Six Weeks of Fantastic Music in Kansas City
Since semi-retiring our world has become filled with music listening and performing. Marla studied music history, theory and piano, and I have become a student of guitar technology. Stellar events engage us and teach us about the power of music.
Uptown Theater – Randy Rainbow
We were under some pressure to leave the palm trees, ocean, and warm weather of Florida because we had tickets for the Rainbow event. Mr. Rainbow creates fantastic musical parody videos. We have enjoyed him on YouTube (click on YouTube for an example) and decided to take in the show in spite of the price exceeding our usual $15 limit. Randy Rainbow’s vocal talents match his creativity and humor. There was exceptionally high energy in the audience even before the show started and it only increased once Randy came on stage. Before he sang one note, the audience gave him a standing ovation. We found a community! Money well spent. (If you worship Trump and associates, you might want to skip the video.)
BB’s Lawn-side BBQ
BB’s is a barbecue dive, serving up blues six days a week. Not sure where the lawn-side fits in, unless you’re counting the outdoor dining that overlooks the asphalt and gravel parking lot. For a $3 – $5 cover charge, you get your fill of Blues at BB’s.
BB’s: Brandon Hudspeth and Randy McAllister, “Magic Men”
Brandon is my guitar instructor when he’s around, but he travels extensively with Randy McAllister and others. They make a great duo with Brandon on guitar and vocals, and Randy on harmonic, vocals and drum. What a voice! (and that’s singing with a sore throat). They play mostly original work with some adaptations of blues standards. Now if I could just become infected with Randy’s voice and Brandon’s guitar skills, I might be able to set up on the street corner….
BB’s: Fiona Boyes, “Strong Women Everywhere”
BB’s monthly calendar is a mix of 10-12 different local, mostly male bluesers, so when the schedule showed a female blues musician from Australia we had to take in it. Fiona is a one women band, playing a variety of guitars, tapping some foot drums and singing. I am not sure how to exactly classify her music other than its clearly rooted in the Delta blues. Her energy was over the top, so she clearly was not suffering from any sort of jet lag. Turns out she was the lead guitar instructor at the Pinetop Perkins Blues Camp in Clarksdale, MS, I attended in June.
BB’s: Jaisson Taylor
Jaisson is one of Marla’s favorite Blues players. He can hold an audience spellbound, especially with his rendition of “Candy Man.”
If you have never been to Knuckleheads try taking in at least one show to check out the venue — and to people watch. Knuckleheads is on many musician’s bucket list. Its KCs leading honky-tonk. We have followed the Red Elvises for about 8 years and Marla has written a biography of Igor’s life, Igor and the Red Elvises. In Florida, we took in two of their shows, and now one in KC. (They are returning to KC in September.) Marla received a shout out from Igor and a signed drumstick from “ Jasmin,” the beyond great drummer. Always an entertaining show with such high energy and clever lyrics you almost miss the exceptional musical talent. Since the latest show I am thinking about acquiring a red bass balalaika, but that is another story.
The Gin Mill on 135th: Levee Town with Randy McAllister.
This is a new venue that has no cover charge and is only eight miles from home, so we had to check it out. Music is offered four nights a week including a jam session on Thursday evening. Levee Town is Brandon Hudspeth’s group that plays mostly original blues. “Do-Si-Do with the Devil,” is a startling picture of a love-hate relationship. WOW! They have a new CD coming out later this year. The Gin Mill is upscale compared to BB’s or Knuckleheads, although the food menu needs some improvement. Don’t order the Mac N’ Cheese. The joint was full for this show, as Brandon and Levee town have a strong local following. Randy added energetic harmonica playing to the mix.
New Theater Restaurant: Buddy Holly
What a show! This venue is a buffet dinner theater. Given our musical interests we decided to take a chance on the Buddy Holly musical performance. Don’t go for the food – very average. This show, however, was over the top. It showcased Buddy Holly’s fantastic but short-lived career. The Beatles were inspired by Buddy Holly and the Crickets and took the name “Beatles” to mimic them. “Hello Baby ….” Neither of us had ever really followed the Big Bopper or Ritchie Valens, friends of Holly. Their performances kept Marla out of her seat screaming like …
First Baptist offers a free Jazz program the third Sunday of every month. (Free, but a collection plate is passed, and you have to sit through a short sermon). We have enjoyed two shows this past month.
First Baptist: Millie Edwards
Millie is the preeminent gospel singer in town. Her mesmerizing voice and connection with the audience is unforgettable. When she sings “His Eye is On the Sparrow,” your mind melts with the Infinite. She is truly an amazing singer and entertainer.
First Baptist: Charles Williams Trio
We were aware of Charles Williams’ stellar piano skills from his work with the KC Jazz Orchestra, performances with Spirituality & All That Jazz, and with Eboni Fondren, so this show was a must see. The Trio played 90 minutes of mostly instrumental Jazz. Keys, bass and drums never sounded so good. Charles, a humble and gentle 63-year-old, is a KC legend on keyboard and has played around the world.
Marla was really happy to see that Williams played on a high-end Yamaha keyboard. Her first Yamaha keyboard was 77 keys. She thought that it would be enough. It wasn’t. Middle C is not in the middle and when playing you feel like you are falling left. Also, the Yamaha had keys that were really easy to play without much resonance. Almost five years to the date, Marla bought her second keyboard and it is a high-end Yamaha. It has weighted keys and resonates just like her Baldwin piano. She knew the moment she touched the keys that it was the one for her.
Unity on the Plaza: Spirituality & All That Jazz
This is the longest running Jazz Gig in KC, Tim Whitmer leads a jazz quartet made of highly talented musicians. Their show, on the first Wednesday of every month, typically features guest artists. Last month the multi-talented Kathleen Holmen from St. Joseph joined on vocals, piano and trombone (yes trombone). Jim Mair’s 12-year-old son, Jameson, also joined for three songs on trumpet. This is always a bargain at eight dollars, but ask for the non-senior discount.
Last week Tom DeMasters, gifted KC singer and guitar player, headlined the night at Unity. He easily took us back to the sixties and it felt as if Elvis had not left the room!
Holmeswood Baptist Church Community Chorus
Marla got us started on this. We continue to enjoy meeting and singing with this group. The Chorus has weekly rehearsals and performances at senior centers and nursing homes about twice a month. The chorus is 40 mostly retired people, and about half are members of the Holmeswood Baptist Church. The music we perform is a mix of secular and non-secular, show tunes, gospel. We get to sing, socialize, and bring a little entertainment to others. What a great experience!
Loch Lloyd Turkey Vultures
Neighbor Charley German suggested forming a jam band. He has a very sophisticated music studio on the lower level of his home. Several neighbors have jammed there about 3-4 times. The five other jammers (besides me) have performed in groups around town. I am a beginner-intermediate on guitar but took a chance to join the group.
Typical jam session goes this way: Someone suggests a song and a key, and away we go hoping to match the chord changes and rhythm. The music is mostly folk-Americana-country. I have never heard of half of the songs. They haven’t thrown me out yet, but they might have my microphone turned off when we record. I am playing acoustic rhythm guitar(strumming) or singing vocal harmony (harmony = off key). I haven’t mastered doing them together yet. Plans are to send in an audition tape for the Porch Music Festival in KC in September. Stay tuned.
Our next blog will originate from our trip to Canada. Hopefully the scenery will be wonderful.
As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge and occasionally by Thomas C. Hemling.