Various Artists

Kansas City Memories

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Outside of New York and Chicago, Kansas City was the most important jazz center from the late '20s until the mid '40s. In fact, the city can lay claim to a unique contribution to the music in the form of hard-hitting swing and a singular blues-based foundation; one only needs to think of Count Basie's pile-driving sides from the late '30s and Big Joe Turner's blues-shouting gems cut in the '40s. This fine IAJRC collection goes a long way in telling the story of the rough and open city corrupt political boss Tom Pendergast, and was a launching pad for countless jazz luminaries like Ben Webster, Lester Young, Bennie Moten, Walter Page, Andy Kirk, Mary Lou Williams, Jay McShann, Charlie Parker, Jimmy Witherspoon, and Julia Lee. The album should appeal to both collectors and casual fans with its mix of rare and readily available tracks. Spanning the years 1927-1957, the 18 cuts include everything from pianist Jesse Stone's exotic early jazz track "Starvation Blues" and George E. Lee's incredible 1929 version of "St. James Infirmary" to '50s vocal highlights like Lee's "Scat You Cats" and Jimmy Witherspoon and the Jay McShann Band's "Fare Thee, Honey, Fare Thee Well." In between, standouts include Kirk's smooth blues "Froggy Bottom," Eddie Durham's guitar feature "Magic Carpet Ride," and Bus Moten's sly vocal cut "Best Friend Blues." A very essential and enjoyable collection.