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Book: Kansas City Jazz

Chapter: Prologue

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.42615


An introductory statement describing the sub-genre and its place in jazz history. Kansas City jazz moved away from the New Orleans model of collective improvisation in favor of solos backed by ensemble riffs, and subdued the difference between the strong and weakly-accented beats of New Orleans jazz, played in 2/4 rhythm, to a more even 4/4 bounce rhythm. Unlike other jazz styles, particularly bebop, there is no conventional Kansas City mode for soloists; Lester Young and Charlie Parker, both of whom played extensively within the Kansas City tradition, use different harmonic vocabularies and different melodic syntaxes, but both cut their musical teeth as members of Kansas City bands: in Young’s case, Walter Page’s Blue Devils, Benny Moten, Count Basie and Andy Kirk; in Parker’s case, Jay McShann, Harlan Leonard, George E. Lee and Lawrence Keyes.

Chapter Contributors

  • Con Chapman ( - conchapman) 'Music writer'