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What Is Swing Music?


What Is Swing Music?

The original 1941 78 rpm release of Duke Ellington's "Take The 'A' Train"

Definition: "Swing" music is a term used to describe the harder, somewhat slower, sexier form of jazz that begin to take off in the mid-1930s and lasted through World War II (indeed, American society during the war is almost inseparable from the genre). The genre is sometimes referred to as "big band" music, due to the large "dance orchestras" of 15-20 musicians, usually outfitted with a solo vocalist, which overtook the genre when white audiences discovered this type of jazz around 1935. The big bands were often pop-oriented, commercial outfits that were led by the bandleader, not the singer, and improvisation was kept to a minimum. The orchestration was also slightly different than in other types of jazz, with clarinets often taking lead lines and more than one saxophone offering rhythmic counterpoint. Many black jazz "dance" bands, however, expanded to full orchestras in order to capitalize.

There were two types of big bands at the zenith of the genre's popularity: "sweet" bands, ballad-heavy and more likely to be concerned with melody, and "hot" bands, which were more rhythmically oriented, more prone to soloing, and more likely to appeal to fast swing dancers like jitterbuggers. The term is not always precise: some big bands could run both sweet and hot; some employed vocalists and some did not; some were closer to traditional jazz than others. After WWII, harder, more experimental and less danceable forms of jazz like bebop and free jazz began to take over the style, and pop music moved away from jazz entirely and began a slow, decade-long flirtation with urban blues that would lead directly to the birth of rock and roll. Big bands still exist today, many of them bearing the names of their long-dead leaders, as new bandleaders faithfully replicate the tightly regimented orchestration and arrangements of their most beloved hits.

Also Known As: Big Band, Jazz
  1. "Sing! Sing! Sing!" Benny Goodman & His Orchestra (purchase/download)
  2. "Take The 'A' Train," Duke Ellington (purchase/download)
  3. "In The Mood," Glenn Miller Band (purchase/download)
  4. "Jumpin' At The Woodside," Count Basie Orchestra (purchase/download)
  5. "Begin The Beguine," Artie Shaw & His Orchestra (purchase/download)
  6. "Two O' Clock Jump," Harry James & His Orchestra (purchase/download)
  7. "A Tisket, A Tasket," Ella Fitzgerald (with the Chick Webb Band) (purchase/download)
  8. "At The Woodchoppers Ball," Woody Herman Orchestra (purchase/download)
  9. "Sentimental Journey," Les Brown & His Band of Renown (with Doris Day) (purchase/download)
  10. "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon," The Andrews Sisters (purchase/download)
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  8. Swing Music - What is Swing Music? - Oldies Songs and Artists

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