Kansas City Style

Jazz is a style of music that emerged in the late XIX - early XX century in the USA due to fusion of European and African cultures. Soon it became exceptionally widespread. Characteristic features of jazz were originally improvisation, a unique set of methods of execution of rhythmic textures - swing and polyrhythm, based on syncopated rhythms. The further development of jazz occurred due to mastering of jazz musicians and composers of new harmonic patterns and rhythmic. Jazz originated as a combination of several musical cultures and national traditions. It originally came from the African land. Any African music has a substantially complicated rhythm. Music is always accompanied by dancing. On this basis, at the end of XIX century, another musical genre – ragtime - occurred.  Subsequently, ragtime rhythms combined with elements of blues gave birth to a new musical direction - jazz. From a regional folklore genre, jazz reduced to a nationwide musical direction, extending to the northern and north-eastern provinces of the United States. In the development of jazz, such cities as St. Louis, Kansas City and Memphis played  a vital role from the very beginning.

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When the swing boom just scheduled in the late 20's - early 30's, the independent music trend emerged in the South West of the United States, which later merged into the overall flow. Some critics believe that the development of jazz in this area was parallel with the development of New Orleans school. Early recordings of bands playing in this area suggest that they mainly satisfied demand for dance music, and jazz became the influence of Oliver and Henderson, who were often on tour there. However, principles of music in that region laid a tradition, which was slightly different from the tradition that formed the art of jazz in the East. Firstly, the U.S. Southwest was predominantly agrarian region in the early centuries. After slavery was abolished, mostly Negros lived there. Their work songs and gospel songs were an expression of traditions of the Negro folk music. Blues was especially popular in that area. All musicians from the West, unlike musicians from the East, brought elements of blues into jazz. Secondly, there were not enough professional musicians. It was more difficult to get to the theater or concert. Therefore, artists in this area were not well prepared musically. A few of them were able to write the score, but the majority could not even read it. Musicians often used a simple arrangement, which they harmonized aurally and memorized. The main part of the repertoire evolved during jam sessions, when the ensemble, usually accompanying a soloist, played short riffs, sometimes changing them in each chorus. There were many ready typical figures, but new ones were often created, when one of the performers offered the melodic line, and the others picked out harmony to it. Such pattern can be heard in the recording «Ad Lib Blues» made by a group of musicians, waiting in the studio for the arrival of Benny Goodman. Lester Young, accompanying Basie began riff; Buck Clayton caught it up. In the following chorus, Lester changed figure, and Clayton worked it out again. This happened almost spontaneously, and many of these riffs found wide application in future.

It would be wrong to say that all artists from the South-West had no musical training. Best ensembles such as Benny Moutena group used sometimes quite complex arrangements sometimes. Still, technically, they were weaker than their eastern counterparts, improvising only on the basis of blues and simple chords. The abovementioned factors, such as highlighting blues and imperfect technology, caused the emergence of a simplified style. The focus was on soloing and swing. Ensembles working in this style were so called "regional" groups. Each of them had its base in some town, for example, in Kansas City.

Kansas City gradually became another center of jazz. This was a city, where ranchers, farmers and railway workers from the surrounding area had fun. Such cities were always a fertile ground for the development of jazz. In night clubs, all musicians had a lot of work. In the life of jazz musicians, jam session played a particularly important role. In Kansas City, they were extremely reckless. A beginner should not just get involved in the execution, but compete with other musicians. Sometimes, these events lasted from midnight to noon. Kansas musicians grew into brilliant improvisers and genuine masters of swing.

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Kansas City was a jazz scene. During Prohibition and the Great Depression, it became a place of arrival of all jazz musicians, a kind of Mecca for fashionable styles of the thirties. A new direction of jazz, Kansas City Jazz, occurred there. It combined jazz with blues color. “The Kansas City style is most strongly identified with swing” (Clark 133). Kansas City jazz was characterized by a type of swing pulse (bounce), staunch four-bit, and a variety usage of techniques riffs and beat phrasing. It found traces of the influence of traditional jazz, ragtime and folk music of the Midwest. In some respects, Kansas style foreshadowed the later styles of modern jazz, in particular, bop and cool. Kansas City Jazz was played by large bands and small ensembles. This music became popular and was performed in a vigorous pace for the audience of bars, where people could get alcohol during Prohibition. In these underground pubs, distinguished Count Basie gained his style.

Basie Count is an American pianist, organist, bandleader arranger and composer (swing, modern jazz). Mother-pianist gave little William the first music lessons. He played the drums at school. He was involved in the role of a pianist in the orchestra of Elmer Snowden. Basie was delighted with the play of Fats Waller. From time to time, he toured the United States with vaudeville troupes, and in 1927, after the collapse of one of them, he stayed in Kansas City. Basie Count got a job of a pianist in the cinema, and so well improvised, accompanying silent films that a part of the audience went to listen to the pianist and not to watch movies. In 1928, he began playing in Walter Page's local band Blue Devils (“the happiest band in which I have ever played,” he would say later), and in 1930, he joined the orchestra of Benny Moutena.

Count Basie was satisfied by the role of a pianist of Benny Moutena local orchestra. If it were not for the sudden death of the latter, probably he would never have become a leader of the band. In 1935, Basie enrolled people in his first band. From Benny Moutena local orchestra, he left a few people, most of the rhythm section. In 1936, producer John Hammond overheard the band. He helped them in coming to New York. In 1938, the band was already considered the best Negro swinging team. Unlike other bands, which had only 23 improvising soloist, in Basie’s band almost all musicians were outstanding jazzmen. This allowed saturating the repertoire with fast plays based on the harmonic scheme of blues and almost "on the fly" composing riffs that supported temperamental improvisers. In the late 30's, saxophonists Lester Young, Herschell Evans, Earl Warren, trumpeters Buck Clayton, Harry Edison Suits, trombonist Benny Morton, Dickie Wells played in the orchestra. The band’s singing vocalist was Jimmy Rushing. Besides, there was a unique rhythm group (soon to be the best in America), which included bassist Walter Page, drummer Jo Jones, rhythm guitarist Freddie Green and Basie himself. In 1939, Basie organized an ensemble of soloists - Kansas City Seven - inside the orchestra. In the same year, this ensemble made his debut at Carnegie Hall. By that time, hits “Jive at Five” (theme of Harry Suitsa Edison), ballad “Blue and Sentimental”, fast blues “Swingin the Blues” (both themes of C. Basie), and above all “One O’Clock Jump” (Basie) were created. In the 40s, saxophonist Buddy Tate, Don Bayes, Lucky Thompson, Illinois Dzhekket, trumpeter Joe Newman, trombonist Vic Dickenson, Jay Jay Johnson, singer Helen Hyums came in the orchestra. By 1944, more than three million records of the band were sold. However, after a few years (in 1947), the orchestra had to be disband. For four years, Basie recorded and performed only with septet. He managed to raise a new orchestra in 1951. By 1954, the band again won a leading position in the American jazz. Arrangers Neal Hefti, Frank Foster and Ernie Wilkins developed the so-called "percussive method", built on sharp dynamic contrasts and powerful playing drums, highlighting all the accents of melodic lines and fills pauses.

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Some artists strived for the composer's self-expression "through" their soloists; Basie, however, tried to interfere as little as possible in the natural course of events. His style of playing the piano was exceptionally indicative. “As a pianist, Basie developed a simple playing style that allowed him to embellish and punctuate a band’s sound rather than dominate it” (Kliment 22). He almost never soloed. His sparse chords or single notes seemed only arranged punctuation in already played arrangements. Some musicians were admired from a distance. People did not hesitate to learn in Basie’s arrangers and soloists. Count Basie did not consider himself as a composer or arranger, even though without things that were written for his band and with his participation (for example, “One O'Clock Jump”, “Shiny Stockings”, “Allright, Okay, You Win” and "outsourced" ballads “April in Paris”), there would be no modern repertoire of large bands. Arrangers Neal Hefti, Sam Nestik, Quincy Jones started at Basie and became the best experts in their jobs; for instance, Jones became one of the most famous producers. Not surprisingly that the band of Basie accompanied many famous singers - from bluesmen Jimmy Rushing and Joe Williams to vocal trio Lambert - Hendricks - Ross and Frank Sinatra.

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