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Flying into Kansas City for the NFL Draft? The airport is welcoming visitors with live jazz

Welcoming NFL Draft visitors with a taste of Kansas City music, Eclipse Trio’s Michael Warren on drums, DeAndré Manning on bass, and Everett Freeman Jr. on keyboard play a jazzy set as passengers walk through the new terminal.
Julie Denesha
KCUR 89.3
Eclipse Trio welcomes NFL Draft visitors to the new Kansas City airport terminal with a taste of local jazz. The group features Michael Warren on drums, DeAndré Manning on bass, and Everett Freeman Jr. on keyboard.

This week thousands of travelers will fly into the new Kansas City International Airport terminal for the NFL Draft. On peak days, visitors will be welcomed to the metro by live, local music.

Thousands of travelers are flying into the new Kansas City airport terminal for the NFL Draft this week. Those visiting on peak travel days will be greeted with local jazz music.

Kansas City greats like trumpet player Stan Kesslerand saxophonist Bobby Watson will perform for travelers in the airport’s baggage area Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. The concerts are a collaboration of the Jazz District Renaissance Corporation and the Kansas City Aviation Department.

As travelers huddled near the carousel to collect their luggage on Tuesday, DeAndré Manning, who plays bass in Eclipse Trio, said there's a rich history here in Kansas City.

“They called this Paris of the Plains," Manning said. "So when prohibition was happening, people would come here because you can still get your booze and have good entertainment. That history is still happening and the music still goes on.”

Passengers wait at the luggage carousel as trumpeter Stan Kessler plays with his trio.
Julie Denesha
KCUR 89.3
Passengers wait at the luggage carousel as trumpeter Stan Kessler plays with his trio.

The Kansas City jazz age music scene attracted big band legends like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. After-hours jam sessions ushered in the improvisational style of bebop and minted new stars like Charlie "Bird" Parker.

Joe McBride is senior manager of marketing and communications at the Aviation Department. He said airlines have not added flights, though most are flying at capacity.

“We know the NFL Draft is bringing lots of extra people to our town," McBride said. “We’re wanting to make sure that this new terminal, which is the the welcome mat to our city, makes the best impression when they arrive and their best last impression when they leave.”

NFL Draft visitors are welcomed to Kansas City with a taste of music. Eclipse Trio’s Michael Warren on drums, DeAndré Manning on bass, and Everett Freeman Jr. on keyboard play a jazzy set as passengers walk through the new terminal.

The airport music was a welcome distraction for Mariana Picou, who just arrived from New Orleans. She lounged on her bags while waiting for a friend’s luggage to arrive. The two were here to work for the catering crew for the NFL Draft.

“It feels like home,” she said as a jazz band played nearby.

NFL fan Robert Klassen flew in from San Jose, California. It was his first trip to the Midwest and, he was looking forward to getting an insider's look at his favorite football teams with friends.

“I’m just here to hang out with my buddies and go to the draft,” Klassen said. “You get see who gets picked first, before anybody else.”

Kessler was playing with his trio while Lisa Watson, from Indianapolis, waited in the baggage area for another coach to arrive. She’s been working with the NFL Draft for 12 years, and this is her first trip to Kansas City.

“I am going to be coaching youth football clinics during the draft experience,” Watson said.

Mariana Picou relaxes on her bags — just arrived rom from New Orleans. She was in town to work in the catering crew for the NFL Draft.
Julie Denesha
KCUR 89.3
Mariana Picou, just arrived from New Orleans, relaxes on her bags. She was in town to help cater NFL Draft events.

Gerald Dunn, the artistic director for the Jazz District Renaissance Corporation, coordinated the lineup at the airport.

“There's something about landing in a city, while you're waiting for your bags, you really get a sense of what you're walking into,” Dunn said. “It's like walking into a musical portal of our city.”

For NFL Draft visitors looking to explore more of the city's musical heritage, Dunn, who is also the director of entertainment at the American Jazz Museum, said that the Blue Room is hosting a 12-hour jazz session called "The Jazz Draft" on Thursday in the Historic 18th and Vine Jazz District.

Kessler said he enjoyed playing several gigs in the old terminal. For him, music is one way to make a good first impression on people just arriving in town.

“I love it because people get off the plane and they're tired and sometimes they're just not happy, right?” Kessler said. “Then they hear the music and they just light up. It's fun to see how the music uplifts the weary traveler."

Playing to a crowd on the move, Stan Kessler on trumpet Eric Hitt on bass and Roger Wilder on keyboard plays a set between the baggage carousels.
Julie Denesha
KCUR 89.3
Stan Kessler, on trumpet, Eric Hitt, bass, and Roger Wilder, keyboard, played for a crowd on the move between baggage carousels.

This was the first live music event the airport hosted since opening in late February. Mark Spencer, arts program coordinator for the airport, was on hand to help musicians find their places and make sure everything went smoothly.

“It's an awesome thing to be able to team up with the jazz community here in Kansas City,” Spencer said. "When travelers come down to the bag claim they find that the sound of Kansas City is here.”

Over the next few days, Watson, Kessler, Ben Leifer, Eric Hitt, Roger Wilder, Michael Warren, Everett Freeman and DeAndre Manning will each perform for travelers at the airport.

“The music still goes on,” Manning said during a break in Eclipse Trio's airport terminal set. “When people come and get their luggage and they can hear those sounds, that's a memory they can take with them forever."

Jazz musicians will play for travelers from noon-5 p.m. through Thursday, April 27 at the Kansas City International Airport.

Julie Denesha is the arts reporter for KCUR. Contact her at julie@kcur.org.
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