Kansas City Jazz isn’t called Kansas City Jazz for nothing. Jazz may have roots in other cities like New Orleans, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia, but Kansas City has its own distinct sound.
It’s a sound signature marked by improvisational solos, riffs, big band sounds and a strong blues influence. It found its stride in the 1920s through the 1930s and is still celebrated today.
During the height of the Jazz Age, Kansas City was home to legendary artists like Duke Ellington, Elle Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. But there were famous locals around Kansas City who also influenced the scene, like the Kansas City Orchestra of Bennie Moten, Charlie Parker, and Count Basie, to name a few.
Today, you can still enjoy Kansas City jazz along with other variations of jazz, blues, and R&B at venues around the city. You’ll see performances by world-renowned artists like Bobby Watson, two-time America’s Jazz Culture Ambassador Angela Hagenbach, and Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition semi-finalist Hermon Mehari.
Going to a jazz show is just one of those things that really ground you in Kansas City. It’s a rite of passage for anyone who wants to get to know Kansas City a little more intimately. It doesn’t matter if you like the music or not, just enjoying the ambiance of the venue, the people you share the room with, and the sound of the music can make you feel like Kansas City jazz never can only happen here.
Here are some of the most popular places to see jazz in Kansas City.
The Blue Room of the American Jazz Museum
Located in the American Jazz Museum, The Blue Room pays homage to the famous nightclub at the historic Street Hotel that bore the same name. The Blue Room is open Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays and offers free Jam Sessions on Monday nights as well as free performances at other scheduled times.
1600 E 18th Street, Kansas City
The Gem Theater, which has stood here since 1912, is also part of the American Jazz Museum. The facade of the historic theater has been restored and now houses a more modern facility with modern technology and newer equipment.
1615 E 18th Street, Kansas City
Mutual Foundation of Musicians
Since 1930, the Mutual Musicians Foundation has served as a social club for local musicians’ unions and foundation members. It is a space where members can gather, play together and socialize. You can watch shows every Saturday and Sunday starting at 1:30 a.m. and ending at 5:30 a.m.
1823 Highland Ave, Kansas City
The Phoenix Jazz Club
Located in a historic Garment District building built in 1888, the Phoenix Jazz Club has the historic charm of its speakeasy atmosphere. This is a great place to order a meal while watching live jazz. They even host a jazz brunch every Saturday and Sunday.
302 W 8th St, Kansas City
This place gives new meaning to dinner and show! Sullivan’s Steakhouse serves up a fine menu accompanied by exceptional performances by well-known jazz musicians.
4501 W 119th St, Leawood, Kansas
The Majestic Restaurant
No matter what night of the week you visit, there’s always live jazz at the Kansas City Jazz Club in the Majestic Restaurant. You can see performances from jazz legends as well as rising stars of the local jazz scene.
931 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City
Green Lady Lounge
If you’re looking for an upscale jazz club experience, the Green Lady Lounge is the place to be. The club’s mid-century decor gives it a vintage feel that pairs well with classic cocktails.
1809 Grand Boulevard, Kansas City
One door up and one floor up from the Green Lady Lounge is the Black Dolphin. Here you can listen to jazz while lounging on a black leather sofa and sipping a Martini.
1813 Grand Boulevard, Kansas City
Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room
The Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room is definitely a splurge, but how often do you get to enjoy Kansas City’s best restaurants and jazz concerts in one place? Just as the menu is a contemporary take on American cuisine, the Corvino Supper Club welcomes innovative musicians adding more modern elements to their original jazz compositions.
1830 Walnut Street, Kansas City
Chaz Restaurant and Lounge
Tucked away in the Raphael Hotel, Chaz Restaurant and Lounge is an intimate spot featuring exceptional seasonal dishes and live jazz performances by local artists.
325 Ward Pkwy, Kansas City