Big Band Era - Jazz in the 1930s
The Swing Era
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
Traversed all society - but little social mixing.
Bands reflected this.
Three sections - brass, reeds, and rhythm.
Brass - 3 trumpets, 2 trombones.
Reed - clarinets, saxaphones.
Rhythm - piano, drums, guitar and double
Units alternated with soloists.
The pieces were written down by an arranger -
sometimes the band leader but more often a skilled
Improvisation restricted to solos.
Complicated arrangements allowed complex
harmonies, dialogue between sections, delicate
Borrowed from classical music. Especially in four
note harmonies - sevenths and added sixths.
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
Singers gradually became stars on their own
and had huge solo careers - Sinatra, ?
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.
Music like everything in American society before
the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s was
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.
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
But viewed with supicion - BBC did not approve
and Nazis banned it altogether. See seen as
depraved and bad for morals.
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.
Most important of Jazz composers and arrangers.
Admired art music - Stravinsky, Debussy,
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.
Most famous Harlem nightclub, offering alcohol
in prohibition age - entertainment.
Entertainers and dancers were black but clientele
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.
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’.