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Jazz & Live Music Revival: Alan Stribling—Uptown Lounge

The new Uptown Lounge in Midtown Kansas City is the brainchild of Alan Stribling. Alan was born in South Carolina and transplanted to Kansas City when he was just two years old. He grew up on the history rich boulevards of Kansas City.

“I always had a thing for music. My father was a classical pianist and I started lessons at 6 and maintained that through high school,” said Alan. “I played in everything from the marching band to the jazz band. Had some really good instructors along the way. Teachers that helped me along.”

His chief mentor growing up was Harry Jenks. Harry was the well-known organist for the Kansas City Royals, as well as being a musician on the KC jazz scene. “Harry was a neighbor of mine that kind of took me under his wing to teach me a lot about the music,” said Alan. “I learned from him until his passing in 1980.”

Alan spent most of his 20’s in San Diego, California. A scene with plenty of piano bars, San Diego was the perfect place for learning his craft and developing good business sense. “It was there that I met another mentor in music, Michael Rorah. He is a partner with me in the Uptown Lounge,” explained Alan. “He showed me what music could be in terms of performing, singing and being an entertainer.”

After San Diego, Alan spend plenty of time playing on cruise ships before returning to Kansas City. In the late 1990s, he began a solid ten year run at the Raphael Hotel, in the same restaurant that is now called Chaz. That long-term gig was spiced with the occasional performance at The Piano Room, still located in the strip mall at 85th and Wornall. Both gigs expanded his reach and love of jazz.

Veteran Bassist Gerald Spaits and Drummer Ray DeMarchi became good friends, and steady gig mates. “It's funny, I was working so much at the Raphael that I simply didn't have the time to get out and meet too many people on the scene,” Alan said. “I wish I would have run into more folks back in the day. I’ve run into so many more, (in my short time) as the owner of the Uptown Lounge.”

Opening the Uptown Lounge is a shared dream of both Alan and Mike, and Alan’s wife Jean. After the fire and damage at the fabled punk music venue, Davy’s Uptown, their dream began to come into fruition.

“We had looked for something casually for quite a while,” said Alan. “Then Mike moved back up here during COVID to be with his family in Boonville, MO. We really started looking for a space. Then, we struck up a friendship with the landlord of Davy’s and she liked our vision.”

Mike’s interior design met Alan’s construction background and they began the exhaustive rehab in September of 2021. That culminated with the nightclub’s soft opening in June of 2022.

“We wanted to continue the tradition of music in the city. It's an honor to be a part of such a rich jazz scene with such a diverse history and background,” said Alan. “It's been such a treat to meet so many people. I have been blown away by the staggering amount of talent this city has.”

The primary emphasis of the venue is jazz, with Tuesday open jam session. Wednesday has been themed, “Women in Jazz.” Thursday is an evening for new & relatively unknown artists to get involved. Friday and Saturdays generally feature the owners at their exceptional grand piano, a coveted Yamaha C3. Alan Stribling performs from 7 - 9 p.m. and Michael Rorah takes over at 9 pm and plays until the wee hours.

“We are really excited to be a venue to bring that talent to bear from incredibly talented people,” said Alan enthusiastically. “It is a remarkable city to be a part of!”

—Joe Dimino

Listen to the complete Neon Jazz Alan Stribling Uptown Lounge Interview

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