What Is Swing Music?
Swing is a sub-genre of Jazz that found its way into the pop charts in the mid 1930’s. Swing was performed by the Big Bands of that time led by notable artists like Chick Webb, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Fletcher Henderson. Swing music derived its name from its style of playing the instruments with a strong vibe or groove, loud enough to be heard from the back of the hall. Each Big Band consisted of a dozen members specialized in playing various types of instruments. There were soloists as well as background musicians who played improvisations without losing the main theme.
Swing music had a four-beat structure unlike the two-beat feel of Jazz. It was faster, more rhythmic and inspired dancing, which was the main aim of the bandleaders of that time. America was going through tough times and people sought fun and solace in music which was aimed at providing them with maximum entertainment. Dancing to Swing music was a way to forget the gloominess of The Great Depression. Thus Swing music played by the Big Bands was a symbol of joy and escapism. It helped people forget their individual financial pain and revel in the rhythms of upbeat music.
The Big Bands had a large ensemble to compose music that could be heard from all the nooks and corners of the dance hall. They mainly consisted of three to four trombonists, five saxophonists who also played clarinets, five trumpeters, a pianist, a bassist, a tuba player, a drummer and bassist or guitarist.
Swing musicians and vocalists were held in high esteem by young Americans. Their music was linked to their lives and helped them rise over the depression that was prevalent during that time. The likes of Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Count Basie are still considered as the pioneers of Swing Music. The rarest of the rarest recordings are still played consistently on the popular-most Swing music station in the USA – Swing Street Radio. Our programs are designed in a way that you get a complete idea of the evolution of Jazz into the Swing and Big Bands. We have been successful in preserving over 15,000 rare recordings and we believe in sharing this music to foster appreciation among younger generations.
What Is Jazz Music?
Jazz- the very word stands for “energy”, “bravery” and “spirit”, and indeed it is! Born somewhere in the late 19th and early 20th century in New Orleans, Jazz grew in popularity quickly among young Americans. But while Jazz as we know it today may have begun in America, the rhythm and beat of Jazz had its origins in Africa and Europe. It derived its ‘rhythm’ and ‘blues’ from Africa and the concept of harmony as well as the instruments from Europe. The precursors of Jazz music were Ragtime and Blues that evolved into early Jazz somewhere around World War I, during the period that spans 1910-1920. New Orleans was the best place for the birth of Jazz as it was a port city where people from different ethnic origins came together. The city had a vibrant night life, paving the way for Jazz musicians to perform and experiment amidst a lively and enthusiastically cheerful crowd.
The characteristic Jazz music was bold, unpredictable and energetic all at the same time. The musicians played their trumpets, pianos, clarinets and saxophones in an expressive manner as if they were talking to each other through music. Indeed, jazz was like an extended form of musical conversation with varied improvisations of the same tune. In live musical performance, it was typical that no Jazz tune was played exactly the same way twice. Just like in conversation, the words flow from expression to expression, with nothing repeated the exact way twice. Jazz music showed the same tendency of not repeating exact phrases. This improvisation formed one of the primary attractions of Jazz.
The first known Jazz record was produced in 1917. It was The Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s recording of “Livery Stable Blues” along with “Dixie Jazz Band One Step”. The group was the first to introduce Jazz music to New York City. Then in 1922, the “Kid Ory’s” band recorded the first African-American Jazz in the songs “Ory’s Creole Trombone” and “Society Blues”. In the ensuing years, Jazz became a sensation from New York to Chicago and eventually out west in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Musicians played on the radio and in dancehalls, pulling people to their feet with their energetic rhythm and chord-based improvisation.
While Jazz music has grown and ‘matured’ in many ways, the roots of Jazz continue to influence so-called “progressive Jazz” as well as modern-day pop, rock and hip hop. We celebrate the origins of this incredible part of African/American/European culture in the artists and songs featured daily on Swing Street Radio, our popular Jazz music radio station in the USA. Tune in and discover this incredible music from the Golden Age of Popular Music.