The big jazz opportunities of the week come from the 18th and Vine district in two packages: first, the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival, which winds down Sunday, May 28, and second, the American Jazz Walk of Fame’s fourth annual unveiling and fundraising concert on Saturday, June 3, featuring Ramsey Lewis and Ida McBeth.
The festival has already been discussed in this publication, so we’ll simply offer a quick recap of the day’s highlights. On the main outdoor stages are alto saxophonist Logan Richardson at 4:15 p.m., singer Will Downing at 5:30 p.m., violinist Regina Carter at 7 p.m. and singer Oleta Adams at 8:30 p.m. At the Gem Theater, there’s singer Deborah Brown at 5:15 p.m., pianist Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle at 7 p.m. and drummer Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band at 9 p.m. Check kcjazzfest.com for more.
But also important is the Walk of Fame event, to benefit a growing thing that’s making a subtle difference along 18th Street, where 19 medallions honoring jazz musicians are already in place in front of the American Jazz Museum and the Gem. This week six more medallions will be added, and there’s plenty of room for future expansion.
The Walk of Fame is being celebrated with an unveiling at 7 p.m. Saturday outside the Jazz Museum, followed by the 7:30 p.m. concert across the street at the Gem. That’s a celebration in itself with Lewis, the groove master who made hits in the ’60s and ’70s and whose love affair with music continues unabated, and McBeth, a KC fixture who, like Lewis, melds jazz, gospel, blues and anything else that comes to mind into a hearty whole.
This year’s Walk of Fame honorees include Lewis and McBeth, and also:
▪ Ella Fitzgerald, the “first lady of song,” who brought a little bit of perfection to the imperfect world.
▪ Thelonious Monk, first-rank composer and pianist, a truly original thinker whose odd angles led to “Brilliant Corners.”
▪ Oliver Todd, a longtime Kansas City trumpeter, keyboardist and bandleader and friend of Charlie Parker.
▪ Ben Kynard, a longtime Kansas City saxophonist, composer and arranger who wrote the hit “Red Top” for Lionel Hampton.
The concert also features Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford, who will demonstrate his passion for music by playing some jazz piano.
▪ The next live performance-recording session for the “12th Street Jump” radio show takes place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 31, at the Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd. This edition of the show celebrates the birthday of guitarist Tal Farlow.
▪ The Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., has singer and multi-instrumentalist Lester “Duck” Warner at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 1; R&B singer Howard Hewett, formerly of the group Shalamar, at 8:30 p.m. Friday, June 2; and pianist Joe Cartwright 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
▪ The Green Lady Lounge also has keyboardist Jackie Myers’ quartet at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 28, followed by tenor saxophonist Steve Lambert’s quintet at 10:30 p.m.; guitarist Matt Hopper’s trio at 6 p.m. Monday, May 29, followed by trumpeter Stan Kessler’s Crossroads Quartet at 10:30 p.m.; Hopper’s Agora band at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 30, followed by bassist Gerald Spaits and reed man Charles Perkins at 10:30 p.m.; the group Dojo at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 31; organist Ken Lovern’s trio at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 1, followed by Guitar Elation at 8 p.m. and Spaits’ trio at 11:30 p.m.; pianist Tim Whitmer’s quartet at 5:30 p.m. Friday, June 2, followed by vibraphonist Peter Schlamb’s Electric Tinks at 9 p.m. downstairs and organist Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 at 10 p.m. upstairs; and pianist Roger Wilder at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by Lovern’s OJT at 6 p.m. and the Project H at 9 p.m.
Joe Klopus, 816-234-4751