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local music

Lonny Quattlebaum

Kansas City blues and soul singer Danielle Nicole has a new release, her second solo album, called "Cry No More." For this latest recording, Nicole said she trusted herself and took some chances. She wrote nine of the 14 tracks, including a song about her late father, "Bobby." 

Before she fronted her own band, Nicole sang and played bass in Trampled Under Foot, a blues trio with her brothers, Kris and Nick Shnebelen. 

CJ Janovy / KCUR 89.3

More than 50 people, including artists, musicians, former American Jazz Museum employees and volunteers packed a Kansas City Council committee meeting on Wednesday to voice their concerns or support for the troubled museum.

The council's finance and governance committee had a lot of ground to cover during the three-hour session.

Segment 1: The story behind a cowboy music band from Kansas City.

Cowboy music is not the same as country-western. We speak with two of the musicians of 3 Trails West — one of the few practitioners of cowboy music in Kansas City.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Two Kansas City Council members on Thursday introduced very different resolutions in response to a consultant's report suggesting drastic measures to address financial and other problems at the American Jazz Museum. 

Sean Chen

Pianist Sean Chen connects his role as performing artist with that of teacher, approaching piano's vast repertoire with humility and fun.

Chen, who is now an artist-in-residence at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, moved to Kansas City from New Haven, Connecticut, two years ago, when his wife Betty, a violinist, joined the Kansas City Symphony. That gave him an instant local connection, and he's collaborated with some Symphony musicians for chamber concerts around town.

Denny Ilic

Strange Music, the record empire that's home to the rapper Tech N9ne, has entered a whole new realm with Friday's release of Mackenzie Nicole's debut album "The Edge." The pop record, by the teenage daughter of Strange Music co-founder Travis O'Guin, is a dramatic departure from the label's abrasive and hugely successful hip-hop.

It seems Nicole was raised for this moment.

Tanner Martine

In 2016, Simon Fink and his band, Under the Big Oak Tree, performed a holiday concert in their hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri.

One of the songs they played was “The Little Drummer Boy,” which was composed by Katherine K. Davis. As it turned out, she was born and raised in St. Joseph.

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Though it's firmly rooted in jazz, The Project H also appeals to fans of rock and R&B.

At the end of March, a flurry of sales briefly placed their new record, "Everyday, Forever" in the top ten of iTunes' jazz album chart; they celebrate its official release on Wednesday.

Elizabeth Stehling / Kansas City Ballet

When the Kansas City Ballet performs George Balanchine's “Diamonds” for its 60th Anniversary Dance Festival next weekend, Elysa Hotchkiss will be in one of 17 couples on stage.  

"You feel a lot of breath and a lot of movement, and see the stage moving as a whole in this ballet because there’s so many of us on stage moving as one," she recently said of Balanchine's choreography.

Howard Iceberg

Howard Eisberg is a Kansas City attorney who creates wry music under the pen name of Howard Iceberg.

Witty, self-deprecating and often profound, he's Kansas City's equivalent of the revered singer-songwriter John Prine.

Eisberg performs and records with a folk-based aggregation of musicians named the Titanics. On his new album "Netherlands," they're supplemented by a handful of Kansas City jazz cats including Rich Hill, Charles Perkins and Doug Auwarter.

Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear

Three years have passed since the release of “Skeleton Crew,” the breakout debut for Independence, Missouri, mother-and-son folk duo Madisen Ward & The Mama Bear.

In that time frame, they've toured Europe, been guests on The David Letterman Show and collaborated with actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt to create a music video for “Childhood Goodbye,” their latest single.

Reggie and the Full Effect / Facebook

The clown prince of pop-punk and emo-rock, and the pride of Liberty, Missouri, James Dewees is the founder and primary artistic force in Reggie and the Full Effect.

Dewees began drumming for the seminal Kansas City punk band Coalesce in the 1990s; at the end of that decade, he joined the beloved Kansas City emo-rock band the Get Up Kids. He's also been hired as a ringer by prominent bands including My Chemical Romance.

Florian Kalotay

Even Kansas City sports fans love the elite opera star Joyce DiDonato, who grew up in the area and graduated from Bishop Miege High School in 1987.

DiDonato returns this weekend to perform with the Kansas City Symphony, interpreting works by Leonard Bernstein and Hector Berlioz while Michael Stern conducts.

Since becoming a star, DiDonato has used her prominent platform to advocate for social causes, including support for the LGBTQ community.

Kansas City artist Amado Espinoza entered NPR Music's 2017 Tiny Desk Contest. This year's submissions are due by March 25.
Eduardo Osorio / Amado Espinoza

NPR Music's Tiny Desk Contest is kind of a big deal. From Tank and the Bangas to Fantastic Negrito, thousands of artists and bands from across the world enter each year for a chance at a featured video behind NPR Music's hallowed desk.

Kansas City trumpeter and tap dancer Lonnie McFadden has been performing since he was in grade school.

He's known as half of the act called The McFadden Brothers; Lonnie and his brother Ronald play music, sing and tap dance — carrying on a family tradition started by their father, dancer and performer Smilin' Jimmy McFadden.  

Brewer and Shipley

The Midwestern natives Michael Brewer and Tom Shipley — known to rock fans of a certain age everywhere as Brewer & Shipley — relocated to Kansas City from Los Angeles in 1968, soon after their debut album "Down in L.A." was released by A&M Records in 1968.

The duo is best known for their 1970 hippie anthem “One Toke Over the Line.” It's an enduring cultural touchstone, as are Brewer and Shipley themselves, who celebrate their 50th anniversary with a concert at the Uptown Theater on Friday.

Nodaway County Historical Society

On January 21, 2017, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, millions of people around the world gathered to promote women’s rights in one of the largest international displays of solidarity for a sisterhood still battling for equality and equity.

Paul Andrews

David George is a veteran Kansas City rocker.

Park University

Laurel Gagnon, a graduate student at Park University's International Center for Music, placed fourth at the Singapore International Violin Competition earlier this month. This distinction comes with a cash prize and a loan of a rare violin. 

Only 34 musicians, and just five from the United States, were invited to perform in the competition, which is open to violinists under the age of 30. And only six musicians advanced to the finals of the contest, which ran from Jan. 28 through Feb. 8. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City singer Jim Cosgrove has spent the past two decades performing songs about dancing dinosaurs and other kid-friendly topics all over Kansas City. His youngest fans know him as “Mr. Stinky Feet.”

Which makes him a perfect act for the family stage at this weekend's Kansas City Folk Festival.

Olivia Fox

Olivia Fox is the Kansas City-based folk-pop trio of Aubrey Callahan, Lauren Flynn and Tiffany Smith. Formed in 2016, it's one of the most fully realized musical acts in Kansas City. The polished group is radio-ready and eminently marketable.

That's clear on “Play the Game,” the lead track of the group’s self-titled 2017 EP. As synthetic beats contrast with traditional folk harmonies, the hushed song becomes a wondrous combination of tension and tranquility — as enticing as a romantic whisper.

Courtesy Stan Kessler

Anyone who's stepped inside a Kansas City jazz club during the past several decades has probably run into Stan Kessler, the impish trumpeter known for amusing pranks and soulful solos.

Kessler has played music in Kansas City for 40 years, serving as the jazz scene's crafty institutional memory and passionate conscience. He's seen a lot of ups and downs, but his new album, "Skywatcher," makes a career-defining statement, showcasing his formidable talent at the same time as it demonstrates the vitality of the regional scene.

James T. Lundie

Julia Othmer is an art-rock musician in the vein of Tori Amos and Peter Gabriel. Although she currently lives in Los Angeles, Othmer claims Kansas City as her hometown and returns to visit her parents and friends several times a year.

Othmer says she intends to "be on the road a lot" in 2018 to promote her forthcoming album "Sound. That includes a stop at Knuckleheads this weekend.

CBS Television / Paramount Pictures

You'd be forgiven for thinking a jazz club with a throwback feel would end up being a flop. You'd also be wrong. Today, we meet a local entrepreneur whose pair of nightclubs is helping the Kansas City jazz scene live on. Then, we listen to some of your favorite TV theme songs from the 1950s to today, and try to discover why the best of them stick so easily in your head. Sorry in advance for the earworms!

Courtesy of Rubeo

The Kansas City artist Joe Rubeo, whose stage name is simply Rubeo, began making music just five months ago. He's released only two songs, but says he has a couple albums' worth of material ready to record.

He uses a phone app called Auxy to produce his tracks.

“It’s definitely been a game-changer for me," Rubeo says, "and I feel like I’m just beginning to scratch the surface on its capabilities,” he says.

Courtesy Lonnie McFadden

A consummate entertainer, Lonnie McFadden is a Kansas City institution.

He's best known as the trumpet-playing half of the tap-dancing McFadden Brothers, in which Lonnie and his brother, Ronnie McFadden, entertain Las Vegas-style in the vein of Sammy Davis Jr. and Louis Prima.

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Imagine a lamp-lit honky-tonk band weaving those joyfully depressing cheatin’ songs, with round-robin vocalists taking just the right tune for each voice. Imagine an audience whooping and pushing them forward from their seats on wooden benches and random household chairs, or just standing.

Kansas City's music scene has a long tradition of hardworking artists who turn out great, original songs. Last year was no different. Today, Playlistplay.com co-creater Savanna Howland, Judy Mills of Mills Record Company, and KCUR contributor Bill Brownlee offer a sampling of their favorite 2017 releases from Kansas City and around the world.

Courtesy Edison Lights

The members of Edison Lights are battle-scarred veterans of Kansas City’s rock scene.

The primary vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, Chris Doolittle, was a founding member of the Front, a local hard rock band that achieved a modicum of mainstream success in the late 1980s. Edison Lights marks his return to the rock scene after dedicating himself to raising a family for the past 20 years.

Courtesy BurnettMusic.com

Christopher Burnett is a prominent Kansas City saxophonist, band leader, instructor and raconteur. He also operates Artists Recording Collective, a record label that has released dozens of albums by jazz musicians from around the world.

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