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Wed, 01.12.1916

Jay McShann, Kansas City Musician born

Jay McShann

This date marks the birth of Jay McShann in 1916. He was a Black jazz pianist and composer.

McShann, from Muskogee, OK, began working for Don Byas at the age of 15 and attended the Tuskegee Institute. He started performing in Kansas City in 1936 and formed his own sextet the following year. In 1939, his big band performed at such famous Kansas City clubs as the Century Room and Fairyland Park. The band started recording for Decca in 1941 with Charlie Parker in the alto section.

McShann's band toured regularly, although it was on hiatus while he served in the army in 1943 and 1944. After World War II, his band played often at the Savoy and other clubs on 52nd Street in New York. He led a small group with Jimmy Witherspoon in California toward the decade's end. He returned to Kansas City in 1950, studied at the Conservatory of Music, and toured with his trio and small groups. He was elected to the Kansas City Hall of Fame in 1971 and, on March 3, 1979, was declared "Jay McShann Day" in Missouri by a proclamation from the Governor's Office.

He has received numerous other awards, including the Jazz Oral History Award from the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies, the 1982 Jazz Master Award from the Afro-American Museum in Philadelphia, the Kansas City Jazz Heritage Award, and the Jazz Era Pioneer award from the National Association of Jazz Educators. He has conducted workshops at many colleges and universities, including those in Lincoln (Nebraska), Bella Vista (Arkansas), Oklahoma City, New York University, Manhattan (Kansas), and the University of Missouri in Kansas City.

If the 1930s Kansas City sound is associated with rollicking boogie-woogie and full-throttle swing, then pianist Jay "Hootie" McShann is its greatest living proponent. He was also recognized as an early employer of Charlie Parker.

McShann recorded and played in clubs, concert halls, and festivals worldwide. Usually leading small groups, his piano style was infused with a percussive take on the blues, and his singing had a warm quality.

Jay McShann died on December 7, 2006.

To Become a Conductor or Composer


All That Jazz: The Illustrated Story of Jazz Music
General Editor: Ronald Atkins
Copyright 1996, Carlton Books Limited
ISBN 0-76519-953-X

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