There will be only two players on the Kauffman Center stage. The music they make can be called jazz for its improvisational spirit, even if it doesn’t sound like jazz in every detail. But only one of them will be playing an instrument we associate with present-day jazz.
Chick Corea will be on piano and Béla Fleck on banjo. The duo, spanning jazz, bluegrass, gospel, flamenco and anything else they can get under their fingers, performs Sunday in the Muriel Kauffman Theatre.
Corea’s pianistic excellence in many styles is a given, even if you don’t care for everything he’s done over the last five decades. But consider the banjo for a moment.
The instrument was present at the very beginnings of jazz. But by 1935 it was out of style, old-fashioned, corny.
Will it ever come back? Does it need to come back? Fleck, the instrument’s most persuasive defender, is guaranteed to make a good case for it.
And he’ll be aided and abetted by Corea, who’s played everything from mainstream acoustic music to trippy electric fusion — and who has proved many times he is especially good in an intimate duet setting. (Hint hint.)
Face it — when people see a banjo, they think of cornpone, or worse, they think of the plantation. But the instrument has a noble bloodline stretching back to Africa — and in Fleck’s hands it seems to stretch into the future.
Corea has been one of the world’s top jazz musicians for most of his life now, and he can play with whomever he chooses at this point. It says something important that he’s chosen to play again and again with Fleck.Noteworthy
• Last week we devoted this space to drum master Eliot Zigmund who’s spending a couple of weeks in our vicinity starting right now. He’s on tour with tenor saxophonist Rob Scheps. They’ll play on guitarist Ron Carlson’s gig at Lucky Brewgrille, 5401 Johnson Drive, at 6 p.m. Friday, then head for the Broadway Jazz Club, 3601 Broadway, for a gig with pianist Mark Lowrey and singer Shay Estes at 9 p.m They give a clinic and miniconcert at Take Five Coffee + Bar, 5336 W. 151st St. in Leawood, at 2 p.m. Sunday.
• The jazz world has plenty of local heroes, those who deserve fame on the world stage but tend to stay in one place. For a couple of days, let’s welcome another town’s local hero — from Cleveland, tenor saxophonist and composer Ernie Krivda, a powerful and eclectic player who doesn’t sound quite like anybody else. He plays with a quartet at the Blue Room 1600 E. 18th St., at 7 p.m. today. While he’s in town, he’s working with University of Missouri-Kansas City students.
• The Blue Room also has trumpeter Darryl White’s quartet with Denver pianist Jeff Jenkins at 8:30 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, the Louis Neal Big Band is featured at 8:30 p.m. in partnership with Harvesters and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity; bring two canned goods and they’ll knock a few dollars off the cover charge. The Jazz Disciples run the Monday jam at 7 p.m.
• Take Five Coffee + Bar has trumpeter Stan Kessler’s Parallax band, with pianist Roger Wilder, bassist Bill McKemy and the drumming team of Ryan Lee and Brian Steever, at 8 p.m. Friday. Singer Shay Estes performs at 8 p.m. Saturday.
• Highlights at the Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., include vibraphonist Peter Schlamb’s group at 9 p.m. today; organist Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 at 10 p.m. Friday; guitarist Jerry Hahn’s trio at 6 p.m. Sunday followed by the Foundation 627 Big Band at 9 p.m.; and a jam led by bassist Bob Bowman and pianist Roger Wilder at 9 p.m. Monday.
• Highlights at the Broadway Jazz Club include the Sons of Brasil at 7 p.m. today; pianist Joe Cartwright at 5 p.m. Saturday followed by singer Eboni Fondren’s group at 9:30 p.m.; and stride pianist Bram Wijnands and his Swingtet at 7 p.m. Wednesday.