Notes from Kansas City (December 2015): The Michael Eaton Group played the final show for Jeff Harshbarger Presents an Alternative Jazz Series at recordBar in Kansas City, MO on December 20. I was joined by Peter Schlamb (vibes), Jeff Harshbarger (bass), and John Kizilarmut (drums), plus on the second set a special guest, Travis Reuter (guitar).
The show focused on all original music from me, plus a cover of Joe Henderson's classic "Inner Urge" at the close of the evening. I want to sincerely thank everyone, especially my dear friends and teachers from my years as a high school student in Kansas City, who came out to support the performance and finish out Record Bar in fitting form.
As an historical aside, I grew up during what I call the neoclassical era, commonly referred to as the "Young Lions" period of jazz, during the 1980s and 90s. This period saw a renewed interest and renaissance in Kansas City jazz and its heritage, especially thanks to then-mayor and later United States Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver, who spearheaded an initiative to restore Kansas City's historic 18th & Vine district. 18th & Vine was the epicenter of jazz in Kansas City during the 1930s, much like Indiana Avenue was for Indianapolis in the 1940s and 50s. With a wealth of local clubs and venues supporting jazz during the 90s, as well as the presence of national and international jazz artists playing the Folly Theater (I saw the Vanguard Orchestra, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Michael Brecker), the Blue Room, the Gem Theater, and the now defunct Kansas City International Jazz Festival (I saw Herbie and Wayne play duo in 1998 at Starlight Theater), it was a kind of golden era for the music. (I had a similar experience on the Bloomington, Indiana scene ca. 1999-2007.)
Witnessing the cultural and material changes Kansas City has undergone over time and from a distance, I now see more and more young and progressive players taking an interest in the music and having a presence on the scene, and consequently I perceive a new orientation and healthy balance between the roots and history of Kansas City jazz in classic blues, swing, and bebop in relation to contemporary languages from the 1960s to today.
A big thank you to Jeff Harshbarger for inviting me to participate in the series and to recordBar for making a home for modern jazz and a variety of creative music in Kansas City. The music requires venues like that! Photo courtesy of Kristina Ning.