February, 2019

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Kansas City Jazz- Eddie Durham

February 22, 2019- Today's Kansas City Jazz Topic: Eddie Durham

Eddie Durham was one of the primary architects of both the Kansas City sound as well as big band swing.
He’s primarily known as a trombonist and composer/arranger but he was also a pioneer of the amplified electric guitar.

He was born in San Marcos Texas and began playing at a very early age, first for local dances and later bigger celebrations.
As soon as he was old enough he traveled with a theater group then joined the band of a wild wild west show that toured the country.   During a stop in Chicago he heard Louis Armstrong which had a big impact on him.

After the Wild West Show he went through a series of Midwestern territory bands including Gene Coy, 
Chauncey Downs, T. Holder and others.   In 1928 he joined the Oklahoma City Blue Devils. He stayed with the Devils about a year then moved to Bennie Moten’s band in Kansas City. He began writing arrangements for Moten which started to advance the band significantly. At the time, his buddy from the Blue Devils, Bill Basie, desperately wanted to join Moten but Moten didn’t need a third piano player. Basie had ideas for arrangements but wasn’t able to write them down.   Durham helped get Basie’s ideas on paper and Moten was impressed enough to bring Basie into the band.
The Durham-Basie arrangements for Moten had a major impact and transformed the direction of the band.  That impact is in full effect with the final Moten recordings made in 1932 that include the classics Moten Swing and Prince of Wails. Not long before Moten’s death in 1935, Durham left Kansas City and moved to New York, immediately becoming a major arranger for Jimmie Lunceford’s Harlem Express. In addition to writing arrangements, Durham had a flair for choreography and was responsible for certain horn moves that Lunceford was known for.
In 1937 Basie had taken his band out of Kansas City into New York and convinced Durham to join him.  Durham’s impact on the Basie band was similar to what it had been with Moten. He wrote a number of important arrangements for Basie and helped to create the band’s identity.   Durham’s arrangements include "Jumpin at the Woodside," "Swingin the Blues" and "Topsy" among many others. Also at this time, Durham built his own amplified electric guitar and began to record with it. While with Basie he was part of the classic Kansas City Six session for Commodore that featured the electric guitar throughout. It was the first time that instrument was recorded in a jazz setting.

The young guitarist from Oklahoma, Charlie Christian, sought him out to find out how he made the guitar sound like a saxophone. Durham worked with him in a local pool hall for several nights. Soon after Christian emerged with Benny Goodman as one of the giants of the instrument.
Durham left the Basie band in 1938 and went back to New York where he was much sought after by many leaders. He wrote important works for Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey as well as the major hit song “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire.” He was also involved in writing one of the most well-known swing era anthems; “In the Mood” for Glenn Miller.   He also choreographed many of the Miller horn section moves as well. 

During World War II he took over the all-female International Sweethearts of Rhythm then formed his own Eddie Durham and His All-Girl Orchestra. Throughout the fifties and beyond he continued to play and lead various groups until his death in the 1980s.

He was a humble genius that played a much more important role in big band swing than he’s been given credit for. Eddie Durham, architect of the Kansas City sound.

Kansas City Jazz- Andy Kirk and Mary Lou Williams

February 20, 2019- Today's Kansas City Jazz Topic: Andy Kirk and Mary Lou Williams

The Count Basie Orchestra wasn’t the only band to emerge from the Kansas City scene in 1936. Andy Kirk and His Clouds of Joy, featuring arrangements by Mary Lou Williams, reached national prominence at that time as well.

Kirk grew up in Denver and studied music with Wilberforce Whiteman, father of famed bandleader Paul Whiteman.  When he was old enough he began working in local bands most notably the George Morrison Orchestra. In 1926 he moved to Chicago where he regularly heard Earl Fatha Hines and Louis Armstrong with Erskine Tate’s Orchestra at the Vendome.  That experience had a big impact on him.

After that he moved to Dallas and joined Terrance “T” Holder and his Dark Clouds of Joy.

In 1927 Holder re-located the band to Tulsa and began adding stronger arrangements and added two musicians who would become key figures in the bands success.  Claude Williams, who played both violin and guitar and saxophonist John Williams out of Memphis. The following year Holder was voted out of his own band for shady dealings with the finances.

Andy Kirk was elected leader.  One of the first things he did was drop the “dark” from the Clouds of Joy name making it Andy Kirk and His Clouds of Joy. In 1929 Kirk moved the band to Kansas City and played the entire summer at the Pla-Mor Ballroom. The Kirk band also took part in the 1929 Brunswick recording sessions that happened in the fall.  It was at the audition and subsequent sessions that Mary Lou Williams took on a significant role with the band playing piano and writing new arrangements.

Although several bands were recorded by Brunswick at those sessions, Kapp was most impressed with Kirk and especially Mary Lou Williams.  They ended up recording 8 titles with the band.  6 as Andy Kirk and His Clouds of Joy and 2 as John Williams and His Memphis Stompers.

Kapp liked what they did so much that he signed them to a two year contract with Brunswick.  They recorded several times over the next two years and established somewhat of a reputation.  They also began touring regularly including a long stint at the Roseland Ballroom in New York.

After the contract ran out in 1931 the band continued to work out of Kansas City as their home base.

In 1935 Kirk added tenor saxophonist Dick Wilson to the band which adds an important solo voice.  Wilson was in the league of the other Kansas City tenor greats but never really got the recognition that he deserved. Also at that time Kirk wanted to regain the national reputation that they had enjoyed earlier in the decade and contacted Jack Kapp who had just started Decca Records.

Kapp signed them to Decca and brought them to New York to begin recording. Once again, Mary Lou Williams started adding new material to the book and the band starts to really take on a new swinging identity.  This includes classics such as "Walkin and Swingin," "The Lady Who Swings the Band," "Keep it in the Groove" and "A Mellow Bit of Rhythm."

At first, Kapp and Kirk clashed in the studio because Kapp wanted to do more ballads and novelties and Kirk wanted to swing.   One compromise was the recording of “Until the Real Thing Comes Along” with vocalist Pha Terrell.  The recording became a huge hit and launched them into stardom.

It was time for them to leave Kansas City and hit the big time but they had several previous engagements locally.  Kirk made sure they stayed in town until all the contracts were fulfilled. After that, they followed the Basie band out of Kansas City and into the national spotlight.

Francis Parker Summer Jazz Workshop, 2019!

Blog Name:Home Page News

Blog Author:San Diego's Jazz 88.3

Posted on:February 19, 2019

Jazz 88.3 is so pleased to support Francis Parker's 9th Annual Summer Jazz Workshop again this year, in partnership with The Music Box! Francis Parker's Summer Jazz Workshop offers middle and high school students an opportunity to study and play music with professional jazz musicians while learning performance skills, improvisation, jazz theory and history. One-week sessions are held at Francis Parker School's Thiemann Music Center, a state-of-the-art facility with dedicated classrooms and practice studios. Here, students grow musically as they learn to express themselves through the art of jazz improvisation. Students give a closing performance at The Music Box, located in the heart of Little Italy, one of San Diego's premier concert venues. They welcome beginning, intermediate and advanced students at this hands-on workshop designed to nurture their growth as musicians, technically and creatively. For more information, click here

Kansas City Jazz- Hot Lips Page

February 19, 2019- Today's Kansas City Jazz Topic: Hot Lips Page

Oran “Hot Lips” Page was one of the great jazz soloists to emerge from the Kansas City scene at the end of the nineteen thirties. He was originally from Texas where he started to play professionally at a very early age.  He traveled with circuses and minstrel shows and backed a variety of female blues singers including Ida Cox and Ma Rainey. His idol was Louis Armstrong.

Around 1928 Walter Page recruited him to join the Oklahoma City Blue Devils.  He’s well featured on the two Blue Devils recordings from 1929. In 1930 he went to Kansas City to join Bennie Moten.   He made numerous records with Moten and established himself on the Kansas City scene as the outstanding trumpet soloist. In 1935 when Basie went into the Reno Club, Page was there as an added featured performer.  He acted as emcee, sang the blues and played the trumpet.

As word began to spread beyond Kansas City about the Basie band, outside promoters and record executives started to become curious about what was going on there. When John Hammond came to town in 1936 to hear Basie in person, Louis Armstrong’s manager, Joe Glaser, just happened to be there too.

Glaser thought Page was the potential star and approached him about becoming his manager.   He agreed to take on the whole band as long as Page was the front man.  Basie declined the offer and wished Hot Lips luck. Glaser convinced Lips that he would be the next Louis Armstrong with or without Basie.

Before long Hammond arranged for Basie to sign with Willard Alexander and head east.  Lips stayed in Kansas City and continued on at the Reno Club. By the end of the year, Glaser kept good on his promise and sent Lips to New York as a single where he began a long engagement at Small’s Paradise in Harlem.

Although he never became a major name he was one of the most outstanding trumpet soloists during the swing era.  He led his own groups on 52nd St. and was in high demand as a sideman with a variety of bands, most notably that great Artie Shaw band of the early 1940s.

During his New York years he brought a little of that Kansas City tradition with him as he continued to be a major force at the late night jam sessions in Harlem where he was happy to take on all challengers.

Kansas City Jazz- Lester Young

February 18, 2019- Today's Kansas City Jazz Topic: Lester Young

Lester Young was the most important jazz soloist between Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker. He was a true original that created his own unique sound and style.  His sound was in stark contrast to Coleman Hawkins who was the reining tenor saxophone champion when Lester came onto the scene.
Lester had a lite, airy sound and used little or no vibrato. Stylistically he had a different conception than those that had come before him.  He had a linear approach with which he created extremely melodic, long flowing lines that generated a floating effect.

Lester was born in Woodville, Mississippi in 1909. His father was a teacher and bandleader who created a family band that traveled throughout the area. Lester learned a variety of instruments and joined the family band when he was 10 years old. He broke with his father’s band in 1927 and joined the territory band of Art Bronson’s Bostonians which was based in Salina Kansas. At that point he settled on the tenor saxophone as his primary instrument.

In 1932 he joined the legendary Oklahoma City Blue Devils. He stayed with the Blue Devils for a few months ending up in Kansas City in 1933. Once there he started participating in the nightly jam sessions and quickly became a force to be reckoned with.

He had only been in town a short time when the infamous jam session took place at the Cherry Blossom club and Lester defeated the great Coleman Hawkins and solidified his reputation. Around that same time Bennie Moten was voted out of his own band and replaced by Count Basie who brought in several ex-Blue Devils including Lester.

After Basie and Moten reconciled Lester left town and replaced Coleman Hawkins in Fletcher Henderson’s band which turned out to be a disaster. Everyone wanted Lester to sound like Hawkins and he wanted no part of it.  He left Henderson after a short time, joined Andy Kirk for a while then settled in Minneapolis where his family had relocated.

In 1936 he heard the Basie band broadcasting from the Reno Club and contacted  Basie about joining the new band.

Once Lester returned to Kansas City everything fell into place with the Reno Club band.   Later in the month John Hammond heard one of the late night broadcasts and was blown away by what he heard. He was especially impressed with Lester and quickly put things in motion to introduce the band on a national level.

Once the Basie band hit the big time, Hammond suggested the addition of another of his discoveries, Billie Holiday. Billie and Lester developed a very close but platonic relationship and truly cared for each other deeply.   He nicknamed her "Lady" and she nicknamed him "Prez," short for President of the tenor saxophone.

The Last of the Blue Devils

Blog Name:Home Page News

Blog Author:San Diego's Jazz 88.3

Posted on:February 17, 2019

To celebrate Black History Month and continue our focus on the Golden Age of Kansas City Jazz we hope you will join us TONIGHT at 7pm at the Saville Theatre for a screening of the documentary film,"The Last of the Blue Devils." During Prohibition Kansas City was a hotbed of vices and also a hotbed of jazz music. This 1979 film chronicles the last of Walter Page's Oklahoma City Blue Devils as they get together at the Union Hall to talk, sing and play. These musicians were from the Pendergast era and helped form jazz music as we know it today thanks to that "Kansas City Sound." Names like Count Basie, Big Joe Turner, Jay McShann, and Jo Jones to name a few. There will be a Q&A session immediately after the film led by station manager, Ken Poston. It is FREE for the public and no reservations (or parking permit for Lot 8) are required. We hope to see you there!

Kansas City Jazz- John Hammond

February 15, 2019- Today's Kansas City Jazz Topic: John Hammond

By the beginning of 1936 the Count Basie-Buster Smith Barons of Rhythm were tearing it up nightly at the Reno Club and starting to get attention beyond the African American community.

One journalist in particular, Dave Dexter, covered jazz for the Kansas City Journal-Post.  He was a big jazz fan who immersed himself in the nightlife along 12th st. and in the 18th and Vine district. He adored the Basie band but hated the Reno Club.  He felt the band deserved better and made it his personal mission break the band on a national level. In addition to the Journal-Post, Dexter also contributed to Down Beat Magazine and began reporting on jazz happenings in Kansas City.  He also tipped off fellow Down Beat contributer John Hammond to the Basie broadcasts from the Reno Club.

Hammond was a wealthy aristocrat that loved jazz and blues and detested racial segregation and the mistreatment of African American artists.
He also had a great ear for talent discovering the likes of Billie Holiday and Charlie Christian.  Later he discovered Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Ray Vaughan among many others. He was also heavily involved in the integration of the Benny Goodman band with Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton.  
While traveling cross country with Goodman he took Dexter’s advice and tuned into the Basie Reno Club broadcast on W9XBY.  At the time he was sitting in his car in the parking lot of the Congress Hotel in Chicago.

Needless to say he was blown away by what he heard and headed to Kansas City as quickly as possible.
Once there he and Dexter made the rounds and Hammond was impressed with much that he heard.  In addition to Basie he was also impressed by Joe Turner and Pete Johnson at the Sunset Club. 

Once back in New York he convinced Willard Alexander to add Basie to his roster of artists and send them on a national tour.  Before leaving Kansas City, Basie enlarged the group to a big band.  Unfortunately Buster Smith didn’t trust Hammond and decided not to go.   Basie also lost Hot Lips Page to Joe Glaser who promised he would be the next Louis Armstrong.  

While Basie was preparing to leave K.C., Dave Kapp of Decca Records snuck into town and signed him and the band to an exclusive recording contract.  It was a horrible deal for Basie but he thought Kapp was associated with Hammond and signed anyway. When Hammond found out he was furious.  He would have gotten Basie a much better deal and he wanted to be the one to introduce his new discovery to the jazz world.

They left Kansas City in November of 1936 and headed to Chicago for an engagement at the Grand Terrace Ballroom. Not to be out done by Decca, John Hammond organized a small group out of the Basie band to record for Vocalion under the pseudonym Jones-Smith Inc.  It was the world’s introduction to the brilliance of Lester Young along with the unparalleled swing of the rhythm team of Basie, Walter Page and Jo Jones.

The Kansas City sound wasn’t a secret any longer.

Kansas City Jazz- Moten is out, Basie is in

February 14, 2019- Today's Kansas City Jazz Topic: Moten is out and Basie is in

By 1932 the Kansas City scene was in full swing so Bennie Moten’s Orchestra stayed close to home. By that time Moten had added several ex-Oklahoma City Blue Devils to the band and it was at it’s musical peak. During the summer of 1933 the band opened the new Cherry Blossom club near 18th and Vine but there was trouble in the ranks and Moten was voted out as leader. They voted Bill Basie in and the band carried on.

In 1934 the Cherry Blossom band breaks up, Lester Young joins Fletcher Henderson and the key musicians reconcile with Moten.  This included Basie, Buster Smith, Jimmy Rushing, Herschal Evans and Hot Lips Page.

The band continued in dominance of the Kansas City scene until 1935 when they take an engagement in Denver and Moten stayed behind to have a routine tonsellectomy. The Doctor slips and Moten dies during the operation.

Buster Moten tries to keep the band together but by summer most of the key musicians had joined other bands.

That all changed with Basie as he was hired to put together a group to serve as the house band at The Reno Club near downtown Kansas City.
Basie was able to bring together the best of the best.  He had his pick of the musicians who had developed over the last five or six years during their regular jobs and at the nightly jam sessions.

It ended up as a 9 piece band set up as 3 reeds, 3 brass and 3 rhythm.  Basie and Buster Smith shared the billing.  Using his new nickname it became The Count Basie-Buster Smith Barons of Rhythm. The reeds included Buster Smith and Slim Freeman. The brass included Hot Lips Page and the Rhythm included Basie, Walter Page and Jo Jones. Jimmy Rushing was the vocalist.

The band broadcast late at night on station W9XBY and it was during those broadcasts that Basie’s theme song was established. 
One night as the band was playing the theme the announcer asked for the title.  The actual title  was not appropriate to say over the airwaves so they looked at the clock, saw it was one o clock and told the announcer the name was One O’Clock Jump.

The Reno Club was located at 12th and Cherry.It was owned by Papa Sol Epstein who was part of the Pendergast regime.  
His connections made sure the police never raided the place.   It was a long narrow saloon that featured a cramped, oyster shell bandstand in the back. There was a floor show at 9, 12, 2 and 4.   Beer was 5 cents a glass, 10 cents for a schooner with mixed drinks costing a quarter. Prostitutes hung out inside and outside the club and worked out of rooms upstairs in the same building.

Lester Young didn’t last long with Fletcher Henderson. They wanted him to sound like Coleman Hawkins and he wanted no part of it so he left and went to Minneapolis. One night Lester heard the Basie band on the radio and contacted Basie to let him know that Slim Freeman wasn’t making it and that he was available.  Basie sent for him right away and Lester came back to Kansas City to join the band.

With the arrival of Lester Young it all came together. The band was a crystallization of all that had come before it.  It was the essence of the Kansas City style. The blues-based arrangements, the loose hard swinging rhythm  and an amazing array of creative soloists.

A Prez Day- Monday, February 18th

Blog Name:Home Page News

Blog Author:San Diego's Jazz 88.3

Posted on:February 13, 2019

ALL DAY TODAY KSDS will be celebrating a different kind of President. Join us as we salute the "PREZ," Lester Young. We will play his music throughout the day and feature rare recordings, clips, interviews and so much more. KSDS gets Prezidential- beginning at 6am. 

Kansas City Jazz- The Sunset Club

February 13, 2019- Today's Kansas City Jazz Topic: The Sunset Club

The Sunset Club was one of the legendary Kansas City nightspots and was located at 12th and Highland very close to the famous intersection of 12th St. and Vine. It opened in the fall of 1933 as the East Side Musicians Sunset Club.  It was also known as the Sunset Crystal Palace although there was nothing regal about it.

It was a long narrow room featuring a saloon up front and a gambling room in the back.  Beer was served in tall tin cans by the quart.  The cost was 15 cents. The club was owned by Felix Payne and managed by the popular Piney Brown.

The house band consisted of two pieces.  Pete Johnson on piano and Murl Johnson on drums. Pete’s left hand was so strong they didn’t need a bass player. The bartender was Big Joe Turner.  When the feeling hit him he would join Pete and Murl and start shouting the blues.  Felix Payne had installed a PA system for Big Joe’s use.  It was connected to a loudspeaker mounted outside the club above the door.  When Joe started shouting the blues it could be heard for blocks.   Crowds would hear Joe’s voice and flock to the club.  Joe referred to it as “calling my children home.”

Pete and Joe might start a blues which would sometimes go on for 75 choruses. Pete always had a full jigger of gin near the keyboard that he would sip on throughout the night.

Pete is immortalized in the song “Roll Em Pete.”

Piney Brown was a ladies man and gambler and a friend to all the musicians.  He took care of all the musicians by helping them however he could.  If they needed money for rent they could go to Piney. When musicians came to play they didn’t have to pay for anything.  Piney’s generosity insured there would be plenty of participants in the nightly jam sessions. Piney is immortalized by Joe Turner and His Fly Cats in the 1940 recording Piney Brown Blues:

“Yes I dreamed last night
I was standin' on 18th and vine
Yes I dreamed last night
I was standin' on 18th and vine
I shook hands with Piney Brown
An' I could hardly keep from cryin'"