JAZZ MEET UP @ “Kansas City Jazz Legends Reunion” at Westport Coffeehouse Theater

ARTICLE AND GIG PHOTOS BY Darrel McKaig, Board Member

You didn’t have to be a jazz musician to get into Westport Coffee House on Sunday evening. If you were not a musician, you were in the minority.

The Chiefs had just won (again) so there was that buzz in the air around Kansas City. For jazz fans the vibrations were just getting started.

Billed as the “Kansas City Jazz Legends Reunion” this event transported me back to my favorite KC jazz venue of the early 1980s, “The Point.”  

Back then, the Kansas City Jazz legends were Milt Abel, Claude ‘Fiddler’ Williams and Carmell Jones, just to name a few.

The musicians on this billing were just the young guys in the 1980s. Not legends yet!

As a young aspiring musician myself, I spent many an evening at “The Point” listening to them make great music …and the Chiefs were not winning as often back then. 

So who are these legends, you ask? They are:

Now living in New York City, Steve Cardenas on guitar, Dave Brandom on saxophone and Ron Vincent on drums.

Steve Million, piano, now lives in Chicago.

Still residing in Kansas City (and we are glad that they are) are Stanton Kessler on trumpet and Gerald Spaits on bass.

I could take up space here listing their pedigrees but I would rather you look them up for yourself (hire them and buy their recordings). 

Each musician contributed two pieces to the evening’s set lists.

Friends and family in attendance at Westport Coffee Houses’s very full black-box theater were treated to primarily original material.

All of it was excellent.

Ok, there was an occasional missed note/or wrong section played (no names, he knows who I’m talking about), but that is part of the charm of live jazz.

This was not an evening of over-played, easy jazz standards. It was all challenging music and watching these old friends pull the best from each other and laugh with each other, was a joy to witness.

Having a room full of KC’s finest jazz musicians probably helped raise the bar as well. I for one hope they don’t wait so long to do it again.

The other heroes of the evening that need to be highlighted are the proprietors of Westport Coffee House, Tom and Pam Ptacek.

On this particular evening, they hosted “Kansas City Jazz Legends.” Other Sunday’s (and the occasional week night) they host both KC’s seasoned jazz veterans and our young and upcoming jazz talent.

Thank you Tom and Pam for your contribution to the KC jazz scene. Subscribe to the Westport Coffee House Facebook page so you don’t miss the next performance. 

The theater at Westport Coffee House has become a great place for jazz in KC. Your first time there it can be a little challenging to find. When entering through the coffee house I still sometimes walk right past the door that leads downstairs to the theater.

Entering through the Green Room next door on this particular evening I had to assure a first-timer that yes, she was at the right place.

It is well worth finding. Come on out and listen to some live jazz.

It is how legends are made!


JAZZ MEET UP @  Second Tuesday KC Bier Co Jazz Jam + Oktoberfest!

Kansas City is having a moment right now. Aside from a certain Championship winning football franchise, you can find an interesting way to spend your time most evenings.

ARTICLE BY: Emily Behrmann, Board of Directors / Treasurer

Great food, well-crafted adult beverages, and incredible art and music are plentiful, with something for just about every taste.

So it’s not surprising to find a jam session featuring some of Kansas City’s best jazz musicians at a German beer hall. 

German-style bier and Kansas City jazz have proven to be a solid combination in this monthly open jam session hosted the second Tuesday of every month.

The jam session traditionally features pianist Bram Wijnands, bassist Rick Willoughby, and a rotating cast of area musicians on horns, guitars, drums — or even spoons — for an exciting night of delicious bier and spontaneous music. 

On a recent evening, Bram (also known as Beetlejuice-with-a-haircut) and Rick hosted not one or two, but six fellow musicians during the three-hour jam, some of whom play professionally all over KC, and others joining in to keep up their playing “chops,” while working other day jobs: John Blegen, clarinet; Clayton Delong, guitar; Gary Leming, trumpet; Matt Purcell, sax; Brian Ruskin, guitar; Joe Straub, bass and piano. What a lineup, performing jazz standards we all know and love.

This jam took place Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. Join the fun any second Tuesday of the month at KC Bier Co! And as they say in Germany, “Prost!” (Cheers!) – Jam Session Photos by Emily Behrmann

NOTE: KC BIER CO also is a participating venue for the annual Spotlight Charlie Parker festivities! Oktoberfest Munich, Germany is the world’s largest celebration of Bavarian culture – the area of Bavaria being the southeast corner of Germany famous for beers, brats, and its use of bustiers. Millions of visitors travel thousands of miles to Munich each year to experience their share of the 2-week long festival. ARTICLE FEATURE PHOTO COURTESY OF OKTOBERFESTTOURS.TRAVEL

Jazz Represented at Visit KC’s “Tourism Outlook;” Look for KC Jazz ALIVE in “The Official 2024 Visit KC Visitors Guide”

Christopher Burnett and Darrel McKaig represented Kansas City Jazz ALIVE when they attended the Visit KC Tourism Outlook event. It was great. Jazz is in the presentation! And jazz musicians provided a portion of the prelude music.


KANSAS CITY JAZZ ALIVE is a volunteer community service situation working for the Jazz industry infrastructure in KC. It’s a great team of people to serve with on the board and the staff who support us is the best. It’s our 10th year and we continue to work together in concert with Jazz allies! 


LOOK FOR US IN the 2024 Visit KC Visitors Guide

*Here’s our advertisement for the 2024 Visit KC Visitors Guide – Circulation: 150,000 Printed Copies and also a Mobile-friendly Digital Edition will be available.





Arrival :

No issues on the trip from Paris to Kansas City other than the plane being delayed from Dallas which just caused a bit of a wait, nothing major. Once in Kansas City, the families as well as Ann and Janet were waiting for us to offer us a warm welcome. The host family was very friendly and made me feel comfortable throughout my stay.

Bird boot Camp:

So we took part on the second day (August 19) in the “Birdboot Camp”, a sort of jazz music course. We were delighted to meet illustrious jazzmen from Kansas City in particular, such as Greg Caroll, Tia Fuller, or even Chris Burnett (and so on…). The masterclass we attended was interesting and enriching. However, we did not expect it to last so long, and that we played so little. There was a “Musical Salute” at the end of the day and we thought it would be in the form of a concert, but far from it; we had to play at most an hour of the whole day without a real concert or rehearsal.

Spotlight Charlie Parker:

Between concerts, jam sessions, at the Blue Room as at the Phoenix, the main event of the stay being the Charlie Parker spotlight has always been impressive. We heard talented musicians, progressed during the jam sessions, and it was a pleasure for Raphaël and me. Jazz as a passion, we were delighted to participate in such an event.

Activities :

In terms of the activities planned by Ann, Janet, Jake and the host families, we were never bored. We discovered lots of different things, places, activities in Kansas City and we were really happy to have so many things to do and discover. For example, we were taken several times to restaurants that offered traditional Kansas City dishes, such as Mexican, barbecue, or burgers. I personally went to American SME High School three times with Macauley, the boy my age in the host family. The museums were also of course amazing, enriching and we learned a lot about Kansas City, jazz, culture…


I was amazed when I found out I had been chosen to travel to Kansas City. I couldn’t believe it! The stay was well beyond my expectations, I was able to progress in jazz, progress in English, discover a city, a culture, new people, and even great jazzmen! These ten days which were my first experience in the United States will remain unforgettable!



The Bird Boot camp:

The Bootcamp was a highlight of my stay. I was able to meet Tia Fuller and play with the other young people. In Kansas City the approach to music is really different. Everyone is playing! Good or not so good, it’s not the most important, the main thing is to play together. Greg Carroll’s lessons and advice are really engaging because Greg is a huge fan of Charlie Parker. The musicians and especially the percussionists have an incredible swing! Everyone encourages each other! Americans are just crazy about jazz!

Jam Session at the Blue Room:

Being able to play with exceptional jazz musicians at the famous Blue Room is a dream come true! The atmosphere and the atmosphere of this room are really like in the great “American-style” jazz clubs that we are told and in which we dream of playing. This incredible room has seen great jazz musicians such as Lester Young and Count Basie! Laura, David and their son Rowan welcomed me as if I were a member of their family! Their welcome, their good humor and their kindness allowed me to quickly feel at ease. They made me share their daily life, their passions and came to see me at the concerts and events in which I participated. David even shared videos of my solos and many videos of my stay on his YOU TUBE channel! (must see: David’s youtube channel is called BIGBIKEDADDY, including my solo at the Blue Room). I hope to see them again! It’s an amazing family!

Tia Fuller:

Tia Fuller’s approach to music and the master class she gave us at Bird Bootcamp taught me a lot about American swing. She is a very nice and very accessible artist (I did not have the impression that she has a grammy and that she performed with Beyoncé). It was for me a musical revelation in my playing and in my perception of jazz improvisation… I had the privilege of meeting and chatting with one of Kansas City’s great jazz musicians: Mr. Bobby Watson. It is an honor for me to have been able to meet such an artist. A day at the Worlds of Fun amusement park with Rowan! The huge American gambling halls!

The KCUR Radio:

Maxime and I were welcomed at KCUR Radio for an interview! A very good memory and some questions in English of course that, fortunately, I had been able to prepare for (in) advance…. It was for me the first time that I was interviewed in a radio. A bit stressful experience but a very good memory.

American Jazz Museum:

This museum is very well done. It brings together the entire history of jazz. There’s even Charlie Parker’s saxophone. I really liked this museum: there are different points in the museum where you can listen to music and have written explanations about different styles of jazz and different musicians. The Blue Room is attached to the museum.

Nelson Atkins Museum:

It is one of the largest art museums in the United States. This museum is very beautiful and there are works of art from all over the world, including French paintings by Monet, for example.

A HUGE THANK YOU to Ann, Janet, Lise, Jake, my host family, my teachers, the Metz Conservatory and all the people who allowed me to live this incredible experience in the country of Jazz! I will never forget this trip! I only have one thing in mind: GET AWAY!!!!!!!!! Goodbye Kansas City… see you soon!



Fox 4 Kansas City Morning Show Covers 2023 Featured S:CP Concert at The Folly Theater


Sterling Price from Fox4 said he was notified by his news anchor Kelli Peltier about this Spotlight Charlie Parker story opportunity.

Price’s message was to confirm that the station would still be able to have Tia Fuller on their Fox4 morning show early on Saturday morning August 26 at around 8:20 am.

Peltier interviewed 2023 Spotlight: Charlie Parker Artist-In-Residence Tia Fuller and Kansas City Jazz ALIVE Board Member Darrel McKaig on-air.

They did a great job during the show spreading the news to viewers about the entire week of celebration and the S:CP finale concert at The Folly Theater later in the evening.



S:CP AUGUST 19 – AUGUST 26, 2023


🎷SPOTLIGHTCHARLIEPARKER.ORG (August 19 through August 26, 2023) is in its 10th year of celebrating the iconic musical legacy of the world renowned Charlie Parker, who was born in Kansas City, Kansas 103 years ago and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. 

We’re gathering the details of the numerous related events that are being produced by KC area artists, organizations, and venues celebrating “BIRD” during that week on the Spotlight Charlie Parker website and promoting them to the public.

I’m currently the Vice President of KC Jazz ALIVE and chairman of the MARCOM Committee that’s tasked with helping articulate what’s going on. We are unpaid volunteers who love the music and the KC community. We love Charlie Parker’s music and believe that his contributions to the continuum are vital to modern developments in improvised music.

If you play or enjoy improvised music you can’t escape “Bird.” Even music that doesn’t sound like his descends from his lineage or is a response to it.

Charlie Parker’s influence on the music still impacts its melody, rhythm, and harmony 75 years later. His innovative approach of adding secondary dominant cycles to the standard jazz blues harmony is still a standard competency for musicians to attain.

Think about Miles Davis and all of his sidemen. And think about Art Blakey and all of his sidemen. This is only to highlight the subsequent impact of just two of Bird’s most influential sidemen. 

Now it’s logical to consider that all of the subsequent generations of improvising artists in this continuum are inherently the musical descendants in a significant way of Kansas City’s own original, Charlie Parker. That’s cool.

I’m updating the websites all this week. So bookmark this link. Check out and subscribe to the events calendar so you can get any updates. Look for our promotional messages in various media.



Christopher Burnett (Link)
Musician, Composer, Educator 
Vice President, KC Jazz ALIVE 
“Raising the Tides that Lift ALL Jazz Boats”


Bird Boot Camp Kicks Off S:CP


featuring Artist In Resident Tia Fuller, clinicians Dr. Mike Parkinson, Greg Carroll, Professor Clarence Smith, Houston Smith, WM Thornton, visitors from the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional – Eurométropole de Metz (France), and it’s from 10 am to 3 pm ending with the musical tribute at the Charlie Parker Monument in Kansas City.

It is free admission. Bring your horn.
SAVE THE DATE ‼️More details to come.

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