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Kansas City's oldest jazz house set to celebrate 105 years of making music

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Laura Spencer
KCUR 89.3

The Mutual Musicians Foundation is known for its late night jam sessions and the legends who played there.

The soul of Kansas City’s 18th & Vine jazz district may well be the Mutual Musicians Foundation at 1823 Highland.

Once upon a time, it was the union hall for the Colored Musicians Local 627. It is one of the two National Historic Landmarks in Kansas City.

It’s where icons such as Count Basie, Big Joe Turner and Jay McShann once played. Charlie Parker joined the union in 1935, and had his membership suspended in 1945 for not paying his dues.

"The musical ideas that have been exchanged there, the people who have been there have made it a place like no other, in Kansas City or anywhere," says jazz historian Larry Kopitnik.

And the Mutual Musicians Foundation continues its tradition of late night jam sessions from 1:30 to 5:30 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday.

"Historically, that was the place that the musicians met after their gigs," says James McGee, the Foundation's secretary. For people who want to watch musicians experiment with their music, McGee says, "you're going to have to put that investment in to come late night."

  • Larry Kopitnik, jazz historian
  • James McGee, secretary, Mutual Musicians Foundation

The Mutual Musicians Foundation celebrates its 105th anniversary with an open house starting at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, at 123 Highland Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri 64108.

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