Happy In Bag

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Kansas City's Saxophonists and Topeka's Poets

The distinction of being Kansas City’s best saxophonist is about as meaningful as being Topeka’s best poet. Almost no one cares anymore.

Even when Kansas City’s jazz scene was thriving 65 years ago, homegrown sax man Charlie Parker had to leave town to find recognition. Consequently, designating Kim Park as this city’s best saxophonist won’t generate much debate. Park demonstrated his incredible command, perfect tone and simmering musical ideas during his performance at a Christmas week service Wednesday night at Community Christian Church.

Unlike Parker, Park is a traditionalist working within established forms. Kansas City’s best-known sax man, Bobby Watson, has explored the fringes of jazz, although he’s become less experimental as he has aged. Watson is wonderful, and as his employers at UMKC would say, he’s a tremendous asset to the community. Yet Watson can’t match Park’s lustrous sound.

Kansas City has at least a dozen other world-class saxophonists- they include Gerald Dunn, Doug Talley, Ahmad Alaadeen, Kerry Strayer, Mark Southerland and Bill Crain. They’ll be the first to tell you that this venerable distinction ranks only slightly ahead of being Topeka’s third-best poet.


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