Monday, July 19, 2010


One of my favorite viral videos documents an experiment conducted by The Washington Post. They cajoled classical violinist Joshua Bell into posing as a busker at a subway station. Would anyone stop to listen? Here's the story.

That intriguing study came immediately to mind when I saw that four excellent Kansas City jazz musicians were scheduled to perform July 1 at Penguin Courtyard on The Plaza.

I was eager to see if unknowing passerby would linger at the courtyard to appreciate the work of four of the city's finest jazz musicians. Saxophonist Strayer led brilliant guitarist Rod Fleeman, acclaimed bassist Bob Bowman and relatively young drummer Sam Wisman through tasteful but vibrant mainstream jazz repertoire.

I caught about 45 minutes of one set and 15 minutes of another. About a dozen fans of one or more of the musicians were obviously on hand specifically for the event. I'd like to think that they saw the date listed on my Kansas City Jazz Calendar. It's more likely that they received an email reminder from bandleader Kerry Strayer. Or maybe they were friends and family of the band members.

The results of my completely unscientific study were discouraging. I didn't witness a single person in the popular shopping district stop to enjoy the music. Only about one in every five people noticeably slowed their stride. Women bearing shopping bags never looked up but a handful of men acknowledged the band's work with a nod or a smile.

Is this indifference a reflection on the popularity of jazz? No- Joshua Bell didn't fare any better.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)


Anonymous said...

Interesting take. Thanks for listening. My Mother (a classical violinist) will be proud that her boy is as big a draw as Joshua Bell - ha!

P.S. could you please photo shop in a little tan on my leg?

Happy In Bag said...

I resisted the urge, Sam, to note your creative use of the penguins as percussive instruments. Whoops.