A Music Lover’s Guide to the Best Live Jazz in Kansas City KCUR 89.3
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Jazz – Kansas City’s world-famous cultural contribution – is not relegated to old-fashioned titans like Charlie “Bird” Parker, Count Basie and Jay McShann. Kansas City’s vibrant jazz continues to simmer, swing, and jam all over town.
Unlike the swing big band era of the 1930s and 1940s, the Paris of the Plains gave birth to a looser, more rhythmic style of jazz that led to bebop. Today, local music fans and tourists alike can explore the ever-changing sound of jazz at Kansas City clubs and restaurants.
One note: If you’re not quite comfortable going to a jazz club right now, you can add it to your post-COVID to-do list. Or, save it for later when searching for the best places to take out-of-town visitors to Kansas City.
Located in the heart of downtown Kansas City, The Majestic Restaurant and Jazz Club is a great destination for listening to live jazz. After enjoying a meal and cocktails at the steakhouse, you can hear the musicians who bring the city’s musical heritage to life.
Each evening, the Majestic features live music from artists such as pianist Matt Villinger and pianist and vibraphonist Peter Schlamb, a native of Missouri who performed in New York City for several years before landing here in Kansas City.
Pianist Bram Wijnands, originally from the Netherlands, made his local debut as a dynamic jazz swing artist in 1991. Wijnands is an established artist who has performed with local and national jazz luminaries. Check the calendar for listings of current shows at the Majestic.
In the historic clothing district, near the Majestic, The Phoenix houses a restaurant and a jazz and blues club. The modern embodiment of the venue has been located on the first floor of the historic Phoenix Hotel since 1990.
Catch live music six days a week and a jazz brunch every Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Kansas City artist Talya Groves plays jazz and pop on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Millie Edwards, one of the Wild Women of Jazz, performs with Dan Sturdevant during brunch.
Meet up and listen to a jam session with Tim Reid Jr. and his friends on Wednesday, and listen to Lee Langston’s multi-genre crooning on Friday night.
The green lady and the black dolphin
If you’re looking for a hip and trendy place to catch evening and late-night jazz sessions, go to Salon of the green lady at the crossroads. The dark and cozy living room provides an intimate space to see, hear and experience jazz from established and emerging artists.
Arrive early to secure a spot, especially on weekends, as many late sessions attract a standing-only crowd. Stylish attire is not required, but musicians and staff are dressed to perfection, allowing guests to feel more stylish as they sip cocktails and sit a few feet from the action on stage .
Don’t miss the Orion Hall, a ground-floor hideaway with a grand piano and drums, where other musicians perform on a second stage. Artist trios abound here, led by Danny Embry, Rod Fleeman, Ken Lovern, Jeff Shirley, Tyrone Clark and more.
Black dolphin – a club with the same owner-operator located next to the Green Lady Lounge – also accommodates guests for evening and late night sessions. Here you will find luminaries such as the Pianist Tim Whitmer Quartet with Jim Mair, the Matt Villinger Trio and the Leslie McLean Trio.
The blue room
The blue room, which is part of the American Jazz Museum in the 18th century Historic District and Vine Jazz District, brings Kansas City’s jazz past back to the present. The club takes its name from a famous 1930s hotel club that once held its court in the district. Take time to explore the museum, grab a bite to eat at a local neighborhood restaurant, and slip into the club for evening entertainment.
Check the Blue Room calendar for current announcements. You’ll find new faces like Delynia Jannell during the Indigo Hour sessions in the early evening. Clint Ashlock, a Kansas City resident, artistic director and conductor of the prestigious Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, also conducts a jazz quintet.
And another must-see act is Jazz Disciples, a quartet with saxophonist Gerald Dunn, pianist Everett Freeman, drummer Michael Warren and bassist DeAndre Manning.
Corvino and Chaz
Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room in the Crossroads invites diners into its restaurant anchored by a stage at one end of the room. While dining or enjoying cocktails and wine at the bar, you can relax to the sound of guitarist Jeff Freling, pianist Peter Schlamb and guitarist Matt Hopper.
Chaz restaurant and lounge, nestled on the lower level of the Rafael Hotel on the Country Club Plaza, is another low-key place to enjoy jazz from a wide range of artists. This year marks the 11th season of Strings on the Green, an outdoor jazz series performed on the patio overlooking the Plaza. Upcoming performances include The Grand Marquis, the soulful vocals and jazz styles of the Eboni Fondren Quartet, and the sultry swing of Baby J and The Cradle Robbers.
Johnnie’s Jazz Bar and Grill
Johnnie’s Jazz Bar and Grill in Liberty, Missouri, plans to open a second location in the Power and Light District of Kansas City. Until then, you can still watch shows in the original location.
Soul-jazz singer, pianist and songwriter Tim Reid, Jr., performs jazz and soul standards spanning decades on Friday, September 10. The following week, step back in time and let your hips sway to the swing sound of The Baby J Jazz Trio’s take on classic jazz from the 1920s to the 40s.
Check out all of Johnnie’s lineup here, which includes performances by Havilah Bruders Trio and Millie Edwards, as well as Brian Ruskin, the son of local jazz mainstays Tommy Ruskin and Julie Turner.
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