Sunday, December 13, 2015
The Top Jazz-Related Stories and Trends of 2015
1. It was fun while it lasted.
The quantity and quality of the jazz performances that transpire in the Kansas City area dropped precipitously in 2015. The shuttering of Take Five Coffee + Bar- easily the region’s best listening room- was the biggest blow. Broadway Jazz Club (later Broadway Kansas City)- one of the city’s most visible jazz supper clubs- also failed to survive the year. EBT, a fine dining establishment that featured jazz in its lounge, will close at the end of the month. The RecordBar, a rock club that offered jazz twice a month, lost its lease. It’s unclear if the monthly residency of the People’s Liberation Big Band will resume when the RecordBar reopens at a different location.
2. The notable exception.
The Green Lady Lounge continues to win. There’s never a cover charge for the swanky jazz club’s ambitious slate of performances. On Friday and Saturday nights the Green Lady Lounge is often filled with a few dozen people born after 1965.
3. Bad vibes.
Greg Carroll, the longtime CEO of the American Jazz Museum who’s also an accomplished vibraphonist, resigned from the position in July.
4. Alive and well.
The jazz booster organization Kansas City Jazz Alive continued to lobby for greater awareness and an enhanced appreciation of the city’s jazz scene through a comprehensive multi-media campaign. The annual celebration at Charlie Parker’s grave- the culmination of Kansas City Jazz Alive’s efforts- attracted almost 200 people to Lincoln Cemetery in August.
The lack of national attention for the efforts of Kansas City artists remains disappointing. Aside from a set of Chris Robinson’s capsule reviews of locally released albums published by Downbeat in 2013, almost none of the musicians regularly featured at this site (Bobby Watson excepted) receive exposure from outlets other than Plastic Sax, KC Jazz Lark, KCUR, The Pitch and The Kansas City Star.
While representatives of the Mutual Musicians Foundation announced that they had successfully initiated the implementation of a low-wattage radio station that’s expected to become operational in 2016, the institution was also the driving force behind the new Kansas City & All That Jazz documentary. The fine program should serve as a valuable resource in classrooms.
Much of the most compelling jazz created and performed in Kansas City in 2015 continues to draw heavily on R&B and hip-hop. Musicians including Dominique Sanders, Eddie Moore and the members of Shades of Jade are inspired by J Dilla as well as by Charlie Parker. The downside to the trend is that unadulterated R&B bands are increasingly assigned slots that were previously occupied by jazz musicians at venues including the Blue Room.
8. Hawkeyes and Billikens.
Fans of left-of-center jazz had to travel to Iowa City or St. Louis to hear performances by many touring jazz musicians who opted to pass over Kansas City. Examples include Rudresh Mahanthappa, Dave Douglas and Evan Parker. Take Five Coffee + Bar’s bookings of luminaries like pianist Myra Melford and trumpeter Avishai Cohen are unlikely to be picked up by another venue.
9. Blogging is harder than it looks.
Featuring interesting content from locally based musicians, Inside Jazz Kansas City was rolled out to great fanfare in July. The blog’s most recent post is dated August 31. Founded in 2007, Plastic Sax is at 1,400 posts and counting.
10. Deaf ears.
The paltry audiences at far too many artistically robust performances were discouraging. The praise heaped on Kansas City's jazz musicians at Plastic Sax seems to be falling on deaf ears.
Plastic Sax conducted similar exercises in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)