Midtown jazz promoter drums up support


Miller and jazz musicians at city hall last week.

You might call Kurt “House” Miller of Old Hyde Park a hustler for jazz.

He is the new board president of the Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors, a volunteer advocacy group. And he works as director of marketing and promotion for the Broadway Jazz Club.

Miller, 51, is originally from Chicago, did a jazz radio show in college and says he wants to advance the music in Kansas City.

“It’s like being a surfer when you see the wave,” he said. “You want to get up on the board and ride it.”

untitled-(1-of-8)-3He was on hand last week to accept a city council resolution that notes that this Thursday is Kansas City Jazz Appreciation Day and International Jazz Day.

From it:

“WHEREAS, , Kansas City has the distinction of being one of 4-cities considered Crown Jewels of Jazz in America, owning its own style and popularized by artists such as Bennie Moten, William “Count” Basie, Jay McShann, Mary Lou Williams, Andy Kirk, Myra Taylor and Charlie Parker….”

The resolution also notes that the Broadway Jazz Club will honor jazz day with a reception on Thursday.

That free event will be from 5 to 7 p.m., with music from members of the Eddie Baker School of Jazz Ensemble. The club also will offer jazz-based martini specials named after jazz greats Gerry Mulligan, Billie Holiday, Herbie Hancock (“The Watermelon Man”), and Bessie Smith, all of whom were born in April.

Miller said that three jazz musicians who are the last survivors of the original Mutual Musicians Foundation may also perform with the band.

Miller said he hopes to attract more young people to music once considered the essence of cool.

One way, he hopes, is to connect more with an all-American cousin called blues music.

Jam, the glossy jazz ambassador magazine that has published since 1986, is adding a page for blues and other cross–genre efforts are planned.

Miller is also active in volunteer work for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Lyric Opera and the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association.

It all seems to correlate, he said, along with a stronger city effort to promote the arts.

Jazz should be a part of things like the American Royal Barbecue contest and the many downtown gatherings, he said.

“I would love to see jazz be more interwoven with the fabric of Kansas City as a city,” he said, the way it is a part of life in New Orleans.

To start with, he said, membership in the jazz ambassadors is about 140 and he would like to double that in 18 months.

Jazz Ambassadors

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