One night the owner was drunk or high, I’m not sure which, and talking obnoxiously loud right in the middle of the room, at a table up front, near the stage. The speakers dangling from the ceiling in there were never all that great. Sitting at the bar, I couldn’t enjoy the singer or the band. Dismayed, I left.
Some weekends, that was the late night experience at Jardine’s. Nevertheless, I would often make a point of being there the Saturdays that Shay Estes and Trio ALL took the stage around 10:30, maybe 11, and played until 1:30 a.m., maybe 2.
This was some four years ago and I was rediscovering Kansas City jazz. An extraordinary group of young musicians was storming the scene, more jazz talent than this city had seen since Karrin and Kevin left nearly a decade before. Something special was building here and I wanted to know it.
Friends told me I needed to hear them: A new generation performing jazz in Kansas City. Some graduated from Bobby Watson’s program at UMKC. Some grew up here with the music. Some moved to Kansas City from elsewhere. And they were stretching jazz’s ties into other music they knew, into hip-hop and Michael Jackson and Brazilian music and American Independent music. Here was a generation growing, and broadening, Kansas City’s culture of jazz.
That was four years ago.
And the growing hasn’t stopped.
Friends told me I needed to hear them.
It’s been some time since I’ve been to The Phoenix for music. I don’t work all that far from there, and I’ve stopped by for lunch. But since their music offerings switched to predominantly blues, The Phoenix doesn’t often come to mind when I think where to head for jazz.
Yet, the fact is that for three years now, Everett DeVan’s trio has hosted a jazz jam there every Tuesday night. And at least this past Tuesday, it drew a full house.
Two young vocalists are jamming with Everett’s trio these Tuesdays: Kelley Gant and Dionne Jereau. Both sing standards with a personable and vivacious presence. Last Tuesday, Dionne also branched into jazz-infused pop.
Here’s a pair of excellent voices, with personalities to capture the crowd. Here’s two young singers early in their careers ready to be heard even more. I don’t know where else they perform. But here’s two ladies who should be booking their ensembles into more of this city’s jazz clubs and building their audience.
Because these are two talented jazz vocalists in a city full of jazz mentors. Everett has always been one of the best.
A friend told me I needed to hear her.
I wasn’t familiar with Allie Burik. I didn’t know her name, But last Friday night at Take Five, this bundle of raw saxophone and vocal talent took the stage backed Clint Ashlock on trumpet, T.J. Martley on keyboards, Karl McComas-Reichl on bass and Sam Wisman on drums.
And at the end of the first set, Kerry Strayer’s baritone sax drove the night into something special.
Kerry pushed Allie to jointly swing a riff with him behind Clint’s trumpet solo. Riffing didn’t occur to her. That will come with experience.
And her sax solo bent and grew just that much better when Kerry and Clint riffed behind her and inspired her to propel it further.
Word is that Allie is headed to Berkley for college in the fall. But with Kansas City mentors like Clint and Kerry, Friday provided a glimpse at a future star saxophonist sent off with the right start.
It’s fun to watch. Young jazz talent continues to introduce itself to Kansas City. Those musicians I started discovering four years ago are mostly still here. Some test new directions. Shay will be spending June in Portugal with the Portuguese ensemble Fado Novato.
But new talent stands ready to sparkle. Outstanding musicians looking to perform with other outstanding musicians, and educators and mentors and a culture of jazz reside here, ready to help.
I remember a guitarist, many years ago, excitedly recalling something – I no longer recall specifically what – taught to him on the guitar by Claude “Fiddler” Williams. After learning it, “Fiddler” told him, “I also taught that to Barney Kessel.”
Knowledge is transferred. One generation passes on the jazz they know to the next.
And, excitingly, new generations keep coming.