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Saxophonist Jim Mair remembers: Live at the Temple—Honors the Kansas City Women of Jazz

Live performance is the juice of jazz. It is for the moment. That is why missing Live at the Temple-Honors the Kansas City Women of Jazz made me immediately contact my former bandmate Jim Mair, for a play by play of the night’s action.

If you’ve been around KC for a while, you probably know that the women honored on May 15, 2022, at Unity Temple on the Plaza are iconic in this neck of the woods. Diane ‘Mama’ Ray was in KC covering the music of Janis Joplin, when ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ was still on the airwaves. And it was poignant, that ‘Mama’ Ray was unable to make the event due to health issues.

As Jim put it, “Mama Ray is ‘generous beyond compare, has probably hosted more benefits for other people than anyone In KC.’ A lot of musicians have cut their teeth at Mama's legendary jam sessions.” Jim continued, “I met Duck Warner, Everette DeVan, Speedy Huggins, Richard Ross, Tom Demasters, Jim Laforte, Jay Eudaly, Rich Van Sant and the best man at my wedding, Chico Battaglia at those jam sessions.”

Jim was joined on May 15th by drummer Brian Steever, bassist James Albright, and Musical Director Joe Cartwright to support the ladies. The ladies honored were Julie Turner, Geneva Price, and ‘Mama’ Ray. On the bill, were 3 more wonderful vocalists, Lori Tucker, Millie Edwards, and Eboni Fondren, who was recently nominated for best vocalist in Kansas City Magazine.

A charter member of ‘The Wild Women of Kansas City’, Geneva Price, is "sweet and kind as can be" said Mair. She has an elegant delivery, and her ballads are reminiscent of those sung by Nancy Wilson. Around the turn of the century, Lori Tucker and Millie Edwards were a part of ‘The Wild Women of Kansas City’ along with Myra Taylor, who got her start as vocalist with Harlan Leonard and the Rockets, in 1941.

"Nobody swings harder than Julie and she knows a million tunes!" Said Mair, of vocalist Julie Turner. Along with her late husband, Tommy Ruskin, Julie & Tommy were at the forefront of the KC scene for several decades. Even the young couple’s wedding was jazz news!

It is heartwarming to know that Kansas City not only supports the stellar line-up of talent that is out there every night, but the city also continues to honor those who are celebrating a life in jazz, right here in our hometown.


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