History of Jazz Music in Kansas City

From its beginnings as nothing more than a simple trading post on the banks of the Missouri river, to its raucous heyday in the 1920’s and 30’s, Kansas City has retained the independent spirit of its frontier beginnings. Even though an assortment of colorful characters, cowboys, politicians, criminals, and even wagon trains populate the history of Kansas City, you can forget everything you’ve ever heard about it being a “cow town.” Today, the outgrowth of that colorful history and frontier spirit radiates energetically throughout the city
and its populace.

Widely regarded as the birthplace of Jazz. KC’s early reputation as a “wide-open, anything goes” city captivated and allured the musical performers of the day. It’s central location and ease of access via rail were the other components which induced this musical migration. Kansas City became a haven for musicians and fans alike.

The musicians, who interpreted their experiences in KC’s permissive environment through their music, were also creating the elastic techniques and musical license, which remain at the heart of Jazz today. The hub of this development was the
18th and Vine district. Many legendary musicians, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Turner and Charlie Parker to name a few, made their way to Kansas City. Their connection to one another and to the Kansas City “scene” brought about a unique musical expansion which enriched the city’s history and initiated the genesis of Jazz.

Kansas City’s affiliation with Jazz is celebrated daily at the American Jazz Museum
in the 18th and Vine District and nightly at clubs and restaurants throughout the city.
Live Jazz and Blues are still an important part of the Kansas City entertainment and nightlife scene.