Kansas City (AtoZ Challenge 2016 – Jazz Age Jazz)

Kansas City (Jazz Age Jazz Series) Together with New Orleans, Chicago and New York, Kansas City was where jazz came of age

Jazz Age Jazz - Kansas City

JAZZ AGE JAZZ - Kansas City may be where jam sessions started off #jazz #AtoZChallenge Click To Tweet

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

K - Kansas City (AtoZ Challenge 2016)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.

William Count Basie

William “Count” Basie

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.

Chicago Style

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

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About the Author

I was born, raised and I still live near Verona (Italy), though I worked for a time in Dublin. I started writing fantasy stories as a kid. Today I’m a bookseller who reads fantasy, history, mythology, anthropology and lots of speculative fiction. Somehow, all of this has found its way into my own dieselpunk stories.

22 Comments on "Kansas City (AtoZ Challenge 2016 – Jazz Age Jazz)"

  1. Interesting the different styles of jazz that started, in particular the New York style and use of piano. My son might have liked the big Orchestra sound. He competed in jazz piano while in college.

  2. I assume this is the reason for the song ‘Kansas City Here I Come?’ Now I know!
    Megan Morgan recently posted…K – KinesicsMy Profile

  3. Having spent a fair amount of time in New Orleans, that will always be my favorite but Kansas City is interesting. You know so much!!!

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    Kathleen Valentine recently posted…K is for Kit: Blogging the #AtoZchallengeMy Profile

  4. Is Kansas City style where the Glen Miller sound (swing in general) grew out of? Or am I just all mixed up?
    Robin Rivera recently posted…Masterplots Theater: K is for KinsmenMy Profile

  5. Never saw Kansas as a Jazz center. Very interesting!
    Yolanda Renee recently posted…K – KNIFEMy Profile

  6. And now Kansas City hosts the new headquarters of the National Storytelling Network 🙂 They are still a good place for art, I hear…

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
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    Tarkabarka recently posted…K is for Knights of all kindsMy Profile

  7. I’m a fan of the old jazz greats and some of the new ones. Your post was a pleasure to read. Love Basie and Ellington bands. Dropping in to visit via the A to Z challenge!

  8. I would’ve never thought Kansas had such places/theaters. Love the videos you’ve chosen and thanks for sharing. I learned a lot from your Post.

    • Outside the US, you rarely hear about this city, but I’m learning from all your comments this is actually a good place to make any form of art 🙂

  9. I had no idea there were city specific styles. For such a large country it makes perfect sense, but it had never occurred to me :).
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)
    Tasha recently posted…L – The Librarian & Ray Lynskey – Fictional Phantoms #AtoZChallenge 2016My Profile

    • I’ve been aware of chicago style and new york style since the beginning of my research, but I didn’t know there were actually many cities claming their own jazz style.

  10. Never knew about Kansas City style jazz, so learning yet again. Thanks Sarah.

    Also great that so many blogs have chosen K for Kansas/Kansas City and yet all add another facet to the place.
    Roland Clarke recently posted…M for Mimetic – #atozchallengeMy Profile

  11. Thanks for distinguishing between the types of jazz by locale. Since I can play the piano, I guess I can try some New York Style jazz if I were to ever join a jazz band.
    Cynthia recently posted…O: Joyce Carol Oates & FOXFIREMy Profile

    • You should definitely try. I’ve discovered while researching this topic, that jazz is a kind of music that graws over you little by little. It’s sneaky like that 😉

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