In this space devoted to jazz in Kansas City, we generally don’t endorse leaving town to get your musical kicks.
But this weekend’s Blues Masters at the Crossroads festival in Salina, Kan., is the glorious exception.
In Salina, intense audiophile Chad Kassem has built a small empire, with a recording studio, an LP-pressing plant, a company that sells audio equipment and recordings, and two record labels — one for reissues and another for original productions. And since Kassem also has a taste for blues, it makes sense that he’d put some of those resources to work to create one of the best blues weekends anywhere.
The scene for the 17th edition of Blues Masters at the Crossroads is Kassem’s Blue Heaven Studios, a former church repurposed as a performance space and recording studio. And the talent lineup is pretty much a blues connoisseur’s dream, with well-known artists rubbing elbows with lesser-known artists. It’s guaranteed to provide a feeling of musical discovery.
On Friday there’s Rip Lee Pryor, singer, guitarist and harmonica player who learned much of his stuff directly from his father, Snooky Pryor; Moreland & Arbuckle, roots rockers from Wichita; guitarist and vocalist Marquise Knox, a 23-year-old from St. Louis who has sounded like a veteran blues man since his midteens; Big George Brock, singer and harmonica player who’s important on the St. Louis blues scene; and Kim Wilson, the Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman.
On Saturday there’s Joe Beard, a guitarist and singer from upstate New York who’s directly inspired by Chicago blues; guitarist, harmonica player and singer Lazy Lester, longtime sidekick to Lightnin’ Slim but now recognized as a master himself; Mighty Sam McClain, soul blues belter; Sonny Green, a singer whose style parallels Johnnie Taylor, Bobby Bland and Z.Z. Hill; a second helping from Kim Wilson; and guitarist and singer Bernard Allison, who’s busy expanding on the sound, style and inspirations of his father, Luther Allison.
Maybe there was a time when you couldn’t play the blues in church, but this weekend is not that time. The three-hour jaunt to Salina could be the best blues road trip you have for a long time — at least until they do this event again next year.
▪ The Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., has singer Charlotte Embry and her group Soigné at 7 p.m. Thursday and the vocal group Book of Gaia, featuring Angela Hagenbach, Pamela Baskin-Watson and Nedra Dixon, at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Pianist Harold O’Neal presents a celebration of his uncle Pete O’Neal, who’s in self-imposed exile in Tanzania, at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Pianist Eddie Moore is in charge of the Monday jam, at 7 p.m.
▪ Highlights at the Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., include the group B Vibe at 9 p.m. today; a CD release party for organist Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 at 10 p.m. Friday; organist Ken Lovern’s OJT at 10 p.m. Saturday and again at 9 p.m. Wednesday; the Foundation 627 Big Band at 8:30 p.m. Sunday; bassist Karl McComas-Reichl’s group at 9 p.m. Monday; and keyboardist Bram Wijnands and his B3 Bombers at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
▪ Highlights at the Broadway Jazz Club, 3601 Broadway, include the group Hard@Play, evoking the jazz-rock sound of Blood, Sweat and Tears and early Chicago, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday; singer Kathleen Holeman at 7:30 p.m. Friday; tenor saxophonist Matt Otto’s group at 7 p.m. Saturday, followed by guitarist Matt Hopper’s group at 11:30 p.m.; and guitarist Lady Mac at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
▪ Bassist Brian Roessler’s group appears at 8 p.m. Thursday on the Jazz Underground series at the Westport CoffeeHouse Theatre, 4010 Pennsylvania Ave.
▪ The next show on the midday jazz series at Johnson County Community College is a big one, featuring pianist Joe Cartwright’s trio plus singer Molly Hammer. It’s at noon Tuesday in the Polsky Theatre.
Friday and Saturday
Blues Masters at the Crossroads is at Blue Heaven Studios, 201 S. Eighth St., Salina, Kan. For ticket information, see BlueHeavenStudios.com.