History is all around in the 18th and Vine district, and it’s literally there at your feet when you come across the bronze medallions of the American Jazz Walk of Fame, embedded in the sidewalks of 18th Street.
The project to enhance the 18th and Vine experience was unveiled in 2014 and grows by a few medallions every year. And each time it grows, about this time of year, we celebrate with a star-studded concert. This year’s induction and celebration, to be on Saturday, June 2, features a concert with alto saxophonist David Sanborn, the compatible jazz, pop and soul man; singer Marilyn Maye, a Kansas City institution; and singer Ruben Studdard, the famed winner of the second season of “American Idol.”
This year’s inductees to the Walk of Fame are:
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▪ David Sanborn, the St. Louis-raised saxophonist who has been heard with Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, James Taylor and myriad others. He’s the supreme crossover artist.
▪ Marilyn Maye, whose experience singing before audiences extends to the 1940s, and whose taste and attitude should serve as examples to anybody who thinks they can sing. Her every performance goes above and beyond.
▪ Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, writers of songs as diverse as “Jailhouse Rock” and “Stand by Me,” “Hound Dog” and “Is That All There Is?” And don’t forget that one about standing on the corner at 12th Street and Vine with your Kansas City wine.
▪ Sonny Kenner, a Kansas City guitarist who was a leader in the local musical community — but then again, with his radiant talent, he would have been a leader anywhere.
The unveiling of the new medallions is at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 2, along 18th Street in front of the American Jazz Museum. That’s free and open to the public. The concert with Sanborn, Maye and Studdard is at 7 p.m. across the street at the Gem Theater; tickets are $50 at americanjazzwalkoffame.com.
The whole project is made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, the city of Kansas City and others.
▪ The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra just returned from its first trip to Europe, with shows in Germany and Poland. And the international connections will be on display with a concert on Thursday, May 31. This one features the orchestra, directed by Clint Ashlock, with singer Deborah Brown, a Kansas Citian who’s better known abroad than at home; hometown hero alto saxophonist Bobby Watson; and Polish tenor saxophonist Sylwester Ostrowski, one of Brown’s numerous European musical partners. The “Building Cultural Bridges Through Jazz” show is at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 31, at the Gem Theater. Tickets are $20 at eventbrite.com.
▪ The Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., has the Louis Neal Big Band at 7 p.m. Monday, May 28, and Orquestra Mundo Nouvo at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 31.
▪ The Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., has drummer Natalie Bates’ quartet at 10:30 p.m. Sunday, May 27; organist Chris Hazelton’s trio at 6 p.m. Monday, May 28, followed by the Villinger/Schlamb Trio at 10:30 p.m.; guitarist Matt Hopper at 6 and 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 29, followed by reed man Charles Perkins and bassist Tyrone Clark at 11:30 p.m.; OJT at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 30, followed by Tyrone Clark’s quartet at 10:30 p.m.; the RSS Trio at 10:30 p.m. Thursday, May 31; pianist Tim Whitmer’s quartet at 5:30 p.m. Friday, June 1, followed by Embrey, Lovern & Strait downstairs at 8:30 p.m., Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 upstairs at 9 p.m. and Matt Villinger’s organ trio upstairs after midnight; and singer Lisa Henry with pianist Roger Wilder at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, June 2, followed by organist Ken Lovern at 6 and 8 p.m., Hazelton’s trio downstairs at 9 p.m. and tenor saxophonist Stephen Martin’s quartet upstairs at 11:30 p.m.
▪ Next door, the Black Dolphin, 1813 Grand Blvd., has singer, trumpeter and dancer Lonnie McFadden’s quartet at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, June 2, followed by alto saxophonist Christopher Burnett’s quintet at 9 p.m.
▪ The Westport CoffeeHouse Theatre, 4010 Pennsylvania Ave., offers tenor saxophonist Brandon Wilkins’ quartet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 30.
▪ The RecordBar, 1520 Grand Blvd., has trombonist Marcus Lewis and his big band at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 3.
Joe Klopus, 816-234-4751