Monday, September 2, 2013

This 'n That 'n Not Full Employment, But....

Twice in the last two weeks, I’ve heard it. Maybe to explain alternates in a big band, or a substitute musician for the night in an ensemble, or when rushing off to another gig after this one.

A jazz musician said some variation of, “It’s busy tonight. There’s a lot going on. Everyone's working.”

Jazz and busy and everyone’s working in the same thought? When was the last time Kansas City could say that?

Let’s be realistic. Not every musician in the Kansas City jazz community was working those nights. Some who may prefer to play more esoteric music or who just weren’t lucky enough to be part of one of the groups with a gig may not have been working. And we’re talking two nights, not two weeks or two months or two years. And nobody in Kansas City is becoming a millionaire by booking or playing jazz (as far as I know).

But consider this: We’re less than two years removed from Jardine’s collapse and endless whirls of contemplation over the future of jazz in Kansas City in its wake.

So to hear any jazz musician mutter the words, even for just one or two nights, “Everybody’s working,” in this jazz city so dominated by extraordinary young talent, suggests a corner turned. It suggests a fresh vibrancy.

And that 2013 Kansas City jazz vibrancy feels good.


If you use an iPhone, an iPad or an iPod Touch, a new free app helps you find that Kansas City jazz vibe.

Jazz Near You uses your location to list submitted jazz shows in the area. The Events tab shows them by date, the Distance tab by how far the venue is from your current location, the Venues tab sorts by club, the mostly empty Festivals tab would list festivals if any of us submitted them, and the Musicians tab lists performances by participating musicians.

Never mind that so far most of the listings submitted are from Green Lady Lounge. To tap the Musicians tab in the app and see listings from Andrew Ouellette to T.J. Martley and Tyrone Clarke (alphabetized by first name? Okay, it’s not perfect) feels like bestowing those names with a new-media significance (Look, Ma: Local jazz musicians in an app!).

I submitted all of the Prairie Village Jazz Festival acts on the website. They showed up immediately in the Events tab of the app (but not yet, as I write this, in the other tabs). It’s a bit of a pain to enter them all (uploading a spreadsheet of acts is an option, if other festival bookers – or club owners – maintain such a spreadsheet). Even logging into the site was unnecessarily persnickety.

But being able to open an app and see upcoming jazz in Kansas City to head out and hear? That’s rather wonderful.

(Sorry Apple haters. At the moment, this app is not available for Android devices.)


Speaking of the Prairie Village Jazz Festival….

If you’ve read this blog more than once recently, you likely know I booked it this year.

The festival is this Saturday, September 7th, at Prairie Village’s Harmon Park, 7700 Mission Road (that’s next door to Shawnee Mission East High School and Prairie Village City Hall). Music starts at 3 p.m and lasts until 10:30 that night. Bring a lawn chair or blanket. Admission is free.

And, if I may immodestly say so, the music will be spectacular. Bobby Watson’s All-Star Big Band is the one he first assembled for a pair of Pops concerts with the Kansas City Symphony. Next Saturday, you’ll hear them not just backing Bobby but also backing one of the most respected trumpeters in jazz today, Jon Faddis.

And how many chances have there been to hear Marilyn Maye in KC since Jardine’s closed? Few, very few. In fact, outside of a private fundraiser, none this year. Saturday night, that dry spell ends.

Festival fundraising petered out after I booked talent, leaving the event’s ability to promote itself this year as rather disappointing. So you’ll excuse me while I scream this schedule one more time (including the first public listing of the big band’s all-stars).

3:00 – 3:50 p.m.  Andy McGhie Quintet
Andy McGhie, tenor saxophone, Hermon Mehari, trumpet, Andrew Ouellette, piano, Karl McComas-Reichl, bass, Ryan Lee, drums

4:10 – 5:00 p.m.  Parallax
Stan Kessler, trumpet, Roger Wilder, piano, Bill McKemy, bass, Ryan Lee and Brian Steever, drums

5:20 – 6:10 p.m.  Mutual Musicians Foundation All-Stars
Steve Lambert, tenor saxophone and flute, Mike Herrera, alto saxophone, Peter Schlamb, vibraphone, Chris Clarke, piano, Ben Leifer, bass, Brad Williams, drums

6:30 – 7:20 p.m.  Everette DeVan – Chris Hazelton Quartet
Everette DeVan and Chris Hazelton, Hammond B3 organs, Matt Hopper, guitar, Danny Rojas, drums

7:40 – 8:40 p.m.  Marilyn Maye
Marilyn Maye, vocals, Billy Stritch, piano, Gerald Spaits, bass, Jim Eklof, drums

9:00 – 10:30 p.m.  Bobby Watson All-Star Big Band with Special Guest Jon Faddis
Bobby Watson, alto saxophone, Jon Faddis, trumpet, with
Trumpets: Clint Ashlock, Hermon Mehari, Al Pearson, Nate Nall
Trombones: Karita Carter, Jason Goudeau, Louis Neal, TBA
Saxophones: Gerald Dunn, Horace Washington, Charles Perkins, Dan Thomas, Steve Lambert
Rhythm: Roger Wilder, piano, Bob Bowman, bass, Michael Warren, drums

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