Stevie Wonder’s band joined the jam session at the Mutual Musicians’ Foundation on Friday night

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In a rare and wonderful moment of serendipity, I found myself at the Mutual Musicians’ Foundation on Friday night, in the early hours of the morning. It was looking like most other nights there (that is, exceptional jazz being delivered in the historic Local 627 space) until sax player Ryan Kilgore was introduced by drummer Tyree Johnson.

“We have some special guests here tonight,” Johnson said, smiling into the microphone. “They’ve just come from Stevie Wonder. Would you like to hear them play?”

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Kilgore had been sitting in the audience, watching the local jazz ensemble joyfully burst through an ever-evolving jam session. He’d come straight to the Foundation from the Sprint Center — where he’d just wrapped up an epic three-and-a-half hour set with Wonder (whom he has been performing with since 2007). He was sitting with a few others who were also recognizable from that earlier concert, and several more of Wonder’s players would filter in the room between 3 and 5 in the morning — including harmonica player Frédéric Yonnet. 

“I feel like this is my first time really seeing Kansas City,” Kilgore said before he began to play. “This is what it’s about, right here in this room.” 

#kcmo #steviewonder #jazz “this is what we're here for” – ryan kilgore

A video posted by natalie gallagher (@frecklednfab) on

For two hours, Kilgore, Yonnet and a host of other artists overwhelmed the stage at the Foundation. Kilgore seemed particularly impressed by young saxophonist Ernest Melton — he played with a candid, unselfconscious abandon that was as breathtaking as Yonnet’s unbelievable precision on the harmonica

The crowd was mixed — an assortment of rapt Foundation regulars, giddy (and wasted) Royals fans and a few oblivious attendees who seemed to be more interested in the still-open bar. There were no more than 40 people upstairs at the fullest moment. Wonder’s musicians departed with wide smiles, the bliss of the night shining clearly on their faces. 

“That was incredible,” I overheard one wide-eyed audience member say to Kilgore as he passed by on his way to the stairs. “Are you staying? One more?”

“No,” Kilgore replied, “We’ve got to go. We leave in six hours.”

See also:
Stevie Wonder celebrated ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ with Janelle Monae and a Royals win last night at the Sprint Center

Categories: Music