Monday, April 2, 2012

This 'n That 'n Bill Caldwell

I didn’t know Bill Caldwell personally, but I knew his music. I loved it.

His saxophone immediately commanded your attention, then lifted you from your seat and carried you on a joyous, swinging ride. Don’t believe me? Listen to Bill’s solos on I’m Getting Sentimental Over You on 1993’s The Real Thing with Everette DeVan. A smile will break out on your face. I dare you to try to stop it. You can’t.

Back in my days of helping to organize jazz festivals, Bill was one of the hot young saxophonists in Kansas City. He moved to Branson to play in orchestras there for 14 years, and most recently taught in Wichita. But when he returned to KC and I had a chance to hear him play, I heard wonderful jazz.

Bill died of an apparent heart attack last week. He was 49 years young.

Here’s another test. Same CD, The Real Thing. Listen to Bill’s solo on It Could Happen to You. I dare you not to smile. Can’t suppress it, can you? The music is just too happy.


I was talking to a friend last week, at The Blue Room. We used to run into each other regularly at Jardine’s .

Where do you go now, she asked. Take Five, in Leawood, is a favorite, I replied. She hadn’t been there. There was jazz last week at Nica’s on Southwest Boulevard, I noted. She knew about that but missed it. Well, there was a set at The Brick a week or two back. Or how about Mark Lowrey’s Tuesdays at Czar Bar? And there’s that place at 135th and Quivira.

We both sighed. It used to be so much easier to find jazz in Kansas City.

The last time I wrote about the loss of Jardine’s as a jazz club, some bemoaned they had read quite enough about the place. I understand the sentiment. The internet has been rife with speculation. And there’s plenty of outstanding jazz musicians in town who rarely played the joint.

But there’s plenty of outstanding jazz musicians in town who did play there. And the Jardine’s loss has impacted the local jazz scene more than I expected.

A couple of months ago, KCUR’s Sunday program KC Currents ran an excellent story on the state of Kanas City jazz (here). Our friend Plastic Sax quite presciently said in the story that, in light of the Jardine’s closing, it’s going to be more difficult and take more work to find jazz in Kansas City. I snorted a “harummph” at his crazed words.

But he was right.

Yes, The Blue Room is as vibrant as ever. Jazz fans are re-discovering The Majestic. Take Five is filling a suburban void. The Mutual Musicians Foundation remains a one-of-a-kind jazz experience on weekend late nights.

But none of those places showcase combos six or seven nights a week. And The Blue Room and The Majestic, while broadening their offerings, generally offer their regulars, just as Jardine’s did. The diversity another jazz club brought to the Kansas City jazz scene is now scattered throughout town.

Since early on in this blog, I’ve hand-slapped clubs for making their schedules difficult to uncover. Nobody wants to work to find their fun. Jazz schedules need to be delivered to our virtual doorstep. Jardine’s excelled at such promotion. But concise scheduling becomes impossible when acts are scattered one here, one there, from 119th Street to the Crossroads.

My friend and I co-commiserated at The Blue Room. We miss the second weekend shows, which started at 10:30 and ran to 1:30 in the morning. We miss a central spot where a select group of Kansas City jazz favorites could be found. I can’t speak from the musicians’ perspective, but from the fans’ perspective, there’s a hole in the Kansas City jazz community.

I didn’t expect that.


So what are the odds of another jazz club filling the Jardine’s space? After all, it’s a location of proven jazz success. And now you can get in there by working directly with the property owners, American Century, without needing to buy the previous business.

But for now, there is a reason to approach the previous owner. Not for the Jardine’s name. The equity in that has substantially dissipated. Rather, for the 3 a.m. license on the space.

A 3 a.m. license can be a financial gold mine for a club. And outside of the downtown loop, today they are nearly impossible to come by in Kansas City. A space just off the Country Club Plaza with such a license holds exceptional appeal. Word is, the last owner is asking $20,000 for the business including the license. Is it worth that much? Without running the numbers a business plan requires, I don’t know.

But if it is, it is worth that much to more than just a jazz club. It’s worth it to a hip-hop club. It’s worth it to a country music club. If it’s worth that much, it’s worth it to anyone wanting to own a nightclub.

The only limitation is who American Century will allow as their neighbor.

1 comment:

  1. Word. I hope someone buys Jardines soon - I'll be a regular (again). I've had it with driving to and fro to get my fix. That central Plaza location can't be beat!


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