Kansas City jazz is a style of jazz that developed in Kansas City during the 1920s and 1930s, which marked the transition from the structured big band style to the musical improvisation style of Bebop. The hard-swinging, bluesy transition style is bracketed by Count Basie who in 1929 signed with the Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra and Kansas City native Charlie Parker who ushered in the Bebop style in America. "While New Orleans was the birthplace of jazz, America's music grew up in Kansas City". Kansas City is known as one of the most popular "cradles of jazz". Other cities include New Orleans, Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New York City. Kansas City was known for the organized musicians of the Local 627 A.F.M., which controlled a number of venues in the city.
The first band from Kansas City to acquire a national reputation was the Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra, a white group which broadcast nationally in the 1920s. However, the Kansas City jazz school is identified with the black bands of the 1920s and 1930s, including bands led by Bennie Moten, Andy Kirk, Harlan Leonard, George E. Lee, William "Count" Basie, and Jay McShann.
Kansas City in the 1930s was very much the crossroads of the United States resulting in a mix of cultures. Transcontinental trips at the time whether by plane or train often required a stop in the city. The era marked the zenith of power of political boss Tom Pendergast. Kansas City was a wide open town with liquor laws and hours totally ignored and was called the new Storyville. Most of the jazz musicians associated with the style were born in other places but got caught up in the friendly musical competitions among performers that could keep a single song being performed in variations for an entire night. Often members of the big bands would perform at regular venues earlier in the evening and go to the jazz clubs later to jam for the rest of the night.
Claude "Fiddler" Williams described the scene:
Among the clubs were the Amos 'n' Andy, Boulevard Lounge, Cherry Blossom, Chesterfield Club, Chocolate Bar, Dante's Inferno, Elk's Rest, Hawaiian Gardens, Hell's Kitchen, the Hi Hat, the Hey Hay Club, Lone Star, Old Kentucky Bar-B-Que, Paseo Ballroom, Pla-Mor Ballroom, Reno Club, Spinning Wheel, Street's Blue Room, Subway, and Sunsetx.
Kansas City jazz is distinguished by the following musical elements:
This section does not cite any sources. (February 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Kansas City influence overtly transferred to the national scene in 1936 when record producer John H. Hammond cemented his career by discovering Kansas City talent, in the shape of Count Basie.
Pendergast was to be convicted of income tax evasion in 1940 and the city cracked down on the clubs effectively ending the era.
Beginning in the 1970s Kansas City has attempted to celebrate the heritage by taking off the rough edges for family friendly environments. In the 1970s, the city tried to create a jazz enclave in the River Quay area on the Missouri River in the City Market neighborhood. Three of the clubs were bombed during a mob war that ultimately also led to the demise of mob influence of Las Vegas casinos that was depicted in the 1995 movie Casino.
Each year Kansas City celebrates "Jazzoo" - a charity fundraiser dedicated to Kansas City jazz and raising funds for the Kansas City Zoo. In 2011, Jazzoo was one of the Nation's largest charity fundraisers, raising over $800,000.
In 2003 the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra is formed and begins a regular fall - spring concert season. The band celebrates many styles of jazz while also bringing some of Kansas City's own flavor to the music. They currently perform most of their concerts at the Kauffman Center of the Performing Arts.
In October of 2017, Kansas City, Missouri was designated a "Creative City" by UNESCO for its contributions to music.
Early jazz and swing era music: