Arts News: Post Covid, the Center for Recorded Music ramps up programming

Listeners enjoy a Blues Kitchen program presented by Listyn KC and the Center for Recorded Music at the UMKC Student Union. (C4RM)

Kansas City is the country’s only UNESCO-awarded Creative City of Music. A local organization, Center for Recorded Music, fortifies that status, believing music “provides a framework for communication more universal than speech or writing.”

It all started in 2015 at Waldo Pizza, with monthly record-listening gatherings. By 2020, from 75 to 150 people were attending and requesting more. Kelsyn Rooks and a few other enthusiasts (now board members) heeded the call and formed C4RM as a 501(c)(3).

Listyn KC, one of the C4RM’s collective listening programs, held shows featuring the music of the Beatles, Sly and the Family Stone, Joni Mitchell and others. The shows were growing steadily until COVID struck.

2023 was C4RM’s first full year back hosting programs and fulfilling its mission: to “explore recorded music through unique group experiences (in) purpose-built environments unlike any store, bar, club or live concert.”

Each month Listyn KC highlights the recorded music of “artists who have made significant contributions to popular music and culture,” in one of the upstairs presentation rooms of the UMKC Student Union. (A capital campaign is underway to raise funds for a dedicated space.) Each show is curated by knowledgeable and enthusiastic board members with varied music backgrounds. The events feature a world-class sound system and food and beverages. They are free or affordable thanks to donor and sponsor funding. C4RM volunteers promote the shows at area schools and non-profits.

C4RM laments how much listening to music in the digital age has become solitary, private and isolating and believes it should be social and engaging. Their attendees “gather together and share the joy of listening to your favorite music or learning something new.”

In 2023 Listyn KC focused on the blues and produced 12 programs and events, two guest artist shows and 500-plus hours of collective listening with more than 900 participants.

For 2024 the organization has chosen jazz, specifically, “1959, the Greatest Year in Jazz,” highlighting a year famous for groundbreaking albums by Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus.

This year’s debut event was Feb. 17 and featured the album “Ah Um,” considered by many to be bassist Charles Mingus’ best. A few in the audience remembered Mingus’ appearance here in the late 1970s. That same evening more than 100 people enjoyed Listyn KC’s program on Prince’s “Purple Rain.”

On March 22, the focus was Nina Simone’s “Little Girl Blue,” coinciding with KCRep’s production of the play “Four Women” about Simone. An added event was held March 24 centered on the 2024 Grammy Historic Album Award-winner, “Written in Their Soul.”

The Center spearheaded several jazz programs April 30, “Jazz Day,” including explorations of albums by Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane.

The next event will be Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time” May 19, and following that, one to three events each month for the rest of the year. The Center also plans a Music Movie series to begin in the fall.

For more information, centerforrecordedmusic.org.

Rebecca Smith

Rebecca Smith is an impassioned supporter of local performances of all types, who welcomes the  opportunity to promote them to KC Studio readers.

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