Practically every year we’ve had the Coleman Hawkins Jazz Festival, Everette DeVan has been a part of it.
The highly esteemed Kansas city jazz musician entertained the St. Joseph crowds with his brilliant and soulful playing on the Hammond B-3 Organ.
I’ll miss the sight of Everette unloading his massive organ from a trailer and hauling it up on the Coleman Hawkins Park stage. That was a sign we all were soon going to hear that classic DeVan B-3 sound soaring through the crowd.
Everette DeVan died July 3 this year from health complications. He was 71 years old.
In many ways his death leaves a huge hole in the Kansas City jazz scene as well as our own festival.
His playing typified the new Kansas City jazz sound. His B-3 sound owed as much to the past as it was dedicated to the future. It was at once rocking and soulful with traditional flourishes.
Not only was Everette a master organist but a mentor to other Kansas City jazz musicians like Eboni Fondren and Chris Hazelton.
Both were interviewed in a Kansas City Star tribute to Everette.
“He was good about coaching and bringing on new people,” Fondren said while calling Everette her music education.
Hazelton said he was first introduced to Everette at Kansas City Kansas Community College.
“I was enthralled by the sound and performance he gave (on the B-3),” Hazelton said.
Both Fondren and Hazelton have played in our local jazz festival at different times.
Everette was born Feb. 5, 1950, in Pueblo, Colorado. His was a musical family, and he began taking piano lessons at 5 years old.
It was an uncle that encouraged him to pursue jazz.
Everette attended the Conservatory of Music in Pueblo, where he played everything from drums to tuba and bass.
He moved to Kansas City at 18 years old. He formed the popular group ssSlick.
Everette’s wife, Mary “Gaye” DeVan, said her husband could play the organ like no one else.
“He would talk to it and it would talk back,” she said.
Everette was awarded many honors in his illustrious career.
He was inducted as an elder statesman of Kansas City Jazz in 2000. He won the Frank Smith Spirit Award that year as well.
In 2006, then-Governor Matt Blunt named him a “Missouri Jazz Treasure.” In 2016, Everette was inducted into the America Jazz Walk of Fame.
I’ve said this many times over the years: We of the Coleman Hawkins Jazz Heritage Society have tried to introduce St. Joseph residents to jazz for free that would cost $50 a ticket or more if the performers were seen individually. Our goal is to introduce local folks to jazz in its many forms, from Big Band to cool jazz, fusion and traditional.
A few years ago we combined our Coleman Hawkins Jazz Festival and our Coleman Hawkins Blues Festival into one integrated jazz and blues festival called “Hawkfest.”
We will hold Hawkfest this year Sept. 17 and 18 at Coleman Hawkins Park at Felix Street Square. As always, it’s free. So come out and see us and listen to America’s music.