Jazz - Then and Now (Chapter 9, page 2 of 3)


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Chapter 9

However, the Sunset Club, the Subway Club and the Reno Club served a different purpose for jazz musicians. It was at these clubs the musicians unwind after their regular working hours by participating in all-night "jam" sessions. The clubs would hire a good house band which usually consisted of a piano, bass and drums, and the rest of the music would be provided by the musicians who came in with their various instruments and played for their own entertainment.

At jam sessions, black and white musicians played together. There were no color barriers here. Musicians respected each other's talents. At any given night, the best jazz musicians in Kansas City joined together and "jammed." Some of the names were, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Charlie Parker, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Count Basie and a host of others. The club owners took delight in these jam sessions, because it brought the people in to listen and buy drinks.

As jazz grew in popularity in Kansas City, so did the size of the bands. In the early 1920s, the bands usually consisted of a cornet, clarinet, trombone and a rhythm section of piano, drums, banjo and tuba.

Gradually, such small groups were augmented into big bands consisting of a complete brass section, three trumpets and two trombones, a reed section of either four or five saxes. The sax players also doubled on clarinet. The rhythm section composed of a piano, drums, banjo or guitar and string bass or tuba.

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