Kansas City jazz, a hard-swinging, blues-based musical style that flourished in the 1920s and '30s, is one of the greatest contributions to the uniquely American art form of jazz. Of the countless musicians and bandleaders who played at nightclubs, ballrooms, social clubs, and all-night jam sessions in the 18th & Vine district during that golden era, none embodied Kansas City jazz more than Bennie Moten.
Moten was born and raised in Kansas City, where he studied piano with two of Scott Joplin's former students. While Moten was considered to be a good, but not exceptional, piano player, he excelled as a bandleader and businessman. Good-natured and generous, and was able to hire the best musicians in the area, many of them lured away from rival bands.