Fine Art of Jazz

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Exhibit on view at OCCC's Visual and Performing Arts Center Gallery
February 3 to March 5, 2010
11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The Fine Art of Jazz Exhibit Logo

This exhibition showcases the impact Kansas City Jazz musicians and vocalists had on the national jazz movement of the 1920s and 1930s through photographs of and commentary on renowned jazz musicians who got their start in Kansas City and grew from there to have great impact on American jazz as we know it today. Many of these artists are performing today and remain a powerful influence on the jazz genre.

Musicians and vocalists like Charlie Parker, Pete Johnson, Mary Lou Williams, Count Basie, Jay McShann, and Booker Washington associated with Prohibition-era jazz found a welcome home in Kansas City nightclubs, bustling with crowds eager for the entertainment. The Roaring 20s saw local and out-of-town musicians forge a distinctive Kansas City style of jazz as they enjoyed the camaraderie of all-night jam sessions with boisterous, noisy clubs as the backdrop. Many of the musicians who got their start in Kansas City's jazz hub became household names across the nation in the 1930s and 1940s as jazz exploded in popularity, but the genesis of the movement also left its mark forever on the Kansas City music scene. Today the tradition jams on, with clubs across the city featuring jazz nightly.

It is this mixture of activity, tenacity and nostalgic charm that moved Pulitzer Prize winner Dan White to spend almost 20 years photographing and interviewing renowned jazz musicians.

"I began photographing jazz musicians in 1987, hoping to create a visual record of these talented artists and to help preserve Kansas City's tradition as a birthplace of jazz," White says. "I'd been listening, watching and talking to those in the local jazz scene for quite some time. They were very open to passing along their knowledge and traditions with anyone who shared their love of the music; I wanted to capture some of this feeling before it slipped away. Players like Rusty Tucker, Speedy Huggins, Milt Abel and Pearl Thuston. They had a certain sound. When they were on, there was nothing like it. I've shot more than portraits of these players and singers over the past twenty years. It's a good feeling to have captured part of Kansas City's history."

The result of White's work is a series of black-and-white portraits of Kansas City jazz musicians and vocalists, complete with commentary from exhibition curator Chuck Haddix, co-author of Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to BeBop - A History.

The exhibition is organized and toured by ExhibitsUSA, a Program of ExhibitsUSA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance with The Oklahoma Arts Council and The National Endowments for the Arts ExhibitsUSA sends more than 20 exhibitions on tour to more than 100 small- and mid-size communities each year. Mid-America is the oldest nonprofit regional arts organization in the United States.

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As part of The Fine Art of Jazz exhibit, the films The Story of Jazz, Riffs, and The Last of the Blue Devils will be shown at the following dates and times:

February 8 (M), 11 (Th), 16 (T), 19 (F), 24 (W). March 1(M), 4(Th).

  1. The Story of Jazz 12:00 a.m. (1 hr 37 minutes.)
  2. Riffs 2:30 p.m. (1 hr)
  3. The Last of the Blue Devils 5:15 p.m. (1 hr 30 minutes.)

February 9 (T), 12 (F), 17 (W), 22 (M), 25 (Th). March 2 (T), 5 (F).

  1. Riffs 12:00 a.m. (1 hr)
  2. The Last of the Blue Devils 2:00 p.m. (1 hr 30 minutes.)
  3. The Story of Jazz 5:15 p.m. (1 hr 37 minutes.)

February 10 (W), 15 (M), 18 (Th), 23 (T), 26 (F). March 3 (W).

  1. The Last of the Blue Devils 12:00 a.m. (1 hr 30 minutes.)
  2. The Story of Jazz 2:00 p.m. (1 hr 37 minutes.)
  3. Riffs 3:45 p.m. (1 hr)

About the films:

The Story of Jazz - A seamless array of performance, comments and compelling historic insight.

Riffs - A fascinating profile of the famed photographer Bill Gottlieb, who captured the Golden Age of Jazz.

The Last of the Blue Devils - "A Very Happy Movie " The music and commentary covers everything from the Basie big-band sound to Kansas City jazz and rock and roll.