Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kansas City's Jazz Geniuses

Jazz percussionist and composer Dafnis Prieto was awarded the MacArthur Foundation's so-called "genius grant" last week. Who on Kansas City's jazz scene qualifies as a potential recipient? The MacArthur Foundation rewards "talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction." I'm nominating ten individuals accordingly. A brief explanation follows each selection.

1. Black House Improvisors' Collective- aggregated creativity (I'm not entirely certain who's responsible for the collective.)

2. Beau Bledsoe- musical brilliance, musical proselytism

3. Leon and Linda Brady- music education, moral guidance, musical proselytism

4. Chris Burnett- economic applications, musical proselytism

5. Brad Cox- musical brilliance

6. Jeff Harshbarger- musical brilliance, musical proselytism

7. Larry Kopitnik- historic preservation, institutional memory, musical proselytism

8. Hermon Mehari- musical brilliance, musical proselytism

9. Matt Otto- musical brilliance

10. Bobby Watson- musical brilliance, music education

Feel free to disparage my picks or suggest who I have incomprehensibly overlooked. (I ruled out artists including Bob Brookmeyer, Pat Metheny, Harold O'Neal and Logan Richardson on the basis that they don't reside in the area.)

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)


Doug Chandler said...

Would have to add Brandon Draper. Otherwise, great list, great post.

Leo said...

It is a great list but the concept of giving $500,000 to a musician pushing the boundaries is a ridiculous notion.

The NEA Jazz Masters awards and the Macarthur Foundation are a colossal (sp) waste of money.

Especially the NEA which comes from our tax dollars. The Macarthur foundation monies could be used to actually make a difference in the world.

Anonymous said...


I guess you're right. We should just trust the free market to reward those most deserving. The Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga represent the best of what american music has to offer.

Russell Thorpe said...


Have you actually read about all of the MacArthur Fellows for this year? I'd recommend you do, then perhaps take your foot out of your mouth. There's some "real good" on that list.

Then maybe we can have that good ol'fashioned waste of time your comment is fishing for; in the form of a shouting match about a bunch of philosophical and ideological horseshit that 99.999234736% of the population will find repulsively pedantic.

Doug Chandler said...

A private organization has the right to waste money any colossal way they choose, don't you think, Leo? In this case, it's a bunch of people with really interesting aesthetic and scientific and humanitarian insights, looking around and saying, "where else can we raise the bar? Who's doing something worth doing?" Damn shame. The humanity.

Share said...

Really light on the ladies there, P.S.

Deborah Brown is the best around - you've said so yourself on occasion.

Ida McBeth is a worthy institution unto herself.

If you're willing to consider jazz fusion, the James Ward Band, featuring Ron Gutierrez produced a chart-topping CD right here in river city.

The McFadden Brothers are world class jazzmen who still reside here.

Then there's the Dutch transplant Bram Wijnands, who continues to keep the KC jazz tradition alive.

Maybe not Pat, but Mike Metheny has produced spellbinding tributes to KC in jazz. (Ever heard his "Union Hill?" - chills!) He's way uderrated.

Hey, thanks for continuing to shine your light on
this gem that we call jazz!

Anonymous said...

Nice list. A couple more nominees: Mark Lowrey and Barclay Martin.

Matt Leifer said...

There are tons of great musicians in town. If we nominated everyone who deserves recognition then this imaginary list would be meaningless...wait.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Matt. Get out and listen. Stop comparing / making lists. Next topic please!

Leo said...

The Macarthur Foundation money and the NEA jazz Masters money could be better served as a foundation to underwrite live jazz at jazz clubs throughout the United States.

Every jazz group got paid a minimum of $100 a man and it increased every year you played on the jazz scene to adjust with the cost of living.

This gigantic some of money could also possibly serve as a retirement plan and health insurance plan for jazz musicians.

That to me is a much better way to spend hundreds of millions of dollars.

Anonymous said...

I nominate Matt Leifer for the meaningless genius list.