Musings In Cb: “Off The Vine”

Every April, Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) highlights the glories of jazz as both an historical and a living treasure. Here is one special month to draw greater public attention to the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz and its importance to American culture.


[Joe Locke is Artist-In-Residence and Joe Locke Quartet performs in April]

Musicians, concert halls, schools, colleges, museums, libraries and public broadcasters are encouraged to offer special programs during this month. The American Jazz Museum supports this initiative 365 days a year through our programming; and, in concert with a distinguished roster of federal agencies, local entities, non-governmental organizations and broadcasting networks.  See –


The annual “18th & Vine Student Jazz Festival” is April 16, 17, and 18 at the Gem Theater in Kansas City’s historic Jazz District at 18th and Vine. Student participants benefit from clinics with outstanding musicians and have the option of attending evening performances that will entertain and inspire. The MCC-Penn Valley Jazz Ensemble will perform on Friday, April 17 and vibraphonist and educator Joe Locke is the 2015 Artist-In-Residence.  He will present an afternoon clinic and evening concert with his quartet on Saturday, April 18.


[JOE LOCKE photo by Alexandros Lambrovassilis]

Joe Locke is widely considered to be one of the major voices of his instrument. He has performed and recorded with a diverse range of notable musicians, including Grover Washington Jr, Kenny Barron, Eddie Henderson, Cecil Taylor, Dianne Reeves, Ron Carter, The Beastie Boys, the Münster Symphony Orchestra and the Lincoln, Nebraska Symphony.  

Long known to be a soloist capable of stunning physical power and broad emotional range, it was not until the last decade that he emerged as the composer, bandleader and conceptualist that he is considered today. This is in no small part due to his solo projects of the last decade. “Four Walls of Freedom” (Sirocco), a 6 movement suite based on the writing of the monk Thomas Merton, which he composed as a vehicle for tenor saxophonist Bob Berg, garnered high praise from the critical community as a major work and won several international polls.

“Live in Seattle” (Origin), by The Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group, won the 2006 Ear Shot award for “Concert of the Year”. This group is well loved and emulated by younger musicians looking for direction and inspiration. The overwhelming success of his recent quartet, “Force of Four” (Origin), can be attributed to the talents of his young cohorts and to the leader’s musical philosophy, which is to honor tradition while keeping both feet planted in the present and future. His 2011 album, the captivating, immersive album “VIA”, is the result of a reunion of Storms/Nocturnes, the transatlantic trio with Geoffrey Keezer and Tim Garland.

Since joining Motéma Music in 2011 Joe has released “Signing”, the long awaited follow-up and critically acclaimed studio album of “Live In Seattle” by The Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group, again featuring Terreon Gully and Mike Pope. “The special hook-up between vibraphonist Joe Locke and pianist Geoffrey Keezer is based on shared assets like chops, listening skills and a gift for communicating the joy of making music. Locke/Keezer can make complex material sound suave and tricky time signatures flow.” (Thomas Conrad, JazzTimes).

The Joe Locke Quartet appearance is part of the acclaimed Jammin’ at the Gem jazz performance series. And, tickets to this Saturday night feature performance are available to festival participants at a significantly reduced price. Educators are also encouraged to take students to tour the spectacular American Jazz Museum permanent exhibits and Changing Gallery while attending the festival.​  

The three-day festival is a non-competitive event that provides middle school, high school and college students with an outstanding musical experience as well as an opportunity to gain deeper appreciation for Kansas City’s rich jazz heritage. This educational event is an on-going partnership between MCC-Penn Valley and the American Jazz Museum. The festival is administered and operated by MCC Penn Valley with logistical support from the AJM. For more information, contact Clarence Smith at 816.604.4456. or email him at


Designed to resemble a nightclub from the 1930s, the Blue Room is not only a jazz club featuring live music four nights a week, but also a part of the permanent exhibit at the American Jazz Museum. Each of the nine tables on the lower level are display cases of rare artifacts of Kansas City jazz, including photos, ticket stubs and musicians contracts. The upper level of the Blue Room presents a “wall of fame” that showcases images of dozens of musicians who helped craft the “Kansas City sound”; shadow boxes display guitars, saxophones, clarinets, sheet music, records, programs and other artifacts. The Massenburg Mural celebrates the history of jazz, a timeline of the jazz continuum and the African-American experience through compelling interpretations of jazz legends and inspiring quotes.




​SATURDAY, APRIL 11 – ROB SCHEPS / JASON JACKSON QUINTET, Admission: $15 – “Two great horn players who have worked together in the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra!" 


*Jason Jackson, photo by Rob White

​FRIDAY, APRIL 17 – HAPPY BIRTHDAY! BOB BOWMAN w/ Special guest, STEVE HOUGHTON, Admission: $10 – "Internationally renowned jazz drummer and University of Indiana music professor, Steve Houghton joins GRAMMY winning bassist, Bob Bowman!”

​SATURDAY, APRIL 25 – NPP ALL-STAR QUARTET w/ DONALD BROWN – piano, RAY DRUMMOND – bass, MARVIN “SMITTY” SMITH – drums, BOBBY WATSON – saxophone, Admission: $25 – “Watson has been producing some of jazz’s most optimistic compositions…” – The New York Times 


*Bobby Watson, photo courtesy NPP​


FRIDAY, MAY 1 – CHARLOTTE EMBRY & SOINGE, Admission: $10 – “First inspired by her Uncle Charles McCormick, lead singer of Bloodstone, Embry now takes a spotlight of her own!" 


*Charlotte Embry & Soinge photo by Bob Barry

FRIDAY, MAY 8 – DINO MASSA / CHRIS BURNETT GROUP, Admission: $10 – "An international musical reunion. Italian jazz pianist, Massa and alto saxophonist, Burnett performed together regularly in Naples, Italy twenty years ago!" 


*Dino Massa, photo courtesy the artist

SATURDAY, MAY 23, JAZZ DISCIPLES w/ LISA HENRY & GLENN NORTH, Admission: $10 – "Going to a Lisa Henry jazz session is like spending an evening with a good friend. Glenn North is a major force on the Kansas City spoken word scene!”


The Changing Gallery space showcases both local and national artists, traveling exhibits and other displays of fine art, film, photography & other media inspired by jazz and African-American life, culture & history. Jazz Then and Now celebrates the evolution of jazz from its earliest beginnings to the modern-day period. The exhibition pays homage to local, national and international jazz artists whose unique styles, musical achievements and incalculable contributions helped to shape the music.  This exhibition is free and open to the public.  Jazz Then and Now is in the Changing Gallery at the American Jazz Museum and closes on April 30th.


[JAZZ THEN AND NOW EXHIBITION photo by Chris Burnett]

The remaining scheduled public programs are as follows:

o Film Lecture – Jazz Then Under the Lens
April 9, 2015, 6 pm, John H. Baker Jazz Film Exhibition, Free – Hosted by museum CEO Greg Carroll, this session features conversation with Jazz film scholars and screenings of selected films from the John H. Baker Jazz Film collection.

o Composition Contest – Jazz Palette Composition Contest
April 20, 2015, 7 pm, Blue Room, Free – Following a composition contest for high school, college, and professional jazz musicians, a performance led by Hermon Mehari in the Blue Room showcases the winning compositions in all three divisions.

Also see –


April 3 – Jazz Storytelling: AJM Atrium, 10 a.m. FREE

April 16 – Jazz Poetry Jams: Blue Room, 7:00 p.m., $7/$10

May 1 – Jazz Storytelling: AJM Atrium, 10 a.m. FREE

May 21 – Jazz Poetry Jams: Blue Room, 7:00 p.m., $7/$10


[JAZZ STORYTELLING photo by Chris Burnett]

For more information contact Bill McKemy, 816.474.0092,

Take Five Tours are free.  All tours take place on the first Thursday and third Tuesday of each month from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm, and meet in the Atrium to begin the tour.  The tour is guided by AJM Staff and includes all of the exhibit spaces and Blue Room jazz club. Join us for one hour and see how we are “keeping Jazz alive on the Vine”. RSVP call 816-474-8463 x 238 or email


The American Jazz Museum’s Lifetime Achievement Award for 2015 is being presented to Marilyn Maye, an artist and entertainer whose career and reach have significantly embraced the world.  We salute the musical legacy of this extraordinarily talented artist, who joins an elite class, including: Nancy Wilson, Abbey Lincoln, Jay McShann, Dr. Billy Taylor, Myra Taylor, Ellis Marsalis, Ahmed Alaadeen, Clark Terry, Benny Golson, Dr. Nathan Davis, Luqman Hamza, Curtis Fuller, Benny Golson, Pearl Thuston-Brown, and Ramsey Lewis.


[Marilyn Maye photo courtesy the artist]

In the years since Marilyn Maye first appeared in the spotlight as a tiny pre-teen vocalist in a series of amateur contests in Topeka, Kansas, she has received an endless stream of kudos. The late Johnny Carson called her “Super Singer.” Ella Fitzgerald dubbed her “The greatest white female singer in the world.” The Houston Chronicle termed her “A National Treasure.” And the prestigious Smithsonian Institution chose her recording of “Too Late Now” (from her RCA Lamp Is Low album) for inclusion in its Best Performers of the Best Compositions of the 20th Century permanent collection, along with such other singing greats as Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland.

Add 76 appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, a Grammy nomination in the mid-Sixties as Best New Artist, a bevy of awards reflecting her showmanship, and you have an illustrious singing career that is still going strong after a life-time spent entertaining audiences who are now amazed to discover she still exudes the vocal strength and stamina of a singer half her age.


[GEM THEATER SIGN photo by Bob Barry]

2015 “Jammin’ at the Gem” performance series season presented another great line up of talent. Tickets for remaining concerts in the series are on sale at the AJM Box Office in person or by telephone at 816.474.6262. A fabulous line up also resulted in the first two shows being sold out events. 

The five consecutive “Jammin’ at the Gem” concerts: January 24, 2015 was Brian Culbertson; February 14, 2015 was Gerald Albright; March 14, 2015 brought us The Mosaic Project – a celebration of female artists with Grammy-winner, Terri Lyne Carrington being joined by some of today’s most celebrated female instrumentalists and vocalists in the world; April 18, 2015 is Joe Locke Quartet; and Marilyn Maye’s in May show is our season finale on May 23, 2015!  See –


Christopher L. Burnett | Marketing + Communications Manager | American Jazz Museum |1616 E. 18th Street | Kansas City, MO 64108 | 816.421.6121 (direct) |