Grammy-award winning vocalist Samara Joy to headline Folly Theater’s Jazz Series

Photo courtesy of Folly Theater.

Earlier this year, twenty-three-year-old jazz vocalist Samara Joy won two Grammy awards. Joy’s project Linger Awhile––which brought some classic Great American Songbook standards back into the limelight––won Best Vocal Jazz Album, and her velvet voice and brilliant, captivating storytelling earned her Best New Artist. 

Joy will take the stage in Kansas City on October 14, a powerful start to the Folly Theater’s 2023-2024 Jazz Series

“She is truly a once-in-a generation artist,” says Rick Truman, the Folly Theater’s executive director. “There’s a reason why those [Great American Songbook] songs are still popular to this day. They’re universal stories, and she tells them in a way that resonates with contemporary listeners.”

It’s also the first season curated by Truman, and it includes a wide range of styles, spanning smooth jazz to hot jazz, from multigenerational vocalists and instrumentalists. 

And the Grand Lady of 12th Street has had quite the makeover. 

Last fall, the one hundred and twenty-three-year-old venue unveiled a multimillion-dollar renovation. It’s far from the former burlesque hall many remember, but the historic charm is still well intact.

“It’s an inviting space that people want to come spend time in,” Truman says.

 The renovated building is complete with sapphire velvet seats that boast more comfort, an inviting balcony-level lobby and bar, new flooring, brass handrails and artwork from Kansas Citians, including a large stained glass piece from Kathy Barnard, a bronze sculpture by Ed Dwight and two reproductions of Thomas Hart Benton’s “America Today” murals. 

“We’re Kansas City’s oldest theater, but we’re the most up-to-date,” Truman says.    

The 2023-24 Folly Jazz Series at a glance:
Photo courtesy of Folly Theater.

October 14: Samara Joy. Grammy award-winning Gen Z jazz singing star Samara Joy kicks off the series. “She reminds me so much of Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald,” Truman says.

November 11: Alexa Tarantino. Alto saxophonist and composer Alexa Tarantino has been hailed as “a one-woman wrecking crew” by Wynton Marsalis. A versatile and woodwind doubler, Tarantino’s shining artistry and fresh improvisational voice is enthralling.

January 27: The Hot Sardines. This energetic eight-piece band’s century-old sound will transport you back to the early days of this historic hall with their covers and eclectic originals. 

February 24: Diane Schuur. Another great steward of the Great American Songbook, you can expect hard-swinging standards from this inimitable icon on her tour, An Evening of Songs and Stories, which commemorates her seventieth birthday. “She has this incredible ability to take a song and perform it in a way that is uniquely her,” Truman says. 

March 9: Norman Brown. Raised in KCK, smooth jazz guitarist Norman Brown rose in popularity with the release of his chart-topping 1994 album, After the Storm, last appearing in the Folly Jazz Series in 2018. “I thought it was about time for him to be back in his hometown,” Truman says.

April 6: Matthew Whitaker. Another Gen Z star in the company of Samara Joy, pianist, arranger and composer Matthew Whitaker closes out the season. Now twenty-two, Whitaker’s career took off at just ten years old after opening for Stevie Wonder.

GO: Folly Jazz Series, 300 W. 12th St., KCMO. Learn more and purchase tickets at

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