Kansas City Jazz

My parents sent me to jazz band camp in high school and I came back addicted to country music.

There’s a lot wrong with that statement.

To start with, “American Pie” had just come out, making band camp a hundred times nerdier that it already was. Much to the horror of our Coltrane-wanna-be-counselors, my roommates and I spent our campfire-y nights listening to Deana Carter, Tim McGraw and Shania Twain. When my parents picked me up, I insisted on listening to “Did I Shave My Legs for This” and “Who’s Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” on the way home. They deemed jazz camp a failure.

But it wasn’t. I pulled of a dual love affair with both country and jazz. Dimetriou’s Jazz Alley was my go-to date destination in high school, where I spent hours listening to Lionel Hampton, Diane Schuur, Karrin Allyson, and Tito Puente.

So I felt an immediate affinity towards Kansas City, jazz capital of the Midwest. We pulled in to town, I dug through my car for my little black dress, and headed down the street to Jardine’s. The club was appropriately small, dark and crowded, but didn’t have the wafting smoke that so often come with these types of joints. There are live bands seven days a week at Jardine’s, and we was lucky enough to be there on Marilyn Maye’s last night in town. Ella Fitzgerald once dubbed Maye as “the greatest white female singer in the world.” This is praise that Maye seems to be quite comfortable with. On her “Maye Sings Ray” CD (a celebration of the music of Ray Charles) she melodically mentions that “I wanna sound like Ray, but I’m too white.”

Maye started off the show with “Celebration” and “Your Smiling Face.” Then she kicked off a set of Broadway tunes with “I’m Getting Married,” after revealing that she’d had “three husbands and one meaningful lover.” She then led us in a toast after adding that all of the aforementioned men were all alcoholics. (“So let’s drink to…them in their stupors!”). Her good natured antics and clever transitions between songs left the audience constantly smiling, laughing, and toe-tapping. Her closing numbers of “Take Five and especially Stephen Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here” were, of course, fabulous.

Jardine’s is located just north of the Country Club Plaza at 4536 Main Street, Kansas City. Free parking is available behind the club. The cover charge depends on the show and where you want to sit. Most nights you can get in for $3 – $10. Marilyn Maye was $35. Shows are pretty early for a jazz club, some even starting at 5:30. Check the monthly calendar on their website for specifics. A full bar, extensive wine list and a steak/seafood menu are available. Call 816-561-6480 for reservations.  


A few days later we headed to the other side of town to check out The Blue Room, mainly because it was a no-cover-charge Monday – as all Monday’s are at the Blue Room. In the Historic 18th and Vine Jazz District, The Blue Room hosts local talent, national names, and jam sessions. When we were there the Chris Hazelton trio played for about an hour and were followed by a jam session of mostly younger artists. Unlike Jardine’s, where you show up ready to watch the whole show, the crowd at The Blue Room was more casual, with people dropping in and out to listen to bits and pieces.

The Blue Room also features live music daily. On Monday – Thursday the music starts at 7 and continues until 11. Friday and Saturday’s musical hours are 8:30 – 1am. Drinks are available at The Blue Room, but minors are welcome to attend the show as well. Food is only available as an appetizer buffet on Fridays. Monday’s are always free, Fridays and Saturdays usually have a $10 cover charge, but rates throughout the week vary depending on the artist.

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Chris Hazelton, Jardine's, jazz, Kansas City, Marilyn Mae, The Blue Room

Jenna Vandenberg

Teacher, writer, runner, mom and wife.

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