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