Monday, October 11, 2010

Block Party

I’d never seen her before and I wasn’t sure why. Maybe she goes out to hear jazz all the time and I just never noticed her. Or maybe she was a tourist, in town visiting. Either way, she probably heard about what was going on, and convinced her boyfriend or husband or brother or whoever was with her to bring her down there, that night, to see and hear for herself.

The twenty-something girl caught my eye because she was swaying to the music, smiling broadly, so obviously having fun, taking in the surroundings, the musicians, the music, all night. She was still there when I left around 4 a.m. 

It begins like that, with one person. You win over one person and then she tells a friend about her fantastic night/morning at the jam session, downstairs at the Mutual Musicians Foundation that Friday night (September 24/25), then that friend tells someone else, and word spreads.

That’s what The Sound has started.

Mutual Musicians Foundation downstairs jam, September 25, 2010, around 2 a.m. She's standing on the left.

I’ve made no secret of my enthusiasm for the astounding young talent dominating Kansas City jazz today. And now some of those young musicians are pushing a step further by incubating a new organization to reach out into and connect with the community.

Their initial effort is spearheading those you-have-to-be-there-and-experience-it-to-really-understand fresh Friday night jam sessions at the Foundation, which I raved about here, and which entranced that girl that Friday night. There, they’ve reignited tradition, melding Kansas City’s past with 21st century technology (webcasting). It’s never been possible to walk into the Foundation’s downstairs room without feeling the history. Now, early on a Saturday morning, it’s not possible to walk out without having been struck by the room’s energy and vibrancy. Ask that girl.

And that’s only their start.

They’ve dubbed themselves The Sound (a web site with updates is here). A fledgling partnership of civic-minded musicians, their long-term plans are to touch the city through educational and cultural programs. Wisely, they’re approaching those goals one realistic step at a time, building out from our richest, most internationally renowned and most historic cultural vein. They recognize this city’s exquisite heritage and that there is no more deserving place to begin.

The next step is participation in a block party on October 22nd. Highland Street, where the Mutual Musicians Foundation sits, will be closed between 18th and 19th Streets from 8 p.m. to midnight. A stage will be set up outdoors, next to the Foundation, for music and dance. Artists and businesses can arrange to bring in info, art and wares, from paintings and drawings to jewelry to cigars to CDs, though it’s BYOTCL&EC (Bring Your Own Tables, Chairs, Lights and Extension Cords).

There’s no vendor charge. This is planned as an informal, New York-style block party, intended to continue a post-Rhythm and Ribs Festival/pre-winter jazz district and arts focus. And, of course, at 1 a.m., jam sessions start inside the Foundation. Everybody in the world is invited to come. If it rains, only the jam sessions go on.

Contact information for the block party is on a Facebook page here.

Isn’t this a small next step? Sure it is. Is this really a building block to something more grand? You’ll know it is when you know the people involved. Then you’ll recognize ability and ambition supported by a broad circle of friends that you do not underestimate.

Over the years, I’ve seen enthusiasm birth numerous arts not-for-profits, some of which thrive, others of which end when the creative forces behind them dissipate. I’ve been a part of my share of them. I’m not a part of The Sound, but I am an unabashed fan of the musicians behind it. And I see ideas that are controlled and obtanable being taken in measured steps. Smarts power this group. Here are some extraordinarily talented people building towards greater community involvement, young musicians ready to fly beyond the stage while bringing the bandstand with them.

Check out the block party on the 22nd and the downstairs Foundation jam any Friday night/Saturday morning. And keep your eye on The Sound. My bet is we’re seeing the start of something remarkable.

I bet that girl would agree.

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