Monday, September 28, 2015

All the Pieces

The difference in body language caught my attention first.

I sat in a meeting early this summer, in a conference room near 18th and Vine, that included several staff members from the American Jazz Museum. I noticed the way one sat angled in his chair, the edge in a voice when one spoke, the wayward gaze of another. We’ve all sat through gatherings on a bad day. This was different. There was an overarching sense of disgruntlement and defiance, not with the topic at hand but with something else.

Two months later, 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. The body language had changed.

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.

That’s especially important following last week’s announcement at the Negro Leagues Museum. 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. From Mayor Sly James’s website (here):
The Academy and park improvements will be developed in two phases:
•  Phase I includes two full-size baseball fields, including one with permanent and portable bleachers for tournament play; two youth baseball-softball fields; a half-mile walking trail with views of the baseball and softball diamonds; relocated basketball courts; relocated and renovated tennis courts, and a new playground near the community center.

•  Phase II includes the indoor training facility with a turf infield, batting cages, pitching mounds, restrooms and concession facilities for the diamonds; a Great Lawn that will serve as a front yard for the Academy and as a shared event space, and additional parking.
Here’s the layout, with the museums highlighted in yellow (clicking on the image should open a larger view):

Phase 1 is scheduled to be completed in a year. Fundraising continues for phase 2 with the hopes that the training facility will be standing a year later.

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.

But this district faces special challenges. I’ve quoted often from a 1979 study commissioned by the Black Economic Union and funded by the Ford Foundation which said, in part, that even then people feared coming into the area. The city needs to address an image ingrained for decades and underscored just this past Sunday when, at 2:40 a.m., four people were shot at 18th and Highland, one seriously (news reports here and here). These incidents must end. This isn’t The Plaza where stories of woebegone youth surprise. This is what too many people anticipate here, so they don’t come. The five o’clock news cannot open with reports from the district of “an uptick in crime” and a resident saying, “This is a horrible street to live on” while you ask parents to send their kids to play baseball in the neighborhood park.

Because the possibilities here are incredible.

If the city can stymie the stories of violence, the coming of the beloved and Snow White-sweet Royals, with Major League Baseball, can bestow the district with equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. They can draw a new audience. Will it be a large enough crowd to entice new restaurants and shops? That’s the hope.

I suspect Mayor James has been pushing for East Crossroads development incentives in part because this revitalization is coming. That’s another element necessary to begin to dispel languishing fears: the district needs a not-so-scary-to-nonurbanites connection to the rest of the city.

I’m aware of two clubs which at least sometimes book jazz being courted to East Crossroads. Could this city, in a few years, boast of Green Lady Lounge accompanied by some new jazz cohorts jamming in an area that leads to an 18th and Vine district with The Blue Room, the Mutual Musicians Foundation broadcasting its new radio station and a Major League Baseball facility training future major leaguers? Many discussions are preliminary. Money needs to be raised. So much could yet fall elsewhere or simply fall apart. But today, all of the critical pieces are dangling for that vision to be a possibility.

The vision. I spoke with Ralph Reid just two weeks after he took over leadership of the American Jazz Museum. He was uncomfortable attaching the word vision to his ideas and plans. Yet, Reid’s Sprint experience in community outreach and his time spent on the boards of other major not-for-profit organizations brings the experience and vision needed at the jazz museum during a time of district transitions. He’s another critical piece.

A few weeks ago, on KCPT’s Kansas City Week in Review, I watched as the panelists speculated on whether Ralph Reid might consider staying on at the museum past his designated interim role. I thought, I know the answer to that. I asked him that question earlier in the week. And the answer is…

…in the next issue of Jam, available around town starting later this week.

(I can be such a tease.)

Monday, September 21, 2015

No Post, Off Jammin'

Every other month, one of my weekends is now filled with completing the next issue of Jam magazine. That weekend was this one. So after two nights that ran way too late for someone of my age (I could stay up this late easily in my twenties and thirties, and I did), I sit here too spent to write or edit or otherwise inspire on this week’s blog. Look for a new post next week.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Want to Buy a Jazz Club?

An ad has been prepared for Craigslist that begins with this:

“Kansas City bar and restaurant for sale. Great design and ambiance. Located in 100-year old historic building where jazz great Charlie Parker once played.”

Broadway Kansas City, which opened two years ago as The Broadway Jazz Club, is for sale. Owner Jim Pollock plans to keep the club operating for at least another two to three months with a reduced schedule, including the New Jazz Order Big Band on Tuesday nights, shows on Fridays and maybe a few other nights each month. The menu will shift to cold plates exclusively.

How did it come to this? Pollock prepared a timeline history of the beleaguered club. Here it is.

The Life and Times of The Broadway Jazz Club

Honoring Charlie
May 2013 – My nephew, Neil Pollock, calls from Kansas City to see if my wife and I would be interested in becoming minor partners in a jazz club which would feature Cajun food and Kansas City jazz, both favorites of my deceased brother, Charlie. We encourage the idea.

The Pitch
June 2013 – Neil arrives in Washington, DC and presents a prospectus and business plan for a club named Jardine’s.  Other partners in the venture include a former manager of Jardine’s and friend of Neil’s with food service background.  Our CPA reviews the figures and deems them reasonable. We agree to become 30% investors.

Opening Pains
July - November 2013 – The Jardine’s name is under proprietary ownership, so we must register a new name, The Broadway Jazz Club.  Design modifications and decor at 3601 Broadway suffer delays and false starts as one contractor or another botch the job. Instead of opening in August, renovations continue until the end of November and require more money than initially forecast.

The Dew is Off the Rose
December 2013 – The club’s opening week is quite successful – as it should be given the thousands spent on a publicist – but staff bickering seems to set in immediately and New Year’s Eve unmasks the fact that the kitchen and wait staff have not had an appropriate shake-down period. Things have not improved by Valentine’s Day.

Uncle, Can You Spare a Dollar
From the beginning, it was obvious that estimates of operating costs had been low. A myriad of state and local assessments, taxes, utilities and fees had either not been foreseen because of lack of due diligence, the fact that no records existed from the previous tenant, or just plain oversight. The minority partners soon became the only source of additional funds. Our ownership percentage began to grow monthly.

Inventory Uncontrol
In addition to spiraling infrastructure and overhead costs, inventory costs for food and alcohol were out of control. The bar followed no regimen, internal controls did not exist, there was no manual of operation for staff members or management. But two or three groups of very capable musicians were paid each night, the music was good, and there was a party going on.

Shareholders Report
May 2014 – My wife and I came out to Kansas City to assess the situation. Even without prior business experience, we could identify glaring faults in operations, highlighted by the fact that a daily accounts ledger had never been kept. If it had been, the confusion that marked management level considerations between what were club funds and what were personal expenses, at least, would have been recorded.

Baptism by Fire
June 2014 – The club’s general manager refusal to respond to a lengthy report and set of recommendations generated by our May visit led to his release. Margaret and I came to Kansas City to support our nephew in running the club. Little did we know it would be a four month stay, resulting in our learning more about supper club management than we ever wanted to know, becoming majority owners of The Broadway Jazz Club, falling in love with the music and its performers, uncovering an embezzlement scheme perpetrated by our payroll company, trying to enforce internal controls and bring inventory and revenue in line, and taking remedial steps to train and realign staff in an effort to shore up a dwindling clientele base.

Better to Sell
October 2014 – Believing we had righted the ship, we returned to Washington, DC.  Things at the club deteriorated rapidly and by November we were back, this time for six months. The idea was to sell the club and transition to new owners as 2015 opened. Consultants convinced us, however, that one cannot sell a club that is closed. So we invested yet more money to keep it open, turn over the staff, do new training and present a fresh, vibrant look to the Kansas City jazz audience in 2015. Despite these efforts, and the accommodating cooperation of our landlord, the catch-22 problems of the supper club model lingered on: Restaurants and bars make their money on customer turnover while jazz club patrons come to sip, nibble and listen for the entire evening. Without generating income, the club cannot adequately compensate its talent, so it begins to cut corners, hiring trios instead of quintets. In a city where good jazz musicians play at several venues nightly, a particular musician’s draw is affected by the number of nights he or she performs each week.

Let’s Try a New Model
June 2015 – From the beginning our business plan and liquor license were predicated on supporting our entertainment costs either through the sale of food or by charging a cover (or by a combination of the two). After a year and a half of tweaking the model, we decided to try a new model, seeking to cover entertainment costs through bar sales, re-branding the club accordingly and appealing to a different demographic as a result.

And the Conclusion Is?
August 2015 – The Broadway is still for sale, and several entities continue to consider purchase. In some cases, those interested will remodel the premises and begin a different business. Other interests will keep the location identified with the Kansas City music scene. From our perspective, we would like to see the locale continue to be associated with the marvelous musical traditions and local performers we have come to know in Kansas City. There are other permutations and combinations that might even keep us associated with the club, of which we are now the sole owners.

Pianist Max Groove is among those interested in the venue. His vision: An urban club open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. with a refreshed menu.

You will not meet a nicer or more generous couple than Jim and Margaret Pollock. Jim says he is striving to keep the club “a supporter of Kansas City music” and to see the location contribute to “the development of midtown as an arts and entertainment district.” But he concedes that “the club has never made money. It will be a bargain basement sale.”

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Week Off From Blogging...But There's a Jazz Festival

I’m taking a break from the blog this week.

But before I do, a reminder: Saturday is the 2015 Prairie Village Jazz Festival at Harmon Park, 7700 Mission Road (next to Shawnee Mission East High School and Prairie Village City Hall). It opens at 2:30 p.m. (not 2:00 like all of the signs I’ve seen mistakenly state) with the SM East Blue Knights followed by the Peter Schlamb Quartet at 3:20. Tyrone Clark and True Dig with Lisa Henry at 4:30, Horacescope at 5:40, Matt Kane and the Kansas City Generations Sextet at 6:50, and Angela Hagenbach at 8:00. The evening concludes by pairing the McFadden Brothers with The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra at 9:15 in a show that promises oodles of fun. Actually, the entire day ought to be oodling fun. The forecast looks ideal. Just five bucks gets you in. See you there.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Building the 2015 Prairie Village Jazz Festival

I failed. So I decided let’s just have a whole bunch of fun.

Last year’s Prairie Village Jazz Festival wasn’t perfect. The audience thinned during Joe Lovano’s extended set of Charlie Parker selections (which is a poke at the audience, not at Lovano). Sound glitches during Deborah Brown’s superb performance were an embarrassment. That ratty trailer promoting Ikea was more in the way than a benefit to anyone. While we can do little about a departing crowd, this year those other deficiencies are acknowledged and addressed (with more speakers and Ikea nowhere in sight).

But the occasional botch aside, last year’s festival succeeded on a multitude of levels. Deborah Brown with Joe Lovano and Terell Stafford was artistically unsurpassed. Kevin Mahogany gave a lesson on how to capture a Kansas City crowd. Without exception, local acts stood out. And while the first time $5 cover charge dinged attendance a smidge, it also pushed the festival into its first meaningful profit.

Add that profit to budgeted city support, and this January the festival came into the new year with more available cash than it had ever banked before. Not enough to challenge bigger and more established jazz fests around the country, certainly, but enough to sparkle stars in my eyes when considering who to book into the 2015 Prairie Village Jazz Festival.

This festival looks for every act to bring a Kansas City connection. That doesn’t mean performers without KC ties are forbidden. Look at Lovano and Stafford last year, or Jon Faddis with Bobby Watson’s big band the year before. It means a little creativity is required to broaden the scope.

My brainstorm this year: Book The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra (KCJO) and see who we could entice to join them on the festival stage.

Booking a big band brings greater expenses than you might initially imagine. It’s not just more musicians to correctly pay, but it means investing in a bigger and substantially more expensive stage. After the festival’s second year was rained out with microburstian torrents, the event went to a smaller, more nimble stage. That was fine for groups we showcased until we needed to shoehorn Bobby’s big band onto the platform. If we were going to present a big band this year, a return to the larger stage was a necessary production investment.

Then, it turns out, finding a known jazz name who will give up the security of his or her regular touring ensemble for a night with an orchestra at a price Prairie Village, Kansas can afford is a challenge. It’s a challenge that, at least this year, we were unable to conquer. Those eye sparkles started to dim. The brainstorm was becoming a brain fart.

That is, until I realized what every KC jazz fan already knows: We have all the talent in Kansas City to put together a show that can be the envy of any jazz festival.

A festival wants to showcase something unique, a headliner you’re unlikely to see elsewhere. So consider just how unlikely it would be for KCJO – unarguably one of any city’s premier orchestra of musicians performing jazz – to set up a wood floor for tap dancers in the Kauffman Center.

What’s wrong with just having a bundle of fun?

That’s exactly what the McFadden Brothers with The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra promises to bring to that big outdoor stage. I couldn’t be more excited with where this show has wound up. The eye sparkles have returned.

Angela Hagenbach precedes Lonnie and Ronnie McFadden and the Clint Ashlock-led orchestra with a stellar quintet. And Matt Kane returns to town with his Kansas City Generations Sextet, comprised of some of the cream of KC’s young generation jazz crop. Add Tyrone Clark’s True Dig (with Lisa Henry on vocals), Stan Kessler’s Horacescope, the return of Peter Schlamb’s quartet that once played Take Five the last Friday of each month, and the festival’s next door neighbor, the Shawnee Mission East Blue Knights, and we have built an afternoon and night of outstanding jazz.

The festival is September 12th at Harmon Park, 7700 Mission Road, in Prairie Village. It starts at 2:30 p.m. and runs until 10:30. Anyone 18 years or younger is admitted free. Older than 18 and this year will again cost you a measly $5 to get in. That’s so – assuming the weather cooperates – next year’s festival booker again can dream.

Here’s the complete schedule:
2:30 – 3:00 p.m.    Shawnee Mission East Blue Knights
3:20 – 4:10 p.m.    Peter Schlamb Quartet                           
Peter Schlamb, vibraphone, Hermon Mehari, trumpet, Karl McComas-Reichl, bass, John Kizilarmut, drums
4:30 – 5:20 p.m.    Tyrone Clark and True Dig           
Tyrone Clark, bass, Lisa Henry, vocals, Charles Williams, piano, Charles Gatschet, guitar, Michael Warren, drums
5:40 – 6:30 p.m.    Horacescope         
Stan Kessler, trumpet, David Chael, saxophone, Roger Wilder, piano, James Albright, bass, Sam Wisman, drums
6:50 – 7:40 p.m.    Matt Kane and the Kansas City Generations Sextet                     
Matt Kane, drums, Michael Shults, alto saxophone, Steve Lambert, tenor saxophone and flute, Hermon Mehari, trumpet, Andrew Ouellette, piano, Ben Leifer, bass
8:00 – 8:55 p.m.    Angela Hagenbach                  
Angela Hagenbach, vocals, Roger Wilder, piano, Danny Embrey, guitar, Zach Beeson, bass, Doug Auwarter, drums
9:15 – 10:30 p.m.    The McFadden Brothers with The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra   
Lonnie and Ronnie McFadden, tap dancers, with The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra directed by Clint Ashlock

Monday, August 24, 2015

Clay Jenkins with the Steve Lambert Quartet at The Broadway Kansas City

I was dubious again. I was wrong again.

Organizers of this year’s second Charlie Parker Celebration touted that the addition of an artist in residence, noted trumpeter Clay Jenkins, would raise the bar for this year’s event. Okay, I thought, it’s a nice touch, a little more than the festival did last year, something new to promote. But a visiting musician sitting in for a few numbers at a plethora of clubs wasn’t going to send any bars skyward.

Saturday night Clay Jenkins joined Steve Lambert’s quartet at The Broadway Kansas City (formerly The Broadway Jazz Club) for about half a set. I had a chance to both meet and hear Jenkins. He’s a genuinely nice individual and a genuinely terrific trumpeter. And when he stepped onto the stage, he wasn’t just a guest. He became an integral part of the ensemble. Here were four of Kansas City’s best young musicians – Steve Lambert on saxophone, Andrew Ouellette on piano, Ben Leifer on bass and Ryan Lee on drums – playing at their best with a nationally renowned jazz musician.

The addition of Jenkins to this year’s festival brings a cohesiveness to the Parker Celebration club shows beyond a poster and PR. Saturday night at The Broadway Kansas City, out of the corner of my eye, I may have seen a bar levitate just a bit.

Below are photos of what we saw. As always, clicking on a shot should open a larger version of it.

Clay Jenkins with the Steve Lambert Quartet. Left to right: Andrew Ouellette on piano, Steve Lambert on saxophone, Ben Leifer on bass, Clay Jenkins on trumpet, Ryan Lee on drums.

Clay Jenkins on trumpet

Steve Lambert on tenor sax

Ryan Lee and Clay Jenkins

Andrew Ouellette, Steve Lambert and Ben Leifer

Ben Leifer and Clay Jenkins

Clay Jenkins in The Broadway Jazz Club

Ben Leifer on bass

Ryan and Clay

Andrew Ouellette, Steve Lambert, Ben Leifer, Clay Jenkins

The Steve Lambert Quartet

Clay Jenkins

Monday, August 17, 2015

Five Taken

Is it coincidence that on Friday, the second to the last night of Take Five Coffee + Bar, the Jeff Harshbarger Quartet opened with Bye, Bye Blackbird and I Killed Kenny, two titles about people or beloved things going away?

A club beloved by Kansas City’s jazz community went away – for now – on Saturday night, celebrating with a jam session lasting past 1 a.m. The night started with Mark Lowrey and the La Fonda All Stars playing to some 150 well-wishers and inspiring dancing in the aisles.

But more than that, the two nights were a showcase for Kansas City jazz and proved, again, that the talent in this area in 2015 is astounding.

If you missed it, below is a sampling of how it looked. As always, clicking on a photo should open a larger version of it.

The Jeff Harshbarger Quartet on Friday night. Left to right: Roger Wilder on piano, Jeff Harshbarger on bass, Rich Wheeler on tenor sax, Brandon Draper on drums.

Jeff Harshbarger

Brandon Draper

Roger Wilder

Jeff Harshbarger and Rich Wheeler

Mark Lowrey and the La Fonda All Stars in a packed Take Five on Saturday night. Left to right on stage: Mark Lowrey on piano, Dominique Sanders on bass, Ryan Mullin on congas, John Kizilarmut on drums.

Mark Lowrey

Dancing to the La Fonda All Stars

The jam session begins with Kelley Gant

Molly Hammer joins the jam

Jeff Harshbarger, Megan Birdsall and Sam Wisman enjoy Clint Ashlock's solo

Mark Lowrey, Jeff Harshbarger, Ryan Heinlein and Sam Wisman

Michael Pagan, Gerald Spaits, Ryan Mullin and John Kizilarmut

On stage for the last two songs were Mark Lowrey on piano, Ben Leifer on bass, John Kizilarmut (not pictured ) on drums and Shay Estes and Jeff Harshbarger on vocals.

Owners Lori and Doug Chandler enjoy the last number performed in this incarnation of Take Five Coffee + Bar.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Six Years of kcjazzlark

Six years ago this past Sunday the first kcjazzlark blog was posted. I put it online to express my awe at rediscovering the amazing jazz musicians dominating Kansas City music.

Six years later, my awe has grown.

Six years later, I’m writing jazz previews and an occasional article for The Pitch and have just taken over editing Jam magazine. Both have cut into the time available to produce a blog post each week (and find time to sleep), and the blog has seen more weeks off than it used to. I expect that to continue.

But I also expect this blog to continue. Because it remains a unique forum where I can be snarky and critical (can’t do that in Jam. I have to be nice in there) or lavish praise.

And it remains a place to post photos of the amazing musicians who I listen to with awe.

This week, let’s look back at some of the older photos, from 2009 and 2010. These are some of my personal favorites.

Thank you, musicians, for the music. You make being a jazz fan in Kansas City in 2015 a genuine delight.

Bob Bowman at Jardine's in November, 2009

Zack Albetta at Jardine's in December, 2009

Logan Richardson at The Record Bar in December, 2009

Angela Hagenbach and Matt Otto at The Blue Room in January, 2010

Paul Smith and Megan Birdsall at Jardine's in January, 2010

Diverse with Matt Chalk on sax at Czar Bar in February, 2010

Shay Estes at The Blue Room in May, 2010

Bobby Watson at Jazz in the Woods in June, 2010

Curtis Lundy at Jazz in the Woods in June, 2010

Steve Lambert in The Blue Room in June, 2010

Hermon Mehari at the Mutual Musicians Foundation late night jam in August, 2010

Jeff Harshbarger at R Bar in August, 2010

The People's Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City at the Record Bar in November, 2010

Monday, August 3, 2015


Jazz is not suddenly, dreadfully dead. Start with that.

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. Adored by every jazz fan who stopped there for a night (I was going to say by virtually every jazz fan, but no qualifier is needed), Take Five is a coffee shop built around a 26-foot long stage and a superb sound system. Owners Lori and Doug Chandler offered the full breadth of this city’s jazz, from the exquisitely delivered standards of Megan Birdsall to the anything but standard People’s Liberation Big Band. National names, like Avishai Cohen, were starting to book shows there. And they were drawing crowds in Johnson County, Kansas where, before Take Five, live jazz was about as foreign as a bad note in a Bobby Watson solo.

But Take Five is closing, didn’t work, told you so, jazz is dead, accept it, c’mon, just listen to hip hop like everyone else.

Wrong conclusion.

When I spoke with Lori for a story on Take Five’s closing for The Pitch (here), she emphasized this: “The music part of it really did work.”

Building the foot traffic necessary to sustain a coffee shop while surrounded by eerily empty storefronts didn’t work. Plumbing and structural issues costing lost business and threatening closure on some of Take Five’s biggest nights didn’t work. A Starbucks inside the new sporting goods store fifty yards from Take Five’s front door didn’t work.

Take Five as a Johnson County jazz destination worked. But jazz alone couldn’t sustain the business the rest of its hours.

Take Five’s Corbin Park landlord told The Kansas City Star (here), “I believe she needed to adjust her concept and offer more food.”

So, Mr. Landlord, which part of “Coffee + Bar” don’t you understand?

Mr. Landlord also told The Star, “There is a huge amount of traffic now with Scheels open....”

Yeah, a Scheels with a Starbucks in its lobby.

He said this to The Star, too: “The restaurants in Corbin are exceeding all their expectations.”

And the restaurants around Take Five, helping build foot traffic, are...? That’s a fill in the blank question, Mr. Landlord. Because a year and a half after signing its lease, surrounding Take Five, I see blanks.

Maybe the back side of Corbin Park is destined to remain a shiny Overland Park ghost town with bad plumbing. Maybe Take Five helped make that discovery the hard way.

Because the Take Five business model is solid. Draw a crowd in the morning with coffee, eggs and quiche. Draw a different crowd at noon with salads and more substantial meals (and more quiche). Draw a jazz audience on weekend nights for drinks, dinner, dessert and jazz (and the rest of the quiche). Turn the venue three times in a day, generating fresh revenue with each turn. Ever wonder why some restaurants in Westport, which most see as a hub for drinking debauchery, are open for breakfast and Sunday brunch, too? Same business model. It works.

Rather, it works when surrounded by people and activity and not just forlorn brick veneer and glass.

That said, 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.

And it’s going out in style. Mark Lowrey and the La Fonda All Stars take that 26-foot stage on its last jazz night, August 15th. After their show, musicians are invited to stop by and jam into the night. Who knows, this might be the last life the hindquarters of Corbin Park ever sees.

Lori and Doug term the closing a “set break.”  Take Five started in Leawood in 2010 and moved to this location last year. Six years of opening early and closing late every day takes its toll. For now, they need to step back.

Kansas City’s jazz community pulls together when it loses one of its own, whether a musician or a beloved venue. We understand. Lori and Doug promise to return when they’re rested and after a meticulous site search. Guys, we understand, but we’re going to hold you to that.

Because Kansas City jazz needs Take Five, take three.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Eboni Fondren at The Broadway Kansas City

She was out of town the better part of a year in theater productions. So, one of the best statements we can make about the state of jazz in Kansas City today is this: Eboni is back.

Singer Eboni Fondren takes the stage and takes control. And when she surrounds herself with musicians the caliber of pianist Charles Williams, bassist Tyrone Clark, drummer Mike Warren and saxophonist Ian Corbett, you know you’re hearing an ensemble without a weak link within earshot.

That was the case a couple Fridays ago, on July 17th, at The Broadway Kansas City (formerly The Broadway Jazz Club). Photos are below, just in case you made the mistake of not being there. As always, clicking on a shot should open a larger version of it.

Eboni Fondren Quintet. Left to right: Charles Williams on piano, Tyrone Clark on bass, Mike Warren on drums, Eboni Fondren, vocals, Ian Corbett on saxophone.

Eboni Fondren sings

Charles Williams on keyboards

Bassist Tyrone Clark


Drummer Mike Warren

Eboni framed by Tyrone and Mike

Saxophonist Ian Corbett

Eboni at the microphone

Charles Williams and Tyrone Clark

Eboni Fondren