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Kansas City Jazz Guitarist Alan Voss Returns

Release His Debut Album At Fifty-One

It is a rare musical feat that a debut album gets released by an artist at the age of 51. Yet, Kansas City Jazz Guitarist Alan Voss is doing just that with the release of his new album Baobab. “It's been a long time coming, for sure. I was super glad to work with (these) great musicians on this album,” Alan said. “To finally realize it and (with) material that was born of pandemic, it’s a way of getting the ball rolling and announcing, ‘here I am’.”

During the construction of this album, he read an article about the Baobab trees native to Africa and it noted that they typically don't bear fruit for the first 50 years. That struck a nerve for him and he felt a distinct parallelism.

Alan was born in Independence, MO and has lived in the KC area most of his life. HIs early baptismal into music came from his mother who listened to a lot of B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, and Gladys Knight.

His dad would always spin Sandy Nelson records. “That was my foray into drums, which was my first instrument,” noted Alan, “as a kid, I always wanted to be a professional musician. I would listen to all kinds of music and read Modern Drummer magazine.

This led to a deep love of Elvin Jones and it led Alan to pursue his dream. His road eventually took him to the Berklee College of Music. As most things in his career, he started late in the process. “I went to Berklee when I was 25. At that age you are considered an adult and can get more loans. It was expensive like medical school,” Alan said. “It was then that I started studying guitar. I had great teachers and it was amazing at Berklee.”

He stayed on the East Coast for some time living in New York State before returning to Kansas City to raise a family. It hasn’t always been jazz for him. He’s been in various bands over the years. Playing in reggae, rock and blues acts. Yet, the jazz was always there for him from the beginning.

“My mom used to take me to hear Ida MacBeth at The Point quite a bit. Man, she was amazing and so gifted. She always had top flight musicians playing with her,” said Alan. “Around the same time, I used to go hear Interstring with Danny Embrey, Rod Fleeman, Todd Strait, and Bob Bowman as often as I could. That was a rich guitar inspiration for me.”

These days, he’s been working with Heidi McHale playing at joints like The Phoenix, 12 Baltimore and Stockhill. Yet, he still feels like a bit of an outsider. “Not a lot of people know of me. So, I'm hoping the album helps with that,” Alan said. “Hopefully folks will resonate with this new record. It may not be traditional jazz, but hopefully they can appreciate it.”

He is proud to be back in Kansas City and feels the energy of a town he has always embraced.

“There is such a rich history and thread that goes through many older musicians that mentored younger musicians,” Alan noted. “We have amazing venues. The young and old jazz musicians are percolating in a mixing pot. There is more old school and contemporary with rap/hip hop mixed in. There is an energy to a city when things are going on and KC has that. You feed off of that as an artist.”

With new music out and a city that is entering a post-pandemic frenzy, he’s doing what he has always done in a quest to find his place in the world. “For better or worse. I thrive on not fitting the mold. If you tell me I can't do something, I will find a way to do it,” Alan said. “I kind of like being an outsider and a bit different. I find my own way and take from different musicians that I like and incorporate it into my own thing. Being an individualist is my musical personality.”

Alan has a complexity in his simplicity that boils down to a love he has always had for jazz and his lifelong dedication to it. “I love the freedom of it. Just spontaneously creating melodies,” Alan said. “Everybody has their licks and goes to things they do, but I love to explore on the edge. I love working on finding melodies.”

by Joe Dimino

The Neon Jazz Alan Voss Podcast Interview

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