Jazz may have originated in the New Orleans area, but it then disseminated all across the United States. In a few places, it found a particularly fertile environment which allowed it to evolve in a very particular, characteristic way.
Kansas City Style
Starting in the 1920s, Kansas City, Missouri, transformed itself in the Mecca for young jazz musicians. The city’s conditions were particularly favourable. Kansas City was far enough from the biggest cities in the East and West to be influenced, but not suffocated by their styles of jazz. It was also a crossroad for the railroad and for domestic flights, with people (and musicians) coming and going on a daily bases.
During Prohibition, it applied a ‘wide open’ policy that allowed entertainment industry to prosper.
No wonder it became a hotbed for jazz experimentation.
All this permitted the evolution of a distinguished style of jazz characterised by competition and strong experimentation. Jam sessions supposedly emerged in Kansas City, where big bands, big gathering of musicians, were the norm. Kansas City jazz style relied greatly on improvisation, repetitive phrases and riffs. Because many of the early practitioners of Kansas City jazz were travelling musicians staying in town only briefly, the musical arrangement remained simple enough for all to learn quickly, so to allow a high lever of improvisation.
New Orleans Style
It was the most popular in the Twenties, but also the style that most suffered in the following decades. Based on small bands, leaning very much on the brass and percussions sections, presented a highly syncopated sound and relied greatly on communal improvisation.
Because many performers had immigrated from the Mississippi region, the Chicago style resembles a lot New Orleans style. It relied mostly on smaller ensembles, was very harmonic and innovative in the arrangement.
New York Style
The piano took a central importance in this big band style of music. The traditional southern brass instrumentation was played by piano, which was considered a wealthier, more sophisticated instrument.
The first piano style to be incorporated into jazz was the stride piano, which was very popular in New York City.
Big orchestras were the norm.
Scalar – Paris of the Plains
Encyclopedia of the Great Plains – Kansas City Jazz
Encyclopedia of Chicago – Jazz
wttw – From Riot s to Renaissance – Jazz and Blues Music
Jass – Jazz, the first thirty years
River Walk Jazz – New York Session: the Evolution of Studio Bands
Greg Tivis – Jazz Style, the sub-genres