Big Bands Through the Ages

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By jwblackwell



9 Questions

What is the minimum number of musicians required for a big band?

What is the purpose of big bands in jazz music?

Which era did big bands dominate jazz music?

What are the four sections of a big band?

What is a 'chart' in big band music?

Who were the major 'black' bands of the 1930s apart from Ellington's?

Who were the principal fans of big bands in the late 1930s and early 1940s?

What was the impact of big bands during World War II?

What is the lasting influence of big band music on American popular music?


Big Bands in Jazz Music: A Detailed Overview

  • Big bands are musical ensembles that consist of ten or more musicians with four sections: saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and a rhythm section.

  • They originated during the 1910s and dominated jazz in the early 1940s when swing was most popular.

  • Big bands were created as accompaniment for dancing and relied on written compositions and arrangements rather than improvisation.

  • They generally have four sections: trumpets, trombones, saxophones, and a rhythm section of guitar, piano, double bass, and drums.

  • Arrangers frequently notate all or most of the score of a given number, usually referred to as a "chart".

  • Typical big band arrangements from the swing era were written in strophic form with the same phrase and chord structure repeated several times.

  • The major "black" bands of the 1930s included, apart from Ellington's, Hines's and Calloway's, those of Jimmie Lunceford, Chick Webb, and Count Basie.

  • White teenagers and young adults were the principal fans of the big bands in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

  • Big bands uplifted morale during World War II and many musicians served in the military and toured with USO troupes at the front.

  • Although big bands are identified with the swing era, they continued to exist after those decades, though the music they played was often different from swing.

  • Charlie Barnet's recording of "Cherokee" in 1942 and "The Moose" in 1943 have been called the beginning of the bop era.

  • Sun Ra and his Arketstra took big bands further out, playing eclectic music with a roster of musicians from ten to thirty and presenting it as theater, with costumes, dancers, and special effects.The History and Legacy of Big Bands

  • Big bands emerged in the early 20th century, with the likes of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman becoming prominent bandleaders.

  • The big band era reached its peak in the 1930s and 1940s, with swing music becoming the most popular genre in America.

  • The big band sound is characterized by a large ensemble consisting of brass, woodwind, and rhythm sections, with arrangements often featuring call-and-response patterns between different sections.

  • Big bands played a significant role in the integration of African American and white musicians during the Civil Rights Movement.

  • Many famous vocalists, including Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, got their start singing with big bands.

  • Big band music declined in popularity after World War II due to changing musical tastes and the rise of rock and roll.

  • However, big bands continued to evolve and incorporate new styles, such as jazz fusion and avant-garde jazz.

  • In the late 1990s, there was a swing revival in the U.S. that renewed interest in big band music.

  • Big bands continue to maintain a presence on American television and in music education programs at colleges and universities.

  • Big bands also appeared in movies, with fictionalized biographical films of Glenn Miller, Gene Krupa, and Benny Goodman being made in the 1950s.

  • Female bandleaders, such as Gloria Parker and Phil Spitalny, led all-girl orchestras during the big band era.

  • Big band music has had a lasting influence on American popular music, with many contemporary artists drawing inspiration from the genre.


Test your knowledge of the swinging sounds of jazz with our Big Bands quiz! From the origins of the ensemble to its peak in popularity in the 1930s and 1940s, this quiz covers the history and legacy of big bands. Learn about famous bandleaders like Duke Ellington and Count Basie, the role of big bands in the Civil Rights Movement, and the impact of the genre on American popular music. Whether you're a jazz aficionado or just a curious learner, this

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