Bennie Moten

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Bennie Moten’s Victor Recording Orchestra, Rainbow Room, “Riffing” style, jazz




Bennie Moten wasn’t known to be a great piano player, but rather known as a generous, talented businessman who led the blues and jazz group, the Kansas City Orchestra (a band consisting of about 10 men rather than an entire orchestra) to national fame during the 1920s. He often used his powerful persuasion skills to “raid” other Kansas City bands, such as “The Blue Devils,” of talented musicians to add to his orchestra. During this time period, his band developed the “riffing style” of jazz that focused on a brief repeated set of notes, or a phrase, during a melody, which is now popular in today’s rock music. Moten’s orchestra recorded more than 100 songs with Okeh Records and Victor Records during the 1920s. He toured for years, but in 1935, when his band left for Denver for a show in at the Rainbow Ballroom, Moten stayed in Kansas City for what was thought to be a routine tonsillectomy. Unfortunately, the surgery did not go well and Moten died on the operating table. Count Basie, a fellow band member, ended up taking over Moten’s orchestra and they were successful for years to come.