By Kathy Feist
From the outside, Mr. Biggs Place doesn’t look like much. But the unmistakable sound of live jazz emanating from within generates much promise.
Mr. Biggs Place, 12402 Blue Ridge Blvd, is bringing live jazz and R&B to Grandview. And not just musicians getting their start, but major hitters in the local–and national–jazz scene.
On the regular lineup is Will Matthews on Wednesday, a local jazz heavyweight who has traveled the world performing rhythm guitar in the Count Basie Band since 1996 when he was selected to fill Basie guitarist Freddie Green’s role.
Another heavy hitter on the Biggs roster is New Age keyboardist Max Groove who performs on Thursdays. His compositions such as “Midnight Rain” made the top Billboard charts in the ’90s, playing on popular smooth jazz radio stations everywhere.
Other locals showing up at Mr. Biggs include jazz fusion band JWB (James Ward Band), longtime KC jazz staple bassist/guitarist Ricky Anderson, flutist Jazzy Jazz, and a sundry of other jazz and Motown bands whose musicians live near south KC.
On one particular Wednesday night, Will Matthews and his band Saturday Night Trio were playing jazzed up versions of classic R&B songs. An appreciative audience, drawn into Matthews’ instrumentation of “People Make the World Go Round,” spontaneously began singing the lyrics. Throughout the night, members were moved by the music to get up and dance.
Mr. Biggs Place is actually a small place, which makes for a more intimate and enjoyable atmosphere. It doesn’t take much for 35 people to fill most of the room and feel like family in the process.
“We want to make people happy,” says owner Carlos Biggs. “We want this to be a nice music venue for south Kansas City and the Grandview area.”
Carlos and his wife of 25 years, Tammie Echols-Biggs, purchased the business in May 2021. Carlos found the location advertised on Craig’s List. “It was during the pandemic and the bar owners were tired of dealing with it,” he says. “So I checked it out and thought ‘OK. I can do this.’ I always wanted to own a bar.”
Formerly the Elbow’s Bend, a Pittsburg Steelers-themed sports bar and pool hall, the space required some renovation and elbow grease to turn it into an entertainment venue. With Tammie’s touch, the walls were painted red and black, crystal chandeliers were hung from the ceiling, cushioned chairs were wrapped with silver and gold fabric, tables were graced with black cotton table cloths, and old carpeting was replaced with new tiled flooring and dark carpet. A stage was created at the north wall, with new lighting, sound and electronics.
Currently, Mr. Biggs Place serves drinks only, with free hors d’oeuvres from 6 to 9 pm. Tammie says she has recently filed with the City of Grandview for a food license and hopes to bring in a variety of pop-up chefs after a small kitchen is installed.
During showtime, Tammie works behind the bar, creating aptly named cocktails such as the Mr. Biggs or the Mrs. Biggs. Carlos works the hors d’oeuvres table. But the two, who are both musicians, could easily be behind the microphone. Carlos has performed in local R&B bands for 30 years and Tammie, who sings gospel and R&B, for 15. The two have their own quartet, KC Galaxy Showband.
Mr. Biggs Place is purposely geared toward an older audience.
“We want people to come in here and relax and not have to worry,” says Carlos. “It’s mostly an older, laid-back crowd. They are a lot calmer and know how to act. So far it’s been OK.”
Both Carlos and Tammie are appreciative of fellow musicians who are supporting their cause.
“They put on a good show,” says Carlos. “You can’t go nowhere to get that out here.”
Mr. Biggs Place is open seven days a week starting at 3 pm, featuring live music on Wednesday through Saturday.