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The Impressive History of Jazz in KC

Jazz Legend Charlie Parker’s 2020 Centennial

Article by Mindy Hargesheimer

Photography by Mindy Hargesheimer

“They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.” –Charlie “Bird” Parker, Kansas City-born music legend
"I consider Kansas City the No. 1 jazz city of the world. It was a hub of jazz activity that emanated out from there to all parts of the country." –John Baker, jazz film collector

Kansas City peeps; do you have ANY idea just how famous our city is within the world of music, and the incredibly vibrant and enriching local experiences we have at our fingertips to dive into the cultural hub of all things Jazz? If you haven’t visited the American Jazz Museum in the iconic 18th and Vine Historic District, you are missing out on a spirited and melodious display of incredibly rich history in your own backyard! And, home to one of the greatest jazz artists of all time, come out to visit the museum in celebration of the renowned jazz legend, Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, who is celebrating 100 years! 

From Charlie Parker to Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and more; any music fanatic or lover of history and discovery will have an appreciation for how jazz musicians shaped what our world, and specifically music, looks today. The @americanjazzmuseum, at the epicenter of one of KC’s most amazing cultural hubs, is dynamically fun, from the continuous carousels of audible jazz music to get you dancing, to the stunning memorabilia of Ella Fitzgerald’s glittery gowns, Parker’s saxophones, and the city’s original neon club signage. Adjacent to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and coupled with the Blue Room Jazz Club that brings alive the globally renowned sounds of “Kansas City Jazz,” this local experience is one that will not only enrich adult lives, but the kids as well, who can learn and have fun with SO much about this music that is agnostic to the ages of its listeners. They say music education is one of the most advantageous components of early childhood development, so hop on the dance floor and get their brains spinning!  

"Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn." -Charlie Parker

Just envision yourself sitting lounge-side with a Horsefeather cocktail in hand, soaking up the sounds of Count Basie, Big Joe Turner, Charlie Parker, and the sights of flapper dancers, saxophonists, and pianists ripping up the stage. Who wouldn’t trade one day in the life of this year for a back to the future-style adventure from 2020 to 1940 to live your coolest, chillest, most invigorating lifestyles you could imagine? The museum will take you on a journey through a period of American history that is profound, meaningful, beautiful, and wildly uplifting. So, get that vintage jazz playlist in rotation and get ready for a trip down memory lane.

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Follow @americanjazzmuseum on Instagram and Facebook to be in the know of one of KC’s greatest local destinations, and snag tickets online to visit both their permanent and temporary exhibits featuring all things Charlie Parker and one of the best music genres that ever lived. 

Welcome to your next local bucket list experience!

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