Kansas City – Jazz, BBQ and Beyond

Thanks to Andrew Zender, Director of Communications at the American Jazz Museum, for this guest post.

18th & Vine, Kansas City.  Photo credit: Diallo French

Born in America, jazz is our nation’s only indigenous art form and one of our greatest treasures.  Kansas City is one of the important incubators of jazz, and within its borders is one of the greatest crossroads of American music and culture: 18th & Vine.

From the swinging clubs and the all-night jam sessions to the exciting Negro Leagues baseball games, 18th & Vine was buzzing with a unique force, a scene ripe with riffs, built upon jumpin’ jazz blended with blues, Bird’s blossoming bebop – and Kansas City’s signature swing.

However, there were many other equally important aspects of life in the Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District – people and places that were woven into the social fabric that made 18th & Vine and a legendary spot forever immortalized in song and in the memories of folks who worked, lived and played here, some of whose stories are still to be told – until now.

Recognizing a need for the recording and preservation of dozens of untold oral histories that chronicle an incredibly important period of American life, the American Jazz Museum, one of the cultural anchors of the Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District, has launched a new initiative aimed at capturing theses stories in a series entitled Stories from the Vine.

Featuring compelling narratives of life at 18th & Vine during its golden age from community members, local scholars/historians and other special guests, Stories from the Vine is designed to reveal new insights, provide a public forum and record testimonies documenting the rich legacy of the Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District.

Using the District as a backdrop, Stories from the Vine will explore a variety of topics ranging from music and sports to business and politics, highlighting the role of 18th & Vine in Kansas City as an incredible hub of culture, commerce and entertainment. 

The program kicked off in February 2009 with three sessions exploring Black History Month, and will continue in March focusing on Women’s History Month and Women in Jazz. April sessions will be centered on the nationwide celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month.  Community members are invited to attend the free sessions and encouraged to share their own memories, which will be professionally audio/video recorded for compilation and future public exhibition. 

The Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District’s legacy is held up by two separate but deeply intertwined pillars – jazz and baseball – but there are many more layers to be uncovered in order to reveal a complete history.  The accounts of the local community are integral to nurturing a historical record that primarily remains carried on through oral tradition. 

The knowledge and appreciation gained from Stories from the Vine are invaluable in establishing a comprehensive, engaging and fully accessible permanent record of Kansas City as well as American musical and cultural history.

(More information on this program is available online at americanjazzmuseum.org or by calling the American Jazz Museum at 816-474-8463).



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