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Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival

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The Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival always offers a fairly comprehensive revue of the best artists currently playing within those genres, but this year's lineup goes to new extremes. There's a King (Clarentz) and the queen of blues, Koko Taylor (pictured); a "Guitar" (Beverly Watkins) and a "Fiddler" (Claude Williams); a youth ensemble (from Paseo Academy) and a group of Elder Statesmen (featuring Myra Taylor); a Big Band (Mingus') and Little Feat; nationally known local talents (Jay McShann, Karrin Allyson, Ida McBeth, David Basse), artists who sound as if they could be local favorites (Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater), and impressive acts with evident ties to other regions (Louisiana Red, North Mississippi All-Stars).

R.L. Burnside, Double Trouble, Irma Thomas, Ramsey Lewis, Michelle Willson, Rosie Flores and Arturo Sandoval rank among the best of the remaining artists. The festivities commence with a ribbon-cutting ceremony captained by Williams, McShann and Taylor at 5 p.m. Friday, July 20. One of the event's most unique attractions, Soul School, offers festivalgoers the opportunity to receive instruction from such masters as Thomas and Sandoval. But for summer purists who feel the season is no time for learning -- even fun learning -- the festival's fifty-plus featured performers will provide plenty of laid-back listening fodder for leisurely lawn-chair-viewing enjoyment. Check out www.kcbluesjazz.org for a schedule of times and artists, then shuffle down to the park to participate in this annual affirmation of the city's proud musical heritage.

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