Okeh 8242 – Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra – 1925

November 13, 2015 marks the 121st anniversary of the birthday of jazz great Bennie Moten, who led one of the most excellent bands in the United States in the 1920s and early 1930s, his Kansas City Orchestra.  Given that I haven’t yet featured one of Moten’s records here, I think a good place to start would be with his earliest record currently in my collection, and one of his earliest overall.

Bennie Moten was born and raised in 1894 in Kansas City, Missouri.  He formed his famous Kansas City Orchestra in the early 1920s and made his first recordings for Okeh in 1923, with whom he continued to record through 1925, before moving to Victor in 1926.  In 1929, Moten hired a number of musicians away from Walter Page’s Blue Devils, including William “Count” Basie and Oran “Hot Lips” Page.  Basie would take over Moten’s orchestra after his untimely death following a botched tonsillectomy (the same fate that befell Eddie Lang) in 1935.

Okeh 8242 was recorded May 15, 1925 in Kansas City, Missouri.  The band features the talented musicianship of Harry Cooper, and Lammar Wright on cornets, Thamon Hayes on trombone, Harlan Leonard on clarinet and alto sax, Woody Walder on clarinet and tenor sax, leader Bennie Moten on piano, LaForest Dent on banjo, Vernon Page on tuba, and Willie Hall on drums.

“18th Street Strut” starts out a bit rough and weak, but the hot jazz still comes through just fine for most of the record.

18th Street Strut, recorded May

18th Street Strut, recorded May 15, 1925 by Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra.

On the reverse, they play “Things Seem So Blue to Me”, which sounds a little cleaner than the previous.

Things Seem So Blue to Me, recorded May 27, 1925 by Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra.

Things Seem So Blue to Me, recorded May 15, 1925 by Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra.

Updated with improved audio on November 13, 2016.

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