Jazz band hire: A brief history of swing music:
October 5, 2018
If you’re considering jazz band hire for a party or wedding, it’s important to familiarise yourself with different styles of jazz. Silk Street Swing are inspired by the lindihopping, trumpet-blaring swing era, and can bring it to your wedding, party, or corporate event.
Here’s a crash course to get you up to speed before you start requesting songs and commit to jazz band hire.
From the 1920s to the mid-40s
The swing era officially began in 1935, but its roots can be traced back to New Orleans jazz of the 1920s. Some of the most popular band leaders during this time included Fletcher Henderson, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Don Redman. The increasing popularity of radio allowed some swing and jazz musicians to achieve national fame.
The big band tradition
The ‘big band’ tradition is appropriately named. Swing bands would generally have more musicians than other jazz bands, sometimes up into the teens.
They also “organised their players into sections of brass, reeds, and rhythm, and hired skilled orchestrators to write music for them”. This allowed different sections of the band to play together and in response to each other. Composition would often be complex, featuring a big, memorable melody.
Hot swing and sweet swing
The Benny Goodman orchestra developed a new genre called ‘hot swing’, which was perfect for ‘jitterbugging’ and often contained more explicit lyrics. This style was particularly popular with young people at the time, and – predictably – was disapproved of by some. ‘Sweet swing’ was the less risqué, PG version, popularised by Guy Lombardo and Shep Fields.
Musicians and band leaders who managed a middle ground between the two were often the most commercially successful, such as Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey.
The rise of vocal jazz
By the 1940s, singers were the star attraction. Ella Fitzgerald was one of the biggest stars in jazz, helping the Chick Webb Orchestra grow in popularity. Frank Sinatra originally sang with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, and fast became a national obsession. Singers soon began achieving top billing, rather than band leaders and composers.
World War II
Swing music faced a few problems in the 1940s. There was a royalties conflict between the American Society of Composers and Producers and TV/radio broadcasters, which didn’t end well for the musicians and bands. Wartime restrictions made it difficult for bands to tour and record, and the government slapped a 30% tax on nightclubs in 1944. By the end of the war, swing had broken up into newer genres to adapt to the restrictions.
Its lasting influence
Modern music would be unrecognisable without the influence of jazz and swing. 1950s and 60s rock music, made popular by Elvis Presley, used swing styles. There have been several swing revivals since, in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. It’s also been adapted by house, R&B and hip hop musicians.
Jazz band hire
Silk Street Swing have helped bring countless weddings, corporate events and parties to life with their sophisticated jazz sound and swing band music. If you’re considering jazz band hire, we’d love to do the same for you.
For booking information, get in touch.