Monday, May 3, 2010
Review: Masters of KC Jazz Benefit at the Madrid Theater
The epiphany struck me in a most unlikely moment.
As a handful of high school kids and gray-haired couples shared the dance floor Sunday at the Madrid Theater, a member of Kansas City Youth Jazz's Reno Band took a painfully mediocre solo during "Kansas City." The kid's pedestrian effort stood out because the majority of the teenagers in the band were exceptionally talented.
"Everybody deserves a chance," founder and musical director Leon Brady later explained while noting that every member of the group took a solo on the Leiber and Stoller staple.
Only then did I come to understand the essence of Kansas City Youth Jazz. It's not just about the attempt to instill a passion for jazz in young musicians. The real value of the organization, I realized, lies with Brady's quiet dignity. His leadership, characterized by an unflagging expectation of excellence, has an enormous impact that transcends the arts.
I attended Sunday's fundraiser as a guest of board member Antwaun Smith. (He and his wife Annie are pictured above. She's also an enthusiastic blogger.)
Students from Jim Mair's jazz program at Kansas City Kansas Community College, an ensemble composed of KC Youth Jazz instructors and Diverse also performed Sunday. David Basse served as the night's master of ceremonies. The music, needless to say, was quite fine.
Before Plastic Sax readers get the impression that I'm recanting my unpopular positions on jazz education, I'll note that I still advocate teaching turntablism and incorporating hip hop and rock elements into programs like KC Youth Jazz. Encouraging students to write jazz arrangements of contemporary hits by Beyonce, Lady Gaga and MGMT will ultimately lead to a genuine appreciation of Count Basie and Charlie Parker.
I suspect that Brady disapproves of such notions. Perhaps the impressive staff he's assembled- they include Chris Burnett, Stan Kessler, Jason Goudeau, Greg Richter and Clarence Smith- are more sympathetic to such ideas. Because Brady won't be around forever, I sincerely hope that Smith and the current faculty can find a way to ensure that Brady's legacy endures.
(Original images of Sunday's event by Plastic Sax.)