In the Blue Room: Matt Otto on tenor sax, Gerald Dunn on alto, and Shay Estes, vocalizing, harmonize into a single instrument, a unique sound on Matt’s unique composition. It’s a sound like none I’ve heard before, not live, anyway. Instinctively, I lean closer to the stage. I don’t want to risk missing any of it. I want to hear more.
At the Mutual Musicians Foundation: The trumpet is as big as his torso. But even at age five, Charles can hold his own in this band. Every Saturday morning, kids from Charles’s age through high school benefit from free music lessons at the Foundation. The morning I visit, they’re preparing for a competition at The Gem. But right now, I see young students rehearsing, surrounded by photos of the jazz royalty who preceded them in this room. I shoot a photo of Charles. He shoots back a dirty look.
At Take Five Coffee + Bar: Hermon Mehari on trumpet, Andy McGhie on sax, Andrew Ouellette on piano, Ben Leifer on bass, Ryan Lee on drums. This is a collection, a subset, really, of some of the outstanding young talent dominating Kansas City’s jazz scene today. They have captured the crowd. Hermon and Andy blend perfectly, then fly off into wonderful solos. This, I realize, must be the 21st century equivalent of what it was like to hear “Sweets” Edison and Jimmy Forrest perform together fifty years ago.
In this blog: The commentator passionately disagrees. He doesn’t like what he perceives the message of a post to be and defends what he feels I’ve attacked. Others respond and the first commentator posts again. I don’t participate in the exchange because, after all, I’ve already offered 800 to 1000 words on what I think. But I appreciate the disagreements. I welcome the counter opinions. I respect their passion. I enjoy the flow of thoughts.
At the Westport Coffee House: Ryan solos first. His drumming has always been impressive, since I first heard him with Diverse, but there’s more subtlety, more maturity evident now. Brian responds, building on Ryan’s lead and delivering an equally masterful solo back to him. Ryan takes that fastball and returns it. Then Brian. Then again. Stan Kessler promoted this new group heavily, through his newsletter, through Facebook posts, through personal emails. He knew this group would be special, featuring two of Kansas City’s best young drummers, Ryan Lee and Brain Steever. I have a confession: I generally don’t enjoy drum solos. Too many come across as so much banging without the intricacy of a good trumpet or sax or piano solo. I have another confession: I love listening to the drums, to the back-and-forth of two young masters, this night.
At Lake Winnebago: Mike and Pat Metheny, Tommy Ruskin, Paul Smith, Bob Bowman, Gerald Spaits and Marilyn Maye unforgettably swing a celebration of the the life of Lois Metheny. Gary Sivils tells stories about Pat that Pat’s children, sitting up front, probably shouldn’t hear. After the music concludes, as the sun sets behind the waters, Mike and Pat, and Pat’s wife and children, spread Lois’s ashes across the lake. I’m honored to have been invited, to have been asked to bring my camera, and to have the opportunity to share photos of a magic afternoon.
At the Plaza Library: Seeing the film Battleship Potemkin to the score of the People’s Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City played live, you understand what home theaters can’t do. They are not a large screen in an auditorium.They don’t accommodate a big band. They can’t replicate the experience of being mesmerized by what’s in front of you, accompanied by live music, a communal experience shared by hundreds of fans. At the time, I described this show as spectacular. Looking back, yes, that was the right word.
In this blog: A post, one of my blog posts, is linked to by NPR’s web site. I get a big head. Later, NPR’s jazz blog challenges both Plastic Sax and me to respond to an Atlantic Cities article, focused on 18th and Vine, on the sustainability of jazz branding. NPR links to my response. I get a bigger head.
At Take Five Coffee + Bar: Rich Wheeler and Matt Otto, both on tenor sax, own the crowd. This is contemporary jazz, mostly Matt’s compositions, not something easy to swing or swing with. Folding chairs have been set up, but those filled, too, so some of the audience is leaning against counters or walls. Nobody is talking. We’re in the suburbs, in Leawood, Kansas. On a Friday night, a packed coffee house is where to find jazz. While Jardine’s withered, Take Five quietly grew into an engaging jazz venue. The KC area hosts the same number of jazz sites as we did when this blog began. Only the neighborhoods and atmosphere have changed.
At The Blue Room: I'd had a bad day, and a friend offered to buy me a drink at The Blue Room. A big band and vocalist were performing and, my friend assured me, they should be good together. A young, red-haired waif strutted onto the stage and belted an up-tempo version of Miss Otis Regrets. I was astounded. Here was a jazz vocalist as outstanding as anyone, anywhere. Hearing Megan Birdsall that night inspired me to go out and discover other young performers capturing Kansas City’s jazz scene. And finding them inspired me to start this blog.
These are some of the reasons you’ll find a new post on Kansas City and jazz here most Mondays.
This week marks the third anniversary of this blog, kcjazzlark.
Thank you, everyone, for coming back and taking another look.