About 10:15 last Saturday night, a guest was growing angry. He and his wife stood just inside the front door and wanted a seat. He had friends inside already. But there were no open tables. Quickly, Pat ran to clear one.
“We’re leaving,” the man grumbled to his wife. “Why?” she asked. Their friends were in there and she wanted to hear the music. Pat returned, took their cover charge and seated the couple.
Later, I spotted them at the table with their friends. The woman was smiling broadly and swaying in her seat to the music. The man’s face still looked like one wanting to grumble. But under the table, his left foot was bobbing up and down to Eboni Fondren’s wildly swinging vocals.
He was having more fun than he wanted anyone to know.
Last Saturday night at The Broadway Jazz Club, Mark Lowrey premiered a new group, with both Dionne Jeroue and Eboni Fondren on vocals. Angela Hagenbach opened the night. I don’t know what it was like in there earlier in the evening, but after 10, the room was packed.
In a glance around the club, I spied heads and shoulders swaying, crossed legs swinging boldly in time, waists twisting in seats forward and back. And more bobbing feet.
Kansas City has lacked a jazz supper club since Jardine’s died, and we all expected The Broadway Jazz Club to be the new Jardine’s. But in so many ways, it’s not.
At Jardine’s, except for a special engagement when everyone was purposely hushed, or on a Sunday night when only Alatruka fans came, a packed club usually meant you were unlikely to enjoy the show. It meant you were more likely to hear about the big deal that jerk at the next table landed last week than hear the vocalist on stage.
Instead, throughout this club you hear the music. And, viscerally, you react. Eboni’s or Dionne’s voice grabs you and swings you this way and that. You can’t help it, even if you came with a grumbly face.
But there was a larger difference Saturday night.
Sitting right in front was an elderly couple, the kind some people will tell you are the world’s only remaining jazz patrons. But two tables over sat a couple in their twenties. Throughout the club, bodies in their thirties, forties and fifties filled seats and swayed.
The crowd spanned generations.
I don’t know if this is the audience which frequents midtown in the 21st century, or if the music and environment here simply appeal to a more diverse demographic. But The Broadway Jazz Club was not just thriving last weekend. It attracted a broader age range, more generations of fans, than is typically associated with jazz.
I noticed the same age diversity at The Green Lady Lounge a couple weeks back. There, the music is not as vibrant throughout the room. The club’s 1940s ambiance, to which the jazz contributes, and its convenient Crossroads address, are likely part of the draw. But whatever the reason, late on a Saturday night, the club was filled with a predominantly younger crowd.
Perhaps the limited number of jazz clubs in this city a few years ago carried with it a self-fulfilling stigma that jazz clubs are where old people go. Perhaps new owners have brought a fresh ambiance and appeal to their clubs.
I’m not ready to declare that new generations are discovering jazz. But the newer clubs are succeeding in creating an experience more generations are enjoying.
Generations of musicians, too.
Twenty years ago, Karrin Allyson played The Phoenix every Tuesday night with Rod Fleeman. And she played at Jardine’s, The Club at Plaza III, the Boulevard Cafe. Angela Hagenbach could be heard throughout Kansas City, too.
Last Saturday night, Angela stayed at The Broadway Jazz Club after her early set. And late in the evening, after midnight, she joined Dionne and Eboni on stage for a masterful take of Summertime.
Then, following her show at the Gem Theater with the 60th Anniversary Newport Jazz troupe, Karrin stopped by. Somewhere around 12:30 or 12:45, she was coaxed on stage. And backed by Mark Lowrey on piano, Jeff Harshbarger on bass and Ryan Lee on drums, she tore into an audience request, Moanin’.
The night sparkled through a blend of generations, on stage as much as in the audience.