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Kansas City: Sights and Sounds

Kansas City is one of those old west cities that everyone remembers from television shows and movies, but rarely is truly seen for the great metropolitan area it has become since its founding in 1838 as the Town of Kansas. Over the last 125 years KC has grown from a western cattle town in to urban center known for its cultural contributions to music, cuisine and sports.

Music:

Kansas City has played a large role in the development of Jazz and Blues music over the years. While New Orleans may have been the birthplace of Jazz, KC Jazz brought jazz to the rest of America. With notable jazz legends as Count Basie, Charlie Parker and Lester Young calling KC home, KC Jazz developed in to a style all its own.

KC Jazz can be distinguished from other style of jazz in several ways.

  • Most notable is the extended soloing. Solos could run for hours on end, some times lasting in to the early morning hours as musicians tried to say something with their instrument rather than just show off their technique.
  • Kansas City big bands also used head arrangements. Rather than reading sheet music, the songs were arranged in the artist’s heads giving the music a much more spontaneous and free sound.
  • Another characteristic of Kansas City Jazz is the riffs. Riffs are generally performed by entire band sections, are almost entirely improvised and often are played in support of the soloist to add depth to the music. One of the best examples of this is the great tune “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” by Count Basie.

Today you can hear great music played all over the city, but you’ll find most of it near “The Plaza” downtown.

Jazz isn’t everything in KC, you can also find the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, The Civic Opera Theater of Kansas City, the Kansas City Ballet and rock groups like Puddle of Mud.

Cuisine:

With the second largest stockyards in the United States, Chicago being the largest, there is no doubt that KC is a beef city. They even have a cut named after the city, Kansas City Strip Steak which is very similar to the New York Strip. But where KC really shines is in barbecue.

Every region has its own special take on BBQ, and KC is no different. Starting in the early 1900s, Henry Perry led the way with a slow smoked meat that is covered in a spicy sweet sauce when ready to serve. KC takes its BBQ so seriously that there are more than 100 BBQ restaurants in the area. Some of the more famous include Arthur Bryant’s and Gates and Sons, both of whom have ties back to the original Henry Perry.

One of the most commonly known sauces in the US is KC Masterpiece, and it isn’t just a name. KC Masterpiece is the final evolution of K.C. Soul Style Barbecue Sauce created by Rich Davis. While not traditional Kansas City style BBQ sauce with its sweeter and thicker flavor profile, it definitely has its roots here.

And finally, you can’t forget the latest craze to come out of KC, the Bacon Explosion. Created by Jason Day and Aaron Chronister, the Bacon Explosion is a football sized heart attack waiting to happen of bacon wrapped in sausage wrapped in more bacon and covered in BBQ rubs and sauce.

Sports:

Kansas City is host to a long tradition of professional sports teams. Currently KC is the home of the National Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals from Major League Baseball. In the past Kansas City served as the home for the National Basketball Association’s Kansas City Kings which has since moved to become the Sacramento Kings.

Of historical note, the great Jackie Robinson, the first black player in the modern era of Major League Baseball, got his start playing in KC. Originally signed to the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs in 1945, Jackie Robinson went on to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and broke the color barrier that had existed in MLB since 1880. He went on to play a large role in the civil rights movement.

KC continues to bring a wide variety of sporting events to the people of the region with professional soccer, hockey and tennis teams, and also plays host to the Big 12 college basketball and football championship games. Most recently racing has come to KC in the form of Kansas City Motor Speedway which hosts NASCAR and Indy Car Series events.

Shopping:

KC has revitalized much of the downtown area by creating the County Club Plaza center, more commonly known as The Plaza. Covering more than 15 city blocks, The Plaza is home to more than 150 shops and stores, fine restaurants and entertainment venues.

When it comes to shopping, The Plaza has everything you could want, from fine jewelry to the Apple Store and an amazing variety of clothing stores. Restaurants include everything from burger joints to pizza and fine dining. And to wrap it all up you can end the day with a show or a concert at one of more than a dozen event hosts.

KC has moved on from its early days as a cattle town to become one of the country’s largest and most diverse urban centers. Every bit the equal of more well known vacation locations such as Chicagoand Los Angeles, KansasCity is a large part of the heartland and always on the grow.

 

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