Music | KCUR


Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

When the best Irish musicians get together to practice, it might as well be a concert. And some of Kansas City’s most talented players now have a regular place to do that in front of an audience.

On a recent Sunday night at Prospero’s Books, while customers thumbed through used paperbacks and lounged in armchairs, the sound of music drifted down from the second floor, where a couple dozen people were watching flute player Turlach Boylan and guitar player Davey Mathias.

Slate Magazine says it's the "The Year of the Tick." A local entomologist tells us all about these creepy-crawly disease-carriers.

Then, the city of Lawrence recently hired an African-American police chief. However, he's not the first African-American in the position. The story of Lawrence's black chief marshall from the 1890s.

Plus a new zine that covers the LGBTQ music community in KC.


Courtesy Bloodstone

Bloodstone, a silky soul band that rose to prominence in the 1970s, is one of the most commercially successful groups to emerge from Kansas City.

Their classic R&B slow jam “Natural High” peaked at #10 on Billboard’s pop chart on July 21, 1973. Bloodstone was so popular that the band starred in the 1975 blaxploitation movie Train Ride to Hollywood.

Some of the exciting stuff on KC's arts calendar this month: an artist residency at the Nelson-Atkins; a three-person, 90-minute version of Macbeth; and a chat with soul singer Julia Haile.

Haile will be performing Gen Listen KC's Stockyards Sounds on Tuesday, August 8.


Courtesy Mac Lethal / Facebook

A hip-hop wisenheimer, Mac Lethal has successfully toggled between dual careers as a sardonic rapper and as a social media and television personality.

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.

Jeremy Enlow / Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition has been described as the Olympics for pianists. It's a grueling process to even make the cut. 

This year, nearly 300 pianists applied, 146 were selected for live screening auditions, and 30 were invited to Fort Worth, Texas, in May. And then the competition gets underway: 17 days, with four elimination rounds, and millions of people watching around the world

Courtesy Mark Montgomery

For three decades, Kansas City singer/songwriter Mark Montgomery has played guitar, bass, and harmonica in blues and jazz bands — and he's also a beekeeper

Montgomery spoke with Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix about his latest album, the first on his own Love Honey label, called "Difficult Man."

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

The American Jazz Museum still has about $150,000 in outstanding vendor bills. That’s despite catching up on payments to the musicians who played at the Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival over Memorial Day weekend.

Cowboy music is not the same as country-western. A talk with some of the musicians of 3 Trails West — one of the few practitioners of true cowboy music in Kansas City.

Plus: the legendary history of the "Big Red One" (1st Infantry Division). Based at Fort Riley, Kansas, it's the longest continuously-serving division in the United States Army ... and it recently celebrated its 100th anniversary.


Courtesy Jake Wells / Facebook

Jake Wells' music exemplifies the craze for soulful troubadours. The Kansas City-based Wells, who plays at the Riot Room on Thursday, has released just three songs, but his most popular, "Roll Like Thunder," has been streamed more than 500,000 times on Spotify since its release in 2016.

John Abbott / Smoke Sessions Records

For jazz saxophonist Bobby Watson, writing songs is easier than it used to be. 

"Because I know who I am, and I accept who I am," Watson told Up to Date host Steve Kraske. "So when I'm writing a song, I'm not really trying to get outside of who I am."

Courtesy Mike Dillon / Facebook

An heir to the legacy of Frank Zappa, Mike Dillon is a musical satirist and acerbic provocateur.

Dillon's work has been documented in an extensive discography of unconventional jazz, rock and funk albums as a titanic figure in the outsider music scene. Currently based in New Orleans, Dillon — who performs at the Brick on Friday — once lived in Kansas City while performing in bands including the experimental jazz collective Malachy Papers. 

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Financial woes at the American Jazz Museum aren't sitting well with city and state officials. 

"I'm concerned, like a lot of other people, about what's going on," says Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. "I don't think we ought to ignore this, ignore the problems, or dismiss them lightly."

Jena Janovy / KCUR 89.3

It's been twenty years since Brody Buster's first round of glory days — when he was a 10-year-old blues harmonica phenomenon, fronting his own band, appearing on "The Tonight Show" and at the Montreux Jazz Festival with Quincy Jones.

Buster couldn't have remained a child prodigy forever, of course. So his journey back into the national spotlight is both "surreal" (that's his word) and an all-too ordinary coming-of-age story.

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.

The similarities between Native American and Middle Eastern cultures, as told by poets in a new anthology that was published here. Then, two of the musicians from the local band Making Movies; their new album, I Am Another You, just made it onto the Billboard and Billboard Latin Charts.


CJ Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Update: This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include a city funding update. 

After experiencing "a cash flow issue" following the inaugural Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival over Memorial Day weekend, officials with the American Jazz Museum say all performers have been paid — after some musicians complained on social media earlier this week.

A. Hagerman Photography

Blues musician Patrick Recob has played with lots of touring bands, and recorded with some of them, over the last 25 years. And, for nearly a decade, he was the bassist for Lee McBee and The Confessors. 

Last month marked the release of Recob's debut solo album. Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix talked to Recob about the new release called Perpetual Luau

CHUCK HADDIX: "Well, how did the luau theme come in?"

Courtesy The Philistines

A seasoned collective of Kansas City musicians who make psychedelic rock together as The Philistines perform at one of Kansas City's most interesting bars, a hidden West Bottoms gem called The Ship, on Saturday.

Rachel Arato-Hrabko

It takes a special kind of mid-life Midwestern songwriter to transform the tale of Ann Boleyn, Henry VIII’s famous second wife, and Thomas Cromwell, the king’s lesser-known chief minister, into a cheatin’ song.