Music News & Reviews

Jazz Town: 18th and Vine festival features a full day of jazz, blues and soul

Meshell Ndegeocello
Meshell Ndegeocello Girlie Action

It’s partly a celebration of the 18th and Vine heritage, partly a showcase for what’s happening there now and partly a flat-out party.

Kansas City’s 18th & Vine Jazz & Blues Festival, taking place Saturday, is one of the premier events on the year’s musical calendar — a day and a night full of jazz, blues and soul in the historic place where all those things flow together.

And it’s a big day for the 18th and Vine district, with music on several stages, activities for the kids, a vendor village, jazz film screenings and a long slate of jazz education events.

But for this festival, which started in 2005 under the name Rhythm & Ribs, it all comes back to the music. And the headliners put together by the American Jazz Museum are right for making a party:

▪ Roy Hargrove: This trumpeter and composer plays jazz that sounds both new and traditional — he’s very connected to those who came before yet somehow a step ahead. Hargrove learned his stuff well in his native Texas, and he was on the international jazz stage when he was still a teen (Bobby Watson helped put him there). In the decades since he has embraced funk and Latin music alongside jazz, but hasn’t swerved from his original principles — to play hard, with fire and lyricism.

▪ Lucky Peterson: Some people really are born to make music. Peterson’s talent manifested itself so quickly that he was on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” at the age of 5. Fortunately for us all, that wasn’t his career peak. The guitarist, keyboardist, singer and composer has grown into a state-of-the-art bluesman. Still haven’t heard of him? He’s spending a lot of time abroad as an ambassador of American music, so he isn’t as well known in his native country as he should be.

▪ Meshell Ndegeocello: Remember a slice of sassy ’90s hip-hop/pop called “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)”? This singer-songwriter was responsible for that and some other successes, some with collaborators including Herbie Hancock and John Mellencamp, but there’s much more to her art. She’s open to a wide range of influences, she possesses a creamy voice that can really caress a tune, and the jazz and neo-soul styles are in the forefront of her music now.

▪ Midnight Star: This self-described party band got started in Kentucky in the ’70s, and in the ’80s it was a wondrous hit-making machine: “Freak-a-Zoid,” “No Parking on the Dance Floor,” “Operator” and “Curious.” The party extended into the ’90s. Then the band split up for a while — but this party was too good to stop. Now it’s on again, with many of the original principal players, still determined to fill the dance floor.

And on the festival’s several stages, there’s a full lineup of diverse talent from around the region. It’s a beautiful showcase for Kansas City music. And it goes all day and into the night, for the real 18th and Vine experience.

We seem to say this every year in this space, and it bears repeating: This is the right festival in the right place, and simply a great way to celebrate Kansas City’s place in the music world.


▪ One of Bobby Watson’s longest-running musical associations is with bassist Curtis Lundy, extending close to 40 years. The collaborators get together again at 7 p.m. Thursdayat the Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St. The Blue Room also has tenor saxophonist Doug Talley’s quartet plus singer Kathleen Holeman at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Bassist Bob Bowman is in charge of the Monday jam, at 7 p.m.

▪ Highlights at the Broadway Jazz Club, 3601 Broadway, include bassist James Ward’s band at 6 p.m. Thursday; the band A La Mode at 7 p.m. Friday, followed by pianist Mark Lowrey’s trio at 11:30 p.m.; pianist Roger Wilder’s quartet at 7 p.m. Saturday, followed by trumpeter Stan Kessler with Kathleen Holeman at 11:30 p.m.; and the vocal group Book of Gaia at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

▪ Highlights at the Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., include organist Ken Lovern’s OJT at 9 p.m. Thursday; organist Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 at 10 p.m. Friday; OJT again at 11 p.m. Saturday; the Foundation 627 Big Band at 8:30 p.m. Sunday; the group B Vibe at 9 p.m. Monday; keyboardist Bram Wijnands and his B3 Bombers at 9 p.m. Tuesday; and OJT again at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

▪ Tenor saxophonist Rich Wheeler’s quartet performs at 8 p.m. Thursdayat the Westport CoffeeHouse Theatre, 4010 Pennsylvania Ave.

▪ Bassist, composer and Buddhist priest Brian Roessler comes to town to join bassist Jeff Harshbarger and friends for an evening of “game pieces” at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road. The games include John Zorn’s “Cobra” and a new one by Harshbarger, “Tag Team Trios.” The show is at 8 p.m. Sunday.

▪ An Elder Statesmen of Kansas City Jazz group featuring reed man Horace Washington performs the next show on the jazz series at Johnson County Community College, at noon Tuesday in the Recital Hall in Carlsen Center.

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

Saturday at the Jazz & Blues Festival

Kansas City’s 18th & Vine Jazz & Blues Festival takes place in and around the American Jazz Museum. Tickets are $25, seniors $15, children 12 and under free. For more information, go to or call 816-474-6262.

The talent lineup, subject to change:

Main stage

11 a.m.: Metropolitan Jazz Workshop Honors Combo

11:30 a.m.: Groove 101

1 p.m.: Hearts of Darkness

3 p.m.: Lucky Peterson

5 p.m.: Roy Hargrove Quintet

7:30 p.m.: Meshell Ndegeocello

10 p.m.: Midnight Star

Gem Theater stage

9:30 a.m.: Tivon Pennicott clinic

11:30 a.m.: Tivon Pennicott with Missouri State University Jazz Band

1 p.m.: Marcus Hampton & Friends

2:30 p.m.: Book of Gaia

4 p.m.: Grupo Aztlan

5:30 p.m.: Paula Saunders

7 p.m.: Ken Lovern’s OJT

8:30 p.m.: KC Blues Express

Blue Room

11 a.m.: Young Jazz Masters Combo

Noon: Elder Statesmen of Kansas City Jazz

1:30 p.m.: Groove Axis

3 p.m.: Tyrone Clark & True Dig

4:30 p.m.: Linda Shell & Blues Thang

6 p.m.: Charlotte Embry & Soigné

8 p.m.: Jessica Care Moore

10:30 p.m.: Jam session hosted by Dominique Sanders with Tivon Pennicott