Sunday, June 3, 2018

An Unorthodox Opinion

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
An impressive array of prominent locally based jazz musicians included Blair Bryant, Chris Hazelton, the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, Max Groove, Ida McBeth, the McFadden Brothers and Ernest Melton.  A more auspicious aggregation of local and international jazz talent may never gather in Kansas City again.

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.)

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