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New Kid in Town — Drummer, Evan Verploegh

Meet one of the new transplants to the Kansas City jazz scene. His name is Evan Verploegh. Originally from rural Northern Wisconsin, he decided to make the leap into a scene that would provide him new opportunities to grow musically and get involved in a much more vibrant music community.

The actual move happened in October 2019 and then something big shook the proverbial foundation of earth in March of 2020.

"I think musicians out there have been hit horribly by the pandemic. I consider myself lucky that I am employed outside of music and have that income coming in," Evan explained. "My heart goes out to everybody else out there. I hesitate to do too much complaining. I truly consider myself lucky."

His move hedged on his partner getting a job as a program producer at 89.3 KCUR and he saw it as an opportunity to grow into a new community he heard so much good about. He had spoken to others that left, came back, and left again. Acclaimed musicians like Adam Larsen and Logan Richardson.

"In my brief conversations I have been encouraged by how passionate they are and what they would like to see changed," Evan said. "More opportunities for original music to be played. Melding together modern sounds into an honest music. They are inspired to do that here in Kansas City."

He was living a comfortable and happy existence in Wisconsin before the move, but he wanted more. He did get to experience Kansas City for a handful of months before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and strangled the local music scene. He is hungry to get out there and experience a town that he already loves and wants to see much more of.

"I would really like to develop a regular playing band. They can travel, but ultimately they will grow from their Kansas City roots," Evan explained. "I would always like to think that I can be called for a variety of gigs."

At the age of 6, he started taking piano lessons and began appreciating music and the power of making sounds. Playing a percussive instrument like the piano gave him an appreciation that would later lead to the drum kit.

His real love affair with music began on the very first day of 6th Grade when his father took him to see a Rolling Stones show on their Bigger Bang Tour.

"Man, hearing how Charlie Watts sounded on the drums in this cavernous arena was sensory overload for me," Evan explained. "From that point on, things shifted for me. It scrambled my brain in the best possible way."

From there, a couple of kids in school were looking to play Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne in the talent show. He wasn't quite adept at the kit, but he figured he could learn a little rock tune. That opened a huge door for him. He started learning while gigging and his world of music exploration grew exponentially.

"From that, it turned into having a working band with two good friends in high school. It ran the gamut of various rock genres," Evan said. "I certainly look back at that as fruitful times to gig around as 16-year-olds in Wausau, Wisconsin. That led to gigs around the state. It was all very rewarding.”

Once he left the world of high school and ventured into college, he got his first big taste of improvisation. He was listening to bands like The Grateful Dead and Phish. He understood that their core was improvisation and that made sense to how he wanted to pursue his own musical path.

“The next step was listening to Miles Davis’ music from the 1960 and 70's. Hearing Bitches Brew for the first time combined all of these different things into a synthesis of rock, funk and jazz." Evan explained, "From there it's been a continual exploration. To music like hard bop, along with the worlds of free jazz and improvisational." These days, he is headlong into the free improvisation vibe and considers improvisation an endlessly inspiring topic that he wants to explore for the rest of his life.

He has already spent some quality time at The Blue Room, The Phoenix, and The Stephen Martin jams. He’s getting to know musicians in the Kansas City scene. Those connections are continuing to form even as the live music world is largely still silent.

There is hope on the horizon. Clubs are starting to host limited capacity live events and more folks are getting the vaccine. Combine all that with warm weather and hope abounds, there is plenty to look forward to as we break into the spring and summer of 2021. Evan wants to lead that march with a hungry city full of jazz musicians ready to perform in ernest again.

"Performing in front of an audience, being vulnerable and sincere with your music, in front of people that are intently listening is my ultimate vision!" Said Evan, "I cannot wait to get back to that."

—Joe Dimino

Listen to the full Interview on YouTube:

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