The Kansas City Generations
In 2011 I made my first visit back to Kansas City to play in several years. The jazz scene had changed drastically since my last time in town in 2003. A new energy was happening, much of it coming from the young musicians who had just graduated from UMKC where they had studied with Bobby Watson.
I wanted to come back to KC more often to see my family and friends, to touch down with a place where I had a lot of history. It just made sense to build a group to work with and things came together stronger each time the band played.
In 2012 we performed at the Blue Room and again in early 2013. The group grew from a quartet to a quintet. We built a book around composers with Kansas City roots: the music of Ahmad Alaadeen, Bobby Watson, Pat Metheny as well as our originals and some obscure tunes from favorite albums. By 2014 we had an identity going and a big sound, and the group had grown to a sextet. A buzz was going about this group and each show we played a bigger audience and more energy.
The band recorded an album in August which is now in post production. We recorded the music we had been working on for a while, songs by Alaadeen, Watson and Metheny. The idea was to 'keep it in the family' by playing their music which had a big influence on us all. Not only those three as musicians and composers, but just the fact that they had come out of KC and set a high standard.
The "Generations" concept comes from the threads that run through the musicians of Kansas City where the mentor/apprentice way of learning still exists in places like the Mutual Musicians Foundation and on bandstands where the older established generations hire the younger cats, helping them cut their teeth and learn on the job.
The concept also comes from the feeling of the KC musicians, the common language of the blues they seem to share no matter how harmonically advanced they get and the relaxed but optimistically bouncing swing that embodies the KC feel lives thru the generations of cats who come from there.
Geographically, all the guys in the band come from small towns around the midwest: Sioux City, Iowa. Jefferson City, Missouri. Hannibal, Missouri. Topeka, Kansas. We all went to UMKC, or rather it chose us, and we all trained on the bandstands of Kansas City.
From the first note the feeling of this band was like a homecoming for me and leading the group has been one of the most exciting musical associations I am a part of and it continues to get better. Sometimes things come full circle and for me, touching down with the KC spirit and playing with these guys has been just that.
Keep an eye out for the new album and tour in the spring of 2015, see you then!
About the band:
Saxophonist Michael Shults has been “making strong impressions” on the Kansas City jazz scene says the Kansas City Star, and has been praised for his "strong, imaginative work" by Downbeat Magazine. Originally from Hannibal, Missouri, Shults has trained under Bobby Watson for the past several years and was featured on Watson's critically acclaimed 2010 release "The Gates BBQ Suite". In 2012 Downbeat magazine awarded Shults the Graduate College Soloist award from Downbeat Magazine. He just finished his PhD and will be teaching at ….
Trumpeter Hermon Mehari, originally from Jefferson City, Missouri, has made a major name for himself. He was the winner of the 2008 National Trumpet Competiton and placed 2nd in the International Trumpet Guild competition in Sydney, Australia. Mehari received his BM in Jazz Performance from the University of Missouri - Kansas City Conservatory of Music in 2010, leading to performances with Jaleel Shaw, Logan Richardson, Bobby Watson, and Ben Van Gelder. In addition to performing, he dedicates himself to being a serious educator. Hermon has participated in clinics and panels around the country and has served as the director of the Kansas City High School All Star Jazz Ensemble. Trumpeter Hermon Mehari was most recently featured on the world renown saxophonist Bobby Watson's 2013 release, "Check Cashing Day".
Steven Lambert, originally from Souix City, Iowa is now a prominent saxophonist, composer, band leader and educator on the Kansas City jazz scene. He leads several of his own groups including the Steven Lambert trio and quartet, KC Sound, and Foundation 627 big band to name a few. He also is one of the most sought-after woodwind players on (flute and clarinet) in Kansas City. He works extensively as a sideman with a wide variety of groups throughout Kansas City and maintains an active presence as a board member at the mutual musicians foundation, a national historic landmark in Kansas City.
Ben Leifer was born and raised in Topeka, Kansas in a musical family. He moved to Kansas City in 2004 to study music at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and has since begun a healthy career in music, performing regularly and honing the craft alongside his peers. Ben was featured on the “Gates BBQ Suite” CD by Bobby Watson. Ben has been fortunate to play with jazz luminaries such as Bobby Watson and Michael Carvin, while also performing with younger masters, such as Sean Jones and Jaleel Shaw, to name a few.
Drummer Matt Kane, originally from Hannibal, Missouri, went to the Conservatory of Music in Kansas City on scholarship in 1989. He trained in the clubs with Lori Tucker, the McFadden Brothers, Ida McBeth, the Boulevard and Trilogy Big Bands, Karrin Allyson, and others before a two year stay in Ahmad Alaadeen’s “Deans of Swing” when the album “Time Through the Ages” was recorded. After relocating to New York City in 1997 Kane attended the New School and became immersed in the local brazilian music scene, playing with Jovino Santos Neto and Cidinho Teixeira. Kane returned to jazz in 2008, recording with Steve LaSpina and Vic Juris on the album “Destiny” for the SteepleChase label. He freelances in NYC and has recently performed and toured with Janis Seigal, Sasha Dobson, Dave Stryker, Kyle Koehler, Randy Brecker and Joe Locke. He returns to Kansas City a few times a year to perform and teach at the Blue Room and American Jazz Museum/Gem Theater. Matt is the founder/leader of the KC Generations Sextet.