Jazz Town: Kansas City’s Charlie Parker celebration hits the high notes

08/27/2014 7:00 AM

08/27/2014 7:15 PM

Happy Bird Day, Kansas City!

As the birthday of jazz liberator Charlie Parker approaches (it’s Friday), we’re at the two-week mark in a citywide Charlie Parker Celebration.

And these last few days of the celebration bring some of its high points: a jam among some of the region’s strongest musical personalities, the return of the graveside musical salute to Parker and a novel presentation of the Kansas City jazz story.

First, that novel way of addressing the city’s jazz history. The Paul Mesner Puppets troupe has put together “Rag Swing Bop!,” telling the tale in a new way.

Surely telling it with puppets is more entertaining than trapping people in a classroom and forcing them to listen to scratchy old records, right?

And by showing the whole evolution of Kansas City music from tubas and banjos to bebop saxophones, the show promises to demonstrate just why Parker still matters so much around the world.

The show, for young and not-so-young, will be performed at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday and at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday at the Gem Theater, 1615 E. 18th St. Tickets are $16 for adults, $10 for kids; check 816-235-6222 or PaulMesnerPuppets.org.

Across the street at the Blue Room, there’s a high-level jam on Friday night involving three players who have done very different things with the Bird inheritance, but the idea of melding them into one band is too tempting to pass up.

Trumpeter Darryl White, trombonist Jason Goudeau and tenor saxophonist Matt Otto perform at 8:30 p.m. Friday.

Decades ago, some well-meaning people tried to institute a “21-sax salute” to Parker at his gravesite. It seemed like a fine idea at first, but within a few years the number of saxes involved slipped far below 21, and a few years after that the event was forgotten entirely.

This year, the sax salute is back, twice.

The first is at noon Friday at Lincoln Cemetery (on the west side of Blue Ridge Road north of 23rd Street), followed by a 2 p.m. reception at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center, 3700 Blue Parkway. The second is at noon Saturday at the cemetery, followed by a 2 p.m. reception at the Blue Room.

The other Parker Celebration events:

Thursday: Pianist Tim Whitmer’s quartet, 6:30 p.m., Town Center Stage, Zona Rosa.

Saturday: Trumpeter Stan Kessler’s group, at 7 p.m. at 12 Baltimore in the Hotel Phillips.


The early discount on tickets for Kansas City’s 18th and Vine Jazz and Blues Festival on Oct. 11 ends soon. They’re $10 through Tuesday. Check AmericanJazzMuseum.org or call 816-474-8463.

The Blue Room also has percussionist and singer Miguel “Mambo” DeLeon and Carte Blanc at 7 p.m. Thursday and bassist James Ward’s band at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Drummer Brian Steever is in charge of the Monday jam at 7 p.m.

Highlights at the Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., include the group BVibe at 9 p.m. Thursday; organist Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 at 10 p.m. Friday; pianist Eddie Moore and his Outer Circle band at 6 p.m. Saturday, followed by organist Ken Lovern’s OJT at 10 p.m.; the Foundation 627 Big Band at 8 p.m. Sunday; bassist Karl McComas-Reichl’s trio at 8 p.m. Monday; keyboardist Bram Wijnands’ B3 Bombers at 9 p.m. Tuesday; and OJT again at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Highlights at the Broadway Jazz Club, 3601 Broadway, include singer Shay Estes at 6 p.m. Thursday; tenor saxophonist Steve Lambert honoring Charlie Parker at 7 p.m. Friday; singer Megan Birdsall at 7 p.m. Saturday; and the Sons of Brasil at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Take Five Coffee + Bar, 5336 W. 151st St. in Leawood, has vibraphonist Peter Schlamb’s quartet at 8 p.m. Friday and sax man Brett Jackson’s quartet at 8 p.m. Saturday.

There’s a new jam session in town, from 6 to 8 p.m. on Mondays at Hayward’s Pit Bar-B-Que, 11051 Antioch Road, Overland Park; reedman Todd Wilkinson is the leader.

Pianist and singer Dan Doran is the guest on the Spirituality and All That Jazz concert series, at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Unity Temple on the Plaza, 707 W. 47th St.

A guest from the Pacific Northwest, alto saxophonist, flutist and second-generation jazzman Mark Lewis, joins pianist Bram Wijnands on his gig at the Majestic Restaurant, 931 Broadway, at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

To reach Joe Klopus, call 816-234-4751 or send email to jklopus@kcstar.com.

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