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The Jazz Scene KC

SAVE THE DATE - Folly Frolic 2019 coming in November!

Folly Frolic - The Folly Theater

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Folly Frolic


The 5th Annual Folly Frolic will be on

November 16th, 2019

2019’s Folly Frolic will feature


Formed in New York City in 2007, Elizabeth Bougerol & Evan Palazzo have brought the Hot Sardines to life!

The Hot Sardines have managed to garner the attention Baby Boomers and Millennial jazz lovers alike with their flair in performance and music influenced by artists like Fats Waller, Thelonious Monk, and Ray Charles.

The Hot Sardines will play at the historic Folly Theater for the 5th annual Folly Frolic on Saturday, November 16th with their new album, Welcome Home, Bon Voyage released on April 19th, 2019.

Tickets will go on sale on September 13th!

Tickets will be $30, $40, & $50

Make sure you are following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and subscribed to our emails to stay up to date and be the FIRST to know!

Sponsorships are available now!

Folly Frolic History

In 2015, The Folly Theater hosted its first Winter fundraising event to benefit the Folly Theater’s operating funds and Kids’ Series programming. We were joined by the Celtic Tenors in 2015 for our inaugural event, raising approximately $56,000.

In 2016, we brought the world-renowned Karrin Allyson to the Folly Theater stage. Her lively sounds and captivating vocals grabbed audiences for her 3rd performance at the historic Folly stage. With the help of our patrons and generous donors, the 2nd Folly Frolic raised just around $95,000.

December 6th, 2017, we celebrated our 3rd annual Folly Frolic with Walker McGuire, an up an coming country duo. Jordan Walker, Tennessee native, and Johnny McGuire, a boy from Kansas, joined up to bring a unique sound to the Folly Theater. That evening, the Folly went country! After an exciting sound check party with Q104, we moved over to the Muehlbach Tower at the Marriott Downtown Kansas City. We made our way back over to the C. Stephen Metzler Hall at the Folly Theater for an exciting performance put on by the duo. After the show, Walker McGuire stood and signed autographs for adoring fans!

In 2018, we celebrate the largest Folly Frolic to date! With over 300 VIPs and a sold-out show, Oleta Adams took the stage to deliver a powerful performance for over 1,000 on looking fans and Folly supporters. 2018’s Frolic also included a combo dinner in partnership with the newly refurbished Savoy at 21c Restaurant & Hotel where guests enjoyed a 3-course dinner and then headed to the Folly for Oleta’s concert. The fourth Folly Frolic raised over $118,000!


An Evening with Branford Marsalis - coming to the Folly Jazz Series October 4th


The 37th Annual Folly Jazz Series presents

An Evening with Branford Marsalis

Friday, October 4th at 8 PM


Saxophonist Branford Marsalis is one of the most influential and respected figures in contemporary music. The NEA Jazz Master, Grammy Award winner and Tony Award nominee is equally at home performing concertos with symphony orchestras and sitting in with members of the Grateful Dead, but the core of his musical universe remains the Branford Marsalis Quartet. After more than three decades of existence with minimal personnel changes, this celebrated ensemble is revered for its uncompromising interpretation of a kaleidoscopic range of both original compositions and jazz and popular classics.

After the Grammy-nominated Upward Spiral, on which guest vocalist Kurt Elling was seamlessly integrated into the group, the Quartet has followed up with The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul, its most emotionally wide-ranging and melody driven collection to date. John Zeugner captured the impact of the Quartet in a live performance in a recent concert review, calling it “casually confident, professional, cerebral, and supercharged with energy. The Branford Marsalis Quartet…was all of those adjectives and more.”

TICKETS ARE $20, $30, $40, AND $55

CalendarFriday October 04, 2019

Clock8:00 PM

Ticket$20, $30, $40, & $55


2019-20 Topeka Jazz concert Series Lineup announced

Published at July 27th, 2019

The Topeka Jazz Concert Series has announced its lineup for the 2019-2020 season.

This year's lineup consists of nine performances, with the first at 3 p.m Aug. 18 in the Regency Ballroom at the downtown Ramada Hotel and Convention Center.

Steve Waugh, president of the Topeka Jazz Workshop, said this year's lineup is strong and features new faces and veteran performers.

"We've booked well-known jazz artists from the East Coast, West Coast and Midwest, plus more new international talent that will be really exciting," Waugh said in a news release.

The Aug. 18 performance will feature John Allred, a New York City trombonist, who will perform with the Topeka Jazz Workshop band.

Waugh said Allred has toured with major bands and performed at jazz festivals and with Broadway orchestras.

Trombonist John Allred.

Trombonist John Allred.

Josh Nelson, a West Coast pianist, writer and arranger, will take the stage Sept. 22 with Los Angeles-based vocalist Kathleen Grace.

"Josh has been a mainstay pianist on the stage and in the recording studios of the West Coast for many years, is highly respected and sought after and is a lot of fun," Waugh said.

West Coast pianist Josh Nelson

West Coast pianist Josh Nelson

Performances on Oct. 13, Nov. 10 and Dec. 8 will feature Kansas City jazz artists, including KC's Westport Arts Ensemble, KC's Vine Street Rumble Band, and the KC Strings and Illinois native Aaron Weinstein.

March 15 will see the return of jazz drummer Jeff Hamilton and his trio, Waugh said.

"Jeff is a longtime friend of our jazz series and always treats us to an exciting concert," Waugh said.

Drummer Jeff Hamilton

Drummer Jeff Hamilton

A performance on Jan. 19, 2020, will feature Joe Cartwright's Latin Jazz Quartet and Feb. 16, 2020, will feature Warren Vache and Russ Phillips.

Kansas City based pianist Joe Cartwright

Kansas City based pianist Joe Cartwright

The final concert of the series will be a performance by the Laila Biali Trio, which is a newcomer to the jazz series.

Singer/Pianist Laila Biali

Singer/Pianist Laila Biali

Membership tickets for all nine concerts cost $170 and can be purchased at

Young New Century Big band musicians are Learning from The best

Elite KCKCC-based band to perform Wednesday at Unity Temple on the Plaza


Former KCKCC Director of Bands Marlin Cooper was guest soloist at the first performance of the New Century Big Band at the Mason Jar Wednesday. The band is honoring Cooper for his legacy as one of the very first to teach jazz education at the college level in Kansas City. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins) 

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC (originally posted at Aug 2nd, 2019)

It’s true. Old musicians don’t fade away, they just keep playing.

In many cases, such as the New Century Big Band, they also give direction, experience and motivation to a new wave of up-and-coming jazz musicians at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

An elite group of musicians made up of KCKCC alumni, music educators and graduates and present and future students, the New Century Jazz Band will make its formal debut in “Spirituality and All That Jazz” series Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Unity Temple on the Plaza, 707 W. 47th. Held by well-known jazz icon Tim Whitmer, it’s the longest running jazz series featuring local jazz musicians.

Organized and directed by Jim Mair, KCKCC director of instrumental music, the band made its public debut Thursday night at the Mason Jar Restaurant at 94th just south of State Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas. The debut featured guest soloist and co-director Marlin Cooper, KCKCC’s instrumental band director for 27 years (1972-1999).


Director of Instrumental Studies at KCKCC Jim Mair has founded and directed the New Century Big Band, so named in preparation for KCKCC’s 100th birthday in 2023. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

“We chose the name New Century in preparation of KCKCC’s 100th birthday in 2023 and we’re featuring Marlin Cooper to honor his legacy as one of the very first educators at the college level teaching jazz education in Kansas City,” Mair said.

Mair is a veteran at organizing instrumental groups. His first community band organized shortly after his hiring at KCKCC in 1999 eventually evolved into the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, an elite orchestra he and his wife Mary headed until 2010 when they stepped aside to devote more time to their two children, Mandy and Jameson.

“With Mandy starting college at KCKCC where she’ll be singing with John Stafford’s choral groups and Jameson playing trumpet and drum set at Olathe Northwest, we figured it was time to start a community band, one that plays at the highest level possible, not one that plays just for fun,” Mair said. The response was almost overwhelming. “We have a waiting list; we started in June and have enough people for two bands. We’re trying to work out the logistics for two bands. It’s a good problem to have. It encourages everyone to get better and a great motivation for our incoming freshmen.”


Saxophonist Herschel McWilliams was one of a half-dozen KCKCC alums helping give direction and motivation to current and future KCKCC musicians as members of the New Century Jazz Band. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins) 

Of the 21 members of the band, four are current students at KCKCC; five are or will be incoming freshmen; and six KCKCC alums. Herschel McWilliams IV, lead tenor saxophonist, a Shawnee Mission North graduate and local professional musician (founder of who played for Cooper in the late 1990s, is the oldest alum. His father (Sonny) also played in Cooper’s band starting in 1974. Trombonist Karita Carter, the sister-in-law of KCKCC grad and Kansas City jazz legend Bobby Watson, could have been an alum. “I tried to recruit her but she went to Wichita State,” Cooper remembered.

Andres Reyes, who played drums when Cooper took the KCKCC Jazz Band to the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 1985, has two sons play in the hand – Andre Jr. who plays keyboard and drummer Antonio, a current KCKCC student. Other current students include Tm Keith, guitar; Densil Malabre, congas and percussion; and saxophonist Adam Bender, who is also an apprentice at BAC Music as an instrument repair technician. 

Incoming freshmen include Evan West of Shawnee Mission North and Samantha Angel of Tonganoxie, trumpets; and Henry Fears of Shawnee Mission Northwest and Lucas Porterfield of Tonganoxie, trombones. A fifth, KCKCC Jazz Camp grad Asa Martin, is a senior at Shawnee Mission North and will enroll at KCKCC in 2020.

Alums include trumpeter Jon Tobaben, a recent grad entering the home health care profession; and bass Sean Phelps, who is employed in information technology by Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools. The band will be losing two saxophone alums, Rayvon Haggerty, who is finishing his music degree at Missouri Western University, and Richard Tucker who was recently hired by the Sweetwater Corp. and will be relocating in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

Non-alums bring a wealth of talent. Saxophonist Michael Harris II is the band director at Washington High School while trombonist Sarah Braun is a UMKC grad and a substitute with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra. From the trumpet section, Joe Sisco plays with the Fountain City Brass Band; Armando Gutierrez leads a mariachi band in Kansas City; and Daniel Dissmore is a recent graduate of Kansas State. 

Mair also joins in on occasion. One of Kansas City’s top saxophone and clarinet players, Mair now performs with Tim Whitmer’s host band and with his son Jameson, who recently took first place as Downbeat magazine’s No. 1 middle school trumpet soloist in the nation.

Q&A with Kelley Gant, Producer of Spine Showcases, Kansas City's newest jazz series

Q&A with Kelley Gant, Producer of Spine Showcases, Kansas City’s newest jazz series:

Spine Showcases is a monthly jazz performance series produced in partnership with the Charlotte Street Foundation. For more information about the series and upcoming performances, check or @spineshowcases on instagram. The series has lauched a Kickstarter with full schedule details at:


What is the Spine Showcases?

In plain terms, Spine Showcases is a series of performances that spotlights the music from local KC jazz composers.  Each showcase has two sets, each set featuring the work of one individual songwriter with their own ensemble.

How often are Spine Showcases?

In 2019, we are hosting one Spine Showcase per month, with the exclusion of November 2019, when we'll have two Showcases.


How did you get the job producing it?

I pitched the idea for the Showcases to the Charlotte Street Foundation during one of their open calls. They reviewed my application and awarded me the opportunity to hold the monthly series. It's not really a job, it's an award.


How much do you pay musicians?

Each musician is paid between $100 - $150, depending on the size of the ensemble. So far, the series has hired 37 musicians (a handful of musicians have played the series more than once), who have been paid a total of $5,700.00. In the upcoming second half of the series, another $5,350 is budgeted for musician wages. Total, local musicians will be earning $11,050.00.


How much money does the Charlotte Street Foundation pay you?

The Charlotte Street Foundation awarded me a $250 stipend per event, $3000 total for one year of the series.


Why don’t you charge a cover/ticket price?

The Charlotte Street Foundation preferred that I not charge a cover for this series.  Since it’s held in their location and they provide a stipend, I agreed.


What happens if the kickstarter isn’t funded?

I will hustle for charitable donations or sponsorships from local corporations. If that fails, I will pay for the series out of pocket, and move on a different (read: less expensive) version of the Spine Showcases. Performers in the second half of the series have agreed to hire smaller bands if the kickstarter fails, in order to keep costs down.


When do you sing?

I performed a set of improvised music during the April showcase with Aaron Osborne, using hand percussion, bass, vocals, whistling, and an array of effect pedals. Ian Corbett joined as a special guest. I performed a set of my original songs with Seth Lee (bass and guitar) and Ryan Lee (drums and keys) during the June showcase. If we’re able to raise enough funds, I may return for the live taping that we’ve scheduled on December 30th, when most of the participating ensembles will have a chance to tape one or two of their favorite songs from the 2019 showcase.


Are there opportunities for young/student players to play in the series?

If this series continues, there will be definitely be more opportunities!  The jazz departments at UMKC, KU, and KCKCC all have good programs with plenty of talented students. I hope that Spine Showcases can continue so we can see many of these talents grow and develop.


Do you require musicians to wear suits and ties?

No. The creative freedom this series allows includes wardrobe choices. Good question!


What surprised you most about the process of producing a series?

This has been a completely new experience.  I’m surprised at how much I enjoy creating the artwork to accompany this series, surprised at how long it takes me to write grant application materials, surprised at what kind of programs and projects actually win grant money, and surprised by how consistently pleased our audience has been, even though the music we’ve presented often is vastly different from set to set.


Why the Spine Showcases important to Kansas City?

Thank you for thinking Spine Showcases is important! Many local fans of jazz are frustrated that their best options to hear their favorite musicians are in noisy clubs and restaurants, and likewise, many of Kansas City’s musicians are frustrated with the lack of opportunities to play for an engaged audience. Kansas City needs more stages where we can play original music to an audience who is there to listen. I hope Spine will be one of many opportunities created for musicians, as we continue to drive demand within our community for more original work.

"Musicians for Molly" event scheduled for July 14th (submitted by: Lori Chandler)

July 6, 2019

If you’ve spent any time talking to me about jazz, undoubtedly you’ve heard me talk about what an amazing jazz community we have here in Kansas City. If anyone needed a more shining example, the events of the last week are the perfect encapsulation of what this community REALLY means.


Molly Hammer has been battling breast cancer for several years, and despite significant challenges, has kept performing. Her outstanding voice, irresistible personality and unwavering refusal to back down have made her a much-loved fixture of the Kansas City jazz scene. Things have been, well, impossible for her over the last several weeks. A series of cancer related setbacks have left her unable to continue performing. Here’s where the community comes in.

Back at the beginning of June, Alyssa Bell started a “Musicians for Molly” campaign, encouraging performers around the city to donate a small portion of their tips and band fees from each performance directly to Molly. That has helped, but a larger push was needed, so Alyssa, Clint Ashlock, Brad Gregory and myself sat down a week ago (literally a week ago today) to talk about what we could do. By the end of that day we had the concept down, a date, a venue, and list of bands to perform. By Tuesday we had all of the bands confirmed, sound, catering, and silent auction items coming in. THREE DAYS - it took just three days to organize an 8 hour event. 

Not only did the event get organized in three days, almost everything is being 100% donated. The bands, the sound support, the auction items - free. The venue and the bar catering significantly discounted. Volunteers to help run everything the day of the event. Radio interviews scheduled. THIS is what community means to me, and why this particular community of people inspires me so much - all of the jazz musicians here know each other, work together, support each other like one huge crazy family. Sure, there’s some dysfunction sometimes, every big family has that - but when the chips are down like they are now - they lock arms and get shit DONE.


So here are the details:

  • Sunday, July 14

  • 4pm to midnight

  • MOD Gallery, 1809 McGee, KCMO, 64108

  • $10 suggested donation at the door, more is always welcome

  • All ages

  • Silent auction 4pm to 7:30pm (must be present to claim winning bid, cash or credit, no checks please)

  • Bar catering by La Bodega

  • Emcee: Eboni Fondren

  • Sound: Ian Corbett


4:00pm: Boogaloo 7

4:45pm: Sons of Brasil

5:30pm: Brad Gregory Sextet feat. Kelley Gant

6:15pm: Kansas City Jazz Orchestra

7:00pm: Alyssa Murray

8:00pm: For Now

9:15pm: Project H

10:00pm: Deshtet featuring Kadesh Flow

10:45pm: Jam Session with host Mark Lowrey

And here I need to give a shout out to a couple of people outside the KC jazz community, too. I had already booked a band from Texas for July 14 at MOD as part of the Take Five Music Productions series. Months ago. When Clint, Alyssa, Brad and I sat down a week ago, it was clear the 14th was the only date that was going to work. 

  • I want to personally thank MOD Gallery and Brian Ousley for turning a three hour commitment into a 10 hour one without really batting an eyelash.

  • I want to personally thank For Now and Isabel Crespo ( for immediately and wholeheartedly agreeing to adjust their performance to become part of this larger effort, for being honorary members of the KC jazz community on July 14th.

How can you help support this effort? Come to the event! It’s going to be amazing. If you can’t be there, we’ll be establishing a GoFundMe campaign for Molly in the coming days. Other ways to get involved:

  • Ask your favorite businesses to donate a gift card. We’re taking an unlimited amount of gift cards for the silent auction.

  • Donate something of value to the silent auction - sports tickets, art, a weekend getaway at your lake house, vintage vinyl - contact Lori Chandler at if you’d like to participate in this way

  • Volunteer at the event - we need people to man the silent auction, help take cover charge, ID and wristband attendees, and clean up crew.

Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for the support we’ve already received. Let’s show everyone what community REALLY means on July 14th.


Artists Leading Effort to Save Popular YJ's Snack Bar

YJ’s Snack Bar

1746 Washington, Kansas City, MO. 64108

Local singer Erin Keller is working to preserve YJ’s history of being a space for artists of all kinds to collaborate and create.

Local singer Erin Keller is working to preserve YJ’s history of being a space for artists of all kinds to collaborate and create.

“Like no other coffee place in KC. This is the kind of place where the beat poets would have composed their prescient ballads, where socialists and anarchists and communitarians and hippies and gays and pacifists and environmentalists and painters and musicians now come to drink coffee and write ballads of their own.”

That is what we are fighting to save, a significantly rich history of community engagement and creative collaboration.   We as a city need to all come together and vote with our dollars for a community that not only supports the arts and the outliers of our society, but gives them a home.  That’s what YJ’s is to us and so many others: a home where we can get some affordable, healthy, and tasty food and drinks and hear some high quality and often times cutting edge local music , and learn something about our complex world while we are at it.

Erin Keller, local jazz singer, has taken on the role as music representative and will be doing all the booking.  She has a vision of YJs being a lab for musicians to present whatever projects they’re working on a voice and safe creative space in the community, especially jazz musicians.  Erin has reached out to many musicians in town to play “catered rehearsals” for free food and tips.  The response has been overwhelming.  YJ’s is scheduled for a reopening on July 5th for First Friday, and Erin Keller & Kayla Williams are hoping to host a fundraiser for their mission to secure the future of YJ’s.

Many dates in July and a few in August were booked very quickly and requests are still coming in. 

  • Arnold Young and The Roughtet will be hosting a free jazz jam every Sunday night from 6:00pm - 9:00 pm

  • Stephen Martin will be hosting the LiveJazzKC / YJ’s Jam Session on Wednesdays from 6:00 - 9:00 pm starting in August.

  • Erin Keller will be hosting a weekly jazz brunch on Sundays from 10:00am-2:00pm. 

  • July 17th, 2019 features Matt Otto, Ben Tevort, and Brian Steever

While there isn’t the money to pay Musicians right now, Erin Keller and Kayla Williams are committed to working toward paying musicians what they deserve for their hard work. It will take some time to get going, but it is definitely a priority.

If our crowdfunding is successful, jazz musicians all over town will have a home in a place with a rich history of being a home for jazz musicians since 1927.  All of our artistic and music Kansas City exports to the international community, cut their chops at YJs.  If we want to really be a UNESCO World Heritage Sight that honors the musical history and musicians of this beautiful city, we must reopen YJ’s as it is a vital historically significant catalyst in the community encouraging and allowing the space for experimentation and the evolution of jazz.


We all know small business owners have to work very hard to keep their businesses open year after year. We believe that the fact that this one has had such a long run says a lot about the true value it brings to the table. But, without the support of the community there is no way we will keep the doors open for even a month. So we want to make sure that we make this decision together. That’s why we’ve decided to crowdfund it, so that people can vote with their dollars to give YJs another chance under new leadership in the form of a female collective, including Erin Keller and Kayla Williams.  Please donate and support our vision as we take YJ’s for another ride, this time into the 21st century and with dynamic female leadership. 

Go HERE to learn everything you need to know about the bright future we have the opportunity to create at YJ’s. 

And, if you feel you have something to contribute (we need a house jazz drum kit) to this vision, feel free to email Erin Keller at  Thank you so much for your time and consideration of this matter.

A Neon Jazz Interview with Alvin Queen

(While not specifically tied to Kansas City, this is great interview with an incredible musician. We hope you enjoy it!)


June 2019
An Interview with a King of Jazz Drumming
By Joe Dimino, Founder & Voice of Neon Jazz Radio

Each and every interview conducted by Neon Jazz is always full of revelatory, self-actualized and fresh stories from the world of jazz and a true testament to the human condition. Some are from Kansas City, while others are from New York and many more dot the expanse of this fine world of ours. One of those done back in April 2019 was with the amazing Alvin Queen. From his home base of Switzerland, he graciously opened the pandora's box to a life of jazz that is so full of stories you almost need to take a break to let it all soak in. From his time with Oscar Peterson to sitting front row at Birdland next to Elvin Jones while John Coltrane performed, Alvin has traversed the world of jazz time and time again. Each sentence was profound and his humanity was uplifting. It's an interview you really should hear.

Kansas City, Introducing Adam Larson (in his words)

Introducing Adam Larson (in his own words)

When our second son Clark was born in February, my wife and I knew that our time in NYC was coming to an end. She, a life long resident of NY, growing up in Long Island and myself, an eleven year resident of Harlem and then the Bronx, desired a change of pace for our growing family. For a period of almost six months from September of 2018 through March of 2019, I had fully intended on pursuing my Doctoral degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Tierney and I spent hours looking at potential first homes for our family in and around Ann Arbor. Two weeks after Clark was born we got a notice in the mail stating that our lease was coming due at the end of May and that we could renew for only $600/month more! We both said to hell with that and thought “Ann Arbor, here we come”. Shortly after receiving the amazing rent renewal offer for $3000/month, I found out that funding to pursue the Doctorate was unfortunately not going to come through on the timeline necessary for me to make a go of it. A bit nervous but also with some excitement, Tierney and I sat down and made a pro and con list for what we wanted most out of any move, to anywhere. The big things we kept coming back to were an actual home-not some cracker-jack sized box with batshit neighbors on all sides- a good school district for our kids and a place with a great music community. We looked at Denver, Chicago and I threw out Kansas City, too. We quickly ruled out Denver and we both loved the idea of Chicago, but ultimately decided that the cost of living was too similar to NYC for what we wanted to get out of our new home. 

I should back up and mention that I had visited Kansas City for the first time just a few months back, in December of 2018 to play a slew of gigs at The Green Lady and The Black Dolphin (now running “lean on horns”, what that means I’m still trying to figure out) , as well as some masterclass opportunities in Missouri. I stayed with my close friend John Kizilarmut and in the week that I was in KC, I felt a true sense of community unlike anything I had really experienced in my time in New York. There is a lot of truth about having to experience NYC as a musician in order to unlock a certain layer of the music, but I think there is even more truth in the fact that the sense of community that I’m describing cannot be put into better terms other than to say it’s textbook midwest hospitality and comfortability. I grew up in Illinois before departing for NYC as a wide-eyed teenager in 2008 and I’ve always come through this part of the country each year in part because I’ve had success finding work for myself but also because there is a real sense of home that I feel when in this part of the country. Articulating this to Tierney- a native New Yorker- was no small feat, but as she always has, she listened carefully, asked a bunch of questions and trusted me. With that trust, I reached out to my Skype student Evan Kappelman (side note- I’m so thrilled he’s leaving KC to pursue his degree at Temple because otherwise, we’d all be out of work in about a year.), and I asked him if I could get his mother’s email to ask some questions about moving to Olathe. I’m fairly certain Evan took that as the equivalent of me asking him to chop his arm off- the confusion level had to have been high. At any rate, he obliged and I found myself emailing back and forth with another extremely patient and kind midwesterner, where she answered dozens of questions about growing up in Olathe, KC, etc and eventually when I ended up asking her about a potential realtor, she was able to recommend her own brother. If that doesn’t illustrate community and small world connections, I can’t help you. Most of our questions centered around the kids, so for my own reassurance I quickly phoned Peter Schlamb, Eddie Moore and Marcus Lewis and asked them their opinions about a potential move to KC. Each of them, generous human beings, took time to give me a fair and honest assessment. With all of this information, I bought a flight to KC on March 15th and my father, John, drove 5.5hrs from my hometown to meet me at the airport. We saw 8 properties in about 10 hours and only by complete chance did we happen to view a property at the end of the day in Olathe that when we walked in, we knew was the best thing we’d seen all day and probably would see the entire weekend. My realtor phoned the seller’s agent and turns out there was 8 offers already on the house and the seller was making a decision in 45 minutes. So, we put in an offer and went to Q39 for some BBQ and beer, with at least me thinking there is no way in hell I will get that house. About an hour into my 3 meat sampler, 2 beers and vegetables (seriously?), I got a phone call from my realtor saying we got the house. In complete shock I almost choked on my broccoli, paid the check and made my dad drive to CaVa to hear Peter’s trio to celebrate. And celebrate did I ever….yikes! But hey, I just bought a god damn house playing a piece of metal, I’d live with the repercussions. 

This is an extremely long winded way of summarizing the sense of the community here in KC. No scene is perfect, sure, but although I’ve only been here for 2.5 weeks, I can already feel that this was the right move at exactly the right time for me and my family. 

One of the important things to note here is that the choice to move to KC was one made without any plan other than to continue to do what I had been doing in NYC to provide for my family; a mixture of private teaching, masterclasses, touring and writing. It then seemed too perfect that the week of the closing on my house, I was officially offered the chance to teach at UMKC starting this coming fall. Another indication that this indeed was the right move at the right time. Yet, that event wasn’t random, not even by a long shot. It was the cumulative efforts of people in the COMMUNITY (Ryan, Marcus, Michael, et al) to go to bat for me, to a person I’ve never met, for a position that I didn’t even know was a possibility. I’m eternally grateful to those individuals and it once again points to the selflessness I see in so many of the musicians I call friends here in KC. 

As if the case with any city and scene, passion will always be the driver behind great highs and turbulent lows, but for now, I remain overwhelmingly optimistic about the chance to be a part of this vibrant community. 

-Adam Larson

(ADAM’S BIO from his website: Originally from Normal, IL, Adam Larson is an American saxophonist, composer and author. An endorsed artist for P. Mauriat saxophones, Boston Sax Shop “Heritage” necks and Vandoren reeds, mouthpieces and ligatures, Adam began playing saxophone at the age of 11. 

Described by critic Howard Reich of The Chicago-Tribune as “a player for whom the word ‘prodigious’ was coined”, by Peter Hum of the Ottawa Citizen as “a saxophonist who brings Donny McCaslin and Mark Turner to mind”, and by Nate Chinen of The New York Times as “the sort of jazz musician who gets flagged early on as a promising talent and then hustles to meet every requirement for success”, Larson has garnered numerous awards that distinguish him as one of the most promising artists of his generation. As a student, Larson was a member of virtually every national program dedicated to showcasing excellence in young jazz talent including The Grammy Band, Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, Betty Carter Jazz Ahead, YoungArts Jazz Fellows, Telluride Student All-Stars, Jazz Band of America among others. Upon graduating high school in 2008, Adam moved to New York City to pursue his BM and MM in Jazz Performance on full-scholarship from The Manhattan School, where he graduated with honors as a Master's student as the recipient of the William H. Borden Award for Outstanding performance in Jazz in 2014.  

Larson has released four albums; two under the Inner Circle Music label and two produced independently. Larson’s most recent recording “Second City” received a four-star rating from Downbeat magazine, was listed as one of the best releases of 2017 in both Downbeat and Jazziz Magazine, and was prominently featured in several publications. Larson keeps an active schedule with his own groups and as a sideman, having performed at several venues across the U.S. including The Jazz Standard, Birdland, The 55 Bar, The Jazz Gallery, The Blue Note, The Village Vanguard, Smalls, Jazz at The Bistro, The Jazz Estate, The Jazz Showcase, and several others.

Adam has been a part of several tours that have allowed him to see more of the world than he once thought possible. He was a guest artist at the 2017 Sopot Jazz Festival in Sopot, Poland and has toured India,Taiwan, Holland, and Germany as well much of the United States. In 2015 Larson’s quartet was selected as one of ten ensembles to tour on behalf of the U.S. State Department's "American Music Abroad" program and toured Africa for 35 days visiting The Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Benin and Ghana.

Beyond maintaining an active touring and recording schedule, Larson continues to be a sought after clinician and master class presenter at several high schools and Universities across the Midwest and beyond, including appearances at HKU Conservatory-Utrecht, University of Iowa, Drake University, University of Northern Iowa, Temple University, Yale, Manhattan School of Music, and University of North Texas among many others. Adam is currently on faculty at University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory, where he teaches saxophone and music business. 

Adam has authored two jazz etude books; “Leaps & Sounds: 12 Contemporary Etudes for Jazz Saxophone” Volumes I and II , that have been sold in over 30 countries and States. He is also the author of “Conversation Starters: 180 pieces of Jazz Vocabulary” and created and released a successful online masterclass dedicated exclusively to developing great technique, called “Lighting-Fast and Crystal- Clean”. He maintains an impressive portfolio of commissioned ensemble writing for school jazz ensembles, having written more than thirty original works to date. Adam was commissioned by the Illinois Music Educators Association to compose the All-State composition for the 2020 convention. Larson is a Teaching Artist for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s “Let Freedom Swing” program, The New York Pops Ed education programs, and has a diverse private lesson studio of Skype students from the U.S. and abroad. 

With a vested interest in giving back, Larson has also worked in various capacities with organizations that showcase exceptional young talent in the United States. Adam has served as a mentor for the Grammy Foundation and as an adjudicator for the YoungArts organization. Serving in the role of creative director of the YoungArts New York regional show, Larson has presented multiple genre-bending, interdisciplinary performances held at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City. Larson currently resides in Kansas City with his beautiful wife, Tierney and sons Jack and Clark.)

Emergent Properties - by: Ben Leifer

photo credit: Angie Jennings

photo credit: Angie Jennings

Emergent Properties

Submitted by: Ben Leifer

Why is it that every other week we have a debate in this city about what Kansas City Jazz is, as if any of us get to decide? I know folks who think it is their prerogative to prescribe a style, or a methodology to this title. And yet the wheel keeps turning on this city and our scene. 

 Clubs open and close, musicians move away, some come back. New faces come in and some local icons pass away. Magazines, websites and social media continue to air out this discussion, and most of the conclusions are either reductionist, or so broad that any true meaning is lost to the breeze. If it were so easy to define something like this I would think we all would share the same viewpoint. 

 In science, the concept of emergent properties has always fascinated me. For example, our brains are basically a gelatinous blob of neurons and cerebrospinal fluid with some blood vessels and a handful of other important cells. How is it that something this basic can do something so magical as take in massive quantities of information, distill it into input and output signals, record memories, experience emotions, have five senses, operate a living body, and possess consciousness and all that that entails? Consciousness is an emergent property of our brain function. It is greater than the sum of its parts. Take a brain apart cell by cell and you have nothing even remotely capable consciousness. This is a good metaphor for this discussion.

 I think we can all agree that “Kansas City Jazz” doesn’t lie within the purview of singular artists or even stylistic traits, but is an emergent property of the entire history and present of the music that was/is created by artists who live here and create here. It’s bigger than any of us and the only thing you can to do effect it is to put your stamp on it. That said... you have to earn it. You have to show up and participate.

 There are those out there, in this scene and the global community, that say that Jazz is about innovation and so you must always be doing something new or else you are faking it. I call BS. That is a recipe for trite, undefinable confusion that you see in the “art” community all the time. There are others who say that you must adhere to the tradition at all costs and not stray or else you are not playing jazz. That is also foolish, because even the most stringent traditions allow for growth from the practitioner. However, we need both of these goofballs to tie down the boundaries of radicalization so we have any structure at all to work within. If you think these structures are superfluous and you are above them, then you are just another drunk fish in the ego ocean.

 Here’s the point, as I often have trouble getting to... who gives a shit? I’m super bored by this conversation and certainly any music fan could give a damn. It’s 2019! Every day is Halloween.  We should all just STFU about it and play: Hearts out, asses off. So many of us are struggling, and so many need good music and to have their thoughts provoked as a matter of healing. Start bleeding on the outside and let them in. 

 Have you ever seen a band do that thing where the melody sounds great and everyone’s energy is open and inviting, and then the solos start and they all scrunch into a tiny ball smaller than a Planck Length, with their entire lives just crushed into a shadow? What the hell!?

I didn’t pay a cover to... oh wait... hang on... 

I didn’t stagger drunk for free into this Jazz clu... oh wait.... damn... 

I didn’t stagger drunk for free into this bar that has music sometimes to listen t... dammit...

I didn’t stagger drunk for free into this bar that has music sometimes to talk to my friends about how much we hate work while you don’t pour your entire heart out to me and then I’ll chastise you for not playing what I wanted…Kansas City Jazz.

"Jay McShann Live in Tokyo 1990" - Album Review

Jay McShann Live in Tokyo 1990, a widely unheard album was recorded live during an April 9th, 1990 show at Indigo Blues, The ACT, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Artist: Jay McShann

Album Title: Jay McShann Live in Tokyo 1990

T2 Audio

Personnel: Jay McShann, piano and vocals; Lynn Seaton, bass and vocals; Chuck Riggs, drums

Tracks: But Not for Me, In a Sentimental Mood, Kansas City, Moten Swing, On a Clear Day, Jumpin’ the Blues, Georgia On My Mind, All of Me, Cute

 Recorded April 9, 1990 at Indigo Blues at the ACT, Tokyo, Japan

Jay McShann in Tokyo.jpg

 My goodness, how we miss Jay McShann.

 When folks try to explain what Kansas City jazz is all about, what makes it unique, more often than not the explanation will include Jay McShann. His music had that strong sense of swing. His style incorporated boogie-woogie and stride along with his fabulous straight-ahead jazz piano technique, and his blues and voice were always inventive and distinctive. Above all, he was fun to listen to. You were bound to leave one of his performances happier than when you arrived.

 McShann was 76 years old and three decades into the renewed interest in his music when this set was recorded. He was a hit in Canada, Europe and Japan, and this resulted in many recordings during these years, many on the Canadian label Sackville. This newly released record comes right at the end of the Sackville period.

 From the first few bars on “But Not for Me” one can hear how fabulous a player Jay was. After a short intro he tears into the tune Garner-like, with that strong left hand comping. Lynn Seaton and Chuck Riggs swing right along with him. Jay’s solo is full of surprise, he has such a strong melodic sense. I love Seaton’s well-structured bass solo, which includes his strong strumming skills.

 “In a Sentimental Mood” is masterful. Listen to how Jay moves between his lines, his time, and these great chords (his harmonic skills were exemplary). At times during his solo, his left hand is so strong that you might struggle to hear Seaton. Seaton, long a versatile first-call bassist, has his own great solo.

 Jay loves “Kansas City”. I never tire of him playing and singing this blues, especially with a great swinging Seaton solo that reminds me of Percy Heath doing “The Watergate Blues.” But Jay was not done yet and comes back for another rocking solo with that killer left hand. “Moten Swing” is more Kansas City history, one of those songs that may never go away (I just heard some young musicians in Barcelona tear it up). Jay is again inventive and lightly swinging. Seaton uses his bow and adds his vocals a la Major Holley.

 There is more KC blues here, too, the old McShann favorite “Jumpin’ the Blues.” I love Jay's opening here, taking it slow, then picking up the pace as Seaton and Riggs join him. Then it is just Jay and his endless file drawer of blues lines. Now this is Kansas City jazz!

 The remaining tracks are standards, the most current being “On a Clear Day” which was twenty-five years old at the time. Jay sounds great on his vocal, and it is fun to hear him humming along with his piano solo. “Georgia On My Mind” is a great ballad, and Jay is again warm in his readings on piano and vocals. “All of Me” is another swinger featuring another fine Seaton solo. “Cute” is a well-deserved feature for Chuck Riggs, whose drums add much to the set.

 This is a fabulous and unexpected gift from Japan to the many music fans who enjoy Jay McShann. The set sounds alive, very well-recorded, like having a perfect front row seat.  This is a welcome addition to my collection and to the McShann discography.

–        Roger Atkinson




Escape from LA - a Jazz Guitarist's Journey to KC

Submitted by: Doug Perkins

My name is Doug Perkins, and I moved from Los Angeles where I was part of that music scene for my whole adult life to Kansas City in early 2015. The LA that I had moved to to attend Musician’s Institute - where I won the Outstanding Guitarist of the Year award as a student and then taught at for 6 years - had been changing for years and had gotten to the point that the traffic issues had made it so you couldn’t confidently schedule multiple live gigs if you could actually find them. Many times my LA musician friends would talk about the issue of finding enough good players in other cities to work with, so knew I was looking for a new city with a very strong jazz talent base and very affordable real estate, and Kansas City has filled that need very nicely, so say the least.

I had come out 6 months before moving here during a jazz festival weekend, and I met a lot of the name players then, and continued my networking when I actually moved. That led to a call from Rod Fleeman on a recommendation by Danny Embrey to sub for him in the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra at the Kauffman Center literally two weeks after I had arrived in town. I was still living at an Extended Stay motel in the Shawnee area with my dog and some guitars, and I think I moved into my new house in Gladstone a few days before the Kauffman gig. From that gig, I met and / or played with great people like Joe Cartwright, Kathleen Holeman, James Albright, Brad Gregory, Clint Ashlock and lots more, which led to gigs with Herschel McWilliams, Angela Hagenbach, Tim Doherty’s 9+1 and lots more. Through meeting him with Stan Kessler and the Sons of Brazil, the great Roger Wilder was nice enough to invite me to sit in with him and Bob Bowman at the old Broadway Jazz Club just before it closed. This was a really great experience that happened for me right after that, and Rich Hill gave me my first actual gig at Chaz after meeting me at a jam night at the Blue Room.

I was also asked to join Danny Embrey’s unique “Enormous Guitar”, a 5 guitar “little big band”, and have been playing for about a year with The Jim Lower Jazz Orchestra, which now has a regular Tuesday night residency at the Black Dolphin. I’ve played the Green Lady numerous times, which I find to be an amazing, unique and incredibly well run club the likes of which I have never seen in other cities. I am also lucky to have been able to write music for music libraries around the world that give me residual income from broadcast use that helps a lot, a lot of my music shows up everywhere from Sponge Bob to Mad Men and even Dance Moms! I also am regularly teaching locally at The Culture House and more, as well as having some jazz guitar students on Skype. Besides that, I am a partner in a jazz guitar education site, which brings college level guitar reaching via video masterclasses from world class players to your computer desktop. We have customers in pretty much every country, and I’ve been very happy and proud to help some great musicians get some income and a wider fan base through that.

So I have been incredibly blessed to have gotten to play with the cities top players and singers almost literally from my arrival, and they’ve been totally kind and gracious to a new guy like me. I’m still trying to get my body to acclimate to the humidity, but I know it took me ten years to learn to deal with the heat in LA, so am confident that I’ll eventually get used to that as well - go Royals ;-)

Doug Perkins June 6, 2019