Duck Season

First Wednesday rolled around again, faster than it seemed possible.  I drove back to the plaza after work, barely stopping long enough to grab a quick bite to eat.  I arrived with a half-hour to spare, waiting on my long-time friend, Marge, and her husband, Bill.  I stayed in the lobby of Unity Temple until about ten minutes to seven, hoping to catch them as they arrived.  I gave up and grabbed some seats about midway down the aisle.  Marge and Bill arrived with just a couple minutes to spare.

The evening’s program featured the rich, velvet vocals of Lester “Duck” Warner, performing with Tim Whitmer & The Consort Band of Spirituality and All That Jazz.

Lester Warner, affectionately known as “Duck,” is a quiet, soft-spoken man who transforms himself into a spectacular entertainer when he takes the stage. His voice is a rich baritone with a beautiful full falsetto that has been compared to Nat “King” Cole. He is also a gifted instrumentalist who plays trumpet, flugelhorn and trombone. Duck has headlined Japan’s first International Jazz Festival, Kansas City’s Spirit Festival, and The Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival. He was voted Kansas City’s Best Male Vocalist three years in a row. The International Trumpet Guild has recognized duck as a veteran of the revered “old school” associated with the special brand of Kansas City “Swing” music. Benny Powell, trombonist with the Count Basie Band, calls Duck a “premiere entertainer.”

Tim and the usual suspects took the stage and played a short set of jazz standard instrumentals.

  • Autumn Leaves
  • Cute … County Basey tune
  • They’ll Never Be Another You

After those three songs, Tim introduced Duck Warner and the concert proceeded with only a couple of restarts.

  • I’m in Love
  • Witchcraft
  • Georgia
  • Almost Like Being in Love
  • Everyday I Have the Blues
  • My Romance
  • Route 66
  • L-O-V-E

After the last song, I finally had a chance to snatch a few minutes of conversation with Marge as we walked to the parking garage. We said our goodbyes and I hit the road for the return trip home (second time, no sunglasses necessary). I made it home by ten after nine o’clock and had trouble finding a place to park. Band practice was still going strong in the band room.

I uploaded the videos I took and went to bed and attempted to sleep, band practice not withstanding.

Tim Whitmer piano interlude:


Everyday I Have the Blues:


The Way You Look Tonight:




Next month, on the first Wednesday, the day after my birthday, the featured vocalist is Diane ‘Mama’ Ray at Spirituality and All That Jazz.  Come on down to the Plaza, sit a spell and savor some cool evening jazz.  The best seven bucks you’ll ever spend.

Five Thousand Eight Hundred Forty-Four

Days … but who’s counting?  Apparently, I am.

Yesterday was my 16th anniversary with my employer.  Oddly enough, I had completely forgotten about the anniversary until my boss entered my cubicle, late in the afternoon on Wednesday, August 1st, and presented me with a card and token gift.  Very strange indeed, since I hadn’t seen him in probably ten days and he usually misplaces or forgets things like anniversaries and birthdays.

But the real highlight of my day came when I met an old friend and her husband for dinner and a jazz concert.  I’ve known her just as long as I’ve been employed, although she up and retired earlier this year.  We still get together, usually once a month for this first Wednesday concert, called Spirituality and All That Jazz, but sometimes for lunch as well.  Last’s night’s theme was:

The Sensational Swingin’ Saxes
A Night of Exceptional Sax Educators Cutting Loose
performing with Tim Whitmer & The Consort Band

Dueling Saxophones
Todd Wilkinson and Jim Mair (click image for rest of album)

I surprised myself by leaving the camera bag in the car.  Serendipitous in that I could then attempt to take some better photos than I could have managed with my cell phone camera.  The lighting at Unity Temple isn’t the best, so I changed the ISO to 800, and eventually 1600, but most of the photos I took were very blurry.  I took a few from up front and those turned out better.

The group played mostly jazz standards, including Duke Ellington’s ‘Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” (in honor of the Royals); “Stella by Starlight”; a Harry Allen chart called “Jake’s Lament”; a Charlie Parker chart called “My Little Suede Shoes”; “Body and Soul”; “The Preacher”; and they closed out the concert with some blues … “Blues Up and Down.”  I missed some of the song titles because I couldn’t always understand Tim or Todd (less gain on the microphone and/or better diction please).  The second song I recognized, and could almost hear the words being sung in my head, but for the life of me I don’t have any idea what the name of it might have been.

The concert wrapped up shortly after 8:30 p.m.  I said my goodbyes to my friends and hit the road home.  The sun had already set and the full moon (well, three hours short of being a full moon) had risen behind me.

I had a great time, catching up with friends and enjoying some amazing saxy jazz or jazzy saxes … take your pick.

Sweet Surprise

Anniversary Flowers
26th Anniversary Flowers

I came home last night to a sweet surprise waiting on my dining room table from my wonderful husband:  Beautiful roses, a thoughtful card and a gift card to my favorite local clothing store. I thought I’d share the flowers with friends and family here.

Since Terry hasn’t been feeling well the last few days, we relaxed around the house, watching an episode of Chopped All Stars we’d recorded on the DVR and a couple of last week’s Jeopardy episodes.  We ended the evening playing nine holes of Frisbee golf via Wii Resort Sports.  Just like we did last year when we played real miniature golf, we tied (one under par for both of us).

Tonight, provided Terry feels up to it, we will meet up with a couple for dinner and attend the annual KCKCC Jazz night at Spirituality and All That Jazz, hosted at Unity Temple on the Plaza.

Here’s more on tonight’s performance:

Kansas City Kansas Community College Jazz Extravaganza

KCKCC Big Band, Latin Concert Band & Vocal Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Jim Mair, Jurgen Welge & John Stafford

A full night of Jazz is in store by the Kansas City Kansas Community College Jazz Department, under the direction of Jim Mair. They will be showcasing their 17-piece Big Band Jazz Ensemble, and the 9-piece Latin Jazz Band. These groups have performed at the Montreaux, Switzerland Jazz Festival and are the first and only Community College Jazz group to perform at the New York City JVC Jazz Festival. They’ve also received invitations to play at the Puerto Vallarta, Hawaii and Morocco Jazz Festivals. They will also be featuring the chorales of the #1 Vocal Jazz Ensemble in the Kansas City Metropolitan area directed by John Stafford.

Veggie Bliss with a Side of Jazzy Friends

I whirled through Wednesday like the gusty winds whipping through the Midwest the past few days.  The minute I dropped off my last rider, I rushed home, ran in the house, snatched some cash from Terry, switched van keys for car keys and flew back to the Plaza (where I had just spent eight or nine hours working).  I spent less than five minutes in the house, only having time to pet Roxy and Apollo once each and peck Terry on the cheek (as I fleeced him out of a twenty dollar bill).

When Marge retired in late January, we agreed to reconnect on the first Wednesday of March.  We met at the Eden Alley Cafe in the basement of the Unity Temple on the Plaza for dinner, immediately followed by the monthly ‘Spirituality and All That Jazz‘ concert hosted by Tim Whitmer.  I touched base with Marge late on Tuesday to confirm and agreed to meet at a quarter to six.  I should have said I’d be there by six, not before, as I barely made it back from Lansing in thirty minutes (a record for me actually).

Veggie Burger (vegan) made with carrots, celery, yellow onions, tofu, vegetable oil, soy sauce and bread crumbs, served atop a locally made whole wheat bun with dijon mustard, spicy vegan aioli, dill pickles, red onions, greens and a tomato.

We were seated almost immediately.  I had to spend some time reviewing the menu, since it had been over two years (probably close to three years) since I’d last been to Eden Alley.  I decided to try their veggie burger and for once I did NOT ask for anything to be left off (since cheese was not automatically part of the dish) with a side of Garlic Bread.  Marge and Bill ordered the same dish, the Spinach and Mushroom Meatloaf.  We snacked on various types of freshly baked breads, all of which tasted fabulous.  Our food arrived quite quickly and I devoured the delicious veggie burger, but decided not to finish the garlic bread.  I’ve had that side before and I should have remembered that I don’t care for the aoili.  None of us had room for dessert so we paid our tabs, tipped the waitor and headed upstairs for the concert.

We soon learned that the scheduled special guest for the evening, vocalist Monique Danielle, would not be performing.  Tim did not enlighten us until after the first set who had agreed to step in at the absolute last minute as a replacement.

The ‘usual suspects’ appeared on stage a few minutes past seven o’clock –  Tim Whitmer at the piano, bassist James Albright, percussionist Jurgen Welge and saxophonist and flutist Jim Mair.

Spirituality and All That Jazz
Tim Whitmer at the piano, James Albright on bass, Jurgin Welge on drums and Jim Mair on sax and flute.

First set:

I heard some incredibly stunning soprano sax solos by Jim Mair during that first set.  Just mind boggling.

During the brief pause between sets, Tim let the cat out of the bag with respect to Monique’s illness.  He got quite a few laughs when he started soliciting the audience for vocal volunteers.  After a few minutes, one woman came forward, answering the jazz altar call and blessed us with her voice – the incomparable Millie Edwards.

Millie Edwards
Millie Edwards

Second set (with very special guest Millie Edwards):

I love listening to Millie sing.  And, surprising to me anyway, her vocal range matches my own voice almost perfectly.  I had to really resist the urge to start singing along with her, since I so rarely get the chance to sing in that range (I am no soprano and never want to be one).  Her last two songs were just plain fun.

Between songs, Millie shared with us the story of how Tim wrangled her into performing last night.  That afternoon she had received an e-mail from Tim with the subject ‘Favor’ and soon discovered the nature of the favor Tim asked of her.  Her students became the real beneficiaries as she had to postpone grading papers and a pop-quiz the next day.  Millie imparted to Tim the heartfelt gratitude of her students for sparing them from the test gauntlet, at least for a day.

After the concert, I said goodbye to Marge and Bill and headed back home (for the second time in that day).  I flipped through my radio presets and caught the last song of the classic music program on KANU – one I actually recognized – a piano arrangement of ‘Pictures at an Exhibition.’  As I exited I-70 and headed north on K-7/US-73, I caught the beginning of Piano Jazz on KPR.

I attempted to call my daughter but as usually happens, I got her voice-mail.  So for the second time that day, I called her boyfriend, Nic, who promptly answered his phone (as he always does).  We exchanged pleasantries and I asked if he happened to be near my daughter.  Unfortunately, she was at a rehearsal (which explained why she didn’t answer her phone).  Nic realized Rachelle had forgotten to tell me she finally got a church gig.  She is now an Alto II section lead in the Chancel Choir at First UMC of Plano.  I think I need to take an extra trip to North Texas next month for Easter services.

I had a great time catching up with Marge (and Bill) and listening to lovely live jazz music in a relaxed and smoke-free environment.  Marge and I agreed to return for the May concert which features the KCKCC jazz ensembles (of which my daughter is an alum).  I look forward to seeing how the jazz program at KCKCC has progressed in the three years since Rachelle graduated.