The Big Band Era - BRMS Orchestra and Chorus Download

The Big Band Era
-Swing was primarily dance music.
-By the mid-1930’s, it had given rise to a new phenomenon, the big band.
-These music ensembles were more dance orchestras than pure jazz bands.
-Teenagers abandoned the fox trots and waltzes of their parents, and traded them
for the jitterbug and the Lindy Hop.
-The two-beat meter of early jazz gradually gave way to a solid four.
-Beats were now evenly accented and of equal value.
Legends of the Big Band Era
-As with straight jazz before it, the big band era produced some musical legends
-Benny Goodman was a virtuoso clarinetist whose broad musical education
enabled him to play the classics as well as jazz.
-born into a poor Russian –Jewish family in Chicago
-took clarinet lessons at the local synagogue and played in a band.
-At age 25 (1934) he made his own band (The Goodman Orchestra) and
hired Fletcher Henderson as the chief arranger.
-Appeared as a soloist for major orchestras and commissioned works from
Aaron Copland and Paul Hindemith.
-In 1949 when he disbanded The Goodman Orchestra, it marked the end of
the swing era.
-Later known as the “King of Swing”
Swing, Swing, Swing – Benny Goodman
The Rise of the Saxophone
-The clarinet eventually gave way for the saxophone as the reed instrument of choice for solo jazz work.
-many exceptional saxophone soloists set a new standard for tonal beauty, technical wizardry, and improvisational
- one such saxophonist was Lester Young (1909 – 1959) who was a member of the Count Basie Band.
-showing lyrical richness on the instrument, he set a high standard for other saxophone players
Two to Tango – Lester Young and the Oscar Peterson Trio:
-William “Count” Basie (1904-1984) led a famous nine piece band with a powerful band with a powerful rhythms
-band included Basie on piano and Young on tenor sax
-Other famous saxophonists included Charlie Parker.
32-Bar Song Form
-Improvisation in jazz usually occurs within a certain structure.
-This practice can be traced to the early instances of jazz, when musicians spontaneously
adapted melodies from popular songs
-a large number of these became the 32-bar form which became the standard.
-The most common of the 32-bar form is the A A B A form.
-A and B sections are each 8 bars.
-This familiar structure lends both unity and variety in a simple but elegant way.
-The B sections function as a bridge.
-Bridge – a connective part of a composition
“Cherokee” – Clifford Brown
Legendary Duke Ellington
-One of America’s most prominent big band innovators was Edward Kennedy
“Duke” Ellington (1899-1974).
-One of the most original and prolific composers.
-Credited with having written more music than any other composer – living or
-He made jazz a sophisticated art – gave it form, substance, and timbres.
-When he composed he kept his musicians in mind and gave them a showcase so
they could shine on their instruments.
“It Don’t Mean a Thing”
-Ellington’s songs had a richness and elegance born of imaginative and colorful harmonies.
-melodies of these songs were often generated by their harmonies, not the other way
-his melodies are often chromatic.
-They contain wide leaps and have angular contours that are difficult to sing and
demanding to listen to.
-Chromatic – incorporating tones from a musical scale consisting entirely of half steps.
-”It Don’t Mean a Thing” (1932) – summarized the entire swing era.
-Ellington was the first person to use the word swing in a song.
-The song tells what swing is all about
”It Don’t Mean a Thing” – Duke Ellington
“Cotton Tail”
-Unlike some of the songs of his contemporaries, Ellington’s creations were not
composed as tunes for Broadway shows.
-because of this, many of his songs were not as popular.
-”Cotton Tail” (1940) was a song of Ellington’s that was very popular and was a
collaborative effort between him and his arranger Billy Strayhorn.
-it established chord changes in a startling new way
-dropped the introduction/went straight into the melody (would become
common later on)
-Trumpets and saxes are an octave part
-walking bass line
“Cotton Tail”
Mary Lou Williams
-Other than singing in swing bands, women found it difficult to gain acceptance as jazz musicians
during the big band era.
-Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981) – had versatile talents and was a great jazz pianist, composer,
and arranger.
-her career spanned into all the different eras of jazz.
-she had an ability to adapt to and influence changes in music style (distinguishes her
from most jazz artists).
-historians cite her as the most important female jazz musician to emerge in the early
decades of jazz.
-started playing professionally at age 6!
-by her teens she became a professional travelling musician
-Joined the swing band Twelve Chords of Joy in 1931 and started to gain recognition and
respect for being a pianist and her arranging skills.
-At a time when there were virtually no female composers/arrangers, Williams achievements
were considerable.
-She also composed and arranged for the top swing orchestras
-Included the orchestras of Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman
-Ellington has said of Williams:
“Her writing and performing have always been a little ahead throughout her career. Her
music retains, and maintains, a standard of quality that is timeless”.
-During her career she wrote more than 350 compositions.
-constantly explored new styles and made some of her own
-compositions always had an underlying blues feeling
-wrote sacred music
-Zodiac Suite – contains 12 compositions, all related to the zodiac
Zodiac Suite, “Gemini” – Mary Lou Williams