From the Record Shelves #59

Kansas City Breakdown

LP RCA Black & White vol. 80, 741.078

The title tells us where they came from. Bennie Moten’s Orchestra was the most popular orchestra during the 1920s in Kansas City and the territory around. Later in the 30s after Moten’s sudden death its leadership was taken over by pianist Count Basie and then most jazz enthusiasts know what happened.

Speaking about the history of jazz; if you read about the Moten band in jazz books you will find many negative comments about its intonation, rhythm and underdeveloped playing in general as seen with the eyes of the critics in retrospective. To me it’s happy music with a blues feeling and I have no need to compare it with any other band, and I’m just glad that they went to record for Victor in Camden, New Jersey to give us those very personal record sides to enjoy.

The musicians have an ability to change skin, from playing wildly in solos and in the last choruses to be able to concentrate and execute difficult ensemble passages with discipline and accuracy.

The compositions of Bennie Moten himself together with band members often include a simple melodious theme that may be taken from a common folk song or spiritual and in this tune it is played effectively by the tuba.

Besides that we hear intense playing with plenty of breaks, short solos and improvised ensemble. Willie McWashington on drums is driving the band real well.