Happy In Bag

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Jazz In the Woods

While all the cool kids were forty miles west at the Wakarusa Festival, I spent parts of last weekend with the middle-aged lawn chair set at Jazz In the Woods.

The annual jazz festival at the Corporate Woods office complex has grown immeasurably since I began attending over a decade ago. I recall that its early years were held in the parking lot of an Italian restaurant on College Boulevard. Drummer Vince Bilardo acted as emcee and ran the event like a glorified jam session. It soon moved to its present location on a nice spread of grass beneath the pictured monolith in the Corporate Woods office complex. For years, Phill Kline, now attorney general of Kansas, acted as host. Was he ever irritating!

National acts like Spyro Gyra and ‘70s hitmakers The Average White Band headlined this year. I wrote an enthusiastic review for Patchchord on the festival’s most interesting booking, St. Louis’ Erin Bode. Bram Wijnands also impressed me. He and his large band played a convincing set of vintage Kansas City jazz. It’s remarkable that a Dutchman stands to become the strongest elder statesman of the city’s jazz legacy.

Still, the charm of the event is its kid-friendly, picnic-oriented atmosphere. Frisbees and games of catch are on equal footing with the music.

Note to festival organizers- the raffle concept confuses the audience. You should simply ask for charitable donations, as they do at the Shakespeare Festival. And in the name of Count Basie, bring back the local artists. Please get to work on booking the likes of Kevin Mahogany, Karrin Allyson, Marilyn Maye, Angela Hagenbach, Bobby Watson, BCR, Ida McBeth and Pat Metheny for 2007.


  • At 1:53 PM, Anonymous panos said…

    What, you no likey Boulevard Big Band?

  • At 2:13 PM, Blogger Yurodivy said…

    3, maybe 4 of those artists you listed are truly "local" anymore.

  • At 3:25 PM, Blogger Happy In Bag said…

    Panos- The BBB are wonderful. And they were one of the two local jazz acts among the event's ten performers. I only didn't mention them because I didn't attend Saturday.

    Yurodivy- You're right; I should have written something like "one-time local." As the festival is clearly trying to draw a few thousand people a night with "name" artists, why not go after a "one-time local" with a large audience? My fear is that if the festival continues its current course, next year it will feature Carly Simon and Mannheim Steamroller, and its name will be changed to "Easy Listening On the Lawn."

  • At 1:39 PM, Anonymous panos said…


  • At 1:48 PM, Blogger Happy In Bag said…

    I cringe at the thought that I may have inspired someone on the festival board with my Carly and Mannheim idea. But you know what? I'd still be there, throwing a frisbee.


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