Riffs and Jams

Kansas City Jazz - A Little Evil Will Do You Good - Con Chapman

Con Chapman [+-]
Music writer
Con Chapman is the author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Jonny Hodges (Oxford University Press, 2019), winner of the 2019 Book of the Year Award by Hot Club de France, and a 2020 Certificate of Merit for Best Historical Research from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections. His writing on jazz has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, Syncopated Times, and Brilliant Corners, among other publications.


The culture of Kansas City jazz grew out of the late-night (and early morning) jam sessions that bar and nightclub owners used to provide music at a low cost to their patrons. “Jamming” was a term born in the circus sideshows where musicians blew freely and without orchestration, improvising in a competitive environment against other musicians. Jam sessions in turn generated “riff” tunes; that is, spontaneous compositions based on phrases that emerged from the mind of one musician, and were picked up and repeated by others in the ensemble, then combined into with other phrases to make a musical whole. A highly-rhythmic piano style known as “boogie-woogie” developed in the Southwest, emerging from the small “barrelhouse” bars where music was provided in a rude setting only by a piano at first, with drummers added as the style developed. The foremost practitioner of this style in Kansas City was Pete Johnson, who learned his trade at rent parties, that is, parties in residences where payments for food, drink and admission were used to pay the host’s rent. Johnson teamed up with a singer named Joe Turner, and the two would eventually make their way to Carnegie Hall under the auspices of John Hammond as a feature at his “Spirituals to Swing” concerts. Other lesser-know boogie-woogie pianists are profiled in this chapter as well.

Notify A Colleague


Chapman, Con. Riffs and Jams. Kansas City Jazz - A Little Evil Will Do You Good. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Mar 2023. ISBN 9781800502826. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=42619. Date accessed: 05 Oct 2022 doi: 10.1558/equinox.42619. Mar 2023

Dublin Core Metadata