Little Big Band Showcases Kansas City Jazz at RC’s
By Dwight Barrett
The Little Big Band, a 16-member swing-jazz band will return to RCs Restaurant, 330 E. 135 St. in Martin City, on Monday evening, October 2. The band, headed by saxophonist Lew Roht has been playing at RCs regularly since 2010. The concert will feature Kansas City Jazz, and include music from the Count Basie, Benny Carter, Benny Moten, Jimmy Lunceford and Charlie Parker songbooks that capture the style of that great era of big band music.
RC’s will be serving their delicious chicken buffet dinner between 5:00 – 6:30 p.m., with the music to follow. Cost is $20 per person, and there will also be a cash bar. Reservations are strongly recommended – contact LROHT109@gmail.com or call (913) 345-0909.
In an interview with the Martin City Telegraph, Roht offered some background into the program. He said that Kansas City is one of the places that can lay claim to being the birthplace of American jazz.
In Kansas City, during the 1920s and ’30s, jazz flourished under Mayor Tom Pendergast, with such greats as Count Basie, Joe Turner and Lester Young, to name just a few. During this period, as many as 30 cabarets and ballrooms flourished within walking distance of the corner of 12th Street, Vine and The Paseo.
Kansas City’s jazz style was blues-based, and organized around “riffs” — repeated phrases used both as catchy melodies and as backdrops for soloists. This style prevailed until a local saxophone player named Charlie Parker developed a musical style that was a transition to the Bebop style of the 1940’s.
Saxophonist, trumpeter and composer Benny Carter evoked the bygone K.C. jazz era in an extended work for the Count Basie Orchestra, “Kansas City Suite,” which consists of 10 movements, each evoking a personality, scene or cultural element of the city’s rich musical life. The Little Big Band will perform several of the songs from the Suite, including, “Vine Street Rumble,” a rocking blues that captures the rhythm and swing of the era; “Rompin At The Reno,” an ode to the Club Reno; “Katy-Do,” a ballad, dedicated to Basie’s wife, Katherine, a dancer he met working at Kansas City’s Club Harlem; “Miss Missouri” a rhythmic blues that struts its namesake beauty contest. In “Meetin’ Time,” you not only hear a revival meeting preacher (muted trumpet) calling on sinners to repent, but you can picture the stately church ladies in their big flowered hats (muted trombones), patrolling the hall for absentees.
The Little Big Band will also be playing some Basie favorites including “One O’Clock Jump,” and “Shiny Stockings,” as well as some classics from Benny Moten and Jimmy Lunceford, two of the earliest and best of the KC bands, and a Charlie Parker original.