Kansas City has long been a player in great jazz music.
Kansas City Jazz got its start in the 1920s; mixing blues with jazz to create a defined sound.
At its height during prohibition, Kansas City’s 18th and Vine District was considered one of the “jazz capitals” of the United States, on par with New Orleans and New York.
New Orleans may have been the birthplace of American jazz, but it grew up in Kansas City, says experiencekc.com.
Jazz music remains a staple in the 18th and Vine District. Music and dance clubs dot the landscape in the area.
Kansas City honors it jazz history at the American Jazz Museum.
The museum, located in the same building as the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, pays tribute to jazz greats, and highlights the music.
Louis Armstrong, the “Great Sacthmo,” has a trumpet on display, along with his famous lip balm. The balm kept his lips moisturized and allowed him to belt out great sounds.
Charlie “Bird” Parker is a native of Kansas City. He grew up playing in the area and performed with some of the greatest jazz musicians of the 1920-30s, including Dizzy Gillespie.
A sculpture of Parker, “Bird Lives,” is located a block or so away from the museum.
The museum offers a chance for people, mainly younger kids, to get a firsthand look at jazz. People can take part in interactive exhibits regarding specific instruments, such as a drum, bass, and brass instruments.
The museum has an art display of album covers of great jazz performers.
An exhibit recognizing the great singer Ella Fitzgerald showcases a sequined gown she wore and album covers.
The museum has a working jazz club – The Blue Room.
During the day, visitors can admire the photographs of jazz musicians that line a wall. You can check out an art piece made of recycled material that is based on Billie Holiday.
A few tables one the club floor have glass tops with memorabilia underneath. Albums, dance shoes and dance permits are among the pieces of history.
At night, The Blue Room becomes an actual jazz club, with live music and dancing. It’s on the to-do list on a future trip.
Among the exhibits is a unique one recognizing Duke Ellington.
Near the entrance, stands a saxophone, autographed and donated by former President Bill Clinton.
If you are a music historian, or just curious, you’ll enjoy the American Jazz Museum.
I suggest getting the combo ticket, which covers admission for the Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The combo ticket saves a little money.