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Arts & Life

A Music Lover's Guide To The Best Live Jazz In Kansas City

Jazz
Chris Bair
/
Unsplash
Kansas City jazz is still swinging in clubs and venues across the city.

Jazz performances can be found in venues across Kansas City every day of the year. Whether you're looking for a late-night concert or dinner and a show, here's where you can go to experience live jazz.

This story was first published in KCUR's Creative Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox every Tuesday.

Jazz — Kansas City’s world-famous cultural contribution — isn’t relegated to titans of yesteryear such as Charlie “Bird” Parker, Count Basie and Jay McShann. Vibrant Kansas City jazz is still simmering, swinging and jamming throughout the city.

Unlike the big-band era of swing heard in the 1930s and 40s, the Paris of the Plains gave birth to a looser, rhythmic style of jazz that led to bebop. Today, local music fans and tourists can explore the ever-evolving sound of jazz in Kansas City clubs and restaurants.

One note: If you're not entirely comfortable heading to a jazz club right now, you can add this to your post-COVID to-do list. Or, save it for later when you're looking for the best places to take out-of-town visitors in Kansas City.

The Majestic

Majestic Restaurant and Jazz Club
The Majestic Restaurant and Jazz Club
The Majestic Restaurant and Jazz Club is a prime destination to catch live jazz in Kansas City.

Located in the heart of downtown Kansas City, The Majestic Restaurant and Jazz Club is a prime destination to catch live jazz. After indulging in a meal and cocktails at the steakhouse, you can hear the musicians who keep the city’s music heritage alive.

Each night, the Majestic features live music from artists such as pianist Matt Villinger and pianist and vibraphonist Peter Schlamb, a Missouri native who performed in New York City for several years before landing here in Kansas City.

Pianist Bram Wijnands, who hails from Holland, made his local debut as a hard-driving swing jazz artist in 1991. Wijnands is a can't-miss artist who's performed with local and national jazz luminaries. Check the calendar for current show listings at The Majestic.

The Phoenix

The Phoenix.jpg
The Phoenix
The Phoenix, located in Kansas City's Historic Garment District, is home to a restaurant and jazz and blues club.

In the Historic Garment District, near the Majestic, The Phoenix is home to a restaurant and jazz and blues club. The venue's modern incarnation has been located on the first floor of the historic Phoenix Hotel since 1990.

Catch live music six days a week and a live jazz brunch every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Kansas City artist Talya Groves performs jazz and pop on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Millie Edwards, one of the Wild Women of Jazz, performs with Dan Sturdevant during brunch.

Drop in and listen to a jam session with Tim Reid Jr. and friends on Wednesday, and hear Lee Langston’s multi-genre crooning on Friday nights.

The Green Lady And Black Dolphin

Green Lady Lounge
Green Lady Lounge
Green Lady Lounge in the Crossroads District provides an intimate space to see, hear and experience late-night jazz sessions.

If you're looking for a hip, happening spot to catch evening and late-night jazz sessions, head to Green Lady Lounge in the Crossroads. The dark, cozy lounge provides an intimate space to see, hear and experience jazz from both established and up-and-coming artists.

Arrive early to secure a seat, especially on weekends, as many late sessions attract a standing-room-only crowd. Stylish attire isn't required, but musicians and staff are dressed to the nines — making guests feel snazzier as they sip on cocktails and sit mere feet away from the action on stage.

Don't miss the Orion Room, a downstairs hideaway with a grand piano and drum kit, where other musicians perform on a second stage. Trios of artists abound here, led by Danny Embry, Rod Fleeman, Ken Lovern, Jeff Shirley, Tyrone Clark and more.

Black Dolphin — a club with the same owner-operator located next to Green Lady Lounge — also packs in guests for evening and late-night sessions. Here you’ll find luminaries such as pianist Tim Whitmer’s Quartet with Jim Mair, the Matt Villinger Trio and the Leslie McLean Trio.

The Blue Room

The Blue Room, part of the American Jazz Museum in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District, brings Kansas City’s storied jazz past to the present. The club is named after a famed 1930s hotel club that once held court in the district. Take time to explore the museum, grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant in the district and slip into the club for evening entertainment.

Check the Blue Room's calendar for current listings. You’ll find fresh faces like Delynia Jannell at early evening Indigo Hour sessions. Kansas City local Clint Ashlock — artistic director and conductor of the esteemed Kansas City Jazz Orchestra — also helms a jazz quintet.

And another must-see act is Jazz Disciples, a quartet featuring saxophonist Gerald Dunn, pianist Everett Freeman, drummer Michael Warren and bassist DeAndre Manning.

Corvino And Chaz

Strings on the Green
Chaz on the Plaza
Jazz performances can be heard every day of the year at various venues across Kansas City. Strings on the Green at Chaz on the Plaza, pictured here, is a popular event.

Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room in the Crossroads invites guests into its restaurant anchored by a stage at one end of the room. While dining or savoring cocktails and wine at the bar, guests can relax to the sounds of guitarist Jeff Freling, pianist Peter Schlamb and guitarist Matt Hopper.

Chaz Restaurant and Lounge, tucked in the lower level of The Rafael Hotel on the Country Club Plaza, is another low-key spot to enjoy jazz from a wide range of artists. This year marks the 11th season of Strings on the Green, an outdoor live jazz series performed on the patio overlooking the Plaza. Upcoming performances include The Grand Marquis, the soulful vocals and jazz stylings of the Eboni Fondren Quartet and the sultry swing of Baby J and The Cradle Robbers.

Johnnie's Jazz Bar And Grille

Johnnie's Jazz Bar and Grille
Johnnie's Jazz Bar and Grille
Johnnie's Jazz Bar and Grille in Liberty, Missouri, plans to open a second location in Kansas City's Power and Light District.

Johnnie’s Jazz Bar and Grille in Liberty, Missouri, plans to open a second location in Kansas City's Power and Light District. Until then, you can still catch shows at the original location.

Tim Reid, Jr., a soul-jazz vocalist, pianist and songwriter, performs jazz standards and soul spanning several decades on Friday, Sept. 10. The next week, step back in time and let your hips sway to the swingin’ sounds of Baby J Jazz Trio’s take on classic jazz from the 1920s through the '40s.

See Johnnie's entire lineup here, which includes performances by Havilah Bruders Trio and Millie Edwards, as well as Brian Ruskin — the son of local jazz pillars Tommy Ruskin and Julie Turner.

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