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Around Hear

This weekend, Kansas City serves up its best blues and jazz on both sides of the state line.


In some ways, local music lovers might see this summer's concert schedule as a bit of a disappointment. With Chicago, New York and Seattle getting two to three times as many shows -- and with big-name acts such as Radiohead, Dave Matthews Band, Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode and Moby all opting to bypass Missouri while playing Colorado (ouch!) -- there's ample reason for frustration. But snubbings aside, Kansas City-area concertgoers can still point to a few homegrown events that even our larger-market counterparts can't belittle. The always-impressive Blues and Jazz Festival kicks off in about a month, and this weekend offers two smaller-scale shindigs that showcase many of the area's top blues talents.

KCK's offerings often are overlooked, but this community, particularly the Third Street neighborhood surrounding what is now Club Paradox, has a rich musical history. Luminaries such as Charlie Parker, Myra Taylor and Albert Collins have either called this 'hood home or played regular shows at its venues, and many of the Kansas City blues scene's current leading lights maintain strong ties with this area. When he's not on tour, DC Bellamy, who has received national acclaim over the past year for his sets at South by Southwest and other sizable festivals, plays a regular gig at Club Paradox on Monday nights. Bellamy was also one of the featured performers at last year's Kansas City, Kansas, Street Blues Fest, and he returns with his America's Most Wanted band as one of the top attractions for the 2001 engagement. This year's Blues Fest opens with a Friday night jam at Paradox that runs from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., reprises with the outdoor "Street" component from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. between Troup and Parallel, then closes with another late-night Paradox session.

Sonny Kenner delivered one of the initial Kansas City, Kansas, Street Blues Fest's standout sets, and this weekend's event is dedicated to the late guitarist's memory. The Scamps pay tribute to Kenner, a former member of the group, with a show that draws from their 55 years on the scene. Pianist Rudy Massingale is the only remaining original Scamp, but the rest aren't exactly newcomers, each having been part of the band for seven years or more. Bandleader and bassist "Lucky" Wesley has been a Scamp for thirty years, while tenor sax player Arthur Jackson adds fifty years of experience.

Millage Gilbert, like Bellamy a Klammies nominee in the blues category, might be best known for his Royal Blue Matinee at the Grand Emporium on Saturday afternoons, but he's also a regular at Club Paradox and has been ever since the place was known as the Seville Lounge in the '60s and '70s. Born in Jackson, Mississippi, Gilbert moved to Kansas City nearly forty years ago, but he still maintains the Delta roots that keep his songs startlingly authentic.

Another Mississippi-born guitar-slinger, Provine "Little" Hatch, relocated to Kansas City in 1946 and has since been acknowledged as the grandfather of the area's juke-joint blues movement. Hatch's hard-grooving style has earned him a fervent fanbase overseas, especially in Europe, where a bootleg recording of a live performance at a local club became a cult sensation.

In addition to these prestigious Delta imports, Kansas City's scene contains several veteran performers who hail from another blues mecca. Chicago native Bellamy, the half-brother of Curtis Mayfield, grew up watching the Impressions practice in his living room, and Jimmy D. Lane, son of Jimmy Rogers, saw Muddy Waters, Little Walter and Howlin' Wolf pay frequent visits to his household. Lane, a virtuoso guitarist, also helps other artists create lasting evidence of their work in his role as the Blue Heaven Studio house director.

And while no recorded documentation was ever made of The Starlighters' run as one of KC's finest bands, blues connoisseurs with long memories recall the likes of Mayfield Towns and LC Gant joining Lawrence Wright in this now-defunct ensemble. Wright and his new band, The Outlets, play this year's Living Tribute show.

Also cited for special distinction at this year's festival are KPRS 103.3's White Hat Mike and B.B.'s Lawnside Barbeque guru/KCFX 101.1 radio personality Lindsay Shannon, both of whom paint Sundays blue. (White Hat's show runs from 5 to 8 p.m., and Shannon's lasts from 8 to 10 p.m.)

Meanwhile, crossing over from Kansas to Missouri and from blues to jazz, the Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors' Twentieth Annual Pub Crawl presents fifteen bands at fifteen venues for fifteen dollars (or $10 for advance tickets) on Thursday, June 21. Buses to the clubs, which are clustered in Westport, downtown and the 18th and Vine district, start at 8 p.m. It might be hard to pull away from seeing Claude "Fiddler" Williams at the club at Plaza III with Lisa Henry and Jim Mair, or David Basse paired with Angela Hagenbach at the New Point Grille, or Dave Stephens' amorous international ensemble, The Continental Affair, at the Grand Emporium, but given the depth of this lineup, it would be a shame to spend an evening with only a handful of the headliners.

So spice up your dining at Danny's Big Easy or Big Daddy's Cajun Kitchen by listening to Big Woody or Danny's All Stars, respectively; if you're heading out after supper hour, join the Late-for-Dinner Band, fronted by Billy Ebeling, at John's Deck. Those in the mood for something easygoing might opt for Simplexity at The Levee, while those craving something more challenging can peruse Complex at 50/50 on Main.

There's something for fans of every style of jazz and blues, Kansas City's most storied musical exports, available this weekend, and area music fans can not only experience big-scale summer-music events but also take pride in the fact that this seemingly endless cast of entertainers is homegrown.

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