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Cleaver Asks Congress To Name Kansas City 'Home Of Jazz' (New Orleans: 'Birthplace')

LaBudde Special Collections, Miller Nichols Library
Jay McShann (at piano) with unidentified, Walter Brown, Charlie Parker, Bob Mabane, Bernard 'Step Buddy' Anderson, unidentified, unidentified, unidentified, Orville 'Piggy' Minor, unidentified, Gus Johnson, Gene Ramey, early 1940s.

On the same morning as Kansas City Manager Troy Schulte held a press conference at 18th and Vine to propose $28 million in new funding to continue revitalization of the historic district, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, in Washington, introduced a resolution proclaiming Kansas City, Missouri, as "the Home of Jazz."

In the clear interests of diplomacy, Cleaver also recognized New Orleans as "the Birthplace of Jazz."

Cleaver introduced the resolution along with Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, a Democrat from the Louisiana congressional district that includes New Orleans. In a news release, both men trumpeted the role of their cities in the development of "a signature American sound."

“The sound of brass horns and piano keys are the heartbeat of New Orleans,” Richmond said. “Since its birth in the French Quarter over 200 years ago, jazz has carried the sound and spirit of the city all over the world.”

“’I’m going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come,’ is one of the most recognized lyrics around the world, because everyone knows that Kansas City is where jazz grew up," Cleaver said, "and I’m glad it will forever be acknowledged as the home of this musical phenomenon.”

The resolution's prospects for success — or whether it faces a filibuster by Chicago or New York — are yet to be determined. Cleaver spokeswoman Heather Frierson said the resolution would be referred to the House Committee on Education and Workforce.

"If the resolution is passed out of committee, then it will be put on the House calendar," Frierson told KCUR.

For the record — or simply because it's an entertaining riff — here is House Resolution 696 in its entirety:

Credit U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. House of Representatives
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II

"Whereas the seeds of Jazz came from the merger of traditional West African slave folk music with the harmonic style of hymns of the church;

"Whereas these songs eventually coalesced in unwritten form, into melodies;

"Whereas these melodies came to be performed in urban centers, such as the famed Congo Square of New Orleans;

"Whereas these performances evolved over time to contain the core elements such as heavy use of improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation, and the swung note;

"Whereas these elements combined with the unique performance aspect of southern dance bands bore our modern day understanding of jazz music;

Credit U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. House of Representatives
Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana.

"Whereas pianist Jelly Rolle Morton composed his ‘‘Jelly Roll Blues’’ in 1905, to be later published in 1914, introducing the world to the New Orleans style;

"Whereas jazz would continue to spread and mature, from the original early 20th century style of Dixieland, to the famed Kansas City Bebop of the 1930s;

"Whereas Kansas City jazz and its distinguishable styles such as a 4/4 beat over the 2/4 beat, extended soloing, and a heavy blues influence would forever find a place in the hearts of musicians and common folk traveling west;

"Whereas jazz would be further fine-tuned through the likes of Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkings, John Coltrane, Billy Holiday, Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Art Tatum, the legendary Louis Armstrong, and countless others;

"Whereas New Orleans. Louisiana, has become known throughout the world as the fertile ground from which music unique to the United States was born;

"Whereas Kansas City, Missouri, through the musical genius of local artists including Charles ‘‘Yard Bird’’ Parker, Count Basie, Mary Lou Williams, Big Joe Turner, Bennie Moten, and the incomparable Jay McShann, became known throughout the world as the breeding ground from which this music unique to the United States has grown up: Now, therefore, be it

"Resolved, That the House of Representatives —
(1) recognizes that New Orleans, Louisiana, should be officially proclaimed as 'The Birthplace of Jazz’; and
(2) recognizes the Kansas City, Missouri, as 'The Home of Jazz.'’’

C.J. Janovy is an arts reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can find her on Twitter, @cjjanovy.

A free press is among our country’s founding principles and most precious resources. As director of content-journalism at KCUR, I want everyone in our part of America to know we see them and we’re listening. I work to make sure the stories we tell and the conversations we convene reflect our complex realities, informing and inspiring all of us to meet the profound challenges of our time. Email me at cj@kcur.org.
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