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Jazz Swing Era

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The Swing Era (1932-1942)

• Post Depression (1929)

• Big Bands become prominent

• Instrumentation: 4-5 trumpets, 4 trombones, 5 saxophones (woodwinds), piano, bass, drums, guitar

• Arranger becomes much more important

• Written out arrangements with less, or little, improvisation

• Some up-tempo tunes

• Many more ballads with jazz interpretation

• Music often for dancing

Music become a big business

• Recordings were now very important

• Recording companies now exercised control over music

• Record salesbecame the determining factor of success, (popularity vs. quality issue) commercialism

• Arrangements & improvised solos confined to much less time in order to adjust to three minute records to fit in juke boxes

• Situation doesn't change until 1948 with 33 1/3 rpm records

About the record business

• Gold record: sells over a million dollars

• Platinum record: sells over a million units

• By 1988 there were 2800 record companies, but:

• In 1933, only 3 record companies existed: 1. American Record Company, which owned a. Columbia; b. Brunswick; c. Vocalian; 2. Victor Records & subsidiary, Bluebird; 3. Decca Records

• 1938: Start of Comodore Records

• 1939: Start of legendary Blue Note Records

Because there were hundreds of bands and band leaders, there was a perceived need for an identifying signature, gimmick or attraction

• Glenn Miller - clarinet melody over the sax section

• Tommy Dorsey - his trombone sound with sweet tone and control

• Small groups of soloists became identified with some bands, e.g., Goodman: Krupa, Hampton, Herman, Getz

1933 - Repeal of Volstead act (Prohibition)

• Ballrooms attract thousands of people

• Even in small towns thousands show up for concerts/dances

• Jazz becomes very popular

• Surge in popularity of dancing; many dance every night

Elements of Swing music

• 4/4 rhythm prevalent again (like Ragtime and New Orleans Style Dixieland)

• "Walking Bass" line begins to develop

• More role playing for musicians in the band such as leaders, section players & soloists

Early Bands and Figures

in New York

Fletcher Henderson

• Arranger and pianist, worked with fellow arranger Don Redman

• Credited with setting the big band instrumentation, independent horn sections

in Kansas City

Benny Moten Band

• More riff-like, less prearranged, more blues influenced

William "Count"Basie (1904-1984)

• Was in New York in the 1920s

• Joined a road show & became stranded in Kansas City

• Joined the Benny Moten Band

• Started his own band with many of Moten's players

• When Moten died Basie took over his band

• Developed the idea of "comping" or "accompanying" jazz piano

• Piano is no longer a time keeper

• Piano punctuates freely and compliments the soloists and the band

• Basie had good technique; then, during recuperation from an injury to his hand he developed the "Plink Plink" piano style (very sparse playing style)

Ben Webster (1909-1973) (more info below in the Ellington Key Personnel Section)

• Virtuoso tenor saxophonist; innovative; had a breathy tone

• With Ellington 1940-1943, 1948-49

Count Basie,

Photo from Verve records

Coleman Hawkins "Hawk" (1904-1969)

• Played piano & cello as a child

• Joined Fletcher Henderson in 1924

• 1934-39: toured Europe

• 1941: led the first "Bebop" recording featuring Dizzy Gillespie

• A "hot" tenor player (in contrast, Lester Young with Basie was a "cool" tenor player)

• Always used younger musicians

• His "Body and Soul" recording is a jazz landmark

• Aggressive concept, heavy vibrato

• Had a very advanced harmonic concept

• Jagged tritone substitutions and altered



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