MUSIC: FINDING A COMMON GROOVE

KANSAS CITY JUMPS AGAIN AS JAZZ STARS EVOKE ITS '30S HEYDAY ON THE SOUND-TRACK CD OF A NEW ALTMAN FILM

Outside the city's dozens of nightclubs and honky-tonks, violence and corruption ruled the streets. Inside, in the back rooms, there was illicit gambling and who knew what else. But up on the bandstands, the jazz musicians of Kansas City swung through it all. Absorbed, imperturbable, they played within a sort of bubble of purity: theirs were the only disinterested passions in town. Or so it seems in Robert Altman's new film, Kansas City, set in the 1930s heyday of "Boss" Tom Pendergast, when an extraordinary concentration of jazz talent flourished in the city (and a wide-eyed Altman was growing up there).

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