Jazzin' it up at Congress

In Kansas City, the barbecue is hot and the jazz is even hotter.

You'll find that out for yourself during Congress at the Get Acquainted Party on Sunday, September 22. Kansas City's recently renovated Union Station—the redevelopment project was named one of APWA's Projects of the Year in 2000—is an exquisite setting for the party, which will showcase the best that Kansas City has to offer.

And part of that showcase includes an appearance by The McFadden Brothers, a couple of Kansas City natives who have been entertaining since they were in elementary school. Lonnie and Ronnie McFadden learned to sing, play instruments, and dance at home under the tutelage of their father, Kansas City hoofer and entertainer Smilin' Jimmy McFadden. Their father danced with the likes of The Count Basie Orchestra, Jay McShann, and many of the top name entertainers and orchestras of the 30s and 40s.

Following in their father's footsteps, Lonnie and Ronnie McFadden have been entertaining audiences around the world with their unique blend of dancing, singing, doing comedy bits, and playing various instruments including piano, organ, saxophone and trumpet. They have played at major jazz festivals around the United States, Europe and Japan, and have performed with some of the biggest names in show business like Sammy Davis Jr., Wayne Newton, and Ben Vereen.

Also performing at the Get Acquainted Party is the Tim Whitmer Quartet. Tim Whitmer, KC's Piano Man, is the prodigal son of Kansas City jazz. Influenced by the likes of Jay McShann, Mary Lou Williams and Count Basie, Whitmer has honed his own unique piano style and has treated audiences from all over the world to a taste of Kansas City swing jazz. Indeed, when Whitmer played New York City jazz clubs, the Village Voice called him "the best swing band to come out of Kansas City since Jay McShann."

Whitmer has performed internationally at both the Lugano and Montreaux Jazz Festivals in Switzerland and graced the stage of numerous national festivals. Whitmer's staff of musicians, KC Express, further reinforce the age-spanning appeal of swing. He's backed by the best artists in Kansas City, mixing musicians who originated swing's sound with younger talents who carefully preserve the swing tradition.

Jazzin' it up at the banquet
If you're a fan of vocal jazz, you won't be disappointed at this year's Congress Banquet. Held September 25 at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown, the banquet will feature Angela Hagenbach, one of KC's finest jazz vocalists. The daughter of a successful Kansas City jazz musician of the 1930s, Hagenbach grew up in a musical family and played the trombone for 14 years before embarking on a successful international modeling career, then returning to KC to become one of the very best jazz singers around.

Selected by the U.S. State Department and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Hagenbach has participated in several international tours as a Jazz Ambassador to the world and has headlined at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Her CD "Weaver of Dreams" earned three Grammy Award nominations, including Album of the Year, Best New Artist, and Best Jazz Vocal Album. Her style is upbeat and up-tempo, an eclectic mix of straight-ahead jazz, hot Latin jazz, and blues touched with an edge of funk.

The entertainment at this year's International Public Works Congress and Exposition represents a great variety of Kansas City jazz at its best. You won't want to miss any of it!

Along with the jazz, there's plenty of additional entertainment at the Get Acquainted Party:

  • Watch out for the ghost of Baby Face Nelson (one of the toughest of the Depression-era gangsters) haunting the site of the 1933 "Massacre at Union Station."

  • Chat with legendary first baseman and the first black coach in major league baseball, Buck O'Neil.

  • Keep an eye out for Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion near the "Wizard of Oz" collage.

  • Listen to a professional singing cowboy in front of the CowParade collage (CowParade was a 2001 public art event featuring life-size, fiberglass cows painted and decorated by local artists).

  • Enjoy the interactive Science City museum at Union Station, which will be open to all Congress participants during the hours of the Get Acquainted Party. Science City is filled with dozens of hands-on interactive science displays.

  • Décor, food and entertainment venues will depict the rich heritage and diverse culture of Kansas City.

  • We'll even play on our "cowtown" image, with reminders of the annual American Royal rodeo and livestock show.
Keep in mind that the most mouth-waterin' barbecue west of the Mississippi (or east, for that matter) will be right here waiting for you at the Get Acquainted Party. So come get acquainted and get a taste of the real Kansas City!