Swing and the big bands
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Swing and the Big Bands. Jazz In the 1920s. much of the most popular music called jazz reflects a "slapstick" phase. new interest in the blues.

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Swing and the Big Bands

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Swing and the big bands

Swing and the Big Bands


Jazz in the 1920s

Jazz In the 1920s

much of the most popular music called jazz reflects a "slapstick" phase.

new interest in the blues.

"As jazz expands in the 1920s, it becomes increasingly difficult to sort out the many strands of direct or indirect influences, of concurrent or successive developments, and of regional musical-social characteristics" (Schuller 1968, p. 242).


New or younger jazz musicians

“New” or Younger Jazz Musicians

“. . . a new generation of Negro musicians, unheralded and practically unnoticed, was quietly slipping into New York" (Schuller 1968, pp. 251-2).

  • jazz in some form had always been available.

  • see jazz as a profession capable of providing income. .

  • Ability to read music.

  • Technical ability on their instrument.

  • Knowledge of music theory.


New generation cont d

New Generation cont’d.

  • The most talented musicians “developed in their own directions and hoped they would be recorded,” (Schuller 1968, p. 243) while others imitated those who had already proven successful.

  • Cross-fertilization - the reading, non-improvising, instrumentally schooled musician combined with the less literate, though not necessarily less gifted, counterpart.


Big bands

Big Bands

  • By the end of the 1920s, the primary vehicle for jazz had become the "Big Band.“

  • pre-existing format:

    • society and syncopated dance bands of the early 1900s.

    • “polyphonic” conception of jazz (collective improvisation) gave way to a more homophonic approach (written arrangements).

    • Increased emphasis on block chords, parallel voicing, and “section” writing.


Larger ensembles

Larger Ensembles

  • Typical instrumentation included:

    • Woodwinds – Saxophones (often 5) who may double on clarinet or flute.

    • Brass – Trumpets (3-4) and Trombones (3-4).

    • Rhythm section – piano, bass, drums, guitar.


Social influences

Social Influences

  • The Depression

    • stock market crash of 1929

    • “a counterstatement to reality”

    • the first “teenager’s music”

  • World War II

    • symbolized the strengths of American democracy: it was participatory, informal, and built community.


Factors leading to success

Factors Leading to Success

  • In "The Big Bands," George T. Simon lists four factors that contributed to the success of certain bands:

    • the band's musical style, generally established by the band's musical director (leader and/or arranger).

    • the musicians - ability to read, improvise, attitude, cooperation.

    • singers.

    • the leader assumed the most vital and responsible role.


Swing and race

Swing and Race

  • Swing played both sides of the race card.

    • a symbol of black culture

    • dance steps were developed by black teenagers

    • call-and-response, riff-based performance practices mimicked black church music

    • boosted the careers of some black bandleaders

    • whites didn’t know the black origins of the music, the dance, or the language (“jive”) that went with it

    • black bands had to tour the Jim Crow South

    • some black musicians felt the music had been stolen from them


Benny goodman may 30 1909 june 13 1986

Benny Goodman (May 30, 1909-June 13, 1986)

  • grew up in Chicago, son of an immigrant from Warsaw

  • received (classical) clarinet lessons from Franz Shoepp (Chicago Symphony), but also listened to jazz clarinetists

  • joined the musician's union in 1923

  • joined Ben Pollack's band in 1925. He recorded his first solo with Pollack ("He's the Last Word") on December 17, 1926.

  • Pollack's band moved to New York in 1928. Goodman left Pollack in 1929

  • one of the leading freelance musicians until 1934, when he formed his first big band.


Goodman as bandleader

Goodman as Bandleader

  • began recording for Columbia in spring of 1934.

  • "Let's Dance“ (1934) – book included arrangements by Henderson, Edgar Sampson, and others

  • Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles on August 21, 1935 (beginning of the Swing Era).

  • peak of success from 1936-39:

  • Carnegie Hall concert January 16, 1938.

  • Innovations:

    • High standards of musicianship.

    • First white bandleader to adopt (and popularize) an "uncompromising jazz style."

    • featured African American players.


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