A mere US$10 on a Saturday night to get in to hear local jazz pianist Charles Williams play the music of George Duke, among lots of enthusiastic locals who were so nicely turned out, I began to wish I’d made more of an effort to dress up.
I know it was ten bucks that night because I still have the ticket, and I don’t tend to keep that sort of memorabilia much any more. Right in the middle of the ticket it says, ” The Blue Room 18th & Vine;” I smile every time I see it in my wallet, because I’d wanted to hear live jazz there for the last seven years and I finally made it.
On a 2007 road trip from Texas to Chicago and back with my daughter, we stopped in Kansas City for a night. I was impressed by what I saw, including their world-class museum on World War One, incredible art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum, shopping at Country Club Plaza, and lots of good restaurants (especially if you like beef.) A year later I saw more of the city (and met this blog’s editor in person for the first time) but I still never made it to the 18th & Vine District to hear jazz at the Blue Room.
This time, I was determined. In town for an association Board of Directors meeting, I gathered with several other Board members after our work day and we set out on our mission.
First, dinner at the original Arthur Bryant’s BBQ, a few blocks from the Blue Room. Bryant’s has been a Kansas City institution since the 1930’s. It’s no-frills but friendly and the To Order line moved briskly, so we were soon at a table staring at an inhuman amount of food.
I’m used to Texas-style beef brisket and sausage, but had NO problem inhaling most of a mound of Bryant’s pulled pork (there is a section of the menu titled, “Whole Slabs” – oof!)
BBQ sauce is a big deal there; you can choose between Original, Rich & Spicy and Sweet Heat.
We were a little worried about getting into the Blue Room on a Saturday (they don’t take reservations) but a cold snap that night seemed to encourage much of Kansas City to stay home, so we were able to get a table without a problem, although an hour later the place was completely full.
Mr. Williams and his small band of accompanists were having a fine time and so was the room; he explained the history of many of George Duke’s songs before he played them, which makes sense because the Blue Room is physically a part of the American Jazz Museum, so a little time in the musical schoolhouse is appropriate.
He also took the time to work the room on his break, and it was nice to be able to tell him how much we were enjoying the show.
All of us had an early start the next day for Board work, so we had to leave earlier than we wished, but everyone agreed that it was a terrific evening out. If you’re ever in Kansas City, make sure to check the schedule and go to hear whoever is playing; you won’t be disappointed.
Info: bar drinks are available at the Blue Room but not food, unless you go to the Friday evening “Indigo Hour” where there’s a small buffet. Jam sessions are on Monday nights, and performances Thursday through Saturday nights. Street and free lot parking is available nearby. The adjacent American Jazz Museum is well worth a stop but is only open in daytime.
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