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JAZZ PERSPECTIVES

The Swing Era II - The Decade of Swing

Very few aspects of the musical development of jazz can be pinpointed to actual moments in history. Swing offers us a rare exception to this principle. Although many years led up to the immense popularity of Benny Goodman, the 'King of Swing', the night of August 21, 1935 proved to be pivotal to the success of big-band swing.

The Goodman band had been one of three regular bands performing on the 'Let's Dance' radio show when Willard Alexander, in the employ of Music Corporation of America [MCA], began booking them into the Hotel Roosevelt in New York City. MCA handled a variety of sweet jazz bands such as Guy Lumbardo, a Hotel Roosevelt regular, but no hot bands like Goodman's. The band was constantly asked to quiet down, and was generally unsuccessful in the room.

In an attempt to find better venues for the band, Alexander booked an East to West coast tour which became more depressing as time went on. By the time the band reached the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, the hot arrangements of Fletcher Henderson and Don Redman had been replaced by stock sweet arrangements. The first hour of this made Goodman decide to go out swinging - hot style. The band started out the second set with a series of the Henderson charts, and instead of the expected rejection, the young active crowd went wild, dancing the latest dances to every tune.

The next ten years saw unprecedented success for Benny Goodman, and to a lesser degree other swing bands like the Ellington and Basie Bands. Jazz became a marketable item and sprouted a musical industry which eventually expanded into today's conglomerates. Benny Goodman continued his career until his death in 1986, and is remarkable for many reasons. Much of his early success is attributed to the precision playing and accurate pitch he demanded of his musicians, which appealed to the European influenced musical ear still unable to comprehend the freedom of the black jazz sound. Also notable is his groundbreaking true integration of black and white musicians into working musical organizations, such as the quartet of Goodman, Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton. For this especially all of jazz is in his debt.

Many of the other artists of the day also continued their musical endeavors for decades after, but the BeBop revolution was coming, followed by Rock and Roll, and both would overshadow the big-band sound. States Marshall Stearns in The Story of Jazz [p. 217], "Another war, the record ban, a tax on dance floors, the microphone (which gave volume to any weak voice), a new style, and other imponderables brought the big-band boom to an end around 1945."     [top]
- article by Frank Singer 2002

 

 

BACK TO 
JAZZ PERSPECTIVES

CONTENTS
Jazz Origins
I - Beginnings 
II - Jazz and Technology
   
III - Radio and the Industrial Beat    
The Swing Era
I - Precursors
II - The Decade of Swing
III - The BeBop Strain
A First Look Back
New Orleans Revival

Jazz Forms

The Blues
The 32 bar Song Form
The Latin Influence
Cool
Hard Bop
Evolution 1 - A New Dialogue
Evolution 2 - Into The Seventies
Evolution Of The Jam Session
Post Modernism

 


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