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Angela Ward: Kansas City Jazz-All in the Family

The Kansas City jazz community is routinely applauded for fostering a supportive musical environment. Musicians say it is a sort of ‘family’ of musicians. With The JWB, formed in 1997, as the James Ward Band, KC has a band that is a truly a ‘mom & popbusiness’.

Pianist & bandleader Angela Ward performs regularly with her husband, bassist James Ward. Over the past few years, they’ve been joined by their now nineteen-year-old son, Jaylen. He attends Kansas City Kansas Community College and in June of 2022, Jaylen earned 3 music awards from Down Beat Magazine.

Angela was recently the Musical Director of Jazz Night at the Sunflower Music Festival in Topeka. She rehearsed the ensemble at the Mutual Musician’s Foundation and conducted an 18-piece orchestra in public for the very first time, on June 20th, 2022 in the 1,200 seat White Concert Hall on the Washburn University campus.

If you’ve heard The JWB, you know the band is cookin’, and business, for the Wards, is cookin’ too. “We are busier than we have ever been. Even prior to the pandemic. This is a good time for us,” says Angela Ward, “A lot of people were really impressed, entertained by our basement sessions that we created during the pandemic. That attracted a lot of new fans.”

The Ward Family plays all over town. Six or seven days a week, the band tears it up at Soiree Steak & Oyster House, the Blue Room at 18th and Vine, Johnnie’s Jazz Clubs, located in area B & B Theaters, and Corvino Supper Club in the Crossroads District. The group is scheduled at the Ambassador Hotel at 1111 Grand Avenue several nights a month. Find a complete listing of their performances at

Speaking about the pandemic, and beginning to get out and play music again, Angela says,

“It was unreal. I almost couldn't focus on the music because it was so good to see people, again. I cannot even describe the feeling; I had not seen people in so long. It was unreal. I felt like I (had been) under a rock for two years!. It took a while for me to get my bearings.”

Angela Ward began her life in music in Tallahassee, Florida, she was three-years-old. She has always had a love for music. She put it this way.

“I played (music) by ear for many, many years. Then at age 12, I started taking piano lessons in classical music. I tookclassical lessons for 8 years (and subsequently) I participated in a lot of solo piano competitions. I always made the Florida State Finals in music every year. Because of that, I did a lot of traveling.”

Angela Ward discovered jazz at Florida A&M University. She met her husband, James at Florida A&M. The couple immediately began playing music together. “James and I got married in 1993,” said Angela, “and he started his band around 1997, after he made the band, it was pretty much history from there. We have been doing it ever since.”

For the Ward family, music and family life are intertwined. Our house is like a conservatory,” says Angela, “It's a non-stop music and production location!” She mused, “If you saw our house, you would figure it's more, a place of production than a home. It’s a plus, that we get to produce our music conveniently, right at home.”

James Ward is a master craftsman. He creates musical instruments and rubs for meats that he sells and gives away to friends for grilling. James has been a photographer for several years and he maintains a thriving business in photography alongside his music and his work in his shop. James creates websites, too.

Angela teaches music at all levels, and she is very active performing at the piano. She conducts the family business, and the band can be found in concert, at clubs, churches and, much more, mostly around Kansas City. But the Wards don’t rule anything out, they have traveled extensively.

Jaylen is a fulltime student that maintains a full-time schedule as a professional musician. Every family member is consummate performer and solid professional. Their website, tells more of their story. Photos of James hand-crafted basses, their grueling schedule, and links to the band’s recordings. For the complete story, though, you need to stay with them, as they go through their jam-packed days. It is amazing how well they get along, and how much they pack into each performance.

Angela’s personal mission is to educate young people who cannot afford music lessons. She volunteers as often as possible, in music education and at various churches. She has created a 501(c)(3) to help her reach her goal of getting young people involved in the arts. “We are able to bring joy to others during these dark times. I enjoy the fact that we can reach people with music,” she said, “we are living in a time where people are looking for an outlet, or relief, something positive.” Listen to the full Neon Jazz Angela Ward Interview:

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