Monday, February 13, 2012

It Hurts

Let’s not kid ourselves about this.

Yes, The Blue Room is booking great jazz acts as often as ever. And Benny Golson there, later this month, Jardine’s would not have had that.

True, Take Five is a marvelous new venue in a location where I never thought jazz could thrive. But there it is, showcasing jazz several nights a week, and about to add even more jazz.

Absolutely, the former speakeasy in the Majestic is seeing some of its largest crowds, as jazz fans re-discover what a wonderful music space it is (even though it’s mid-February and they still don’t have this month’s schedule online, for chrissake).

Yes, even though it’s mostly a blues bar now, you can find jazz at the Phoenix occasionally. Same for The Buzzz, which is changing names, in Johnson County. WestChase Grille is mostly restaurant, but can be counted on for jazz four nights a week. The Record Bar chips in a couple Sundays each month. There’s hotel bars here and there. Last Friday you could catch Alaturka on a new stage on Main Street. And never forget the Mutual Musicians Foundation every Friday and Saturday late night.

You can still find jazz in Kansas City.

But let’s not kid ourselves. With Jardine’s dark for two-and-a-half months, its name stripped from the building, its loss has had a significant impact on the availability of Kansas City jazz. Sure, food there was inconsistent and overpriced. Service could be good or mediocre. Last summer, parking was a challenge. But losing a place where you knew you could find live jazz seven nights a week, where you knew every month you could hear Shay and Mark and Megan and Ida and Sons of Brazil, losing that hurts.

Rumors say a couple parties could be interested in purchasing and reopening Jardine’s. And this city has a recent history of closed jazz clubs successfully changing hands. The Phoenix’s doors were locked for more than a year before the current operator took control. The Majestic was closed for six months. Following that path, Jardine’s could be dark for months to come and still pick right up where it left off, right?

Such a resurrection is becoming increasingly tough to envision.

Jardine’s spent years building a name as the place to find jazz in Kansas City. But the explosion of boycotting musicians and unpaid staff which slammed shut its doors sullied the public perception. Its equity as a club to which people will gladly return diminishes each day those doors remain locked, and a swirl of glue on the front brick wall, where a plaque once proclaimed Jardine’s, tells every passing motorist, move on, there’s nothing to see (or hear) here.

One report says back rent may be approaching $30,000 due. What other debts hang over the club? Is that a nut it makes business sense to absorb?

I know nothing about the legalities involved. I know nothing about what the lease on the space stipulates or allows. But I wonder at what point it makes sense not to negotiate with the business owner but with the landlord. I’d assume, if rent is left unpaid, the landlord regains control of his property. I’d assume at some point a new restaurant and club, with a different name and owned by a different legal entity, could open there, without the baggage now bundled with Jardine’s.

And why couldn’t that restaurant and club feature jazz which has, after all, proven to work in that space?

Jardine’s holds a 3 a.m. operating license and, outside of the downtown loop, those are hard to obtain anymore. There is some value in purchasing the business. But at what point has the business value diminished to where it just isn’t worth pursuing?

I’ve said this before: Kansas City can support another jazz club. We have an abundance of jazz talent ready to perform. We have an audience which for decades paid high prices for inconsistent food and service so we could hear that music. You can depend on us. In the right location, we’ll do it again.

The right location may be on Main Street just north of the Plaza, or it may be somewhere else. But as the larger crowds re-discovering The Majestic prove, we’ve waited long enough, thank you. We’re ready to again hear Shay and Mark and Megan and Ida and Sons of Brazil every month, in a jazz club open seven nights a week. And we don’t really give a damn what the place is called.

I remember walking into Jardine’s about 11 p.m. one Saturday night last summer. Ida McBeth had played the dinner shows, and the room was still packed. I squeezed into a spot at the bar. Shay Estes was on stage with her group, with Mark Lowrey on piano. The jazz was wonderful. I stayed until 1:30 a.m., and there were still plenty of us buying drinks and soaking up the jazz.

Summer is approaching. Baseball’s All-Star game is in town this year, adding gobs of visitors, some looking for live jazz.

So, I have a question:

Who wants our money?


  1. I'll go back to Jardine's regularly if it opens with a new owner. I like the Blue Room but it's too far for me to go on most nights. The Majestic is great but is too expensive unless it's a special occasion (I don't know about you, but I don't drop $100 on dinner for two that often!)

  2. Nice article, Jazz Lark. It's a complicated situation with many unknowns. KC needs Jardines to reopen as a jazz club.

  3. I really miss playing there. Having lost a weekly gig there has been a substantial drain on my income and has forced me to look for other venues to play.

    Well done article as there truly are just too much "scuttlebut" floating around pointing fingers at opposite parties involved.

    The simple fact is that Jardine's has gotten caught in the crossfire and not likely to recover.


Comments are welcome. If you prefer, you can reach me directly at kcjazzlark(at)gmail(dot)com.