With Clubs Closed, Jazz Goes al Fresco
Updated: Jun 24
Our favorite jazz club may be closed and the drinks no longer flowing, but that hasn’t stopped area jazz musicians from learning, teaching, playing concerts on line and performing outdoors, all with proper social-distancing and attention to public health concerns.
“It’s important that we keep the music going,” explained pianist and bandleader Jackie Myers. “People want to support us and just get out of the house.”
Jackie had been doing regular concerts on her back patio, aptly named Patty O’Brien, in Midtown for some time. She has hosted some of KC’s most well-known jazz and blues musicians, including Rod Fleeman, Aryana Nemati, Bryan Hicks, Paula Saunders, Stan Kessler, Nick Schnebelen and John Paul Drum. Then, she read an article about concerts staged at movie drive-ins in Europe and decided to give the idea a try here.
“I couldn’t find an outdoor movie theater, but I did land on a place in Lee’s Summit that served food and drinks and had an adjacent parking lot. Main Street Bar & Grill turned out to be our first drive in jazz concert. Clayton and Jesica DeLong—A La Mode to their many music fans—played the fifteen-car venue and had a great time.”
Besides drive ins, driveways have become a popular venue during the pandemic. Gerald Spaits is hosting shows in his KC driveway, accompanied by Danny Embrey and Todd Strait or, more recently, Brian Steever. Trumpet player Stan Kessler has staged a number of these shows in front of his Mission home. KC Jazz Ambassador Herschel McWilliams brought the music out to Shawnee, where he presented Stan in his driveway, accompanied by Jim Lower on drums, Brian Ward on keyboards and Brian Ruskin on guitar. Trent Austin brought the drive-in concept to Independence, where he was accompanied by Jim Lower (that guy’s everywhere!), plus Jason Emmond and Jackie Myers.
Next up on the alfresco jazz schedule are shows at Holy-Field Winery in Basehor and one right here in Midtown Kansas City. Pablo Sanhueza’s KC Latin Jazz Orchestra plays the Winery on Friday, July 10 and David Basse and his City Light Orchestra follow up on Friday, July 17, both from 6:30 to 9:30. The Plexpod at 39th and Warwick hosts its first jazz drive in concert on Thursday, July 16, a celebration of Bobby Watson’s new CD Keepin’ It Real. The new location, promoted by Jackie Myers, features beverages from the Canteen Chow at the Plexpod. Check it out at www.kcdriveinconcerts.com.
Whatever it takes, our local jazz musicians are not taking this pandemic lying down. They are up and at em, keeping our musical heritage alive and humming.