Kansas City Jazz: All Roads Lead to KC (1950s and Beyond)
Labconco’s 90-year history had its start in Kansas City. There are so many things to appreciate about our home town, and music is among our city’s most intriguing and influential mainstays…
Much like New Orleans, Kansas City is a melting pot and a swingin' Jazz and Blues capital. KC is often recognized more for its Jazz than its Blues; the two sounds often fused and overlapped in famed improvisational jams, turning the unique music of this Missouri border city into what is known as Kansas City Blues or Jump Blues.
Similar to our cross-state counterpart Saint Louis, Kansas City's blues and musical style played no small part in influencing what would become Rhythm and Blues and Rock n' Roll in the 1950s. Artists such as Tommy Douglas (Jelly Roll Morton's sideman) and Big Joe Turner recorded a number of notable songs with many of the same techniques that would inform the styles of R&B and Rock, not the least of which was the classic "Shout, Rattle & Roll."
Several famous blues artists have come out of KC or been pivotal in the development of Kansas City Blues. Musicians like internationally revered Jazz man Charlie Parker, William "Count" Basie, and Louis Jordan (who played the Kansas City Blues style, though he didn't live in KC) gave the Kansas City's musical style worldwide popularity and appeal. The Kansas City Blues Society, formed in 1980, is one of the oldest and most active in the country.
Today the Blues still burns red hot in Kansas City, much of it still infused with Jazz in an improvisational melting pot of musical genius. The legendary 18th and Vine resides in the heart of downtown Kansas City and is home to a number of clubs hosting excellent live Blues and Jazz, as well as the American Jazz Museum. Sharing yet another unique distinction with New Orleans' Bourbon Street, it's one of the few places in the country that has immunity from liquor laws and still serves alcohol 24 hours a day. Many festivals celebrate KC's musical mecca, including the aptly named Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival and the Boxcar Blues Festival.