These bands were the refined versions of the seminal work of Flecther Henderson, the architect of the big band style. henderson was know not only as a bandleader but as a great arranger and was hired in the latter capacity to write arrangements for the Goodman orchestra. From his big band emerged the first two great jazz horn soloist.
Louis Armstrong- who had already attained fame in Chicago with King Oliver. In NYC, with Henderson, Armstrong broadened his public appeal and made more significant recordings. After Henderson, he returned to Chicago and organized the Hot 5 and Hot 7 for recording. The time spent in Henderson’s band was critical in his growth as a player
Coleman Hawkins- is considered the “Father of the Tenor Saxophone” in jazz and was clearly the most influencial player on that instrument throughout the swing era. His sound and approach became the model for the great majority of tenor players of the 1920’s-40’s.
Benny Carter (1907- ) – the lead alto sax player and also a prominanet arranger for the Henderson band. He went on to have a long and brilliant career as a bandleader, solo recording artist, arranger, composer. educator and is the last remaining Original Jazz Master in American history.
Duke Ellington Orch.- Had the longest tenure under one leader (50 yrs) of all the bands of this era. This was the most recorded big band in American music history. Duke’s style as a pianist was rooted in stride but his style as a composer showed an affection for traditional New orleans Jazz and borrowed from European Classical concepts of form, structure and harmony. his tunes are characterised by beautiful and striking melodies that are highly chromatic.He is recognized as America’s greatest and most prolific Black composer (over 1000 documented compostions) and one of the most important composers world wide in the 20th century.
Innovations associated with Ellington and his band:
(1) wrote specifcally for members of his band thus establishing many of the great solo artist of the swing era
(2) Trumpeters Bubber Miley and Cootie Williams developed the plunger mute technique in his band and Duke cultivated the technique through his writing.
(3) Duke created the technique known as “instrumentalized voice”(wordless melodies that were sung)
(4) Promoted the great soloists in his band to m ajor levels of exposure-
Johnny Hodges (most ifluencial alto saxophonist to emerge from the swing era)
Harry Carney (most influencial Baritone Saxophonist to emerge from the swing era)
Ben Webster (prominent tenor sax soloist, considered to be the biggest rival of Coleman Hawkins)
Paul Gonsalves – the most featured soloist in the Ellington band from 1951-1974. A great tenor soloist whose performance of Diminuendo and crescendo in Blue at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festivals is considered one of the most famous live solo performances in Jazz history.
Jimmy Hamilton – is considered one of the greatest clarinets in the history of jazz, esp. in the skills associated with the New Orleans tradition. Was the biggest rival to the fame of Benny Goodman.
Jimmy Blanton – considered to be the first true jazz bass soloist, who’s work liberated the bass from a supportive role and function in the band
Clark Terry – great trumpet soloist with Ellinton band and was the first significant player to use the flugelhorn as a prominent solo instrument
Louie Bellson- drummer who invented the double bass drum and used it prominently during his time in the band.
Ellington’s chief collaborator was Billy Strayhorn, who was an extremly gifted pianist, lyricist, songwriter and composer. Strayhorn composed Take The A Train, the band’s theme song, which was the only major Ellington recording that was not composed by Ellington in any capacity.
Benny Goodman – nicknamed “The King of Swing” and led the most popular and most visable swing band of the era. His unit was known as a well rehearsed and polished ensemble that was enhanced in terms or authenticity by the arrangements of Fletcher Henderson. Goodman was one of the first Jazz artists to record both jazz and classical music as a soloist.
(1) Goodman hosted a coast-to-coast live radio show called “Let’s Dance” which help bring about a great rise in popularity of swing as the most popular dance music of the 1930’s. This was the first time that a form of jazz was the most popular music of the day. Goodman was the first jazz musician to have such an opportunity.
(2) organized various configurations of his unit to work in large or small situations
a. trio- Goodman (cl.), Teddy Wilson (pno) and Gene Krupa (dms)
b. quartet- trio plus Lionel hampton (vibes)
c. sextet- quartet, plus Charlie Christian (quitar) and Artie Berstein (bass)
These were also the first intergrated performing units. Goodman had earlier broken the “color line” in Jazz by hiring Henderson as an exclusive arranger, but the performing unit was still an all white band. With the inclusion of Teddy Wilson and later Lionel Hampton (vibraphone, quartet, sextet and big band) and guitarist, Charlie Christian (sextet and big band), Goodman officially set forth with efforts to bring great musicians together to make great music without regard to color.
additional sidemen of note-
Gene Krupa- considered to be the most visible, high-profile drummer of the swing era.
Harry James- a prominent trumpet soloists who was a transitional figure between swing and bebop.
Count Basie- considered the most swinging and hard driving of all of the ” Big Five” Basie’s band is felt to be the one most closely linked to the core elements of jazz- deeply rooted in the traditions of the blues, boogie woogie, stride piano withless emphasis on elaborate arrangements and more “blowing space” for the limitless and gifted players in his band. A composer of sorts but nowhere as prolific as Ellington, Basie’s band was ancored by four players considered to be the prototype model for the “modern rhythm section in Jazz” –
Count Basie -piano, a stride master who later evolved to become a “minimulist type” of player who utilized space for taste and punctuation. He developed the art of “comping” and his style became associated with lightness of touch and an exploitation of the higher register of the piano.
Freddie Green – acoustic rhythm guitar, playing crisp, relaxed strokes evenly on all four beats of a swing pattern. He is considered the father figure of rhythm guitarists.
Walter Page- bass one of the first masters of the walking bass technique
Jo Jones – drums, light precision within a loose but assured manner., capable of playing very fast tempos without excess volume.
Additional soloists of note-
Lester Young – considered to be the most original and important solo saxophone artist to emerge from the swing era. His tenor saxophone work with regard to style, color and content greatly influenced a young alto sax artist, Charlie Parker (in Kansas City) and a score of tenor saxophonists in the jazz styles that followed swing- bebop, cool jazz and hard bop.
Don Byas- Young’s replacement in the Basie band was considered to be the most advanced tenor saxophone player with regard to harmonic sophistication and like Young was a transitional figure between swing and bebop