The Music

Special Performances on the Tour

Chris Burnett Trio
Highland Cemetery
3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Mike Pagan Trio
66th and Blue Ridge Blvd
3:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Midnight Blue Jazz Quintet, Featuring Greg Carroll
Theis Park
4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Doug Talley Trio
Quindaro Ruins
5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Kansas City Jazz

Early in the 20th century Kansas City was known as the “Paris of the Plains.” From the mid-1920s through the Depression years of the 1930s, the city’s nightlife thrived under the protection of political boss Tom Pendergast and gangster Johnny Lazia. They ensured that the police would ignore the illegal alcohol, gambling, and prostitution that permeated the night scene. Kansas City’s golden age of jazz thrived in this environment.

By the 1940s, the Kansas City style of jazz had spread throughout America, playing an important role in shaping modern music.

jazz-purplesax-smallThroughout the Depression, Kansas City bands continued to play while other bands across the nation folded. The city was shielded from the worst of the Depression due to an early form of New Deal-style public works projects that provided jobs, and affluence, that kept the dance-oriented nightlife in town swinging.

At one time, there were more than 100 nightclubs, dance halls and vaudeville houses in Kansas City regularly featuring jazz music. Legends like Count Basie, Andy Kirk, Joe Turner, Hot Lips Page and Jay McShann all played in Kansas City. A saxophone player named Charlie Parker began his ascent to fame here in his hometown in the 1930s.

Paris of the Plains

Kansas City was a wide open town and prohibition had little effect on “business as usual.”

Kansas City’s 12th Street became nationally known for its jazz clubs, gambling parlors and brothels, earning the city the moniker, “The Paris of the Plains.” At its height, 12th Street was home to more than 50 jazz clubs. Just six blocks to the south, jazz also flourished at 18th & Vine, which became nationally respected as the epicenter of the city’s African-American community.

Political Boss Tom Pendergast made good-times and apparent prosperity possible, dominating Kansas City politics from 1920 until his indictment for income tax evasion in 1939. Under the control of the Pendergast Machine, Kansas City was a wide open town and prohibition had little effect on “business as usual.” Major industries included bootlegging, gambling, and prostitution.