American Jazz Museum | KCUR

American Jazz Museum

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Logan Richardson left Kansas City to become a star.

Now, twenty years later, having lived in New York City and Italy and toured internationally, the ascendant saxophonist has made a move toward re-establishing himself in a city whose jazz scene has not always been comfortable for him. His re-entry could not be packed with more portent.

Richardson has set up a home — and a studio — in the apartment where Charlie Parker, the city's first iconic jazz saxophonist, once lived.

Silvia Ines Gonzalez

The new director of Kansas City's American Jazz Museum says she's ready to take the city's historic 18th and Vine District "back to the glory that we know it to be."

Rashida Phillips started in early January. A jazz vocalist who grew up in St. Louis, Phillips has spent the last 15 years working for arts and cultural organizations in Chicago.

Segment 1: Will new leadership mean a new chapter for the American Jazz Museum?

The American Jazz Museum just welcomed a new executive director, and she's already in the thick of it. She discussed the current state of the struggling museum and where she sees it going under her direction.

Segment 1: Kansas lawmakers prepare to tackle myriad issues in the upcoming legislative session.

Kansas' Medicaid expansion seems to be the hottest issue going into the 2020 legislative session, but it won't be the only thing keeping senators and representatives busy in Topeka. Possible outcomes and implications for everything from abortion to state debt to prison reforms were previewed.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Holiday traditions sometimes start in unlikely ways.

Case in point: Gerald Dunn and Kansas City's Musicians Appreciation Day, which these days offers live music for the public and free health screenings and fresh produce for musicians of all genres.

It started years ago as a chance encounter between Dunn, director of entertainment at the American Jazz Museum and Blue Room general manager, and tenor saxophonist Eddie Saunders, who died in 2012.

Segment 1: Annual Kansas City event encourages musicians to eat better and focus on their health.

Silvia Ines Gonzalez

Rashida Phillips, a St. Louis native who has worked with a range of cultural organizations, has been named the new executive director of the American Jazz Museum. She is also a jazz singer.

In a letter, the museum's board of directors said that "after a thorough and thoughtful" national search process, Phillips "rose to the top" of the field of more than 25 candidates. 

At 74 years old, Kansas City pianist Jay McShann was still performing the joyous music that had entertained audiences around the world for decades.

One of those concerts was in Tokyo, Japan, in 1990, where a woman named Yoko Takemura was in the audience.

“People should know Jay McShann much more,” says Takemura, a devotee of Kansas City jazz.

Kansas City's American Jazz Museum Names An Interim Executive Director

May 15, 2019
File Photo / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City's American Jazz Museum is building momentum for a rebirth, the Kansas City Business Journal reports.

Segment 1: Kevin Willmott delivers his acceptance speech. 

Kevin Willmott won an Oscar for BlacKkKlansman in the category of Best Adapted Screenplay. But he did not give an acceptance speech at the awards ceremony. We've remedied that.

Segment 2, beginning at 10:14: Jazz trumpeter Hermon Mehari comes home.

Daniel Hogans

Kansas City pianist Eddie Moore describes his music like this: "rolling down a hill on a bike with no brakes. You just have to weave through everything that gets in your way or jump over it."

Originally from Houston, he thought he might need to move to a coastal city to make a life in music work. But that changed after he auditioned at the University of Missouri Conservatory of Music and Dance for a graduate degree in music. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City's troubled American Jazz Museum has new leadership after its interim board of directors unanimously elected a new board Tuesday afternoon.

The museum has been led by that interim board and has not had an executive director since Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner and most of the 22-member board resigned last spring after a highly critical consultants' report released in early April.

How Kansas City Inspires Artist Sanford Biggers

Sep 26, 2018

Sanford Biggers is not a Kansas City native, but the city's history and culture has inspired a few of his multi-media works. As a part of Open Spaces, he has another installation coming up on October 5th. We'll hear about how he's getting ready for that performance, the ways he encourages viewers to take a second look at his art, and how he found a love of painting after a run-in with the law. 

Donna Moore seated in front of a microphone in the KCUR studio
Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Grassroots organization looks to bring legislative reform to Missouri statehouse.

When states fail to promote a culture of transparency, some organizations believe it falls on voters to bring about the needed change to their government. We learned about the Clean Missouri Initiative, which will appear on the state's November ballots, and calls for open records, a reduction of partisan gerrymandering and the elimination of lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly.  

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Kansas City likes to boast that it’s internationally recognized for jazz. A concert at the Gem Theater on Thursday provides some evidence.

“Our musicians are everywhere in the world. We are pretty famous for our musicians,” says vocalist Deborah Brown, a Kansas City native and one of the instigators of Jazz Sister Cities, a partnership between musicians in Kansas City, Missouri, and Szczecin, Poland.

Kansas City already has civic relationships with 13 sister cities around the world, but this is the first purely musical relationship, unrelated to City Hall.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Acting to exert greater control over the financially strapped American Jazz Museum, the Kansas City Council's Finance and Audit Committee Wednesday approved two ordinances that would halt any new city money going to the museum, remove Third District councilpeople from the board and, eventually, clear the way for Mayor Sly James to name a new board of directors.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include developments at Thursday's City Council meeting.

This week marked the deadline for Kansas City's troubled American Jazz Museum to respond to the city's request to change its staff and board leadership in order to be eligible for city funds.

Clint Ashlock

Musicians have a lot at stake when it comes to the future of the American Jazz Museum.

"Please take the artist into consideration first, and foremost," bandleader and percussionist Pablo Sanhueza urged members of the Kansas City Council's finance and governance committee at an April 25 hearing to chart a course forward for the troubled museum.

Segment 1: How people in the Midwest cope when they have a fear of storms.

Spring in the Midwest means blooming flowers and warmer weather ... and also tornado siren tests and scary storms. What is it like for someone with a phobia of severe weather?

Meet a Leawood fifth grader who is one of five finalists in a nationwide contest for her invention, The Storm Sleeper. However, kids aren't the only ones afraid of storms; we hear about astraphobia and the adults who suffer from it.

CJ Janovy / KCUR 89.3

More than 50 people, including artists, musicians, former American Jazz Museum employees and volunteers packed a Kansas City Council committee meeting on Wednesday to voice their concerns or support for the troubled museum.

The council's finance and governance committee had a lot of ground to cover during the three-hour session.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Two Kansas City Council members on Thursday introduced very different resolutions in response to a consultant's report suggesting drastic measures to address financial and other problems at the American Jazz Museum. 

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

A day after a consultants' report suggested that the American Jazz Museum is "in need of complete rethinking, akin to starting a new museum" and suggested a temporary closure, the museum's board of directors met at the Gem Theater to parse the critical assessment of the museum's finances, leadership and exhibits.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Consultants hired by the city of Kansas City, Missouri, to assess the wellbeing of the American Jazz Museum on Monday recommended closing the museum temporarily.

The museum, according to the consultants' report, is "in need of complete rethinking, akin to starting a new museum." The report called for a "complete rebirth, starting with its leadership, but continuing with a revamped financial model, visitor experience, and operational infrastructure."

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Update: The Kansas City Council approved this proposal on Thursday, October 26.

The Kansas City Council’s finance and governance committee on Wednesday approved a proposal for the city manager to take a closer look at the assets and management of the American Jazz Museum. The ordinance also requests a $250,000 boost for the museum, which faces an estimated $1 million shortfall. 

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Council member Jermaine Reed introduced a proposal on Thursday to turn oversight of the American Jazz Museum over to the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department, including assets managed by American Jazz Museum, Inc., such as the Blue Room and the Gem Theater.

Council members Quinton Lucas and Scott Wagner co-sponsored the ordinance. It now goes to the Council’s finance and governance committee. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

It's been a year since the Kansas City Council approved $7 million in funding for projects in the 18th and Vine district, such as stabilizing historic buildings and adding new streetscaping. On Wednesday, city officials provided a progress report. 

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

The American Jazz Museum still has about $150,000 in outstanding vendor bills. That’s despite catching up on payments to the musicians who played at the Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival over Memorial Day weekend.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Financial woes at the American Jazz Museum aren't sitting well with city and state officials. 

"I'm concerned, like a lot of other people, about what's going on," says Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. "I don't think we ought to ignore this, ignore the problems, or dismiss them lightly."

Courtesy Blair Bryant

Blair Bryant is a young contemporary jazz bassist who says he's mastered more than 14 instruments.

CJ Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Update: This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include a city funding update. 

After experiencing "a cash flow issue" following the inaugural Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival over Memorial Day weekend, officials with the American Jazz Museum say all performers have been paid — after some musicians complained on social media earlier this week.

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