Filmmaker captures past, present and future of Kansas City jazz and blues

Sue Vicory’s Kansas International Film Festival entry gives KC’s music scene more visibility

Sue Vicory, documentary filmmaker

Sue Vicory’s documentary on Kansas City’s jazz and blues scene is one from the heart. Credit: suevicory.com

Many Kansas Citians are familiar with their city’s reputation for jazz and barbecue. But how many have experienced this rich heritage firsthand, especially its music?
It’s a fair question from documentary filmmaker Sue Vicory. She had lived in the Kansas City area since 1984 and had been to the Blue Room in the 18th and Vine district only once. That changed when she started making Kansas City Jazz & Blues: Past, Present & Future. In a telephone interview from San Diego, where she has lived since November 2011, she said she “knew 1 percent at the beginning” of what she knew at the end of filming.
Vicory began filming in 2006, shooting at Knuckleheads and the Majestic Restaurant with a majority of footage shot at the 18th and Vine district — the Mutual Musician’s Foundation, the Blue Room and the Gem Theater. She also shot “lots and lots” at Jardine’s Restaurant and Jazz Club.
Now her film will be the closing feature at the Kansas International Film Festival at 7:30 p.m. Thursday  at the Glenwood Theatre, 9575 Metcalf Ave.
The 65-minute movie covers the 1920’s era to contemporary times; profiles Marilyn Maye, Bobby Watson, Mark Pender, Kevin Mahogany, Jay McShann, Big Joe Turner and more; and focuses on the future through the work that educators Bobby Watson and Leon Brady are doing with young people.

Pleased to meet you

Vicory’s film does more than introduce jazz and blues to a new audience. It also introduces Kansas City’s musicians to one another, even those who regularly share the stage.
During screenings for musicians, Vicory would hear, “Man, I didn’t know that,” as peers discovered their mentors’ lives through the film’s interviews. Musicians are often off to another gig as soon as one is over.
Vicory has donated her entire project to the Marr Sound Archive at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. That includes 150 hours of footage, about 1,500 digital stills and all master tapes. Chuck Haddix, manager of the Marr Sound Archive, will be the host for a question-and-answer session after the festival screening.
In 2010, the film had a sneak peek at the Gem Theater “to get people who had not been down into the area before,” Vicory said, and it has aired on PBS affiliates KCPT and KTWU. Vicory has also received DVD orders from Tokyo and London on her website. You can also watch a trailer and related videos at Sue Vicory’s YouTube channel.
Come for the movie, stay for the party because there will be one. Lindsay Shannon, owner of BB’s Lawnside BBQ, will cater the party, and Hermon Mehari, who appears in the film, will be the host for the house band jam. Vicory will be there, and she’s expecting the Wild Women of Kansas City, Stan Kessler, Tim Whitmer and more to drop by. “We’re trying to make it as amazing as we possibly can,” she said.
“All the musicians on film are delighted with the visibility it has given jazz and blues because it’s not appreciated as much as it could be.”
So come on out and honor Kansas City’s musicians. “You can say thank you to them.”


3 comments on “Filmmaker captures past, present and future of Kansas City jazz and blues

  1. Hey-I found your interview! It was under the “Interview” tab! LOL! Great interview! Love me some jazz and blues!!!

  2. […] Filmmaker captures past, present and future of Kansas City jazz and blues […]

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