Off The Vine Column

MEDIA PARTNERSHIP

Off The Vine” is the American Jazz Museum’s news and information column. It is published bi-monthly in each FREE issue of Jazz Ambassador Magazine (JAM).

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WHERE TO GET YOUR COPY

JAM is available in print form for FREE at many locations around the Kansas City metro area, the American Jazz Museum Visitors Desk, in The Blue Room, and as a .pdf download.

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[ALSO DOWNLOAD A COPY AT THE JAZZ AMBASSADORS WEBSITE]

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THE KANSAS CITY JAZZ AMBASSADORS

Kansas City is known throughout the world for its rich jazz heritage. It has produced some of the greatest names in jazz and continues to do so. Names in jazz associated with Kansas City include: Charlie “‘Bird” Parker, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Count Basie, Benny Moten, Mary Lou Williams, Jay McShann, Claude “Fiddler” Williams, Bob Brookmeyer, Carmell Jones, Marilyn Maye, Gary Foster, Pat Metheny, Karrin Allyson and Kevin Mahogany.

During the golden age of Kansas City jazz (the late 1920s through the mid-1940s), there were hundreds of jazz clubs, many of which were located in the 12th & Vine to 18th & Vine area. Most never closed. Some club owners didn’t even have keys because they never locked their doors.

As the second half of the century began, however, Kansas City was among the hardest hit by a national jazz recession. Most of the jazz clubs closed. Jazz was still alive, but only in fragments.

In the mid 1980s, the world’s first and only city government jazz commission was formed in Kansas City. Its purpose was to preserve the city’s jazz history and to revive the local jazz scene. Out of the Kansas City Jazz Commission’s programs came the need for volunteers to support jazz events. Thus, the KC Jazz Ambassadors, Inc. was organized in the fall of 1984. Today, the KCJA is one of the nation’s strongest and most successful jazz support organizations. And, with Kansas City enjoying a strong rebirth of jazz in the 1990s, the Jazz Ambassadors feel it has been another new beginning that will carry well into the 21st century.

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WHO ARE THE KC JAZZ AMBASSADORS?

The Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors, Inc. is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), all-volunteer jazz support organization. Simply stated, we are dedicated to preserving the rich heritage of Kansas City jazz and developing and promoting the current Kansas City jazz scene. Our mission is to serve all components of the jazz community: jazz musicians, jazz venues and jazz fans.

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WHO IS THE TYPICAL KC JAZZ AMBASSADOR?

Our 500-plus members enjoy a wide variety of jazz music and jazz events. Some members prefer Dixieland and some like bebop. Others are into more modern jazz styles. The common denominator is a love for jazz and a desire to help keep the music alive.

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WHAT OTHER ORGANIZATIONS ARE SUPPORTED BY THE KCJA?

We are not the only game in town but we are the leaders. Kansas City has many jazz support organizations and presenters and we support them all. Among them are: the Folly Theater Jazz Series, the American Jazz Museum and the Gem Theater at 18th & Vine, Kansas City Youth Orchestra, Jazz Friends at UMKC Conservatory of music and dance, Young Audience, the KC Blues Society and local venues and festivals. The KC Jazz Ambassadors is the only jazz support organization that lends support to all other such organizations.

GET IN ON THE ACTION!

We ask our members to do a little bit of work, and also have a lot of fun. And, as always, volunteers are needed to help with our events. You might be a ticket taker or usher at a concert. You might sell KCJA apparel at a booth. You might help host a visiting convention on a private pub crawl. Or you might be asked to write an article for JAM or develop web pages for the Internet. Maybe you will help an Public radio station with a fund drive for a jazz program. You can be as involved as you like. We will be glad to take all or none of your time. If your only involvement is to support us with your donation of a membership fee, that’s fine. If you would like to work for a couple hours at a festival or concert (and be admitted free), that’s fine, too. If you would like to be an officer in our organization or serve on our Board of Directors, we welcome you.

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