It’s late, far past the witching hour in this slightly worn room tucked inside what may be the most celebrated building in all of Kansas City, Missouri. It may not look like it, but this joint has played host to the greatest jazz players of all time, including Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Count Basie. Once home to the African American Musicians Union Local 627, what’s now known as the Mutual Musicians Foundation still serves up some of the best jazz in the world.
It’s undeniably magical but far from the only spot in the brother burgs of Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas, where music-minded groups can go. The Kansas Citys offer group travelers plenty of reasons to stay tuned.
Residents of this lively Midwestern metropolis, which kisses the Kansas state border, might still be singing the praises of their Super Bowl-winning Chiefs, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t just as proud of their city’s musical heritage. After all, together with starry-eyed visitors, they keep more than 40 fabulous music venues bopping, including the Green Lady Lounge, which groups will love. Sleek and glamorous with red velvet walls, it offers no-cover live jazz seven nights a week. It’s so successful that its owners opened Black Dolphin, which specializes in other musical genres, like R&B, next door.
It’s been said that though jazz was born in New Orleans, it grew up in Kansas City. As such, it’s not a bad idea for groups to begin their musical exploration of the city at the American Jazz Museum.
“We’re located within the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District, a predominantly African American community,” said Karen Griffin, the museum’s director of community outreach and public programs. “Along with the museum, we have the Black Archives of Mid-America, the Mutual Musicians Foundation and the Negro League Baseball Museum. So why not come to this community and get an understanding of the history here? Visiting the museum gives you the opportunity to learn not only about jazz, but also about segregation and African Americans in the music business and how they inspired people.”
Groups can take a tour led by Griffin and stick around and see live music four nights a week in the Blue Room Jazz Club, attached to the museum. But according to Toni Alexander, communications manager for Visit KC, there’s more to hear than jazz in KCMO.
“Groups can’t come into the city without seeing a performance at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts,” she said. “The symphony and the opera both perform there. The building is gorgeous — it was designed by Moshe Safdie, who designed the Sydney Opera House and Crystal Bridges.”
Kansas City, Missouri’s namesake neighbor is no slouch when it comes to providing a range of music-themed attractions and activities for groups, according to Maila Yang, marketing and communications manager for the Kansas City Kansas Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Kansas City, Kansas, is a leading tourist location in the state of Kansas and the Kansas City metropolitan area and makes a great location for a hub-and-spoke tour,” she said. “We have a great history of musicians and pay tribute to them in many different art forms found throughout our community.”
That includes murals, sculptures and medallions showcasing famous Kansans at Legends Outlets Kansas City where, along with indulging in some retail therapy, groups can learn about celebrated Kansas musicians such as Lester Young, Julia Lee and Count Basie. Afterward, groups will want to pay homage to two of the best and brightest by stopping by the Charlie Parker Memorial, which honors the iconic saxophonist who was born in the city, before heading for a peek at Memorial Hall. Still a concert and sports venue, it was the last place Patsy Cline played before she was killed in a plane crash March 5, 1963.
Small groups of around 10 that are serious music aficionados will want to stop by the Piano Technicians Guild Foundation Jack Wyatt Museum.
“It consists of tools piano technicians use, as well as a piano collection,” said Shawn Bruce, who handles sales and marketing for the guild. “There are some oddball pieces, some historically significant pieces, and of course the treasure of our collection is the Chickering piano that was onstage in Ford’s Theater the night Lincoln was assassinated. It’s a pretty specialized collection, but anyone who’s a piano player or musician or is just interested in musical instruments will really enjoy it.”
Groups who want to take in some live music can listen while they dine at Frontier Steakhouse, which has room for any size group and presents bands on the weekend, and the Mason Jar, which offers live performances and has large group menus available. The Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway boasts weekend entertainment, as well as 2,000 slot machines, 52 table games and a 12-table poker room.
“For an outdoor music experience, groups will enjoy attending a concert at Providence Medical Center Amphitheater,” Yang said. “This open-air venue has provided fans great experiences and treasured memories for over 30 years. It’s hosted everyone from cover bands to Motley Crue and Tim McGraw.”