Saturday, December 27, 2008


In one day I will start my History of Kansas City Jazz course at Kansas State. I am super excited. I got my textbook today and skimmed through it a bit. It is as much social history about Kansas City as it is actual jazz history which is really cool. The author says that his goal is not to give a straight jazz history book, but to "develop a social, economic, and political overview of pre-World War II history in the Mid West through the development of jazz." Pretty cool. It is basically an oral history of Kansas City, with a bunch of strange cats and hip birds talking about the scene. One kid, 16 years old, told his mother he'd come back to school once the circus band he was playing with circus got done. He ended up making his way out to Kansas City and bumming around as so many musicians do. Well his mother ended up hiring and sending a private detective to find him and drag him back to school. The kid is now 60 and telling all his stories in this book. How awesome is that? What's really nuts though is that jazz is a new enough art form that a lot of the original players are still around. My dad, who plays the trombone around town in the jazz scene, sometimes will say, oh yeah he's still playing or he's still around. I asked him about Jay McShann today, one of the founding fathers of the swing era, especially that funky KC Swing, and he said he still plays around town occasionally. It's cool thinking that he's been able to be a part of that and passed a little down on to me. Mike Metheny who is the brother of Pat Metheny, one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time, or for that matter, one of the best straight up guitarists of all time, sometimes plays in one of the band's my pops is in. Crazy stuff.

A good friend of mine had the pleasure a couple of months ago of spending time with one of the great jazzers of Kansas City. I am hoping that through this class I will be able to do my own, in a sort of way. The history of the jazz mecca that Kansas City was in the 20's and 30's has been dying for a long time around here, the very place it all happened. I am excited to learn a bit of my town's history. Go check out the joints, and grab a beer down at 18th and Vine once all is said and done. I'll be like a sort of unofficial tour guide I hope.


greg said...

i feel like i should be paying for part of this class for you in turn for all of the knowledge you will be sharing with me. i cant wait.

Anonymous said...

um, jay mcshann died two years ago.

Mark's Dad said...

Oops Mark. My fault!! I didn't intentionally lead you astray about Jay's passing but you know what happens when you get old....Two months turns into two years and before you know it folks are movin' on to glory and you forget that it ever happened. I hope your readers will cut you some slack for having a forgetful father.

Sorry about that. And thanks for sending out props to your pops!!

Love ya!