Monday, October 22, 2012

The Magic Jazz Fairy Is Happy

All that turmoil, that was nearly a year ago, it mused. Surely, everybody knew then, jazz in Kansas City would never survive all that. But look at the venues today. Sure, the scene isn’t perfect. The scene will never again be what it once was, decades back. But a year ago, who expected this? A broad smile crossed its face, and it let its wings flap lightly. Jazz in Kansas City certainly survived the turmoil.

It was the week after Thanksgiving last year that musicians boycotted Jardine’s, seeing enough transgressions by its owner. A Kansas City jazz fixture for nearly two decades, Jardine’s closed and, despite feeble stabs at a couple of parties and New Year’s Eve, thirty-some jazz performances a month disappeared from Kansas City.

Remembering, the Magic Jazz Fairy shuddered. Because the situation then grew worse.

Another jazz club tried opening in the Crossroads district. With inadequate promotional support and schedules unavailable online until it was too late, this venue ran through its cash and locked its doors before the year’s end.

Two jazz clubs, one a two decade old institution, closed in Kansas City. What could a Magic Jazz Fairy do?

Because, as we’ve established before, every city has its Magic Jazz Fairy. The Magic Jazz Fairy flies through town and whispers in the ears of every sleeping fan where jazz performances are happening, so we wake up knowing, just knowing. Because small jazz audiences could not possibly be the fault of savvy club owners who fail to promote. Clearly, those savvy operators don’t promote because they know Magic Jazz Fairies will spread the word.

But what if there’s little word to spread?

Our Magic Jazz Fairy started hearing from unsympathetic peers. The St. Louis Fairy called. “Hey, K.C. Fairy,” it mocked, “I hear you’re chasin’ everyone out of town! What’s left to promote? Maybe a visit from Kenny G? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!”

The Chicago Fairy also dialed. “Yo, K.C. Fairy,” it chuckled, “what used to go out for music but now is in bed by six? A Kansas City jazz fan, that’s what! Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh!”

Forlorn, our Magic Jazz Fairy heard whispers of a coffee shop in Leawood, on 151st Street, booking jazz. A coffee shop? In that suburban a location? Is that what Kansas City’s jazz scene had come to? Cappuccino and jazz among the hoity-toity? Still, it felt obliged to check the venue out, to see what was going on. And before the Toronto Fairy called, because that Toronto Magic Jazz Fairy could be especially snide.

The Magic Jazz Fairy flew south, landed, then wrapped its wings tight, so it could step inside the venue unnoticed. “Coffee and Bar,” the sign read. That was encouraging. Inside it found a warm, welcoming atmosphere, and excellent acoustics, and patrons who listened – they listened! – and owners who loved the music and cared. It realized there was nothing wrong with coming here for jazz. They were booking the music several nights a week, and they were promoting it on their web site. This was terrific.

Excited, The Magic Jazz Fairy flew home. The Toronto Fairy called. “You get some cream an’ sugar with your jazz, K.C. Fairy? Huh? Did’ja? Har, har, har!”

“No,” our Magic Jazz Fairy shot back, “I had a wonderful Chardonnay. And I heard better live jazz musicians than you’re gonna hear, unless you’re comin’ to Kansas City!”

The Blue Room reigned at 18th and Vine. Slowly, The Majestic started booking more nights in its jazz club. And add this new jazz spot in the suburbs. It wasn’t Jardine’s, but jazz, real jazz, was live in the metropolitan area.

Then, a month ago, to the Magic Jazz Fairy’s amazement, another jazz club opened. This one sits downtown, in the Power and Light District. It’s still working the kinks out of its operation, and the weeknight music is probably on too late for working Kansas Citians. But Wednesday through Saturday nights, it’s showcasing live jazz. Schedules are listed on its website. It’s active on Facebook. It has a billboard on I-35. It’s a jazz club promoting rum and jazz.

The Magic Jazz Fairy leaned back in its chair, its stubby legs outstretched with pride. All those jazz nights lost after Thanksgiving last year? They’re back. Some are downtown, some are in the suburbs, but they’re back.

The mystical being now leaned forward, to its computer, and it clicked on a link. There’s the schedule for The Blue Room, oddly not on the page where it used to be, but clearly linked from the American Jazz Museum’s home page. It clicked another link. There’s The Majestic’s schedule. Not complete, not listing musicians’ names every night, but it’s there. It clicked a new link. There was the schedule for the suburban locale, already listing dates through mid-November. One more link. There’s the new downtown club, its schedule online for a month out.

Not only is Kansas City hosting all the jazz nights of a year ago, the Magic Jazz Fairy found, but they’re all promoted online.

The Magic Jazz Fairy sat at its desk, fat and happy. It was ready to take the St. Louis Fairy’s, or the Chicago Fairy’s, or the Toronto Fairy’s call.

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