Monday, December 31, 2012

A KC Jazz Christmas Carol, Part 2

In a moment, Ebenezer P. Sax sat again in his bed.

Long had Ebenezer intoned that the destiny of jazz is to perish. The young paid it no mind. Those proclaimed its fans were aging, and as they passed so, too, would the music.

Yet, this night a visit to Ebenezer was paid, twice, by winged and glowing Fairies. The first itself named The Magic Jazz Fairy of KC Jazz Past, and took the scribe to the music’s prime, when it filled Kansas City streets with carousing multitudes and gaiety supreme. The second, The Magic Jazz Fairy of KC Jazz Present, presented Ebenzer an auditorium of over 1200 fans joyous in revelry for the music and, on the same night, jazz musicians of an age and a talent to rival any who came before.

A nighttime visit by a third Fairy was promised. Presently, the clock chimed one, and a glow did fill the room. Ebenezer, but in nightgown and slippers dressed, sat upright in his bed. Beside him, a winged being spoke.

“I’m The Magic Jazz Fairy of KC Jazz Future. You been through this twice, you know how it works. I’m takin’ your hand, we’re goin’ elsewhere.”

Ebenezer stood and held forward his arm, ready for the Fairy’s grasp. “Proceed,” he offered.

Man and Fairy, together, stepped through the wall of Ebenezer’s abode. On the other side, they stood in a jazz club.

“I recognize this place not,” Ebenezer spoke, with caution.

“It comes later,” The Magic Jazz Fairy of KC Jazz Future did respond. “It’s a jazz supper club, somethin’ Kansas City lost when Jardine’s folded. But it’s a successful business model in other cities, like Seattle an’ Denver, an’ some smart entrepreneurs recognized it could make money here, too. Look around. Tell me what you see.”

“Bah!” Ebenezer spewed, after one quickly placed glance. “I see the aged, those with fifty years of life and more. What disproves my points? What has changed from my day?”

“Keep lookin’,” the Fairy directed. “What are they eating’?”

“Some steaks, some seafood, the meals of the well healed.”

“They’re spendin’ money. Keep lookin’. Who’s on stage? You know him.”

“Aye, the drummer, there be some familiarity to that face, but his name, I know it not.”

“You knew him as an infant. That group’s playin’ a tune he learned then.”

“Praise be!” Ebenezer exclaimed. “’Tis Kiss My Mitten, Miss Kitten by The People’s Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City! Be that little Wisman? All grown up now and playing drums like his father?”

“Yep. Remember when his mom took him into The Record Bar an’ put headphones on him to muffle the sound? Didn’t work. The kid knew the drum line at six months. Now keep lookin’ around. There, that table. You know them.”

“Why, ’tis Hermon Mehari, and Ryan Lee, and T.J. Martley, all grown old! And there, be that Jeff Harshbarger?”


“Glory be! I knew not a beard could grow so long!”

“They’re all workin’ tonight. Now take my hand,” instructed The Magic Jazz Fairy of KC Jazz Future. “We got someplace else to go.”

A grasp, a step, and presently they stood where the last Fairy also did take Ebenezer, in Hellzberg Hall in the Kuaffman Center for the Arts That Do Perform. The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra again did swing jazz from the stage. The hall, again, filled with the joy of a large, engaged and delighted crowd.

“Humbug!” Ebenezer scowled. “Why this do I see once more? Look at the seats, still filled with the aged. Good Fairy, show me something new!”

“I do,” The Magic Jazz Fairy of KC Jazz Future slyly smiled. “How many of those faces were here last time? The crowd’s turned over. Yeah, this orchestra an’ this venue draw an older crowd. That’s who can afford a night at these prices. But they still draw a crowd. They still fill this hall with swing. Now, one more stop. Take my hand. It’ll be tomorrow mornin’.”

The Fairy’s hand Ebenzer did hold, and next he knew he stood inside the Mutual Musicians Foundation. The lower level looked crowded with children, each carrying a musical instrument.

“Friday and Saturday night jams still fill this joint,” the Fairy did explain, “but every Saturday morning another tradition continues. Describe what’cha see.”

“Students,” Ebenezer observed. “And instructors.”

The Fairy placed both hands on Ebenezer’s shoulders and harshly turned the man to look straight into his eyes. Then, the winged and glowing being spoke:

“Mentors. You see students and mentors. That’s why jazz has lived in Kansas City an’ why it always will. The men, the women who created it, in this building, passed their knowledge on to your generation. Musicians of your time, like Bobby Watson, grew the music an’ helped pass it along to others. Others like Hermon and Ryan, who played it magnificently an’ again passed it along. It’s a culture of jazz.

“Nobody’s pretendin’ the music’ll again be more than a niche,” the Fairy continued. “Nobody’s sayin’ most musicians don’t need other jobs to make ends meet. Hey, Jay McShann drove a garbage truck to raise his kids. But it’s a niche with appeal. It’s a niche that can fill a hall with people who can afford to discover an’ enjoy it. It’s a niche that can keep a few clubs thrivin’.

“It’s a music an’ a culture that will be passed along again an’ again.”

“Take me back, good Fairy,” Ebenezer did beseech. “I understand what I have seen. Take me back now, that I may write.”

Next he knew, the scribe sat alone in his bed. With haste, he threw the bedspread back, that he may scurry to his computer desk. Good, he thought, the computer was still on. Without delay, he typed.

“What I have put forth onto the Internet until now I cannot now take back. But these new thoughts I may add. For the future I have seen, and the real truth I now know and can now state is this:

“Jazz will survive.”


  1. Haha! I know not what you're smoking, but I want some!! Happy New Year ;-)

  2. Your hope for the future is that a club will replace Jardines and that the musicians still won't be able to make a living? That's just bleak.

    "Never fear! You'll always have old people"

    That's your rallying cry?! And you're supposedly the optimist?!!

    Jazz and it's culture just makes me sad.

  3. I'm glad we can look forward to not making enough money playing for the elderly. Sounds awesome. I'm super inspired now.

  4. Unfortunate but true: "Nobody’s sayin’ most musicians don’t need other jobs to make ends meet."

    Jardines was far from ideal but it did keep a lot of local cats in the public eye. I doubt you'll find many local jazz musicians who are looking for less opportunities. Who knows how many private gigs, weddings, or other opportunities resulted from a patron who liked what they heard at a jazz club? I think a well managed jazz club could work... it does in a few other cities. I gotta go with the MJF this one.


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