jazz

KCUR's Band Of The Week: Molly Hammer

Sep 20, 2017
Kevin Morgan

Molly Hammer is a prominent Kansas City actress and vocalist whose debut album, "Out of This World," was released on September 15. Produced and arranged by pianist Joe Cartwright, the 11-song album also features saxophonist Brad Gregory, bassist Steve Rigazzi, drummer Todd Strait and backing vocalists Molly Denninghoff and Jessalyn Kincaid.

Kevin Morgan

When Molly Hammer takes the stage in front of people who haven’t seen her, their first reaction may be curiosity.

Hammer is small, with a shock of bright red hair styled into a pageboy, her face serene under glaring white stage lights. In a venue where people know her, such as the Green Lady Lounge, her commanding presence creates an air you could manducate, and everyone in the cozy, dark booths seems to perk up a titch in anticipation.

Tory Garcia / Courtesy of Kemet Coleman

The Phantastics describe themselves as “dance floor activators.”

For the last six years, they’ve been activating local dance floors with songs that meld rap, jazz, gospel, funk and more.

“We definitely try to incorporate as many genres as possible to create not chaos, but a winding river of music,” rapper Kemet Coleman told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Courtesy Ryan Heinlein

Individual jazz musicians regularly hit multiple spots in a single night, but it’s far less common for an entire band to play three venues in a 12-hour span. But that's what The Project H, led by trombonist Ryan Heinlein, is doing in different parts of town on Saturday.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Micah Herman is a fine Kansas City jazz bassist. Although he’s not as recognized as other area jazz bassists Bob Bowman, Jeff Harshbarger, Dominique Sanders and Gerald Spaits, Herman is a similarly formidable player.

On Thursday night at The Ship, Herman leads what he promises will be “one big bebop jam session” as part of Kansas City's annual Charlie Parker Celebration, a series of performances intended to honor the legacy of the late genius from Kansas City.

Pixabay - CC

From a targeted shooting in Olathe to the president's so-called "travel ban," tensions over race, culture and religion are high. Today, we delve into two experiences in the Muslim community and learn what living in Trump's America has been like for Islamic people.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

It's been a year since the Kansas City Council approved $7 million in funding for projects in the 18th and Vine district, such as stabilizing historic buildings and adding new streetscaping. On Wednesday, city officials provided a progress report. 

Facebook / Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame

The diminutive Kansas City vocalist Millie Edwards, occasionally introduced to audiences as "the little woman with a big voice," performs Sunday alongside Lori Tucker and Geneva Price as the Wild Women of Kansas City.

Edwards is equally adept at belting out cabaret, pop, blues and jazz material and performs regularly as a solo act at The Phoenix.

The Mighty Mo Combo

Today, Up To Date previews the Kansas City Fringe Festival with a look at two of this year's acts.

First, we find out what a group of Kansas City musicians are doing to bring the music of Ella Fitzgerald back to life. Then, we meet the playwright, actress, and University of Kansas professor who turned her cancer diagnosis into a one-woman comedic play.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

From the mainstreaming of social media to "fake news" indictments from the chief executive, the journalism industry is in the midst of sweeping transformation. Today, the dean of the Missouri School of Journalism explains how his school teaches new reporters to adapt to the current and future media environments.

Fantasy Records / Heinrich Klaffs / Creative Commons

Songs like Proud Mary and Midnight Train to Georgia are well-known and much-loved, but the versions that got radio play went through multiple iterations on the part of numerous song writers, musicians, and producers, whose names you may not find in the liner notes. Today, we hear the evolution stories of iconic American pop, rock, and R&B anthems with music writer and critic Marc Myers.  Then sports reporter Greg Echlin updates us on Missouri and Kansas Olympians.

Courtesy Blair Bryant

Blair Bryant is a young contemporary jazz bassist who says he's mastered more than 14 instruments.

Courtesy Oleta Adams

Fireworks lit the sky behind Oleta Adams as she headlined 18th and Vine's Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend — but they were intended for the audience a couple of miles away at Union Station, where the Kansas City Symphony was performing its annual Celebration at the Station.

Danny Wood / KCUR 89.3

A unique collection of jazz art is on display in Kansas City’s Northland. The collector, Juan Houston hopes the display will draw attention to the little-known Garrison School Cultural Center in Liberty.

“He is local, he was born and raised here in Liberty, Missouri, and he wanted to do this for Garrison School to let the community come up to see Garrison as well as see his collection,” says Cecilia Robinson, a retired William Jewell College English professor.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City's inaugural Jazz and Heritage Festival accomplished something rarely seen in town: A genuinely diverse crowd of people enjoying themselves.

For three days over the Memorial Day weekend, that audience was perhaps most diverse in its musical tastes.

Robert Drózd / Wikimedia Commons

John Scofield continues to make strides in the music world. His latest album, Country For Old Men, won the 2016 Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. Today, the renowned guitarist recalls playing with the likes of Miles Davis and Charles Mingus.

Julian Vaughn

The smooth-jazz bassist and Kansas City native Julian Vaughn joins respected smooth-jazz guitarist — and retired New York Yankees slugger — Bernie Williams at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on May 20, in an event billed as Jazz & Jackie: A Monarchs Salute to Jackie Robinson.

Toronto International Film Festival

Sir Winston Churchill is revered as one of history's greatest politicians due to his leadership during World War II, but the British Bulldog also had a soft spot for science. Today, we hear about his rediscovered essays on the environment, anatomy and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Then, we explore the life of John Coltrane with the writer and director of a new documentary about the jazz legend's career.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Today, we learn about two bills making their way through the Missouri General Assembly; one would place stricter rules on ride-hailing businesses like Lyft and Uber, another would create a statewide prescription drug monitoring database.

Courtesy Lalah Hathaway

Six weeks after stumbling over the roll-out of a major new jazz festival scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, leaders of the American Jazz Museum made the announcement again Thursday, this time joined by Kansas City Mayor Sly James and City Councilman Jermaine Reed.

Courtesy Eddie Moore

Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle, a youthful group of forward-thinking jazz-based musicians, is one of Kansas City’s most accomplished ensembles.

The core Outer Circle band currently consists of keyboardist Moore, guitarist Adam Schlozman, bassist DeAndre Manning and drummer Zach Morrow. The band occasionally tours (it has a gig in Austin later this month) and Moore hosts a weekly jazz jam session every Wednesday at Californos and a monthly showcase at the Tank Room, in which he collaborates with hip-hop artists.

ANTHONY LADESICH

Anthony Ladesich never got to buy his dad a drink. He died when Anthony was only 19. But after listening to his father's old reel-to-reel tapes, Anthony discovered a dad he never knew, and what he heard blew his mind.

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Courtesy Victor & Penny

The delightful vocalist Erin McGrane and the accomplished guitarist Jeff Freling lead the Kansas City ensemble Victor & Penny.

They once described their music as “antique pop,” but now they say it's "swing-infused folk-jazz" — based on the gypsy jazz tradition, it's a nostalgic sound more closely rooted in styles associated with Paris and New Orleans than Kansas City.

Courtesy Everette DeVan

Hammond B3 organist Everette DeVan is a beloved dean of Kansas City’s jazz scene.

Though the popularity of DeVan’s good-time, organ-based jazz peaked about 50 years ago, the throwback style gets revived several times a week at the Green Lady Lounge. Organist Chris Hazelton and guitarist Matt Hopper are among the younger Kansas City musicians DeVan has mentored.

Courtesy Trombone Shorty

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect developments since its publication Wednesday afternoon.

Kansas City has another chance to get the concept of a jazz festival right — though its rollout suggested organizers were not yet ready for the national stage.

Courtesy Through A Glass Productions

The Kansas City Symphony has released an album of music it commissioned from one of America's most promising composers. We learn about that collaboration, and about the composer's creative process. Then, Langston Hughes lived in Lawrence until just after high school, but still managed to leave a legacy of activism there.

Courtesy A La Mode

A La Mode is a Kansas City hot jazz ensemble led by guitarist Clayton DeLong and vocalist Jesica “Baby J” Poell, with performances this weekend.

3 reasons we're listening to A La Mode this week:

Courtesy Dino Massa

The Dino Massa Kansas City Quintet
Echoes of Europe (Artists Recording Collective)

Echoes of Europe, a collaboration between the Italian pianist Dino Masso and jazz musicians based in the Kansas City area, is the result of a chance encounter in Naples in 1990.

Courtesy Mbird

Mbird
MercyFlight

Megan Birdsall has long been a Kansas City jazz darling, her slight presence a contradiction to the voice that's filled the corners of almost every jazz club in town. But to peg her in such a niche would be a mistake, as she and her band Mbird prove with their new release, MercyFlight.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com/

Mark Bedell faces a big challenge; leading Kansas City Public Schools back to full accreditation. Today, the superintendent talks about his first sixth months on the job, and his plans to improve grades and raise graduation rates. Then, jazz icon Ramsey Lewis explains how he's using his piano to commemorate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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