Listening Tip: Kansas City Suite

Rifftides reader Jay Thomas, a star of the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, alerts us to a broadcast of the SRJO’s concert of Benny Carter’s Kansas City Suite.

If you missed our Kansas City Suite concerts on March 15-16, the entire 10-movement suite will be re-broadcast over KPLU FM 88.5 on Jim Wilke’s Jazz Northwest show this coming Sunday, April 6 at 1:00 PM PDT.

You can also hear the broadcast online at from anywhere in the world. This was a very popular concert, so we hope you can tune in.

KC Suite.jpgKansas City Suite is one of Carter’s middle period masterpieces. Count Basie recorded it for Roulette in 1960 with his “new testament” band that included Thad Jones, Joe Newman, Frank Wess, Frank Foster, Marshall Royal, Benny Powell, Al Grey and the great latterday Basie rhythm section. Capitol reissued it as a compact disc in 1990, but the LP and the CD fell out of circulation long ago. An internet search discloses that the Basie version is available only as a used LP or an MP3 download. So Jim Wilke’s KPLU broadcast of the SRJO may be the only chance for many people to hear an important Carter work.

At the Berlin Jazz Fest in 1989, Carter and the WDR Big Band played the opening movement of the suite, with John Clayton conducting. To see and hear video of that performance, click here. Notice Clayton looking boyish and Carter, who was eighty-two, only slightly older. The WDR-ites should have eliminated any shred of doubt that Europeans can swing.

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  1. John Birchard says

    Thanks for reminding me of Basie’s recording of Kansas City Suite. That’s among the LPs I refuse to part with whenever the Spring Cleaning Terrors walk the land.
    The choicest cut among many is “Miss Missouri” with solos by Frank Wess and Al Grey. What a lovely piece of writing by Benny Carter!
    That edition of the Basie band – with Thad Jones, Joe Newman, Wess, Grey, Foster, et al – (for me) had the power of the later, more anonymous bands and the distinctive soloists of the Count’s early bands… the best of all possible worlds.

  2. Jeff Sultanof says

    Bill Kirchner once told me that he spoke about the CD reissue of Kansas City Suite with its producer, Michael Cuscuna. Apparently it was one of the lowest selling CDs in modern Blue Note history. EMI gave Mike hell for getting it out. It is unfortunate that except for a couple of albums, the recordings of Basie’s Roulette period, one of his richest in musical content and personnel, are routinely low when they are made available. A pity.