There is a magic time in the city that only a select few get to see…the newspaper distributors, the night watchmen, the milk man and me. A time when the city sleeps and the streets are empty, the party is over and the work day is no more than a spectre of the future on a slumbering dreamer’s brow.
Kansas City late at night, month of December during an unseasonable warm spell. Portrait of a city that hasn’t let it’s size elapse it’s beauty or it’s home town feel, still a cow town, still an eclectic blend of art deco, modernism and functionality.. A city full of secrets waiting to be uncovered and stories to be told of cowboys and Indians, gangsters and g-men. This is my city and I alone, atop this downtown structure stand watch as the red lights change to green for cars that are safe at home in driveways and garages. Just me, my camera and some softly playing Kansas City Jazz on the stereo….It is said that although New Orleans was the birthplace of Jazz, Kansas City is where Jazz grew up.
Unlike more commercial swing, Kansas City jazz is built upon head arrangements, — musical ideas or riffs that were rarely written down, but provided the foundation for Kansas City musicians to improvise all night long. Kansas City musicians did not play the blues so much as stomp them. Notable Jazz critic and American literary Albert Murray once wrote, “The special drive of Kansas City music is … a device for herding or even stampeding the blues away. [T]he KC drummer not only maintains that ever steady yet always flexible transcontinental locomotive-like drive of the KC 4/4, he also behaves for all the world like a whip-cracking trail driver. And so do Kansas City brass ensembles on occasion also yap and snap precisely as if in pursuit of some invisible quarry, with the piano player siccing them on.”
There were many factors that led to the gradual demise of Kansas City as a proving ground for the best and brightest in the jazz world, but late at night, with the music stomping on the radio high above the city streets, you can almost feel the energy from the countless speak easies & cabarets long since closed on the boulevards below. A time past, but not forgotten, the music holds the memories close.
18th & Vine, A playlist of Kansas City Jazz on Mog by me.
Kansas City Ballad by Tommy Gwaltney’s Kansas City Nine
Good Mornin’ Blues by Buck Clayton
Wichita Blues by Charlie Parker
Blues in the Dark by Count Basie and his Orchestra
Too Marvelous for Words by Lester Young
One O’clock Jump by Hershel Evans
I Can’t Love You Anymore Than I Do by Coleman Hawkins and his Orchestra
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by Joe Turner
51st & Swope by Claude Williams
Boogie Woogie by Pete Johnson
Dameron Stomp by Harlan Leonard & His Rockets
I Got It Bad by Charlie Parker
I Won’t Be Here Long by Hot Lips Page
Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone by Sammie Price
She’s Crying For Me by Dewey Jackson’s Peacock Orchestra
Laughing At Life by Kansas City Five
Vine Street Blues – Parts 1 & 2 by Harry James
Baby Dear by Mary Lou Williams and her Kansas City Seven
The Blue Room by Benny Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra
Froggy Bottom by Andy Kirk and His Clouds of Joy
Blue Devil Blues by Walter Page’s Blue Devils
Vine Street Boogie by Jay McShann and his Orchestra
Kansas City Stomps by Jellie Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers