The American Jazz Walk of Fame, Kansas City
The American Jazz Walk of Fame was established on August 23, 2014 when the tradition of honoring jazz artists began under the influence of Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II. Every year, a committee of musicians selected one or more musicians and dedicated a medallion in their honor in the sidewalk in front of the American Jazz Museum and the historic Gem Theater. Over the years, these medallions have formed a "Walk of Fame" within the heart of the 18th & Vine Jazz District. The medallion dedication ceremony has become an annual event, with celebrated jazz musicians performing in nearby venues to honor new inductees.
Backstory and Context
The American Jazz Walk of Fame celebration began on August 23, 2014, with the induction of 6 jazz legends: William “Count” Basie, Jay McShann, Charlie Parker, Pat Metheny, Mary Lou Williams, and Bobby Watson. Each artist was given a 30-inch bronze medallion that rests proudly outside the American Jazz Museum at the heart of the 18th & Vine Jazz District. Inspired by Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II, and carried out by the Jazz District Renaissance Corp., the Jazz Walk of Fame has become an accessible and public entry point to deeper explorations of the Jazz District's history.
In 2014, the induction ceremony was followed by a concert at the Gem Theater, which sits directly across the street from the American Jazz Museum. The performance featured the Count Basie Orchestra and a second band of local musicians led by Kansas City's Bobby Watson.
The celebration is held annually and the festivities include the induction ceremony and live music featuring both local and national artists. The event is a favorite for many area families and the festival is supported by donors from both Kansas City, MO, and elsewhere.
Some of the artists recognized in the Walk of Fame include:
- Bennie Moten, a ragtime pianist who became the leader of "Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra," which later led by Bill "Count" Basie
- Melba Liston, who, as one of few women in jazz, faced both racial and gender discrimination and abuse and even so went on to become a notable composer and trombonist
- Harry Belafont, who in addition to a musical career spanning calypso music to blues and folk music was a civil rights activist and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Queen Bey (no, not Beyoncé Knowles-Carter), who began performing at age 12 and appeared in several movies in addition to her jazz performances
- Klopus, Joe. 18th and Vine unveils American Jazz Walk of Fame. The Kansas City Star. April 16, 2014. Accessed November 27, 2017. http://www.kansascity.com/entertainment/music-news-reviews/article734480.html.
- Images: American Jazz Walk of Fame. KC Jazz District. web. accessed 11/29/2017. http://www.kcjazzdistrict.org/american-jazz-walk-of-fame/
- American Jazz Walk of Fame http://www.kcjazzdistrict.org/american-jazz-walk-of-fame/
- Klopus, Joe. Jazz Town: 18th & Vine will go from festival to Walk of Fame concert. The Kansas City Star. May 28, 2017. Accessed November 27, 2017. http://www.kansascity.com/entertainment/music-news reviews/article152585064.html