Founded in the 1980s, the Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors is dedicated to preserving the rich Kansas City jazz tradition and helping to ensure its future. Gary Becker, President of the Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors, credits a great deal of the city’s current and future jazz heritage to one of its most renowned native sons: celebrated jazz saxophonist, composer, arranger and educator Bobby Watson.
Watson, who plays regularly at several venues around town, returned to Kansas City after traveling the world to become director of jazz studies at the UMKC Conservatory of Music, internationally recognized as a center for artistic excellence, innovation and engagement.
“Bobby traveled with the legendary Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, where he learned how to play, dress and behave as an artist,” Becker says. “He’s also traveled for over 25 years with many other notable jazz artists. Now he’s brought back all of his experience and unique style, and imparted it with students that have been under his tutelage for years now.”
Those students have created their own high standard of musicianship and style, while simultaneously passing that knowledge and experience down to the next generation, allowing jazz in the city to continue to grow.
“When people go out and have a jazz experience here, they get the gist of what Kansas City is all about,” Becker says. “I do not believe that the Kansas City jazz scene would be where it is today if not for the Jazz Ambassadors, and Bobby Watson coming back to Kansas City.”