Sunday, December 10, 2017
The Top Jazz-Related Stories and Trends of 2017
1. Fest Flop
The Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival was intended to signal the prowess of the American Jazz Museum’s new management structure. The plan backfired. The institution was belted with a catastrophic blow to its reputation and finances following the May event. An inaccurate announcement that Janelle Monáe would be the primary headliner was the first in a series of miscues. Performances by jazz heavyweights such as Chick Corea (photo), John Scofield, Regina Carter, Brian Blade and Houston Person were sparsely attended. An odd emphasis on appearances by members of the cast of the television series Empire didn’t pay dividends either.
2. Fest Fallout
Following a torrent of bad publicity that included bounced checks and a weak turnout, the American Jazz Museum laid off staff, tabled its annual concert series at the Gem Theater and ceded control to the Parks Department.
3. Dolphin Dance
The expansion of the Green Lady Lounge jazz complex was the most encouraging development of 2017. The Black Dolphin, a venue directly to the north of the Green Lady Lounge, is the latest edition to the jazz hub in the heart of the Crossroads District. The Black Dolphin, the Orion Room and the Green Lady Lounge host more than 20 performances every week.
4. It’s Alive
KC Jazz Alive doubled down on its commitment to the area scene in 2017. The organization’s covenant to honor the legacy of Charlie Parker included bringing pianist Sullivan Fortner and saxophonist Tivon Pennicott to Kansas City for a series of performances with locally based musicians.
5. Grave Offense
Territorial grandstanding dramatically diminished attendance at the annual Charlie Parker graveside memorial service. Only four saxophonists participated in the “21-sax salute” at Lincoln Cemetery.
6. Cracks in the Foundation
The 100th anniversary of the founding of the Mutual Musicians Foundation should have been a big deal. Instead, ongoing turmoil at the historic site tarnished the centennial.
7. I Could Write a Book
The publication of Changing the Tune: The Kansas City Women’s Jazz Festival, 1978-1985 served as a reminder that presenting large scale jazz events in Kansas City is extremely difficult.
Citing Kansas City’s jazz history, UNESCO added the municipality to its Creative Cities Network.
9. Special Edition
While the lineup of the controversial Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival was loaded with formidable talent, the the year’s most thrilling one-two punch occurred on April 22. Several dozen jazz aficionados managed to take in a performance of Bill Frisell’s score for The Great Flood at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art before racing to the Gem Theater to hear the adventurous trio of Jack Dejohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison.
10. It’s a Date
The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been resurrected. The comprehensive listing is a community service of Plastic Sax and the Green Lady Lounge.
(Photo of the meager audience for the Chick Corea Trio at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival by Plastic Sax.)