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5 Places to Enjoy KC Jazz + Its History


Article by Hayley Hyer

Photography by Stock Images

After living in Kansas City for a while, you may not always keep our city's history and culture front-of-mind. However, we are extremely fortunate to live in a city with a rich jazz history and continuously growing jazz scene. In the 1920s and 1930s, a specific style of music called Kansas City jazz came about and heavily influenced the future of jazz. Here are some modern places where you can still enjoy some excellent jazz music in Kansas City.

1. Kansas City Jazz Orchestra

"The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra is an internationally acclaimed, premier performing arts icon providing jazz entertainment and education.

Every KCJO series performance is preceded by an informal 30-minute talk on the evening's program delivered by Artistic Director, Clint Ashlock. These engaging "chats" offer listeners the opportunity to gain a little insight into the composers, musical elements, and historical context of the evening's featured repertoire. Jazz Chats begin one hour before the concert and are FREE to attend. Bring your questions!"

2. The Majestic

"Many great jazz musicians called Kansas City home. Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Jay McShann, and others played the nights away in Kansas City. Kansas City jazz is still alive and well with musicians like Bram Wijnands, Hermon Mehari, Peter Schlamb, Mark Lowrey, Matt Villanger, Ryan Lee and others. The Majestic Restaurant is proud to provide a venue to these incredible Kansas City jazz performers. Mixed in with these Kansas City jazz legends you will find many of the rising stars of the Kansas City jazz club scene. The Majestic Restaurant features live Kansas City jazz nightly. We are proud to carry on this tradition and support the vibrant art form that is Kansas City jazz."

3. The Phoenix

"The corner of downtown Kansas City where the Phoenix now sits used to be known as part of the Burgeoning Garment District in 1888. The Phoenix was there from the beginning, a somewhat shady hotel that was rumored to be more of a bordello than a hotel. On the first floor there was a speak-easy type saloon owned and operated by bartender Frank Valerius, and on the second floor was a “hotel” owned by Mrs. Linna Laws.

Join us on Saturdays and Sundays 10-2 for brunch. Chef Tim Vejraska will be serving up wonderful breakfast food to soothe you after your crazy Friday and Saturday night. Also enjoy mimosas and bloodies and have some delicious breakfast!"

4. Green Lady Lounge

"The walls are painted velvet red and covered with vintage oil paintings. A variety of mid century hanging lamps light the bar . . . just barely. A TV would be very out of place in this elegant, yet casual environment. Entering the Green Lady Lounge is like stepping back in time into a real cocktail lounge, a retro cocktail lounge if you like. The staff is dressed up in suits and ties and cocktail dresses. A hammond B-3 organ and a drum set take up residence on the main floor stage. Having the instruments always in place allows the bands to do their shows with a minimum of disruption to themselves and the patrons.

The lower level of the Green Lady Lounge is known as the Orion Room. This stage features a grand piano and a second house drum set. Chandeliers provide the elegant lighting for this stone basement hideaway. The downstairs stage has more of a theatre presentation while the upstairs stage is in the middle of the guest seating. With two stages, the weekend performances can alternate with almost no time between shows."

5. The Blue Room at the American Jazz Museum

"Named after the famed 1930s Street Hotel club in the Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District, the Blue Room simultaneously honors the past and showcases the present names in jazz. A multifaceted exhibit highlighting the countless musicians who crafted 'Kansas City jazz,' a sound known all over the world, the Blue Room also provides a distinctive platform to present dynamic performances from the best local and national jazz talent in an intimate setting. Come down, bring your instrument and sit in at the weekly Blue Monday Jam – or just take in the sounds of one of Kansas City’s best jam sessions. Big bands typically perform the last Monday of each month, and our Latin Jazz/Salsa series gets shakin’ on the last Thursday of each month (except where otherwise noted on the calendar). At the Blue Room, upcoming bands, seasoned veterans of the local jazz scene, national talent and internationally renowned jazz artists share the spotlight."

Follow Hayley Hyer @hayhyer