Monday, September 22, 2014

Highland Cemetery

At the conclusion of the revitalized gravesite ceremony honoring Charlie Parker on August 30, Kent Rausch offered to provide a tour of nearby Highland Cemetery.  The founder and bandleader of the Vine Street Rumble Jazz Orchestra, Rausch is a leading historian of Kansas City's jazz heyday. 

Embarrassed that I'd never visited the graves of Bennie Moten and Julia Lee, I accepted Rausch's invitation.  Less than five minutes after departing Parker's grave at Lincoln Cemetery, I was looking at the new marker pictured above.  The engraved stone was installed by the people behind the Coda Jazz Fund earlier this year. 

Rausch recounted the story of Moten's shocking death and the huge turnout for his funeral.  "Moten Swing" is one of the recordings that first put Kansas City on the musical map.  Julia Lee's grave is just a few steps away.  Decades later, her risqué songs are still shocking.

Here's a map linking the two cemeteries.  Note that the entrance to Lincoln Cemetery is actually on Blue Ridge Boulevard.

(Original images by Plastic Sax.)

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