Venture on a road trip this Spring Break

Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Swing, Be Bop, Cool Jazz, Kind of Blue, Time Out, A Love Supreme, The Reno, The Blue Note, Village Vanguard, are musician names, music styles, albums and clubs related to jazz music. 

If you are not familiar with jazz, that is not a problem. There is one solution: visit the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Mo. Last semester, I went on a road trip to visit this jazz museum. I took I-80 and drove for about four and a half hours from Iowa City to Kansas City. I prepared a couple playlists, and I just enjoyed my road trip. 

The American Jazz Museum is in the historic district of 18th and Vine Streets. During the late ’20s and ’30s Kansas City was the hub of Africa-American jazz musicians. At the time, in that area were 60 jazz clubs. There was no Depression and alcohol prohibition because of the political control and corruption of Tom Pendergast who profited mightily from gambling, bootleg liquor and prostitution.    

Many jazz musicians started his or her music career in Kansas City in the early 20th century. One of them was Charlie Parker, a saxophone player, who also was a member of the Jay McShann Orquesta. Another jazz musician was Mary Lou Williams, piano player, “One of the first jazz women to penetrate the male-dominated jazz world,” according to Christiane Bird, literary travel writer.  

This museum opened on Sept. 5, 1997, and has jazz-related artifacts, including photos, sound recordings, films, album covers, and neon jazz club signs. Many descriptions and explanations about jazz rhythms have sound recordings. You can use headphones and listen to the differences, for example, between swing jazz and bebop. Or listen to the predominance of a specific musical instrument (piano, saxophone, bass, drums) in a jazz orchestra.  

Another thing that makes this museum attractive is the live jazz music by local contemporary artists. Inside this museum there is a jazz club called the Blue Room which is part of the museum. You can visit the Blue Room during your visit to the museum, but it works after 8:00 pm., when the museum is closed (you should use a different door). 

On my visit I had the opportunity to listen to James Ward Bard, a local jazz band, who played fusion jazz (funk, rock and soul).         

Before you leave the museum do not forget to visit its shop. It has typical souvenirs (t-shirts, mugs and caps), books and work art about jazz music.

 If the weather is nice, I recommend you take a short walk in that area because there are the Jazz Hall of Fame and jazz murals.