Jazz in the big band era

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Jazz in the big band era

  1. 1. Big Band Era - Jazz in the 1930s and 40s The Swing Era
  2. 2. Dance  Bigger dance halls, and importance and popularity of dancing led to increase in the size and power of bands. The bands would draw the public to the dance halls which they paid to enter.  Dance craze of 1920s led to greater diversity of dance styles, jazz, European, Latin, and new styles of 1930s.  Traversed all society - but little social mixing. Bands reflected this.
  3. 3. Disposition  Three sections - brass, reeds, and rhythm.  Brass - 3 trumpets, 2 trombones.  Reed - clarinets, saxaphones.  Rhythm - piano, drums, guitar and double bass.  Units alternated with soloists.
  4. 4. Composers/Arrangers  The pieces were written down by an arranger - sometimes the band leader but more often a skilled arranger.  Improvisation restricted to solos.  Complicated arrangements allowed complex harmonies, dialogue between sections, delicate sonorities.  Borrowed from classical music. Especially in four note harmonies - sevenths and added sixths.
  5. 5. Vocalist  Bands increasingly employed a vocalists as part of the band.  Many popular songs in repertoire - band accompanied singer then extended the song with instrumental breaks and complex orchestrations.  Singers gradually became stars on their own and had huge solo careers - Sinatra, ?
  6. 6. Swing  The style of 30s music with polished arrangements and hard driving rhythms set off a new dance craze.  Also implies a particular rhythmic delivery in which the rhythm is never played straight - though it is noted that way. Notes are divided unequally with a slight triplet feel.
  7. 7. Race divide  Music like everything in American society before the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s was segregated.  Bands were either white - Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman; or black - Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington and Count Basie.  Recordings of black artists known as -Race Records - were for Black consumption. Radio stations, recording companies, venues and clubs - all were segregated.  Big black stars - like Ellington - started the process that led to breakdown in segregation as he quickly developed a large white following.
  8. 8. Jazz in Europe  In the 1920s Jazz had spread quickly throughout the Americas and Europe.  WWI as well as sheet music and recordings introduced the style.  It was frequently an inspiration for artists in Europe.  But viewed with supicion - BBC did not approve and Nazis banned it altogether. See seen as depraved and bad for morals.
  9. 9. Django Reinhardt (1910-53)  Developed a unique style - blend of gypsy, European and jazz.  Quinette du Hot Club de France - toured Europe until WW2.  Demonstrated potential of guitar - changing to electric guitar in the mid 1930s.  Idiosyncratic technique using only three fingers of left hand.
  10. 10. Duke Ellington  Most important of Jazz composers and arrangers.  Admired art music - Stravinsky, Debussy, Gershwin.  Son of white house butler - got a good education and was already called the ‘Duke’ in his teens.  Moved to New York in 1923 playing at the Cotton Club in Harlem.  Wanted Jazz to be seen more as Art Music than categorised as pop music. Toured after WW2 and regarded as a national treasure. Arranged classic such as Grieg’s Peer Gynt and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker for his band. (1899-1974)
  11. 11. Cotton Club  Most famous Harlem nightclub, offering alcohol in prohibition age - entertainment.  Entertainers and dancers were black but clientele were white.  House band allowed Ellington to workout new sounds, timbres and effects producing longer more complex arrangements. It grew to 12 members by 1930, 14 by lates 30s and18 by 1946.  Ellington wrote for the particular sounds and strengths of band members.  On the road for much of the time.
  12. 12. Form  Typically a tune at the beginning (often from a popular song) followed by a series of choruses over the same harmonic progression.  Choruses typically feature soloists accompanied by the rhythm section with occasional punctuation from the rest of the band.  Choruses present new ideas and possibilities for improvisations. Though often these were largely worked out in advance and ‘arranged in’.

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