Jazz - Then and Now (Chapter 9, page 1 of 3)


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Chapter 9

Kansas City was a vanguard of jazz and big bands during the 1920s and 1930s, with hotels providing dining and dancing to the more sophisticated white audiences. At the Baltimore Hotel, Jack Teagarden played his trombone. Ben Pollack's Orchestra and Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra alternated between the Bellerive Hotel. And the Coon-Sanders Band did a live radio broadcast on station WDAF at the Muehlebach. With the influx of hotels and ballrooms, jobs for big bands and small combo groups were plentiful.

Kansas City's black community had many theaters where black bands would perform to all-black audiences. These included the New State Theater, the Eblon Theater, the Lincoln Theater and the Panama Theater.

Entertainment for the theaters included the talents of blues singers, "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, Jimmy Rushing and Ida Cox, each with their own bands or small groups. Also appearing at these theaters were Joe "King" Oliver, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Benny Moten and Andy Kirk.

Kansas City musicians both black and white, enjoyed the heyday of the 1920s and 1930s. In addition to the hotels and theaters, night clubs were abundant. In one district of the city alone, there were over fifty night clubs. Throughout the city, there were hundreds of night clubs providing music.

Benny Moten's six-piece band could be heard at the Panama Club. Blues pianist Roy Searcy played alternately at the Rendezvous Club, the El Capitan Club and Bernie's Cocktail Lounge. The Novelty Club had a band that consisted of Count Basie, Walter Page, Jo Jones, Hot Lips Page and Lester Young.

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