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 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.


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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