top of page
  • Writer's pictureJOHN OSLER'S UPBEAT Admin



Last week  RJ Spangler gave us in depth descriptions of the sources for the music before Planet D Nonet played each tune.

RJ Spangler spoke to the roots of the tunes. We learned a lot about Kansas City where Bennie Moten and Count Basie spent some formative years. And then Planet D Nonet played their music in a way that we were able to feel the life of Kansas city in the 1930s. RJ and most of his bands have a serious appreciation for  the jazz artists who wrote music that reflected the lives, the times and the places that these pioneers passed through. Stories of America’s music never stop inspiring us.


RJ talked about Count Basie going to Kansas City and then for a long time not being able to accumulate enough money to move on. Kansas City had a lot of jazz clubs and a lot of jazz musicians. The pay was seldom enough to buy a ticket out of the place. Lucky for us he was stuck in KC so long that he picked up the unique musical culture of Kansas City and was influenced by the other artists stranded there on their way to New York, Chicago or Detroit where the big money was.  A few KC jazz riffs landed at the Dirty Dog last week, a product of forced inspiration.

Kansas City in the 1930s was on the path North and became the starting point for those seeking their fortunes in  the United States. Transcontinental trips at the time whether by plane or train often required a stop in the city. It was the era of the political boss Tom Pendergast. He allowed the liquor laws and hours to be totally ignored, and Kansas City became a wide open town.

Jazz musicians crowded the all night jazz joints and took part in cutting sessions that could keep a single song performed in variations for an entire night.

Kansas City was different from all other places because of the jamming all night. “And [if] you come up here … playing the wrong thing, we’d straighten you out.”

Kansas City style jazz introduced the following:

Kansas City jazz had a more relaxed, fluid sound than other jazz styles with  a walking 4 beat feel.

The KC big bands often played from memory, composing and arranging the music collectively, rather than sight-reading as other big bands of the time did. This further contributed to a loose, spontaneous Kansas City sound.

With their extended soloing. the purpose was to “say something” with one’s instrument, rather than simply show off one’s technique.  Riffing was an integral part of Kansas City jazz with elaborate riffing by the different sections. Riffs were often improvised collectively and took many forms. Sometimes with one section riffing alone, then behind a soloist, adding excitement to the song and thentwo or more sections will riff in counterpoint, creating a hard-swinging sound. Count Basie’s oft played tunes “One O’Clock Jump” and “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” are simply complex riffs, memorized in a head arrangement, and punctuated with solos. Glenn Miller’s famous swing anthem “In the Mood” closely follows the Kansas City pattern of riffing sections, and is a good example of the Kansas City style that has been exported to the rest of the world.

Somewhere in the back of our heads are these influences. We aren’t always sure where our inspiration comes from. Occasionally we just need RJ to remind us.


Inspiration is just part of a process of creating. We don’t always realize what it was that got us to do something. This happened to me a few years ago when I was struggling with finding an image that the Detroit Jazz Festival could use on their poster.

I made numerous sketches of  singers passionately singing their hearts out. Then I added a guy playing a sax behind them and then I eliminated the singer.

I then focused on the sax player’s face to show the effort and force required to play the instrument. Then I backed off to better compose the page.

I used photos that I had shot at the Dirty Dog as reference. Among the images I had next to me were shots of De’Sean Jones.

De’Sean is a real Detroit jazz musician. It comes through in his strength and force when he plays. It comes through when you hear him talk about his music. He is a thoughtful, kind and purposeful man. I had watched De’Sean play a little while  before I did the sketch to show my idea. I often worried that I was stealing his act. De’Sean put my mind at ease when he told me how proud his grandmother was that he was on the Detroit Jazz Festival poster.

I am sure there will be people looking back and getting inspired by the power of Detroit.s high energy jazz musicians from the 2010s. I have been.

John Osler


March 7 – March 10

#RJSpangler #Detroit #DirtyDog #DeSeanJones #DiegoRivera #DetroitJazzFestival #AlvinWaddles #RodneyWhitaker #CliffMonear #DetroitJazz #DirtyDogJazzCafé #JudyAdams #JazzinDetroit #JAZZMUSIC #RalpheArmstrong #GretchenValade #SeanDobbinsQuintet #musicDirtyDogJazzCafe

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page