In April 2019, a local jazz calendar suddenly went offline. The site, owned and managed by an area venue, wasn’t encyclopedic, but it was a resource for many.
Saxophonist Herschel McWilliams noticed soon after and quickly got to work creating a new and improved calendar now known as Live Jazz KC.
“I started putting together the framework and had it online within a few days,” McWilliams says. “It was such a big resource, and I knew it could be bigger and more useful for more people.”
Four years later, the guide garners upwards of fifteen thousand visitors a month from locals and out of town visitors. Live Jazz KC is known as the most comprehensive and updated destination to find out where to catch live entertainment throughout the area, from Johnnie’s Jazz Bar and Grille in Liberty to Chaz on the Plaza. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a touring act or a scene stalwart—it will be listed.
Working in automotive retail by day and freelancing as a saxophonist by night, McWilliams runs the website as a passion project. He wants people to know what’s going on in Kansas City’s vibrant jazz scene.
“Initially, it was for the musicians, my friends, to help lift up where they’re playing and what they’re doing,” McWilliams says. As the site has picked up traction, venues have taken notice—and shared their appreciation—as well.
If you’re looking for blues, R&B or another genre, you won’t find it listed here. McWilliams gets inquiries about expanding the calendar, but he’s focused on keeping jazz at the forefront.
“I’ve really let the scene guide the content,” McWilliams says. “It’s started to take on a different form.” Not only has Live Jazz KC expanded its social media presence, but McWilliams has also recently delved into music education.
Last spring, McWilliams started the Live Jazz KC High School All Star Big Band, bringing together twenty budding artists from both sides of the state line. After a busy competition season, the second iteration of the band concluded the 2022-23 year with a performance at Westport Coffeehouse on April 30. McWilliams hopes to engage more students next year and add vocalists to the mix.
“It’s been great to see the relationships the kids in the band are building with one another,” McWilliams says.
Visit livejazzkc.com for a comprehensive calendar of live jazz performances throughout the area.