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Goin' To Kansas City
open our order pageNathan W. Pearson, Jr
University of Illinois Press, 1987
Hardback. 272pp. b&w illustrations

The great bands of the Kansas City era - The Blue Devils, Bennie Moten, Andy Kirk, the Kansas City Rockets, Count Basie and Jay McShann - rank among the most exciting groups in jazz. These musicians brought together many different musical styles to create a distinctive Kansas City jazz that was among the finest expressions of swing, and laid the groundwork for modern jazz.

Goin' to Kansas City tells the story of the community, primarily through the recollections of many who were active participants. Through interviews that provide first-hand accounts of such prominent musicians as Mary Lou Williams, Buck Clayton, and Buster Smith, and accompanying narrative, Nathan Pearson offers an intimate view of the times and lore of this important centre of American music, its development, and its great bands.

Kansas City has long been recognised as having been a major jazz centre, ranking in importance only behind New York, New Orleans, and Chicago. From the mid-1920s through the late 1930s, jazz musicians from the central states of America were "goin' to Kansas City" in search of jobs, musical challenge, and good times. When they arrived they entered a musical community that was extraordinarily supportive, demanding, and artistically uplifting. Pearson's social history reveals how this unique jazz style developed in the context of Kansas City's political and economic environment prior to World War II.

Kansas City jazz prospered while most of America suffered through the Great Depression, largely because of the corrupt but economically stimulating administration of Boss Tom Pendergast. Jazz was the popular social music of the time, and the centres of vice - nightclubs and gambling halls - usually hired musicians to attract customers. The serendipitous results were plentiful but low-paying jobs for jazz musicians from throughout the Mid-west and an outpouring of great new music.

NATHAN W. PEARSON, Jr., is trained as an ethnomusicologist and is a management consultant in New York City.

"Nathan Pearson and his colleague, Howard Litwak, did a wonderful job of locating and interviewing these oldtimers, and their documentation is full. Goin' to Kansas City will be useful to the sizeable audience interested in jazz in a scholarly way, which includes not only academic ethnomusicologist and other music types but also many people who have no academic affiliation but nevertheless specialise in jazz history. In addition, a lot of scholars are interested in materials like this as a basis for sociological and historical generalisation." - HOWARD S. BECKER

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Kansas City Jazz by Frank Driggs & Chuck Haddix
The World of Count Basie by Stanley Dance
Good Morning Blues by Count Basie
Lester Leaps In Douglas Henry Daniels
Twenty Years On Wheels Andy Kirk's autobiography
Morning Glory Linda Dahl's biography of Mary Lou Williams
Soul On Soul Tammy Kernodle's biography of Mary Lou Williams

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