Feeling the vibe: Leigh Kamman kept jazz alive

Leigh Kamman, shortly before he retired
Leigh Kamman, shortly before he retired in 2007.
Courtesy Sara Rubinstein

MPR News editor David Cazares and bassist Chris Bates focus this week on the legacy of Leigh Kamman, the acclaimed broadcaster who brought jazz to Twin Cities stages and to Minnesota Public Radio audiences on Saturday night.

Kamman started his jazz broadcasting career in 1940. For decades, he hosted The Jazz Image on Minnesota Public Radio News, interviewing jazz greats Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Sarah Vaughn.

Even after he retired in 2007, Kamman remained a presence in Twin Cities jazz circles. He died in October.

On Sunday, the Twin Cities jazz community will celebrate Kamman's life at the Saint Paul Hotel.

Chris Bates says Kamman's focus was to spread the word about the music. He also had a great respect for jazz artists. That's why a so many musicians will perform in his honor — from drummer Eric Gravatt and guitarist Dean Magraw to singer Debbie Duncan, saxophonist Doug Haining and trombonist Brad Bellows.

"He just had such a beautiful way of interacting with people and that came from his knowledge of the music and turned right back into the music," Bates says. "The artists that he interviewed felt like they could actually have a conversation with him. They weren't just talking to an interviewer. They were talking to a person who they could really relate to.

"Ultimately that's what this music is all about, trying to make those community connections and seeing that there's this continuity and a continuum involved here. This music is going to go forward, regardless of all other factors in the world. And Leigh was just really brilliant at elucidating that idea to everyone."

Also in this episode, a look at the broad variety of shows coming up in the Twin Cities, among them performances by Seven Steps to Havana, the Atlantis Quartet, the Illicit Sextet and trombonist Steve Davis.

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