After all, just how many jazz groups stay together for 20 years? And how many jazz bands in Kansas City can claim to have performed Brazilian jazz every week since their inception two decades ago? How many hold a twice monthly gig at a premiere jazz club? How many celebrated their anniversary June 6th at that jazz club?
Just one: Sons of Brazil.
I saw founder Stan Kessler introduced once, jokingly, as an elder statesman of KC jazz. Stan laughed (though if looks could kill, Mark Lowrey might not be here today). Yet, there’s something to that. Not an elder statesman, but a mainstay, one of this city’s hardest working jazz musicians since before I grew aware of KC jazz in the 1980s, and today Kansas City’s premiere jazz trumpeter.
Ask anyone who knows KC jazz to make a short list of our best jazz pianists and Sons of Brazil keyboard man Roger Wilder will be on it. Now make a list of best jazz guitarists, and in KC it will include Danny Embrey. Doug Auwarter is noted for educating as well as drumming, while he and percussionist Gary Helm complement each other, often as if they’re one complex instrument. All the while, bassist Greg Whitfield is providing the perfect underlying glue.
I started this blog to celebrate discovering the tremendous young jazz talent in Kansas City today. But too often that’s been at the expense of the tremendous jazz musicians who I may just take for granted because they’ve always been around. But with twenty years of outstanding musicians playing outstanding Brazilian jazz, it’s past time to celebrate Sons of Brazil.
Here’s a look at how they celebrated to a packed house at Jardine’s earlier this month. As always, clicking on a photo should open a larger version of it.
Sons of Brazil. Left to right: Roger Wilder, piano, Stan Kessler, trumpet, Greg Whitfield, bass, Danny Embrey, guitar, Doug Auwarter, drums, and Gary Helm, percussion.
Trumpeter, and Sons of Brazil founder, Stan Kessler
Bassist Greg Whitfield
Stan and Greg
Guitarist Danny Embrey
Drummer Doug Auwarter
Danny and Doug
Pianist Roger Wilder
Percussionist Gary Helm
Greg and Danny