Music News & Reviews

Jazz Town: KC Jazz Orchestra show at Kauffman Center celebrates genre’s origins

Kansas City Jazz Orchestra performs at 8 p.m. Friday in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
Kansas City Jazz Orchestra performs at 8 p.m. Friday in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Jazz histories all seem to say that the music was born in New Orleans and traveled up the river to Chicago.

And that’s the premise behind the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra’s concert on Friday. Leader Clint Ashlock and his contingent of the best musicians in town will use their “From New Orleans to Chicago” show to explore the deeply American music that influenced so much other music around the world.

It won’t be anything like a clinical re-creation of the sounds from those long-past times. The KCJO, after all, is a band of players steeped in modern jazz. And the loose-limbed sounds of those small New Orleans and Chicago groups will need some translating into the idiom of the modern big band.

Not to worry. The KCJO will make it all work.

The jazz creation story will be represented by sounds from King Oliver, Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet on the Crescent City end and by music from Bix Beiderbecke and Benny Goodman on the Chicago end. But there will also be reminders that the river of jazz flowed through Memphis and St. Louis, and a little Count Basie to reflect that Kansas City got in on the act at an early date.

Of course, we don’t have many of the details of how jazz was really created, or precisely how and when it began to spread. But we have the durable music, good enough to be re-examined from the big-band point of view and still come out swinging.

The show is at 8 p.m. Friday in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $20 to $55; call 816-994-7222 or check


▪ Singer Deborah Brown and the University of Kansas Jazz Ensemble I, directed by Dan Gailey, took their show on the road a couple of weeks ago to New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center. They’ll do it again for a hometown crowd at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Lied Center of Kansas; it’s free.

▪ The University of Missouri-Kansas City jazz program also has a showcase this week, with Bobby Watson and Dan Thomas directing the ensembles. It’s at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St.; tickets are $12, or $5 for students.

▪ Trumpets are big this week at the Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St. Trumpeter Darryl White brings his quintet at 8:30 p.m. Friday. And when the Jazz Disciples take the stage at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, they’ll be joined by a New York guest, trumpeter James Zollar, who’s worked with pretty much everybody. The club’s Monday jam is steered by pianist Eddie Moore and his Outer Circle band, at 7 p.m. On Thursday, Grupo Aztlan performs at 7 p.m.

▪ The Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., has the Foundation 627 Big Band at 8:30 p.m. Sunday; guitarist Matt Hopper’s trio at 5:30 p.m. Monday, followed by trumpeter Stan Kessler’s Force 5 at 9 p.m.; the band Sequel at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday; a combo from Friends University at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, followed by the New Jazz Order big band at 7 p.m. and organist Ken Lovern’s OJT at 9 p.m.; Hopper’s trio again at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, followed by saxophonist Brett Jackson’s quartet at 9 p.m.; pianist Tim Whitmer at 5:30 p.m. Friday, followed by OJT at 8:30 p.m. and organist Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 at 10 p.m.; and the combo from William Jewell College at 3 p.m. Saturday, followed by OJT at 6 p.m.

▪ The Art Factory, 5621 W. 135th St., Suite 2630, in Overland Park’s Prairiefire development, has guitarist Ron Carlson’s group at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Joe Klopus, 816-234-4751