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Jazz Town: Earl Klugh brings his subtle guitar sound to town

Jazz guitarist Earl Klugh performed to an audience of about 700 people Friday at the Folly Theater.
Jazz guitarist Earl Klugh performed to an audience of about 700 people Friday at the Folly Theater.

Sometimes the quiet one is the one whose message cuts through the noise.

That’s certainly the case for guitarist Earl Klugh, who comes to the Folly Theater on Friday.

In the 1970s, a time when loud electric guitars ruled pop music and were gaining popularity in jazz, Klugh insisted that his brand of pop-influenced jazz should be played on the acoustic guitar.

It wasn’t a gimmick, it was the instrument of his heart.

And that sound, along with Klugh’s formidable guitar chops, found a sizable audience. There has been a stack of best-selling records, in formats from full band to solo guitar. He’s had at least a dozen Grammy nominations. He even headlines his own annual minifestival.

It’s been a strong, sustained career, a good journey for a guy who says he used to have trouble getting heard at jam sessions because his guitar couldn’t be plugged in.

He’s making music that demonstrates the value of being true to your own voice, or in this case, your own instrument.

His music is also demonstrating something this world can use more of — the art of quiet persuasion.


▪ After 131/2 years here in the Preview section, Jazz Town is moving. We’ll be taking up residency in the Sunday A+E section soon. Until then:

▪ Pianist, composer, producer and hit-maker Brian Culbertson headlines the season opener of the Jammin’ at the Gem concert series on Jan. 24 at the Gem Theater, 1615 E. 18th St. Tickets are $45; check or 816-474-4242.

▪ Drummer Todd Strait is back in town for a minute, and he’s headlining two nights at Take Five Coffee + Bar with two different bands. The first one has longtime colleague Danny Embrey on guitar plus two newer friends, vibraphonist Peter Schlamb and bassist Karl McComas-Reichl; they’ll play at 8 p.m. Friday.

The second has three longtime colleagues, trumpeter Stan Kessler, pianist Roger Wilder and bassist Bob Bowman, plus vocalist Ben Donnelly-Strait, the drummer’s son. They’ll perform at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Further out, tenor saxophonist James Isaac’s group with singer Courtney Williams performs at 8 p.m. Jan. 23, and “vintage pop” duo Victor and Penny take the stage with jazz accompaniment at 8 p.m. on Jan. 24. Take Five is at 6601 W. 135th St., Suite A-21. in Overland Park, behind the Von Maur store.

▪ The Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., has the band Horacescope, playing the music of Horace Silver, at 7 p.m. Thursday, organist Ken Lovern’s OJT at 8:30 p.m. Friday and pianist Charles Williams’ group at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Organist Everette DeVan is in charge of the Monday jam at 7 p.m.

Down the line, drummer Ryan J. Lee’s trio appears at 7 p.m. Jan. 22, bassist Bob Bowman’s Bowdog band is back at 8:30 p.m. Jan. 23 and the Jazz Disciples perform at 8:30 p.m. Jan. 24.

▪ Highlights at the Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., include organist Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 at 10 p.m. Friday; Ken Lovern’s OJT at 9:30 p.m. Saturday and again at 9 p.m. Wednesday and at 9:30 p.m. Jan. 24; and the Foundation 627 Big Band at 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

Give the Green Lady credit for featuring some leaders who don’t get a chance to lead very often: Drummer Kevin Frazee’s group appears at 9 p.m. Thursday, drummer Philip Wakefield’s trio is on at 9 p.m. Monday and drummer John Kizilarmut’s trio is on at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

▪ Vibraphonist Peter Schlamb’s group appears at 8 p.m. Sunday on the alternative-jazz series at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road.

▪ The Jazz Underground series at the Westport CoffeeHouse Theatre, 4010 Pennsylvania Ave., has tenor saxophonist Matt Otto’s birthday celebration at 8 p.m. Thursday and saxophonist/horn sculptor Mark Southerland’s group at 8 p.m. Jan. 22.

To reach Joe Klopus, call 816-234-4751 or send email to


Earl Klugh appears at 8 p.m. Friday at the Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St. Tickets are $18 to $50; call 816-474-4444 or check Klugh will participate in a question-and-answer session for ticketholders at 7 p.m.