Honoring a lifetime of artistic achievements can be tricky, especially when the lifetime and those achievements are nowhere near finished.
But the American Jazz Museum’s effort this week to honor three lifetimes spent enriching the Kansas City scene is a good idea all the way around.
Come Saturday, May 14, the museum presents its Lifetime Achievement Award to singer Ida McBeth and the singing, dancing, horn-playing McFadden Brothers — and their audiences get to celebrate with them as they perform a concert double bill.
In case anyone doesn’t know, McBeth is a jazz-soul-blues-gospel singer who’s the equal of many who are far more famous. Her committed performances have a high level of musical sophistication and the kind of spontaneous electricity you might associate with a tent revival. She has never been known to turn in a halfhearted performance. Simply stated, she’s a Kansas City musical treasure.
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The McFaddens, Lonnie with the trumpet and Ronald with the alto saxophone, are second-generation performers. They’re self-described “sons of a hoofer” — father James McFadden, a Kansas City dancer back in the day, had them tapping at an early age, and they also absorbed much from the KC musicians who surrounded him.
There’s plenty of old-school showbiz in their act, and that’s an increasingly distinct trait as time goes on. Look beyond the sometimes-cornball humor and you’ll see something intensely serious: two artists dedicated to upholding a tradition and extending it. There’s nothing else like them.
Really, the museum couldn’t have chosen better honorees than these three.
And since performances by McBeth and the McFaddens don’t seem to be as frequent now as they used to be, the audience gets a rare treat as well.
Big band gala
This week’s fundraiser for the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra echoes a magical moment in American musical history, when Frank Sinatra got together with Count Basie and his band at the Sands in Las Vegas. The big band, directed by Clint Ashlock, will be joined by singer Ron Gutierrez in songs from that engagement, played in swinging style.
▪ The next live performance/recording session for the “12th Street Jump” radio show honors a Kansas City giant, singer Big Joe Turner. It’s at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd.
▪ Speaking of radio shows, Green Lady Lounge boss John Scott and pianist Tim Whitmer are developing one that will feature live performances focusing on new and original Kansas City music. We hope to hear more soon from “The Tim Whitmer Show Live at the Green Lady Lounge.” By the time you read this, one show with singer Molly Hammer should be recorded; more are on the way.
▪ The Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., has the band Groove 101 running the Monday jam at 7 p.m. Singer and multi-instrumentalist Lester “Duck” Warner performs at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Jazz Disciples are on at 8:30 p.m. Friday, and the Sons of Brasil appear at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
▪ The Green Lady also has the Foundation 627 Big Band at 8:30 p.m. Sunday; trumpeter Stan Kessler’s Force 5 at 9 p.m. Monday; the band Dojo at 7 p.m. Tuesday, followed by vibraphonist Peter Schlamb and bassist Karl McComas-Reichl at 10:30 p.m.; organist Ken Lovern’s OJT at 9 p.m. Wednesday and again at 5:30 p.m. Thursday; saxophonist Brett Jackson’s quartet at 9 p.m. Thursday; Whitmer at 5:30 p.m. Friday, followed by OJT again at 8:30 p.m. and organist Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 at 10 p.m.; and the band Heat Index at 3 p.m. Saturday, followed by singer Molly Hammer at 6 p.m. and OJT yet again at 9:30 p.m.
▪ The Art Factory, at 5621 W. 135th St., Suite 2630, in Overland Park’s Prairiefire development, has a reunion of trumpeter Stan Kessler and saxophonist Bill Bergman at 8 p.m. Friday. Guitarist Ron Carlson’s quartet is on at 7 p.m. Saturday.
▪ The Westport Coffeehouse Theater, 4010 Pennsylvania Ave., has trumpeter Nate Nall at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Joe Klopus, 816-234-4751