommy Ruskin on drums. I can still see Milt mesmerizing the audience with his take on Big Wind Blew in From Winnetka. And then Tommy drumming on everything in sight for Caravan. What amazing fun.

2015 opened with a harsh jolt. The morning of January 1st, the Kansas City jazz community lost an anchor when drummer Tommy Ruskin passed away.

*****

Take Five Coffee + Bar is a growing a formidable base of customers, ranging from suburban high school students engaged in the music to those of us with grey hair and oversized bellies. Sure, part of the audience turns out for that night’s ensemble, but part of it just trusts the venue to book good music. And they do.

The Broadway Jazz Club is working to build the same trusting, repeat business. On weekends, this is where you’re likely to find some of the best female vocalists, a fine complement to a fine dinner.

*****

Last month, the Mutual Musician’s Foundation (MMF) won a construction permit from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to build a radio station. The call letters will be KOJH-LP. The -LP identifies it as a low power radio station. KOJH, MMF officials say, stands for Kansas City’s Oldest Jazz House.

The permit, FCC file number BNPL-20131114ARG, was granted on January 20, 2015. MMF received notification of the approval on the 26th. The permit allows 18 months, until July 20, 2016, to have the station operational.

With the possibility of eventually broadcasting jazz 24 hours a day on the air from Overland Park to Parkville, and worldwide on the Web, the Mutual Musicians Foundation has the chance to build a voice nobody else in Kansas City jazz can match or ignore.

*****

This summer, Roger Atkinson is retiring as editor of Jam.

The new editor will be me.

Jam will remain a publication that supports the Kansas City jazz scene. The criticisms and snarky comments found in this blog have no place in the magazine. But I suspect some of my personality will sneak in. Some of my photos will, too.

New leadership and a board spiked with younger members are reinvigorating the Jazz Ambassadors at a time when younger musicians are reinvigorating Kansas City’s jazz scene. It’s an exciting opportunity to assume the reins of this city’s premiere jazz forum.

*****

In September, the American Jazz Museum celebrates 18 years since its opening. For the last eight of those years, Greg Carroll has served as CEO. Last week, Carroll “resigned” from that position.

*****

Kansas City jazz took a wallop last week when Take Five Coffee + Bar announced Friday morning that it is closing on August 15th. Few in the community saw this one coming.

The closing of Take Five is a Kansas City jazz sucker punch. It hurts. This was a wonderful venue, built to showcase KC’s abundance of jazz talent and to help that talent thrive and grow the music in fresh directions. While I’ve argued that it was partly responsible for keeping Johnson Countians away from the midtown club that tried to be the next Jardine’s, Take Five mostly grew its own audience. It offered an easy and comfy style, a no grit, no-excitement-here-but-the-music ambiance that no other jazz club in the area replicated. Take Five didn’t fill a hole. It cultivated a sparkling niche.

*****

I sat down to talk with the new interim CEO of the museum for a Q and A in the next issue of Jam magazine. As I walked through the jazz museum offices, I was struck by a fresh feel of excitement, animation, a spark not present before. The difference was palpable.

That’s just one of the changes Ralph Reid is shepherding through the American Jazz Museum. Following 35 years at Sprint, retiring as Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and President of the Sprint Foundation, Reid brings unique experience and a new outlook. He’s focused on how the museum’s brand is perceived, a key to the success of any corporate behemoth or civic institution. And his words suggest a comprehensive vision, of recognizing the museum’s role in selling the complete 18th and Vine district.

*****

The museums’ back yard is about to change. In a joint venture between the Kansas City Royals, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, the country’s seventh MLB Urban Youth Academy will be built in Parade Park.

This development brings with it the potential to transform the 18th and Vine district. The district never did and never will thrive on jazz alone. In the 1930s, jazz was the soundtrack to vice. It needs a new companion.

*****

Broadway Kansas City, until earlier this year The Broadway Jazz Club, has been sold. The space will become a Scandinavian restaurant. The new owners tell The Pitch that they see their concept as a destination. Presumably, it will be a destination without live music. The sale does not include the sound system or piano.

*****

The Art Factory at 135th and Nall is dipping its toes into Friday night jazz. Louie’s Wine Dive, at 71st and Wornall, features the music in a downstairs alcove most Saturdays. You can find jazz in upscale surroundings at the American Restaurant in Crown Center and at Chaz in the Raphael Hotel on The Plaza. We have the Green Lady Lounge and The Blue Room and The Majestic and on some nights The Phoenix and the Westport Coffee House. The area hosts a couple of relatively small festivals, a Charlie Parker celebration, winter series at both The Folly and The Gem, and The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra in the Kauffman Center. Jazz education programs at UMKC and Kansas City, Kansas Community College continue to thrive. The Mutual Musicians Foundation remains open overnight every Friday and Saturday for its historic jam sessions.

The Broadway Jazz Club and Take Five were both unique circumstances and jazz in Kansas City is decidedly not dead.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Night Before a 2015 KC Jazz Christmas

’Twas the night before Christmas and all through K.C.
Jazz fans sat ’round restless with less shows to see.
Sure, we still had the Folly, the Gem Theater, too,
And Green Lady, Majestic, a Room known as Blue.
But some clubs had closed, fewer places to cheer.
And we lose RecordBar at the end of the year.
The situation’s not dire. Jazz faces no doom.
But the holidays bared just a wee bit of gloom.
Then off in the distance there arose such a clatter
I yanked off my earbuds to see what was the matter.
I ran to the window and to my eyes did appear
A miniature sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer.
On my roof it did land. My dog quickly was riled.
My phone I did grasp. Nine-one-one I might dial.
A man dropped down my chimney. I was stunned. In his hand
Was the new Christmas CD by the Count Basie band.
He dressed all in red, with a laugh jolly and quick.
He was either a madman or the elf named St. Nick.
“I mean no harm,” he did say. “Here, this album’s for you.
“It’s music that riffs on the good kind of blues.
“I heard your despair, but you need worry not.
“Not with the jazz talent this city has got.
“Eighty years next November, can you believe,
“Since from Kansas City, Count Basie did leave.
“But a culture was born and continues to live
“In this great city as musicians still give
“Of their time and their talent. To students they teach
“The wonders of jazz. Generations they reach.
“Some honor tradition, some go new directions.
“But both find an audience and make a connection.
“On Mehari! On Lambert! On Megan Birdsall!
“On Eddie Moore, Shay Estes, and all!
“Hear the B-3 played by Hazelton’s hand!
“Or hear the People’s Liberation Big Band!
“On Molly! On Eboni! On Lisa Henry!
“On Jazz Disciples! Tyrone Clark! There’s so many!
“Hear New Jazz Order each Wednesday night!
“Or to K.C. Jazz Orchestra you can delight!
“On Lowrey! On Kessler! And on Hagenbach!
“In Kansas City, all see that jazz has a lock
“On a style that was born here. And talent that grows
“Will find its new venues. This much I know.
“Clubs come and they go, but the culture remains
“And talent this great you will not contain.
“Jazz now may not thrive as in eighty years past
“But in K.C. be assured its presence will last.”
St. Nick stood in the chimney, winked once, then he rose.
He sat in his sleigh and shook soot from his clothes.
As he flew off, I sat up quick in my bed.
’Twas all but a dream. It was all in my head.
I walked to the window and stared into the night.
But all that I dreamed, I knew it was right.
I turned back to my bed and, wait, what did I see?
There on the night stand…how’d I get that new Basie CD?

Monday, December 14, 2015

The People's Liberation Big Band Ends an Era at the Record Bar

To a standing room only crowd, a seven-and-a-half year jazz era concluded on Sunday, December 6th when the People’s Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City performed their last show in this location of the Record Bar.

The Record Bar loses its lease after New Year’s Eve. But while we wait for a new location to be vetted, People’s Lib loses, for now, its home on the first Sunday of each month.

This night the band played the best known and most popular numbers in its eclectic library and recorded the show, presumably for a future CD release. It was a reminder of how its music is so wonderfully inventive. Sometimes outlandish but consistently accessible and fun, this is what an extraordinary collection of jazz talent can produce when given the freedom to explore.

If you missed it, below are glimpses at a few of the musicians on stage. As always, clicking on a photo should open a larger version of it.

The People's Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City

Leader Brad Cox taking a turn on piano

Shay Estes sings

Mark Southerland on sax

Jeff Harshbarger on bass

Multi-instrumentalist Mark Cohick

Roger Wilder on piano, clearly enjoying the music

Forrest Stewart

Mike Stover

Rich Wheeler on sax

Sam Wisman on drums

Shay Estes

When I've heard Mark Southerland before, it was on odd instruments of his own invention playing music that experimented a bit beyond what I understand and enjoy. This night he played a beautiful and powerful extended saxophone solo that won - deservedly - a standing ovation.

Brad Cox directs the People's Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City in the Record Bar

Monday, December 7, 2015

Voids

Agreed, the story is not “jazz is dead.” But in Kansas City, it’s a little bit wounded.

When talking with Jim Pollock, owner of the Broadway Jazz Club, one of his greatest concerns was that the story surrounding the club’s closing not devolve into “jazz is dead.” He knew his club’s sale would fall on the heels of the loss of Johnson County’s beloved Take Five. And he knew how easy it would be to twist the narrative of two area jazz clubs closing in relatively quick succession into the inevitable end of this music as we know it.

That’s one reason why he contributed his tale on the life and death of the Broadway Jazz Club, published in this blog in September, here. He wanted it known that the club was not well managed and did not keep a business-like rein on expenses until it was too late. Any restaurant / club, regardless of music offered, would fail under such circumstances, and many do every week.

Similarly, Take Five, ensconced in a posh suburban mall, needed more than jazz to meet posh suburban mall rents. Its concept was to thrive as a busy coffee shop by day and jazz club by weekend night. Jazz fans did their part, avidly seeking out the venue. But sufficient daylight business on the barren butt-side of Corbin Park never materialized, and only half a business plan succeeding is not a business plan succeeding.

Despite these closings, the Art Factory at 135th and Nall is dipping its toes into Friday night jazz. Louie’s Wine Dive, at 71st and Wornall, features the music in a downstairs alcove most Saturdays (but good luck finding out who’s there if you don’t follow the musician on Facebook). You can find jazz in upscale surroundings at the American Restaurant in Crown Center and at Chaz in the Raphael Hotel on The Plaza. We have the Green Lady Lounge and The Blue Room and The Majestic and on some nights The Phoenix and the Westport Coffee House. The area hosts a couple of relatively small festivals, a Charlie Parker celebration, winter series at both The Folly and The Gem, and The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra in the Kauffman Center. Jazz education programs at UMKC and Kansas City, Kansas Community College continue to thrive. The Mutual Musicians Foundation remains open overnight every Friday and Saturday for its historic jam sessions.

So The Broadway Jazz Club and Take Five were both unique circumstances and jazz in Kansas City is decidedly not dead.

But let’s not stick our heads in the jazz sand, either. We’ve lost two clubs and that (along with turnover at the top of the American Jazz Museum) ranks as one of Kansas City’s major jazz stories of 2015.

In Broadway, we lost a stage that showcased singers. Take Five featured the full gamut of Kansas City jazz. And while The Blue Room and Green Lady Lounge have attempted to plug a few of the holes, they have their own formats and their own regular performers who have made them successful. Plenty of gaps remain. For instance, I love hearing Rich Wheeler’s ensemble. As far as I know, that group hasn’t played a public gig since Take Five’s doors were sealed.

We’ve been here before. Today’s contraction doesn’t feel nearly as dire as when Jardine’s shut down. Then we lost one of the area’s jazz anchors. But soon Green Lady opened, for a while Kill Devil Club featured jazz, Take Five expanded, and Broadway tried to imitate Jardine’s.

As John Scott, owner of Green Lady Lounge and the last manager of The Broadway Jazz Club lamented as Broadway was heading towards its demise, small businesses come and small businesses go all the time. Every jazz club is a small business.

Today, Kansas City jazz is a little bit wounded. We face a void. But a void is an opportunity for a new small business to fill.

UMKC will continue to funnel sterling talent into our jazz scene. By this time next year, phase one of a new KC Royals-sponsored baseball academy should be transforming Parade Park and, assuming the city can control news of crime in the area, fresh crowds could be flowing into the 18th and Vine district. The Mutual Musicians Foundation’s new jazz radio station should be broadcasting. The Record Bar, which features jazz a couple times a month, will be settled into a fresh home.

And just maybe a new small business or two will have opened, recognizing the opportunity to fill a void.


Monday, November 30, 2015

Three CDs Reviewed Simply and Viscerally

In editing Jam, I’ve found some CD reviewers get into what I find to be the musical weeds, praising elements like “rapid fire sixteenth-note bursts.” I’ve never attended a music class in my life and I wouldn’t know a sixteenth note burst from the movie Sixteen Candles. My reaction to music is more simplistic and visceral. It generally boils down to either (a) I like it or (b) I don’t like it.

For instance, I like the Michael Pagan / Bob Bowman / Brian Steever CD, The Ottawa Sessions, recorded at Ottawa University’s Fredrikson Chapel. Starting with the joyous bounce of Lullabye of the Leaves, these musicians are engaged in a musical conversation. Pagan’s piano winds over, under and around Steever’s propelling drums on the rambunctious Hebgen Happy Hour. Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise invites you to pay attention through a more intimate but no less engaging journey. Bowman’s intricate plethora of notes delights on Owe You Blues (“intricate plethora of notes” – that’s as technical as my reviews get).

Repeatedly you’re struck by how integral each musician is to this music. Any piano trio could easily devolve into little more than the pianist’s showcase. And Pagan’s playing, consistently expressive, excels. But it is the artistry and interplay between three of today’s Kansas City jazz masters that gives this CD its exceptional voice.

The Ottawa Sessions can be found on Amazon here, on CDBaby here, and on iTunes here.

No less delightful is Ron Carlson’s new CD, Kind Folk. Carlson was nudged into the studio by Rob Scheps, who joins him on saxophone and flute. Also joining all numbers are bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Brian Steever, who are clearly not spending all of their spare time in Ottawa, and baritone saxophonist and bass clarinetist Roger Rosenberg visiting with Scheps from New York.

Carlson’s name may grace the cover of the CD, but his role here is more often that of host and glue, clearly driving the rhythm but letting the other musicians shine. On the title tune, Scheps and Rosenberg invitingly layer saxophones over and around Carlson’s compelling guitar. On the ballad First Song, Rosenberg’s bass clarinet glides beautifully, followed by Scheps’s smooth but darting flute, before both weave together with grace.

Stellar KC vocalists join three of the numbers. Angela Hagenbach romps with Scheps and Rosenberg on the exquisitely fun Bye Bye Country Boy. A Felicidade finds Scheps’s flute bouncing around Shay Estes’s Portuguese vocals. A Beautiful Friendship opens with Kathleen Holeman over Bowman’s bass before the entire ensemble swings in.

Kind Folk is available on CDBaby here.

Where the first two albums are unabashed swing, Mike Metheny’s new CD. Twelve For the Road, experiments. Our friend Plastic Sax described the sound as “electronic space music.” That fits many of the selections.

But not all. The brief For Parkville is one of the most conventional and most appealing numbers to a non-music-educated luddite like me. Carousel brings to mind a slightly off-kilter score to a Fellini film. Both feature Metheny on keyboards. He’s on keyboards on most numbers here. His flugelhorn comes out on Home, with a sound smoothly dense and welcome.

Much of this music rides the edge of jazz. I understand and appreciate an artist reaching for new directions. But sometimes electronic experimentation in music leads me to greater appreciation of the conventional. I suppose that’s just the simple and visceral in me.

Twelve For the Road is available on Amazon here, on CDBaby here and on Mike Metheny’s website here.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Kissin' Cousins

Editing Jam takes a toll. Three weeks and nary a new post.

This blog has been neither forgotten nor ignored. But as editor of Jam magazine – I still want to say new editor, but three issues in I’m not sure that holds – I’m finding that every couple of months, a few weekends need to be handed over to producing the next issue. I have neither the time nor stamina to spend a weekend writing and editing articles for the magazine while simultaneously mustering pithy thoughts here.

This week’s post is short, as I recoup from last weekend’s 4 a.m. nights. But the result is worth the effort. The December/January Jam printed last week and is being distributed around town now. It’s far from perfected, but this issue comes closer to my vision for the magazine, which celebrates 30 years of publication in 2016. Jam is developing a new voice and a fresh look. I have found that even in this digital century, holding a slick printed document remains important to many.

I share the new issue’s cover to shamelessly promote it. That’s singer Eboni Fondren decked in Royals gear and standing on the small baseball diamond adjacent to the historic Paseo YMCA at 19th and The Paseo.

Clearly, the photo is inspired by the Royals’ World Series championship. But it works in part because in Kansas City, baseball and jazz have long been kissin’ cousins. In the 1920s and ’30s, when a new style of jazz was growing up in this city, the Kansas City Monarchs dominated baseball’s Negro Leagues and were as integral to the fabric of 18th and Vine as were music and vice. The Monarchs’ office stood on 18th Street, between The Paseo and Vine. They played in Municipal Stadium at 22nd and Brooklyn.

The Negro Leagues fed the integration of baseball, and the integration of baseball is often cited as one key to the acceptance of integration in America. February will mark 96 years since the charter creating the Negro Baseball Leagues was signed at the Paseo YMCA, in 1920. I’ve long argued that the building deserves recognition as a National Historic Landmark.

Add September’s announcement on plans to build the nation’s seventh Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy in Parade Park, behind the jazz and Negro Leagues museums. If the city can find a solution to taming crime in the district, and the devastating news stories that crime generates, this development will attract a new audience to Kansas City’s historic jazz district. It further strengthens Kansas City’s historic bonds between baseball and jazz.

But while baseball season has ended for this year, jazz continues. Diana Krall performed at the Midland on Saturday night. And Friday night, she sat in with Matt Otto at The Blue Room on his last set. That’s the kind of thing that doesn’t happen just anywhere. The loss of Take Five and The Broadway Jazz Club means fewer opportunities for musicians to perform. No question, it’s a setback. But the wealth of jazz talent in Kansas City today will keep the music thriving, and will keep performers like Diana Krall getting out when they visit to sample what we have going on.

Monday, November 9, 2015

No New Post

As work in n the next issue of Jam magazine heats up – with an early close due to Thanksgiving – work on this blog takes a break. No new post this week. (But the next issue of the magazine is going to be awesome!)