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Book: Kansas City Jazz

Chapter: Jay McShann and the Last of the Great Kansas City Bands

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.42629


The development of Jay McShann from a natural on the piano to the leader of the group that threatened to displace Count Basie as the city’s top dance band is detailed. McShann’s group was innovative and provided Charlie Parker with his first recording opportunity, but they were pigeon-holed by success backing rhythm and blues vocal numbers and as a result their more innovative bop-flavored music did not receive the attention it deserved. The band broke up when McShann was inducted into the U.S. Army during World War II, a fate he could have avoided had he responded to induction notices as he would have been medically disqualified due to flat feet.

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