While the venues and music may look and sound quite a bit different than they did in the heyday of Kansas City jazz, live jazz has been ubiquitous in KC for a century now. From the more surprising spots (two grocers) to the new ones (two Main Street cocktail bars), check out the fresh and unconventional places to listen to some jazz in the city.
Keely Edgington and Beau Williams, the same couple behind Westport’s Julep, opened Canary in April 2021 and added jazz to their calendar this past summer. Every Wednesday night, this Midtown bistro and cocktail bar’s rooftop patio—which rightfully boasts a great view of the city—becomes a jazz club. Frequently performing at Canary is saxophonist Stephen Martin’s trio. Enjoy a signature cocktail and soak up the great music and views.
Most evenings, the newly opened Uptown Lounge is a piano bar with performances from co-owners Michael Rorah and Alan Stribling. But Wednesday evenings swing. From 8 to 11 pm, you can catch some jazz, usually a duo with vocalist Emily Dix and pianist Matt Villinger, or a trio led by vocalist Eboni Fondren.
The cocktail lounge, formerly Davey’s Uptown, opened in June and looks and feels quite a bit different than the former dive bar. The shotgun-style venue seats sixty, making it small enough to still feel intimate yet big enough to not feel too crowded. The space was designed to be music-centric, and the acoustics and space make for an ideal listening room, especially for vocalists.
Whole Foods South Plaza
Whole Foods stopped booking live music during the pandemic, but they brought back their Friday happy hour music this past year. Although the grocery chain’s South Plaza location might not have the most consistent performance schedule, it sure is a treat when you do catch some jazz on your grocery run. You might just have to take a detour to The Fountain Room, the store’s bar and grill, for optimal listening and happy hour specials, which includes discounts on a wide selection of craft beers and a rotating seafood special on Fridays.
The neighborhood liquor store and grocer also houses a wine bar toward the back of the store, serving up drinks, quality charcuterie boards and live music. The Pairing has performances on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings from 7 to 9, but the acts vary widely in genre. However, when vibraphonist Mike Dillon—a renowned musician who relocated from New Orleans to KC during the pandemic—isn’t on tour, he frequently performs here with his trio, often joined by Arny Young on drums and Bryan Hicks on bass.
The Pairing’s Instagram, @thepairingkc, has the most up-to-date information on upcoming performances.