Hi, I’m Clint Ashlock, and I’m the artistic director of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra. As you may know, we usually put on concerts at the Kauffman Center, play for dances at Union Station, and generally try to spread the news of big band jazz music however we can. Well, as a musical organization who is used to performing in front of your beaming faces, in person, things are a little different now, and we’re trying to figure out what we can do to continue to bring great music, in some way or another, to you as you stay at home.
In a way, this has been an opportunity to assess what it is we as the KCJO organization CAN do, versus what we USUALLY do. As a person who has a deep, deep love for jazz music, jazz history, the performance of it, the stories it tells, and the people who brought all of that to the world, I thought it might be fun and engaging to delve into that. We’ve developed a multi-part series on the history of Kansas City jazz, from the days of Andy Kirk, Bennie Moten, and the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks, through Charlie Parker, Jay McShann, Milt Abel, Marilyn Maye, Myra Taylor, Tommy Ruskin, Paul Smith, Pat Metheny, Bobby Watson, Deborah Brown, Kevin Mahogany, Hermon Mehari, Peter Schlamb, (whew! I didn’t even mention around 247 people!) and everybody in between. We have one of the deepest histories here, and we’d like to bring that to you as best as we can.
For the students out there, I’ve been cultivating a curriculum of online education that we can disseminate online. Want to know how to play in a big band trumpet section? We’ve got you covered. Want to hear about how to traverse a rhythm changes as a jazz soloist? That’ll be in there. All of the KCJO band members are devoted educators and clinicians, and we want to share as much of that knowledge to whoever might be hungry for it.
Have you been to our listening parties at the Kansas City Public Libraries? If you’re interested in what we’re spinning during quarantine, want to get some new inspo for your Spotify playlist, or get excited about the stories behind the great albums, we’ll be bringing that to an internet near you as well!
We’re also hard at work to bring you actual music! KCJO is working, creating, as a group, as individuals; there’s so much still happening in KC even though the clubs and concert halls are dark. I wrote a new big band composition called “Q Zone: Solitary Confinement,” which you can check out on our website. And there will be more!
Just stay tuned to our social media channels, our website, and feel free to drop an email or a text or a carrier pigeon. Let us know what you’re interested in! Getting into this new decade is off to a bit of a rocky start, but it’s the goal of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra to be a bright spot representing this wonderful music moving forward. We can’t wait for what comes next, including what will certainly be the warmest feeling imaginable: returning to the stage to play for all of you.