Monday, September 17, 2012

In Lieu of 1000 Words: 2012 PV Jazz Fest, Part 1

Thousands of fans. They crowded the hill at Harmon Park on September 8th to enjoy the music, the food, the beer and the wine – but mostly the music – at the third annual Prairie Village Jazz Festival.

As one of the organizers of this year’s event, I’ll not feign an unbiased assessment. But I will credit one group above all others for the day’s success: The musicians. Every performance was magnificent.

Opening act Diverse, in their new configuration with drummer Brad Williams, mostly played tunes the arriving audience might recognize, but branded by their own contemporary resolve. Rich Wheeler’s quartet spanned their own compositions to the blues. Everyone who heard Mike Metheny understands why I keep telling him he needs to perform locally more often (and he’s starting to do that). And everyone who heard Megan Birdsall heard a vocalist wrap herself around familiar standards and pop classics to make them entirely hers.

Crowd size reached its height for headliner Bobby Watson. With longtime bassist Curtis Lundy from New York, pianist Richard Johnson from Minneapolis and KC drummer Michael Warren, Bobby owned Prairie Village. Then the night’s second headliner, Karrin Allyson, backed by extraordinary saxophone and flute player Bob Sheppard from Los Angeles, guitarist Rod Fleeman, bassist Gerald Spaits, and drummer Todd Strait, left no doubts about why she has been nominated five times for the jazz vocal Grammy.

I took photos. This week, let’s share shots of the local acts. Next week, we’ll take a look at the headliners’ groups. As always, clicking on a photo should open a larger version of it.

Opening act Diverse. Left  to right: Ben Leifer on bass, Hermon Mehari on trumpet, Brad Williams on drums.

As Diverse performs, the audience grows.

The Rich Wheeler Quartet. Left to right: T.J. Martley on Rhodes and piano, Bill McKemy on bass, Rich Wheeler on tenor saxophone, Sam Wisman on drums.

Mike Metheny on flugelhorn

Bassist Gerald Spaits

Drummer Todd Strait

T.J. Martley on piano

Mike invited Hermon Mehari and Rich Wheeler to join him on his set. Here, Hermon and Mike enjoy Rich's solo.

Megan Birdsall

Bassist Bob Bowman

Drummer Matt Leifer

Singer Megan Birdsall with pianist Wayne Hawkins

Megan and Wayne. As the sun starts to set, the audience fills the hill.

Next week: Bobby Watson and Karrin Allyson.

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