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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'"

San Diego Music Awards 2019

Blog Name:Home Page News

Blog Author:San Diego's Jazz 88.3

Posted on:February 12, 2019

Jazz 88.3 is proud to support the 28th Annual San Diego Music Awards, happening TONIGHT (6PM). The San Diego Music Awards started in 1991, as a way to recognize the achievements of our diverse local music community. Now in its 27th year, the San Diego Music Awards presents awards in over 20 categories, recognizing many different genres of music including Rock, Jazz, Hip Hop, Americana and World Music. Past performers include Jewel, Jason Mraz, Switchfoot, P.O.D., Sara Watkins (Nickelcreek). The San Diego Music Awards is the primary fundraising vehicle for The Guitars for Schools Program. For more information, or to purchase tickets, click here

Kansas City Jazz- Jam Sessions

February 12, 2019- Today's Kansas City Jazz Topic: Jam Sessions
After the stock market crash of 1929 most of the Territory Bands broke up and many of those musicians descended on Kansas City to take advantage of Pendergast’s wide open nightlife policy. After hours jam sessions started to spring up all over the district and those nightly gatherings became a way of life for the young musicians.
The jam sessions were serious business and reputations were won and lost every single night.
None of these after hours affairs were recorded or documented but there are many legendary tales of victory and defeat that have passed down through the generations.
The most famous Kansas City jam session legend took place at The Cherry Blossom club which was a few steps north of 18th and Vine.

Coleman Hawkins was in town with Fletcher Henderson and was the undisputed king of the tenor saxophone in jazz.
Kansas City was loaded with great tenor players who had been honing their craft at these nightly cutting contests for years. The outside world hadn’t heard of them yet but they had developed into brilliant players while under the cloak of the Pendergast-controlled Kansas City nightlife.
"Hawk" usually didn’t take part in jam sessions because there was nothing for him to gain. That night was different though.  He was challenged by the local musicians and he decided to go to show them who was boss.

The session got underway around 2 in the morning with Hawk taking on all comers. The locals would try to call tunes Hawk didn’t know but he knew everything. Hawk would call hard keys and that eliminated quite a few challengers right off the bat. After a couple of hours all that was left was Hawk, Lester Young, Herman Walder, Herschal Evans and Ben Webster. The rhythm section was tired by this point so Ben Webster went and woke up Mary Lou Williams and got her to come take the piano chair. By five a.m. Herman Walder and Herschal Evans dropped out leaving just Hawk, Ben and Lester. Another hour or so went by and finally Ben dropped out leaving just Hawk and Lester.  No matter what Hawk played he couldn’t top Lester. He could call whatever key he wanted and Lester was right there and his creativity was so genius there was nothing Hawk could do. By morning Hawk finally gave up and Lester was victorious.

The Fletcher Henderson band had an engagement that night in St Louis and legend has it that Hawkins blew up the engine to his brand new Cadillac racing across Missouri to catch up with the band.

Mary Lou Williams summed it up nicely:  “Hawkins was king until he met those crazy Kansas City tenor men."

Kansas City Jazz- The 1929 Brunswick Sessions

February 11, 2019- Today's Kansas City Jazz Topic: The Brunswick Sessions
Other than Bennie Moten, most Kansas City groups and Territory Bands did not have much opportunity to record.
One notable exception was a 6 day series of sessions that took place in early November 1929.

Winston Holmes was a local entrepreneur who owned a music store, represented artists and produced some early recording sessions.  Eventually he started his own record company called Meritt Records. He was forced to give it up in 1927 and returned to freelance producing for other small labels in the Midwest.
In the fall of 1929 he worked a deal with Chicago based Brunswick Records to record a number of Kansas City artists.

Brunswick noticed that Ralph Peer and Victor Records had found good talent in Kansas City and wanted to get in on the action.
Brunswick executives Jack Kapp and Dick Voynow came to Kansas City in November 1929 accompanied by their supervisor of race recordings J. Mayo Williams.  
Word spread that Brunswick was in town to audition bands and singers to record for the label and they held the auditions at the Pla-Mor Ballroom which drew a large turnout of local groups and bands coming into town from the territories.

From this audition they selected Andy Kirk’s Clouds of Joy, The Oklahoma City Blue Devils and George E. Lee.

The sessions were set for November 6 through the 11th.  Since there were no recording studios in Kansas City they used WDAF radio station which was located in the Kansas City Star newspaper building.

George E. Lee’s band recorded four sides on November 6 featuring arrangements by Jesse Stone and the saxophone of Budd Johnson.
Andy Kirk recorded four sides on November 7. At the audition, Kirk’s pianist Marian Jackson failed to show, so Kirk had saxophonist John Williams send home for his wife Mary Lou. Kapp and Voynow were extremely impressed with Mary Lou and insisted that she be on the session. In addition to playing piano Mary Lou also wrote some originals to be featured on the date. These Kirk sessions introduced Mary Lou Williams to the jazz world in a big way.

On November 8, Kirk recorded one more title before giving way to the George E. Lee band once again. This time two sides were recorded to feature George’s sister Julia and the record was issued as Julia Lee accompanied by the George E. Lee Orchestra.

On November 9, the Kirk band recorded again only this time under the leadership of John Williams. The record was released as John Williams and His Memphis Stompers and once again featured his wife Mary Lou.

The November 10 date featured two sides recorded by The Oklahoma City Blue Devils. It’s unfortunate that those are the only documents of the legendary band but under the circumstances it’s lucky they were recorded at all.

Finally on November 11 Andy Kirk did two more sides including Mary Lou Williams "Froggy Bottom."