December 24, 2022

By Kathy Smith
Contributing Writer

I know it is 2022 but I will tell Jazz darlings, 1932 came around again in the fantastic chops of the Lee’s Summit Jazz Orchestra.

An intimate concert was held at Bridge Space located at 210 SW Market St. The building was the former home of the U.S. Post Office. Ben Rao, owner of the building has created a great space for entrepreneurs. The space is divided into various size spaces to accommodate the businesses. He was also smart enough to build a space to the rear of the building that can accommodate meetings and great concerts like the one I saw on December 15th.

Shawn Harrel and Ryan Heinlein

I had the opportunity to speak to Shawn Harell, who is a music educator at Summit Technology and leader of The Lee’s Summit Jazz Orchestra regarding the group.

In 2017, a group of music educators was in St. Louis for a convention. The group was entertained by a musical group from the St. Louis area. After the performance, our talented Lee’s Summit posse said, “Hey we can form a group too. You remember the song “The Birth of the Blues.” Right? Jazz babies this was the birth of The Lee’s Summit Jazz Orchestra. Not only does the orchestra play for the enjoyment of their audience they play for great causes in our town. Sometimes they raise money for Social Services. On December 15, they raised money for a scholarship fund at Montrose School in the name of Patricia Kalwei Sanders. Sanders graduated from Montrose school in 1956. Montrose is a small school in SW Missouri. There are only 85 students. The scholarship fund was established by Jim Sanders, Patricia’s husband. He is a local resident.

The Lee’s Summit Jazz Orchestra did not disappoint. They played some great Christmas tunes with a jazz flavor. Some of the tunes were played using arrangements by Sammy Nestico who was also a composer for the Count Basie Band. Count Basie got his chops from his mother and was influenced by the Harlem pianists and the great Fats Waller.

If you are a TCM fan, you have probably seen the shorts of many of the great musicians and dancers. Count Basie has been featured a few times showcasing the famous dueling saxophonists Lester Young and Herschel Evans.

You may ask how I know some of this information. You might be surprised that my dear late mother Ida Axe was quite the jazz buff and owned many early jazz albums. She was in love with the big band sound. She got the opportunity to see many of these bands in her heyday. I heard many of her big band stories growing up. She would have loved the performance of The Lee’s Summit Jazz Orchestra.

I am chatting away here, but man the orchestra is good. I mean really good.

Amy Ketterman

The orchestra had two great vocalists, Amy and Matt Ketterman. Matt was the 2020 teacher of the year. He teaches at Longview Elementary. Amy has all of the melodious qualities of a big band singer from the 1930s and 40s. The Ketterman’s both sing with The Local KC Band.

Some great refreshments were served courtesy of The Downtown Deli and Market by Flavor. Yum. During one of the breaks, I had fun visiting with Lori Jacobs, who taught with Matt Ketterman in St. Louis. What a charming woman.

As I was driving home, I thought of all of the great stories that I have read about and heard about music in Lee’s Summit. Whether it was fiddle playing on Bob Belser’s front porch or Clarence Boggs and his Mandolin Society music had been the backbone of the great city. The mantle is passed from generation to generation.

Holy downbeat, I forgot to tell you a cool music educator named Ryan Heinlein from Johnson County Community College won the raffle item. It was a Pat Metheny Song Book donated by Pat Metheny’s management.

The entire evening was jazz hot baby.

Follow the Lee’s Summit Jazz Orchestra on Facebook. You can reach them at 816-585-7027.