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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Destination: Gem Theatre, 18th and Vine

Photo by Sean Korsgaard on Gem Theatre Facebook
      This past Friday night, I had the great good luck of attending a jazz concert at the Gem Theatre in Kansas City , Missouri, courtesy of The Sunday Jazz Brunch on B98 FM. Heading out from Hutchinson, Kansas to the bright lights and big city feel of Kansas City, to hear Nick Colione and Everette Harp play some smooth jazz.

Photo by Jayne Leiker on Gem Theatre Facebook
      Everette Harp opened the show with about an hours worth of tunes.  He took to the stage mild mannered and quiet; then he picked up the sax, began to play and magic happened. I can't tell you the songs that he played, except to say that they were all tunes known to me, popular tunes if you're into smooth jazz, I just got lost in the music. At one point in the show, he sang "Rainy Night in Georgia" while accompanying himself on the saxophone, which is no small feat. He played a version of Janet Jackson's "Let's Wait A While" which was killer. I could have listened to him play and sing all night.

     Then it was time for Nick Colione, who has to be the best dressed man in jazz. From top to bottom, Colione exuded nothing but class. Sporting a white Fedora hat, a three piece silk suit,  and patent leather shoes, he was truly a site. The audience sat up and took notice as he entered the stage and began to play the guitar. He played the title track from his new CD, "The Journey" which is available April 1st, and then went right from that into one of his more well-known tunes. When he ended that song, he quipped, that the next song he was going to play was on one of his CD's, he couldn't remember which one, so those in attendance would just have to buy them all and it would be on one of them. Of course this had everyone laughing. He'd play a little, then talk a little, always in a humorous vein. At one point, Colione and Harp played a song together. One of the highlights of the evening for me. Colione connects with his audience well. Toward the end of the show, he walked out into the audience and picked out a few ladies to dance with while he played, even making it up into the upper seats. On the last song, Colione had everyone on their feet grooving to the beat.

     After the show, both Harp and Colione patiently signed autographs, took pictures and met their adoring public. Both stayed until the crowd had disbursed. This was a fund-raiser for the Negro League Baseball Museum.

Photo by James Lowe
      The 18th and Vine Jazz District is truly a phenomenal area. Before the show, I had a chance to walk around and take in the ambiance. There were bars on every corner with the sounds of live music spilling out through doorways to those passing by on the sidewalk. I stopped in at the KC Blues and Jazz Juke House and had supper before the show. Excellent food and the customer service was fantastic. They had a live band playing jazz (what else) and it was a great appetizer to whet the ears for the the concert later on that night.

Photo by James Lowe
      And what can I say about the Gem Theatre. Outside, it has this great vintage feel of neon and days gone by, but then you walk into the theatre and it's totally modern. There isn't a bad seat in the house. All seats are easily accessible and on this night I was having issues with a bum knee, so I noticed the elevator and the handrails along the steps to reach to top tiers. The staff was friendly and engaging. Oh and the people, those attending the concert were dressed to the nines and it was great fun to take in all the different varieties of outfits that everyone was sporting.

     This is a great destination spot to visit if you are in Kansas City. It's only about 4 blocks long, but it packs a lot into those four blocks. My only regret was that I didn't have time to take in the museums. Next trip to the Gem, the museums are high on my priority list. To find out more about this unique area of Kansas City, check out these sites: Gem Theatre on Facebook and 18th and Vine Jazz District.

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