Music News & Reviews

Jazz Town: Blue Room artists form KC-based recording collective

Kansas City-area saxophonist Chris Burnett and Philadelphia pianist Sumi Tonooka perform at 10 p.m. Saturday at the Blue Room in the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District as part of the the ARC Founders Quintet.
Kansas City-area saxophonist Chris Burnett and Philadelphia pianist Sumi Tonooka perform at 10 p.m. Saturday at the Blue Room in the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District as part of the the ARC Founders Quintet. courtesy of the artist

The old way to success in music supposedly went like this: Sign a record contract, be heard widely and maybe become famous. That strategy only worked for a few — in jazz, very few indeed — and it blew up in the faces of many others.

And then the recording industry itself imploded, blaming the digital revolution or some people with computers.

But there were still artists who wanted to be heard, maybe more of them than ever — especially in jazz. So it was time to take matters into their own hands. Now we’ve entered an age of self-produced recordings, sold by the artists themselves and a few enterprising small labels.

And sometimes we encounter something like the Artists Recording Collective, self-described as a “21st century music industry platform for world-class talent.” That means CDs, Internet distribution and openness to new media. But the really important thing about the Kansas City-based collective is that musicians are making the artistic and business decisions.

The collective was founded in 2007 by three players who definitely deserve to be heard: tenor saxophonist Erica Lindsay, Philadelphia pianist Sumi Tonooka and Kansas City-area alto saxophonist Chris Burnett, who’s active in running the collective’s business affairs. They’re serious about its mission: They’ve distributed more than 50 releases in eight years, and they aren’t slowing down.

This week, they’re on display. The Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., has declared ARC Week. There’s a series of double bills involving artists connected to the collective, most of them with CDs available on the ARC label. Tickets are $5 on Monday and Thursday; $10 on Friday and Saturday. The schedule looks like this:

▪ Monday: The AM Trio, led by Kansas City pianist and singer/songwriter Alyssa Murray, is on at 7 p.m. The big band of pianist-composer-educator Michael Pagán is on at 9 p.m.

▪ Thursday: The Sons of Brasil, a long-running KC jazz adventure, start things off at 7 p.m. Then Sons pianist Roger Wilder convenes his own quintet at 9 p.m.

▪ Friday: Organist Chris Hazelton’s trio is on at 8 p.m. Then Springfield tenor saxophonist Brandon Mezzelo brings his Triptet to the stage at 10 p.m.

▪ Saturday: Trumpeter Marcus Hampton’s sextet featuring Kathleen Holeman starts things off at 8 p.m. They’re followed by the ARC Founders Quintet, with Lindsay, Burnett and Tonooka, at 10 p.m.


▪ The American Jazz Museum reports that while the Rolling Stones were in town, drummer Charlie Watts dropped by the museum. Watts, who has always said he was inspired by the original Count Basie rhythm section, checked out the Charlie Parker memorabilia and revealed that he’s a Bird collector, too. Also, Stones touring saxophonist Tim Ries was heard in a jam session or two around town.

▪ The People’s Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City, led by Brad Cox, performs at 8 p.m. Sunday at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road.

▪ Take Five Coffee + Bar, at 6601 W. 135th St., Suite A-21 in Overland Park (behind the Von Maur store), has the band Shades of Jade at 8 p.m. Friday and drummer Todd Strait’s quartet with trumpeter Stan Kessler, pianist Andrew Ouellette and bassist Gerald Spaits at 8 p.m. Saturday.

▪ Highlights at the Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., include the Foundation 627 Big Band at 8:30 p.m. Sunday ; Todd Strait’s Midwest Quartet with guitarist Danny Embrey, vibraphonist John Kizilarmut and bassist Jeff Harshbarger at 9 p.m. Monday; vibraphonist Peter Schlamb’s trio at 9 p.m. Tuesday; organist Ken Lovern’s OJT at 9 p.m. Wednesday; Chris Hazelton’s trio 9 p.m. Thursday; pianist Tim Whitmer’s trio at 5:30 p.m. Friday, followed by bassist Dominique Sanders’ group at 8:30 p.m. and Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 at 10 p.m.; and singer Molly Hammer’s quartet at 6 p.m. Saturday, followed by OJT at 9:30 p.m.

▪ The next live performance/recording session in the “12th Street Jump” radio series honors lyricist Dorothy Fields, whose works include “The Way You Look Tonight” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street.” It takes place at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Broadway Kansas City, 3601 Broadway.

▪ The Broadway also has Molly Hammer with Ken Lovern at 7 p.m. Thursday; singer and pianist Kathleen Holeman at 5 p.m. Friday, followed by flutist Amber Underwood’s band at 8:30 p.m.; and pianist and singer Candace Evans at 5 p.m. Saturday, followed by the Boogaloo 7 at 8:30 p.m.

▪ Brandon Mezzelo and drummer Marty Morrison are featured on the Jazz Underground series at the Westport CoffeeHouse Theatre, 4010 Pennsylvania Ave., at 8 p.m. Thursday.

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