Since the 1920s, jazz has built a reputation for Kansas City.
About 90 years later, a local organization is hoping the power of jazz can rebuild Kansas City.
Led by co-founders and spouses Daniel and Ebony Edwards, KC Jazz LP is working to establish Kansas City as the jazz recording capital of the world while helping revitalize the origins of its jazz heritage.
KC Jazz LP held its first “Record to Rebuild” benefit concert Wednesday from which the nonprofit will use proceeds to transform a vacant neighborhood in Kansas City’s underserved east side near 18th and Vine. The recorded concert — featuring vocalist Krystle Warren and trumpet player Hermon Mehari — also will be made into an album, whose proceeds will support revitalization efforts to make the neighborhood a creative hub for artists of all kinds.
“We want to rebuild the area — specifically the neighborhood in which swing jazz came from and went globally,” Daniel Edwards said. “All the recordings we make, the proceeds go to rebuild throughout the community.”
Edwards said that his organization’s ultimate vision is to build a world-class performance venue that would rival the Kauffman Center, but be specifically for jazz on the east side. The neighborhood — nearby the historic 18th and Vine jazz district — has been decimated by urban blight and all but one house has been demolished.
The Edwardses own 38 vacant lots in the neighborhood, including the condemned house at 2519 Michigan Avenue, which the couple plans to restore to become a recording studio.
“It’s rough — I’ll tell you,” Daniel Edwards said. “But it’s the only house on the block that still exists and it was built in the 1890s. The city has had a long history of tearing down properties and I’ve been fighting to keep the building alive for the last six months. I’ve kept getting demolition notices but we’re trying to save it to be a resource for artists.”
Immediate next steps for KC Jazz LP is to purchase streaming tech equipment to capture its live concerts. Ebony Edwards said the equipment will allow her organization to share Kansas City Jazz music in a high-quality format with people around the world.
With a larger global audience, she’s hopeful that not only more people will support their mission but also discover the area’s amazing musicians.
“I’m excited to showcase to the world the amazing talent we have here in Kansas City,” she said. “I want this to put us on the map.”
Ebony Edwards said she’s been encouraged by the community’s supportive response to KC Jazz LP. The concert on Wednesday — which she said was a coming out party of sorts for KC Jazz LP — attracted more than 100 people, many of whom were unfamiliar with their work and the area jazz community.
“They’re happy we’re bringing new energy to the community,” she said. “Yesterday was such a success because it was our first time having the opportunity to talk to a broader community who isn’t familiar with the jazz scene and neighborhood. So many of the people that we met yesterday were getting familiar with this project were very supportive, excited and wanted to see it happen.”