Resources

Jazz was born in New Orleans, but it was raised in Kansas City.
Of the four American jazz cradles, Kansas City has been neglected the most in terms of documentation, scholarly research and overall recognition. If you'd like to learn more about the vibrant history and traditions of Kansas City jazz, check out these resources:

"In this colorful history, Frank Driggs and Chuck Haddix capture the golden age of Kansas City jazz, and bring us a colorful portrait of old Kaycee itself, back then a neon riot of bars, bambling dens, and taxi dance halls, all ruled over by Boss Tom Pendergast, who had transformed a dusty cowtown into the Paris of the Plains. The authors show how this wide-open, gin-soaked town gave birth to a music that was more basic and more viscerally exciting than other styles of jazz, its singers belting out a rough-and-tumble urban style of blues, its piano players pounding out a style laterknown as "boogie-woogie."

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If you are unfamiliar with the Kansas City Women's Jazz Festival, this book written by local author Carolyn Glenn Brewer is a must

"Even though ripples caused by the potential passage of the Equal Right Amendment had cracked glass ceilings across the country, jazz remained a boys’ club. Two Kansas City women, Carol Comer and Dianne Gregg, challenged that inequitable standard. In 1978 they emphatically proved jazz genderless by creating the Kansas City Women’s Jazz Festival (WJF) thereby changing the course of jazz history.

With the support of jazz luminaries Marian McPartland and Leonard Feather, inaugural performances by Betty Carter, Mary Lou Williams, an unprecedented All-Star band of women, Toshiko Akiyoshi’s band, plus dozens of Kansas City musicians and volunteers, a casual conversation between two friends evolved into an annual event.

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Melba Liston came out of retirement to play at WJF. The International Sweethearts of Rhythm reunited after forty years at WJF. Performers as diverse and Carla Bley, Cleo Laine, Jane Ira Bloom, and Joanne Brackeen shared their music with fans from all over the country. Jam sessions, clinics, student band performances, and Top New Talent concerts all complimented the Sunday night Main Concerts. Playing on a WJF stage always meant a female musician no longer felt she had to “play like a man,” but could proudly play as a woman.

But with success came controversy. Anxious to satisfy fans of all jazz styles, WJF alienated some purists. The inclusion of male sidemen brought on protests. The egos of established, seasoned players unexpectedly clashed with those of newcomers.

Undaunted, Comer, Gregg, and WJF’s ensemble of supporters continued the cause. They fought for equality not with speeches but with swing, without protest signs but with bebop."

This free, user-friendly, digital resource includes photographs, articles, a curated playlist, a digitized record collection, and an interactive map of jazz venues throughout Kansas City from the late 1910s to the early 1940s. The jazz page is a part of a larger collection, The Pendergast Years, that documents "the interwar period when "Boss" Tom Pendergast exerted powerful influence over the civic and cultural life of Kansas City." This resource is brought to you by the Kansas City Public Library and partner organizations, including the American Jazz Museum, UMKC University Libraries, Kansas City Museum, and The Black Archives of Mid-America.

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