Kansas City is known for many things. It is called “the city of fountains” and people travel from near and far to try our barbeque. One of the most prominent features of Kansas City is our rich history in jazz. Showcasing this at the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts was Bobby Watson in his program, “A tribute to Kansas City jazz: from Basie to Bebop featuring Bobby Watson.”
Celebrating Black History Month, Bobby Watson invited the talented voices of Deborah Brown and David Basse. Trumpet player Hermon Mehari was also featured in the program. Rounding it off, the Kansas City Symphony directed by Jason Seber was accompanying the musicians the entire way. The symphony was something that I personally have never heard with jazz before.
“To play with an orchestra, and a full orchestra at that, is something that is really unique and I’m really looking forward to new music,” says Brown. I agree, it was something that was really unique and it really gave it a different feel. Normally, when one listens to jazz it is mainly a couple of horns, a drummer, a bass, piano, and maybe even a vocalist thrown into the mix. With this concert, however, you not only heard the main mix of instruments but an assortment of ones you would never guess to be in a jazz concert. I heard harps, violins, violas, and even an oboe. This threw my ear off but not in a distracting way. You don’t expect a horn solo with an oboe in the background.
Narrating and hosting this event was Chuck Haddix the producer of KCUR-FM’s “fish fry” radio show. Haddix would come out between songs and share tidbits of Kansas City jazz knowledge and stories. Bobby Watson performed an original piece that he composed with his wife and received a standing ovation.
Going through the history of Kansas City jazz and celebrating the most important black composers was a really cool thing to see. I heard the work of people I never even knew had such an important impact on the city. Learning about them was a treat because no one knew the importance of these historical black figures. Learning about these figures and hearing their work was one of the coolest experiences I have had this year.