Savoy Swing Band
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What Is Big Band Music?
In the United States, the big band era revolutionized popular music during the first decade of the 20th century.
Although the peak of the big band era (also known as the swing period) was in the 1930s and mid-1940s it has a long history that spans the second half of the 20th century.
Although vague, the term “Big Band” refers to Jazz. The swing era began around 1935. However, there wasn’t one single event that sparked a new style of music. The blues, jazz and folk music of New Orleans and Kansas City had influenced it.
The birthplace of early jazz was New Orleans, where Buddy Bolden and King Oliver performed (a cornet player beloved by Louis Armstrong), at the beginning of the 20th century. The Mississippi steamboats were instrumental in spreading the new sound, as many New Orleans jazz musicians and bands performed on them.
1917 was the first year of recordings by the Original Dixieland Jass Band, a group of white musicians performing the music and arrangements of black musicians. Their recordings were sold more than a million times despite the fact they didn’t invent anything. They introduced jazz all over America and around the globe, even though the band wasn’t an inventor.
Jazz music evolved to larger band sizes in the 1920s. It incorporated elements from ragtime and blues with black spirituals and European music. Fletcher Henderson, Ben Pollack and Don Redman were just a few of the most popular big bands in those early days. They were the home of future stars such as Coleman Hawkins and Benny Goodman.
Swing refers to a type of jazz that focuses on dancing rhythms. The style emerged around the 1930s, and it was the predominant Western form of popular music. This status remained until rock and roll’s rise in the 1950s. Jump music was the simplified version of swing that smaller groups used to create rock & roll.
Music played by big bands is music that is played by an orchestra of musicians. The melody is carried by brass, woodwinds, and trombones. One example of a big band that had a guitarist in their rhythm section was Count Basie’s. Some bands had a guitarist as part of the rhythm section (e.g. Count Basie); some did not.
Although big bands are a legacy of early jazz music, their peak was during the swing era. Many big bands don’t play swing. Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and others experimented with large bands performing their songs. Stan Kenton was a constant experimenter in his band.
Many big bands today have at least one guitar and can mix and match genres like jazz, Latin, funk and any other they choose.
Swing can be performed by any combination or instrument.
The big band sound is different from all other types of jazz. These are the key characteristics of big band music:
There are four main sections to a jazz group: The rhythm section, trombones and trumpets make up the rhythm section. Although the number of musicians within each section may vary, it is common for a band to have between 10 and 25 musicians.
Driving rhythms A rhythm section of drums, piano and bass is what creates the driving beat for big band music.
Simple harmony: Large orchestras use riffs to create simple harmonies. These harmonic repetitions are continued by the horn section, which creates a groove with the rhythm.
Solos are not as common in jazz. Big band musicians adhere to strict arrangements and compositions. Bandleaders will often notate their favourite parts and incorporate them into the composition. However, musicians and singers can often perform solos over the group.