Monday, January 11, 2016

Hootie is a Hundred

Last week was big for Kansas City jazz. A resolution directed directed the City Manager to find funding sources for $18 million in improvements – curiously up from the $7 million announced just a week and a half earlier – to the 18th and Vine District. This could include improvements to the Jazz Museum, the Mutual Musicians Foundation, the Paseo YMCA, a new district home for Friends of Alvin Ailey, a parking garage, and some suspiciously not-yet-publicly-defined demolition along Vine (an incredibly historic street as long as you don’t destroy the remaining history there).

But more on that another time, because this week is bigger. This Tuesday, January 12th, would have been Jay “Hootie” McShann’s hundredth birthday.

Another resolution passed by the City Council this past Thursday, January 7th read:


Declaring January 12th – 16th as Jay “Hootie” McShann Week in recognition of his 100th Birthday and his life, artistry, contributions to Jazz and lengthy career.

WHEREAS, Pianist, Composer, Bandleader, Recording Artist and Singer, James Columbus “Jay” “Hootie” McShann was born January 12, 1916, in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and died on December 7, 2006 in Kansas City at the age of 90; and

WHEREAS; McShann received several national and international awards and recognitions to include the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, Blues Hall of Fame, Rhythm and Blues Foundation, Paris All-Star Tribute to Charlie Parker, The Rolling Stones recording of "Confessin' the Blues", character in 1940’s crime-fiction novel, The Hot Kid, written by Elmore Leonard in 2005, 1991 Grammy Award Nominee for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance, and in 2003 for Goin' to Kansas City - Best Traditional Blues Album; and

WHEREAS; from the 1960’s until his passing, James Columbus McShann remained a prominent pianist, bandleader and vocalist often teaming with violinist Claude “Fiddler” Williams and vocalist Jimmy Witherspoon; and

WHEREAS; the City of Kansas City will join with the Jay McShann family (Jayne McShann-Lewis, Linda McShann-Gerber and Pamela McShann), American Jazz Museum, Historic Jazz Foundation, GEM Theater, UMKC Marr Sound Library and Elder Statesmen of Kansas City Jazz in celebrating his 100th Birthday; NOW THEREFORE;


That the Mayor and Council hereby declare the week of January 12th – 16th as Jay “Hootie” McShann Week in Kansas City; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Resolution be spread upon the Minutes of the Council in testimony thereof and that a copy hereof be presented to the family of Jay McShann in token of the Mayor, Council and citizens of Kansas City’s highest esteem with which Jay McShann is held in their hearts and minds.

(You can find a link to the resolution, pictured at the left, on the city’s website here.)

I’m not going to presume to lecture anyone who holds even a passing interest in this blog on the importance of a legend like Jay McShann. Until his death nine years ago, Jay McShann defined Kansas City jazz. Out in the world today, names like Count Basie and Charlie Parker may be more widely recognized. But nobody meant more to Kansas City jazz than Jay McShann.

This coming Saturday, his daughter invite the city to celebrate Hootie’s hundredth birthday at the Gem Theater. The evening opens with a presentation by Chuck Haddix on McShann’s history and importance to jazz. Then Joe Cartwright sets the tone for the night leading an ensemble with Gerald Spaits and Todd Strait – McShann’s regular accompanists in his later years – and a trio of vocalists performing Jay’s standards. The wonderful pianist Benny Green takes the stage in a special performance. And Bobby Watson assembles a collection of Kansas City All-Stars to salute Hootie. A new collection of McShann memorabilia will be on display in the Gem.

A reception starts about 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 16th. The music starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Resolve to be there.

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