There are venues that are meccas for the nurturing of new talent because of the talent that once bounced from its walls and ceilings and echoed down its halls. Throughout the Kansas City Jazz District there are many such places and their legends are many, from Count Basie to Miles Davis, from Mary Lou Williams to Charlie Parker.
The late Robert Altman, the Academy Award winning director, experienced first hand some of that legend making talent as a very young teenager who would sneak away from his suburban Kansas City neighborhood to partake of the sights and sounds of the music makers and their music on 18th and Vine. Several years ago Altman returned to his boyhood haunts and made a film entitled "Kansas City" that revisited the heyday of Jazz and the high life that was then being lived in the city.
There is currently one jazz club that remains in the jazz district that has a legitimate claim to a portion of that history and it is the Blue Room. On any given evening you can drop into the club and expect to be entertained by the offerings of either some of the most renown artist in the industry or those who are just testing their musical wings.
On my last visit I was greeted as I came through the door with the rhythmic sounds of an organ as the Organ Jazz Trio, led by organist Ken Lovern, with Brian Baggertt on guitar and Kevin Frazze on drums, wound up a set. The music sounded nice, there was a good sized audience, and their enthusiatic clapping indicated they had been well entertained. It would be a few minutes until their next set, but I was confident when they returned it was going to be time well spent.
What I didn't know was that there was a vocalist with them and as the next set began and a young lady walked up to the microphone, I was pleasantly surprised. I asked someone nearby who she was and I was told her name was Bukeka Shoals. I was not familiar with the name. The first song she sang was a cover of a Michael Jackson tune, "Never Can Say Goodbye" and it was quickly established that she could indeed sing. But it was when she moved from the pop to the traditional jazz that I found myself listening with absolute awe. Her rendition of the old standard "Feeling Good" left me staring in disbelief. Images of Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday, Dinah Washington and all the other divas who may well of once graced that stage at the Blue Room filtered through my imagination as Bukeka recaptured the spirit and the feel.
Although "Feeling Good" is not on the CD Bukeka Shoals with Ken Lovern's OJT there are nine other tunes sure to delight!