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Submitted By thelobsterboy
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History of Jazz

Swing. A new evolution of music was developing during the 1930s. What was developing was possibly the most notable styles, movements and sub-genres to evolve out of Jazz, the unmistakable Swing. This new style was about more than just the music and great musicians, it was a reaction to a pivotal time in America’s history, it was a cultural phenomenon, it made people get up and dance.

This was an important musical movement for this country, most notable the younger generation, in that it was a welcome distraction to the war that was engulfing all of our resources and attention, along with what was going on in our own backyards; the Great Depression. The danceability of swing was a great stress reliever and a way to have some much needed fun.

One thing that makes Swing an experience is the size of the majority of the bands performing this music at that time. And due to the general size of these bands, it was dubbed the Big Band Era. These bands relied on complex scores of standards and new original material alike. Any improvisation was reserved for a soloist, since 10-20 musicians attempting to improvise all at once could be quite a fiasco. This new evolution of Jazz also added something new to the musical mix, and that new ingredient were lyrics. The more consistent musical arrangements and performances, along with the addition of lyrics, made Swing more relatable for larger audiences and therefore became popular amongst those that may have been turned off by other forms of Jazz, as some Jazz can be seen as more for the artist that the masses.

The size of the bands weren’t the only thing separating Swing from other Jazz iterations. Generally, these new ensembles were comprised of piano, bass, guitar, drums and any number of sections of various horns, both woodwinds and brass. With these new possible combinations, Swing bands were capable of creating a greater array of of sounds and arrangements than other previous Jazz movements. These new instrument arrangements and predetermined compositions led to the main reason Swing was so popular; it had a constant rhythm.

There were a few band leaders that had a profound impact on Swing and the Big Band Era, such as Count Basie, Jimmy Lunceford and Duke Ellington. Without great writers/arrangers working with these musicians that were beyond proficient in improvisation and being masters of their instruments, Swing very well may not have become the sensationally popular form of music it ultimately became. It was the near perfect mixture of standard rhythms, driving beats and just enough fun improvisation to keep thing fresh for each performance. These are what made Swing fun and danceable.

While Jazz was always the backbone and main ingredient to all of the subsequent musical evolutions such as Cool Jazz, Bop, and Free Jazz, Swing was the one form of music that was for the common audience to enjoy and become engrossed in. Swing penetrated and propagated concert venues, dance halls and what proved to be the method that really popularized the genre; the radio. So much of what we hear even to this day can be traced to most notably the Big Band Era, but also to all of the innovations that occurred within the father genres of Jazz.

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