Chapter 6
The Swing Era
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Jazz Becomes the Cornerstone of popular Culture
Between 1935 and 1946, jazz, or swing as it
came to be called, was more popular than
anytime in its history, and influenced clothing
styles, retail marketing, fashion, dance and even
language.
Jazz from 1935 - 1946
• Helped pull America out
of the Depression and get
through World War II
• Nursed the record industry
back to health
• Filled dance halls all over
the country with dancers.
• More than any other time,
jazz reached out and
connected with its
audience.
• Band leaders became
celebrities.
• Magazines like Downbeat
and the Metronome
followed every move.
• Bands of Benny
Goodman, Duke
Ellington, and Count
Basie were among the
greatest bands of the era.
• Helped develop many fine
soloists and singers
Benny Goodman at the Palomar
Ballroom in Los Angeles (1935)
• Benny just got off a disastrous cross country tour.
• Prior to the Palomar the band had met rejection at
almost every stop.
• In Denver, were nearly fired.
• No one was dancing; booing was common
• In L.A. a DJ had been playing his records
• The first night of the Palomar, the crowd roared
which told Benny Goodman that this music was
going to be successful.
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Why is it called the Swing Era?
The swing era got its name from the musical
style that Goodman and eventually hundreds of
other orchestras played.
Cultural Aspects of Swing
• Teenagers embraces
• Dances include the
swing music at their own
jitterbug, the Suzie-Q, the
and built an entire social
Lindy Hop, the big apple,
phenomenon around it.
and the shag.
• New Clothing Styles:
• Jazz had is own lingo as
Bobby sox, white buck
well: “cutting a rug,”
shoes with sweaters,
referring to dancing, a
pleated dresses for girls,
“belly warmer” was a
zoot suits and port pie
necktie, a “dish” or a “fine
hats for males.
dinner” was an attractive
girl.
Sound of Changing America
• As the first star of the swing
era, Benny Goodman was
the lighting rob - the Elvis of
his generation.
• In the six years since the
onset of the Depression
(1929), the country had been
forced to reorganize itself
both economically and
socially.
• Economically, American
labor industries turned to
machines and new
technologies to make the
economy run more
efficiently.
• Socially, age-old
suspicions and prejudices
among different
ethnicities had to be
abandoned as people
increasingly saw a need
to come together for the
common good.
• Team work was in.
• Radio and live broadcasts
helped bring people
together.
The Swing Band
• Jazz became a commercial
product that had to be
produced, marketed and sold
to the consumer in much the
same way as a soft-drink or
bar of soap.
• Standard instrumentation: 5
brass (usually 3 trumpets and 2
trombones), 4 reeds (saxes and
clarinets), and a 4 man rhythm
section
• Impeccable appearance and
stage presence: Matching
suits, tuxedos or flashy
costumes.
• Standard repertoire: most bands
had a mix of “hot” tunes (uptempo dance numbers)
sentimental ballads, novelty tunes
and a few boogie woogie tunes
(after the boogie woogie crazy of
1938
• Vocalists: Most bands had a “girl”
singer, whose good looks were as
important as their talents; many
had a “boy” singer as well.
• Theme Songs: signature tune.
• Emphasis on playing danceable
music and entertaining audiences.
3 Broad Categories of Bands
• Sweet Bands - were cut in the mold of the Paul
Whiteman Orchestra, playing stock arrangements of
overly commercial dance music. Ex: Guy Lombardo and
his Royal Canadians and the Sammy Kaye Orchestra.
• Commercial Bands - straddled the fence and played a
mix of hot and sweet music. This was most common: Ex:
Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James.
• Hot Bands - were true jazz bands with the most exciting
and jazz oriented arrangements as well as the best jazz
soloists. Many of the era’s best hot bands were loaded
with great jazz players: Ex: Duke Ellington, Count
Basie, Chick Webb, Jimmie Lunceford and Benny
Goodman.3 Broad Categories of Bands
Benny Goodman
• His parents were immigrants from
Easter Europe to fled to US.
• One of eight children
• Father (David) worked 12 to 16
hour days. Father instilled working
hard.
• Benny was assigned the clarinet
when his father enrolled him in the
Kehelah Facob Synagogue
• Follow other clarinetists: Johnny
Dodds (playing with King Oliver at
Lincoln Gardens), Leon Roppolo
(playing with the New Orleans
Rhythm Kings), and Frank
Teschmacher (of the Austin High
Gang).
• In 1925 while only sixteen years
old, Goodman took a job with the
traveling Ben Pollack Orchestra,
with a steady supply of gigs and
recordings sessions to support the
family back home.
• By 1929, Benny was confident
enough in his skills to leave the
Pollack band and strike out on his
own in New York City.
• 1929 - 1934 -Made over 500
records.
• 1933 - In New York Benny got his
first big break when he met jazz
impresario John Hammond.
• Hammond helped Goodman start his
own orchestra.
• His next big break was a spot on
nationally broadcast NBC radio
program “Let’s Dance.”
Benny Goodman
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“Let’s Dance” was cancelled in May
1935 and Benny therefore took his band
on the road to keep it together.
Goodman’s cross country tour starting
in New York ended up at the Palomar
Ballroom in L.A. where on August 21st,
1935 the band had an unexpected
success because his music from the
“Let’s Dance” radio show had been
playing on the air and attracting
thousands of listeners and fans. There
contract was extended another two
months
On their return trip home they secured
booking at the Urban Room of the
Congress Hotel in Chicago that was so
successful that it was extended six
months.
During Goodman’s stay at the Congress
Hotel gig made history by tearing down
one of the walls of racial segregation.
• While at the Congress Hotel Benny
started devoting part of the show to
his trio which included black pianist
Teddy Wilson. At this point, it was
not appropriate for whites and
blacks to share a stage on a huge
publicized media event. The show
went off without a hitch and Benny
started hiring more black musicians.
• His trio therefore kept expanding
until is was a sextet. It featured
black musicians: Lionel Hampton
on vibes, Charlie Christian on
guitar, and Cootie Williams on
trumpet.
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Benny Goodman The King of Swing
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From the Congress hotel, Goodman’s rise to the
top of the music world was unparalleled. He
became known as the King of Swing.
•
In 1936 Down Beat Reader’s poll, the Goodman
orchestra came in 1st with nearly three times as
many votes.
•
In 1937 he appeared at the Paramount Theatre in
New York and broke all attendance records
(21,000 showed up the first day).
•
Goodman also made several more trips to L.A.
where the band kept busy shooting Hollywood
movies by day and appearing at the Palomar at
night.
He single handedly broke down racial barriers in
jazz while he was in the national spotlight, the
importance of which cannot be overstated.
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In 1938 his orchestra headlined the first ever
jazz concert at Carnegie Hall to a standing
room only crowd.
Like Elvis twenty years later, Goodman
brought black music to white America at a
time when only a white performer could.
He was comfortable in both worlds of classical
and jazz.
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Duke Ellington Part II: 1931-1974
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• In the years following their engagement at the Cotton Club,
the Duke Ellington Orchestra took advantage of their
growing national reputation and toured extensively.
• The were now earning $6000 per week, which put them in
the upper echelons of the dance band business.
• The clubs and hotels they played were sold out.
• In 1933 they toured Europe, the first of nine tours.
• In 1934 Ellington was writing furiously and breaking ground
seemingly with each new composition.
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Ellington’s contributions
• 1931 - “Creole Rhapsody” :the first recording to break the three-minute
barrier of the 78-rpm disc, “Creole Rhapsody was six and half minutes long
and filled both sides of a disc.
• 1932 - “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing”: the song title was
apparently a favorite expression of Bubber Miley’s: it is credited with putting
the term swing into general use, three years before the start of the swing era.
• 1933 - “Daybreak Express”: a remarkable piece that musically depicts a train
starting up, cruising at top speed and finally arriving at the station. One of
Ellington’s many train songs.
• 1934 - “Symphony In Black”: a four-movement, nine-minute piece depicting
African-American life, it was the soundtrack to a non-dialogue film of the
same name, making it in effect, the first music video.
• 1935 - “Reminiscing in Tempo”: a somber reflection on his mother’s death;
at 13 minutes long it was the longest piece to date.
• 1937 - “ Caravan”: an exotic piece written with trombonist Juan Tizol that
conjures up images of the Middle East and uses Latin Rhythms.
Ellington - Master Composer/Arranger
• By 1940 Duke Ellington had become the first important composer in jazz. In
time his creative output would also make him the greatest composer in jazz, if
not all American music.
• Over the course of his career he wrote roughly 2,000 compositions.
• His music is filled with impressionistic and dissonant harmonies that were
years ahead of their time.
• He often gave melodies to instruments that were not typically melodic
instruments, such as the baritone sax. He used cross-sectional voicing to
achieve new tonal shadings, in direct opposition to the standard big band
technique of sectionalizing the orchestra.
• He used a variety of mutes on brass instrument ot achieve more interesting
tonal effects.
• He was the first arranger to use a wordless vocal.
Ellington’s Four Writing Styles
• Jungle - written for the Cotton Club floorshows, this category is
generally comprised of songs featuring the growling wah wah
brass of Bubber Miley and Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton.
• Concertos - as the first jazz composer to use the European
concerto format, these were written to feature the unique talents
of his many fine and versatile soloist.
• Impressionistic - Extended works written mainly in his middle
and later career that evoke images of memories of people, places
or history; this style can further be divided into four
subcategories. (Musical Portraits, Musical Pictures, Historical
Pieces, Religious)
• Popular Tunes - a huge catalogue of popular and dance tunes
written throughout his career, often using the 32-bar standard
song form or 12 bar blues form.
Ellington’s & Billy Strayhorn
• Ellington’s creative output as composer and arranger
was enhanced in 1939 with the addition of Billy
Strayhorn as a collaborator. Strayhorn was college
educated (Unlike Ellington, who was self-taught).
• Strayhorn (who was known as Sweet Pea for his
diminutive size and mild manner) also began to
contribute his own compositions, including some of the
most memorable in the Ellington library, including
“Passion Flower,” “Chelsea Bridge,” and “Lush Life.”
• “Take the A Train” the tune that would become
Ellington’s them song, was written by Strayhorn in
1941.
Ellington’s Orchestra Alumni include:
• Harry Carney - bari saxophonist for 47 years (1927-74). The first notable bari
sax soloist in jazz
• Johnny Hodges - lead alto saxophonist for 38 years (1928-51, 1955-70)
• Ray Nance, trumpet, violin, vocal for 34 years. Ellington called Nance
“Floorshow” because of his many talents.
• Lawrence Brown - trombone for 29 years
• Sonny Greer - for 28 years (1923-51).
• Paul Gonsalves, tenor sax for 24 years (1950-1974)
• Cootie Williams - trumpet for 23 years (1929-40, 1962-74)
• Otto Hardwick - alto sax for 19 years
• Cat Anderson - trumpet for 12 years (1944-47, 1950-59)
• Rex Stewart - cornet for 11 years (1934-43), he used a half-valve technique to
give his horn a novel “talking” effect.
• Ben Webster - tenor sax from 1939-1943.
• Oscar Pettiford - bass from 1945-48
• Jimmie Blanton - bass from 1939-1942, helped redefine bass playing.
Ellington’s “Famous Orchestra”
• From 1940 to 1943, Ellington’s orchestra was hitting on
all cylinders, with players who had been with him for
several years that were well rehearsed and tight. This
would become known as his “Famous Orchestra,” and is
regarded as the best lineup of his career.
Count Basie
• In Chicago in 1936, John Hammond heard the Count
Basie Orchestra being broadcasted live on the short
wave radio (W9XBY). John went to the Reno Club to
hear the band live and wrote of their virtues in Down
Beat articles. Within three years Basie’s band was one
of the most popular in the country.
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Count Basie
• Born on Red Bank, New
Jersey.
• Learned to play stride piano
from Fats Waller.
• Worked his way into the
music business playing
organ in theatres and piano
with traveling vaudeville
shows.
• In 1925 was stranded in
Kansas City when one of his
shows ran out of money.
• Stayed in Kansas to pursue a
music career and played
with Jimmy Rushing.
• 1928 Basie joins the Blue
Devils.
• 1929 Basie joins Bennie
Moten’s Orchestra.
• His style was now
streamlined, sparce and
understated, often using
little if any left hand. It was
a major step forward in the
evolution of jazz piano.
• One of Basie’s most
important big band soloist
was Lester Young.
The All American Rhythm Section
When Benny Moten died in 1935, Basie put his
own band together, secured the gig at the Reno,
and assembled the greatest rhythm section of the
era. Along with Basie and Page was drummer
Jo Jones, who shifted the emphasis of his
playing away from the heavy bass drum on each
beat to the high hat cymbal. The result was a
lighter, more buoyant drumming style that was
the perfect compliment for Basie’s piano style.
The All American Rhythm Section
In early 1937 Basie replaced his original
guitarist Claude Williams with Freddie Green,
who played a rock solid down stroke on every
beat. Because of the delegation of
responsibilities and the lighter, more fluid
rhythm section, Basie revolutionized the rhythm
section.
The All American Rhythm Section
The “All-American Rhythm Section” as they were
called, was the first modern rhythm section in jazz
history. With it,the Basie band built its reputation on
swinging harder than anyone else, rather than with
arrangements or by playing the latest pop tunes.
Count Basie
Piano
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Freddie Green
Guitar
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Jo Jones
Drums
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Walter Page
Bass
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Count Basie Alumni Include:
Lester Young
Tenor Sax
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Clark Terry
Trumpet
Frank Foster
Tenor Sax
Buddy Tate
Tenor Sax
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Don Byas
Tenor Sax
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Buck Clayton
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Harry Edison
Trumpet
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Dickey Wells
T-bone
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Other Important Swing Era Bandleaders
• Chick Webb - hard swinging, Chick was one of the eras
most powerful drummers. Ella Fitzgerald was his singer.
• Jimmie Lunceford - college educated, tight band, put on
a show, matching uniforms, horn tossing.
• Cab Calloway - Biggest hit “Minnie the Moocher.” From
the lyrics, his nickname was “hi-de-ho man.”
• Artie Shaw - achieve national fame with “Begin the
Beguine”
• Charlie Barnet - referred to as the “White Ellington.” one
of he first white bands to play Harlem’s Apollo Theatre.
One of first band leaders to hire black musicians.
• Tommy Dorsey and Jimmy Dorsey big bands.
Other Important Swing Era JAZZ STARS
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Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young (most important)
Billie Holiday
Roy Eldridge
Jack Teagarden
Jimmy Dorsey
Tommy Dorsey
Django Reinhardt
Roy Eldridge
Billie Holiday
Ella Fitzgerald
Sarah Vaughn
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Billie Holiday
1915-1959
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• Gave some of the most inspired performances by a jazz singer on
record with unlimited emotion and expression.
• Father Clarence Holiday - guitar. Played with Fletcher
Henderson.
• Sexual molested at age 10. By age twelve was a prostitute.
• John Hammond discovered her.
• 1935 - Made first recording as leader
• 1940’s began using heroin and her life began to spiral downward.
• Highlights of her last years include: In 1948 she broke box office
records with appearances at Carnegie Hall. In 1954 had
successful Europe Tour.
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Factors leading to the end of the
Swing Era
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By 1939 a steady supply of new
startup bands had actually started to
outpace demand for them.
1941 - World War II
Gas and rubber rationing.
1942 - 1944 - Recording Ban.
Although successful, when over the
publics attention shifted to other
more accessible styles. . R & B and
country were typically not union
member.s
1944 - 30% amusement tax was
imposed.
Big Band collapsed was then
shocking sudden.
Thousand of musicians called up for
duty.
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Predictability - became
homogenized, cliché ridden and
predictable.
1946 - six major bandleaders fold Jack teagarden, Woody Herman,
Tommy Dorsey, Harry James,
Benny Goodman.
Changing Audiences - solo pop
singers start to dominate - Frank
Sinatra, Doris Day, Pattie Page,
Perry Como and Eddie Fisher were
pop starts until the 1950’s.
Bebop - musicians were searching
for a more creative outlet.
Public perception changed - jazz
was no longer dance music and was
now listening music.
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Chapter 6