Big Band Swing



Although Minstrelsy, Ragtime and the ODJB were national crazes ... the Swing period was the only time that Jazz and popular music coincided?

After 1929 Louis and Duke escaped the downturn as record companies and players went bust. Oliver, Morton & Bechet went down the pan.

From 1928 'Free' national radio took over the marketing of music and only a few hot spots like 'The Savoy Ballroom' in Harlem survived.

And the Jukebox was part of every commercial gathering.

Everyone wanted to escape the gloom and went into dancing and the 'free float' of Louis 'above' the mundane hustle and bustle.

Into the 1930s went Fletcher Henderson & Don Redman, Earl Hines, Ted Lewis, The Casa Loma Orchestra ('Casa Loma Stomp', 'White Jazz', 'Smoke Rings') ... and, of course, Duke ... and Louis himself had a big band ...

The stars were Benny Goodman, Count Basie and Jimmy Lunceford.

The great black bands - Fletcher Henderson, Earl Hines, McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Cab Calloway, Luis Russell, Chick Webb, Claude Hopkins, Andy Kirk, Don Redman, Benny Carter, Mills Blue Rhythm Band, Lionel Hampton, Erskine Hawkins ...

The great white bands - Paul Whiteman, The Casa Loma Orchestra, Jean Goldkette, Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, Bob Crosby,  Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Charlie Barnet, Woody Herman, Harry James, Billy Eckstine ...

Big Bands hot, or Big Bands sweet?

Swing groups grew to 10 or more players with at least three saxophones, two or three trumpets, two or three trombones, piano, guitar, bass, and drums. The rhythm section was responsible for keeping it all danceable (as that's where the money was). The 'hot' style of Ellington or Basie offered hard-driving rhythms and solo improvisations, unlike the 'sweet' bands of Guy Lombardo or Glenn Miller.

As swing bands grew in size they had to emphasise precision over improvisation.

In 1933 F D Roosevelt's new deal for the American people was a 'confidence trick', prohibition was repealed to raise spirits and fresh air hit the speakeasies, the first legal brews were so bad everyone wished prohibition was back!!

Billy Rose opened an extravagant night club to attract home drinkers back to the legal night clubs. Billy Rose hired attractive Helen Ward and Benny. Goodman had been fired by Pollack and was fiercely ambitious ... inspired by Chick Webb and Fletcher Henderson he gathered a white band together to compete.

Chick Webb (1902-39) 'The Lindy Hop' and non-stop powerhouse dancing at 'The Savoy'. The first king of swing.

A hunchback from Baltimore, Chick Webb drummed up swing and employed Ella Fitzgerald.

He out swung Goodman at a battle of the bands at the Savoy and went out with a fling as his health finally caught up with him, a mere 37 years old.

In 1937 Ella sang with Chick Webb - 'So won't you satisfy my soul with that Rock 'n' Roll'.

Ella goes from strength to strength with Chick's band after he dies.

Benny Goodman (-)

Born in to abject poverty Benny had unbridled determination & ambition. He practised everyday for ever. Played with Ben Pollack.

Then 'Let's Dance' three hours of radio music sponsored by the national biscuit company! But his 'book' was not extensive so Mildred Bailey and John Hammond produced Fletcher Henderson to do the charts. Now the 'swing' music developed at the 'Roseland' and 'Savoy' was broadcast nationally.

Then the Palamar Ballroom LA and nationwide fame.

1936 dancing and records and two weeks at The Paramount Theatre, Times Square, establish Goodman and swing as America's 'popular music'.

The Jitterbug and The King of Swing ... Henderson's Goodman charts were orchestrated Louis ... and Goodman employed black musicians.

Artie Shaw (1910-) practiced so hard the inside of his mouth bled. Inspired by Bix and Tram.

In 1938 Billie Holiday left Count Basie for Artie Shaw, but soon left after racial abuse on tour. Billie went back to New York and sang in the clubs, 'Strange Fruit' ...

Benny had swing and the blues but Artie was technically supreme, wonderful tone, lyrical and erudite. 'Begin the Beguine' makes Shaw more popular than Goodman.

Artie Shaw,

'You are aiming at something that cannot be done, you're trying to play a horn and here's this clumsy series of keys on a piece of wood and you've got to manipulate them with a reed and throat muscles to make something happen that never happened before, a new sound that creates an emotion. An inarticulate thing makes notes that come out in a way that moves you and others. You know when it's right and something you achieved ... but it very rarely happens and when it does you remember it for the rest of your life ... the most exuberant experience ... it beats everything'

The Gramercy Five.

1938 Artie employs Billie Holliday.

1939 Shaw disbands 'the business part of the music stinks'.

Teddy Wilson jams with Goodman, then record trios as soul mates, then in 1936 into the public band also with Lionel Hampton as the trio becomes a quartet. Then Cootie.
But swing was too 'commercial' not only for Artie Shaw but also for many jazz fans.

1938 Goodman made Carnegie Hall but his band then disintegrated under the pressure of 'The Ray' and Benny's apparent disapproval.
1939 Charlie Christian provided a second coming.

Glen Miller (-) 'never made a mistake ... can't be trying' ... but hit after hit !
With Artie Shaw he made swinging morale music during the war ... and Dave Brubeck's Wolfpack Band.

Meanwhile Duke continued with his constantly creative experimental attitude to the blues, 'Swing is business', Duke never complained about Goodman's success, he just wrote some more toons!

The other outfits -

Art Hickman

Fletcher Henderson

McKinney Cotton Pickers

Luis Russell

Ted Lewis

Casa Loma Orchestra

Jean Goldkette

Charlie Barnett

Earl Hines

Andy Kirk

Jimmy Lunceford, precision and polish. A show band.

Tommy Dorsey with Bunny Berigan, Buddy Rich, Dave Tough and Frank Sinatra. The Clambake Seven. The trombones now 'sang'

Cab Calloway

Benny Carter

Woody Herman and his Band that plays the blues.

Bob Crosby and the Bobcats.

Kay Kaiser and his College of Musical Knowledge.

Count Basie

Harry James

By 1940s the Juke Box was more important than record sales.

By 1946 the tyranny of 'popular' taste diluted Big Band Swing and the thrust of popular music veered towards the vocalists and sweeter music, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.

Although Ellington remained, and Basie was discovered, the big bands broke up and jazz continued in small groups and in the developing sounds of Bebop from Mintons ...

British Dance Bands  

In England things were very different. There was a yen for jazz from the ODJB visit in 19??. Ellington 1933. Armstrong 19??.

But from the 1920 musicians made a living in dance bands and some commercial dance bands had a 'hot' inclination.

English 'Music Hall' was different and 'ballroom dancing' had ongoing popularity in England ... there was a depth to tripping the light fantastic ... which endured to the 21st Century with 'Strictly Come Dancing' 

Jack Hylton (1892-1965) first recorded in 1921 and achieved commercial and popular success in the Paul Whiteman mould. Hylton brought Coleman Hawkins to England in 1934. Jack Hylton recorded Johnny Green's 'Body & Soul' before it was copyrighted in 1930.

Bert Ambrose (1896-1971) born in Warsaw, a Jewish family escaped to London soon afterwards. He was a young violinist and at 15 he went to America with his Aunt. He first played professionally in New York; Reisenweber's restaurant. He returned to London in 1920 and had considerable success at The Embassy Club but the pay was lousy and he went back to New York for real money in 1922. The Prince of Wales himself was involved in entreaties to return again to The Embassy Club ... he accepted and played there until 1927. He then moved to The May Fair Hotel where broadcasting was encouraged for the ambitious.

He started recording in 1923; the band was possibly the finest, with arranger Sid Philips and stars Ted Heath, George Chisholm and Tommy McQuater ... and Vera Lynn. Sam Browne and Ann Shelton also featured. His tune, 'When Day is Done'.

He survived the war but not Rock 'n' Roll ... although Kathy Kirby put up a fight.

Lew Stone (1898-69)

Henry Hall (1898-1989) employed Benny Carter as arranger in 1936.

'Here's to the Next Time' ... 'Henry Hall’s Guest Night' ... 'This is Henry Hall speaking, and tonight is my Guest Night’ ... ran on and off for the best part of 20 years.

In 1932 Lord Reith chose HH to replace Jack Payne as leader of the BBC Dance Orchestra.

1933-60 'In Town Tonight' ... 'Once more we stop the mighty roar of London traffic' ...'This is Henry Hall speaking and tonight is may guest night'. 'Knightsbridge March' by Eric Coates.

Billy Cotton (1899-1969)

Jack Payne (1899-1969) Leamington Spa, son of a sheet music salesman.

Billy Ternent (1899-1977)

Harry Roy (1900-71) clarinet. 'She had to go and Lose it at The Astor'.

Victor Silvester (1900-78) strict tempo for dancing. 'Dancing on My Heart'.

Roy Fox (1901-82)

Maurice Winnick (1902-62) born in Manchester, a child violin prodigy. Guy Lombardo was the inspiration, Sam Costa sang.

Carroll Gibbons (1903-54)

Ray Nobel (1903-78)

Geraldo (1904-74)

Mantovani (1905-80)

Jack Jackson (1906-78) Barnsley brass band player and later Disk Jockey.

Fred Elizalde (1907-79) was at The Savoy from 1927 to 29.

Joe Loss (1909-90) a Russian Jew from Spitalfields.

The Squadronaires

Geraldo, Gerald Bright played some jazz from 1939.



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