Southwest jazz [Kansas City jazz]
- Marc Rice
[Kansas City jazz]
A style of jazz developed in the 1920s and 30s unique to Kansas City and the Southwest. It grew from the ragtime traditions of Missouri, the blues of the Southwest, and the fierce musical and economic competition that was a fact of life for the territory bands working in the region. Features of the mature Southwest style include a heavy emphasis on improvisation, a driving 4/4 beat, and the influence of blues forms and harmonies.
Kansas City was the focal point of jazz in the Midwest and Southwest, due to its vibrant African American communities, and a political climate that enabled the presence of alcohol and vice in venues where the music was performed. The city was home to dozens of musicians and several bands, the most important of which were the Bennie Moten and George E. Lee Orchestras. There were dance halls and many jazz clubs where local and visiting musicians were allowed to experiment, and to challenge each other through “cutting contests” that demonstrated their improvisation skills. (...