I Love What You've Done With The Wallpaper!

Photo credit: Ken Westphal; Band: Parallax at the original Take Five Coffee + Bar

Photo credit: Ken Westphal; Band: Parallax at the original Take Five Coffee + Bar

Kansas City is unquestionably rich with jazz; it’s being played everywhere. Clubs, restaurants, hotels, even at the airport and in movie theater lounges. It would be easy to think that every city sounds like this, but they don’t. Due to our heritage in the art form, and giving credit to Bobby Watson’s efforts at UMKC, Kansas City is home to many top-flight jazz musicians. You can hear jazz every night of the week somewhere, and that’s fantastic. It adds a patina to every experience in those locations, an authenticity that speaks to the heart of Kansas City history. Hopefully, in some of those cases, when people come in contact with it they’re left wanting more - a deeper experience of jazz. But where do they go for that?

The overwhelming majority of jazz performances in Kansas City today are free - in other words, there’s no cover charge. This might sound like a really great thing, and in some respects it is, but there are some drawbacks. When you go to a concert, generally everyone is there for the same reason - to see the concert. If you go somewhere and there happens to be live music, some people will be there for the band, but others aren’t - it’s part of the ambience for them - like the lighting or the wallpaper. Those folks aren’t under any obligation to be quiet or even pay attention to the music at all.

Also, when most of the venues in town don’t charge cover, it deters national artists from making stops here. That hurts not only the people who would love to go see these artists, it hurts our local musicians too. Some of those national artists will use local players to round out their bands, establishing the network that is crucial to success in a music career. But also, the absence of these national touring groups here can give the implication that jazz as a genre isn’t thriving and growing - which is hardly the case. There is a LOT happening between musicians of say, Vijay Iyer’s stature, and our local scene; we just don’t get to experience it very often.

And really, when you think about it, there isn’t another genre of live music that you can see regularly throughout town for free. Certainly not rock, not country, not blues, not even folk or Americana. So why jazz? And does it have to be that way?

Our belief is no - it doesn’t have to be that way - and that’s why Take Five Music Productions is focused squarely on bringing in the best national acts we can, presenting our local musicians’ creative endeavors, and making that a purposeful experience for everyone in attendance. In other words, nearly all of our performances will have a cover charge, and you can rest assured that it’ll be worth every penny.


Lori Chandler