Last year’s Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival has been ruthlessly maligned and its organizers have been vilified. Tremors from the ensuing trauma are rattling the foundations of Kansas City’s jazz community a year later.
The trash talk and finger-pointing that’s characterized the aftermath of a festival that resulted in a six-figure loss for taxpayers understandably overlooks a point that perhaps only Plastic Sax is willing to make. From a purely artistic perspective, the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival was a massive success.
The auspicious jazz lineup featured on several stages at the three-day festival on that fateful Memorial Day weekend included ten particularly noteworthy touring acts:
- Karrin Allyson with Houston Person- a sublime pairing
- Brian Blade and the Fellowship- the fabled group’s first appearance in Kansas City
- Regina Carter- the violinist is one of the most decorated artists in jazz
- Chick Corea- the pianist is jazz royalty
- Kevin Mahogany- the late vocalist’s final high-profile Kansas City show
- Logan Richardson- the year’s only publicized area appearance by the most important Kansas City jazz musician to emerge this millennium
- John Scofield- the guitarist is one of jazz’s most popular artists
- Soul Rebels- a party-starting New Orleans brass band
- Greg Tardy- a brilliant Tennessee based saxophonist
- Bobby Watson and Horizon- the Kansas City icon reassembled his all-star band
While the pop/R&B vocalists Brandy and Lalah Hathaway drew a crowd that festival organizers pegged at 5,000, no jazz performance was attended by more than a few hundred people. Organizers blamed the poor turnout on a single burst of rain. Some detractors allege that the festival was poorly publicized. I beg to differ. Almost all of the 500 people in the metropolitan area willing to pay $50 per day to hear mainstream jazz performed on outdoor stages in the Jazz District showed up.
(Original image of a band performing at the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival by Plastic Sax.)