Swing era

The swing era (also frequently referred to as the big band era) was the period (19331947) when big band swing music was the most popular music in the United States. Though this was its most popular period, the music had actually been around since the late 1920s and early 1930s, being played by black bands led by such artists as Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford, Bennie Moten, Cab Calloway, Earl Hines, and Fletcher Henderson, and white bands from the 1920s led by the likes of Jean Goldkette, Russ Morgan and Isham Jones. An early milestone in the era was from "the King of Swing" Benny Goodman's performance at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles on August 21, 1935, bringing the music to the rest of the country.[1] The 1930s also became the era of other great soloists: the tenor saxophonists Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Lester Young; the alto saxophonists Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges; the drummers Chick Webb, Gene Krupa, Jo Jones and Sid Catlett; the pianists Fats Waller and Teddy Wilson; the trumpeters Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge, Bunny Berigan, and Rex Stewart.[2]

There was a time, from 19331947, when teenagers and young adults danced to jazz-orientated bands. When jazz orchestras dominated pop charts and when influential clarinettists were household names. This was the swing era.

Scott Yanow, Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 128. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.

Developments in dance orchestras and jazz music culminated in swing music during the early 1930s. It brought to fruition ideas originated with Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, and Jean Goldkette. The swing era also was precipitated by spicing up familiar commercial, popular material with a Harlem-oriented flavor and selling it via a white band for a white musical/commercial audience.[3] In Benny Goodman's band, the most diversified styles flowed together: the ensemble style developed by Fletcher Henderson, who arranged for Goodman; the riff technique of Kansas City; and the precision and training of many white musicians. On the other hand, the easy melodic quality and clean intonation of Goodman's band made it possible to "sell" jazz to a mass audience.[4]

The swing era brought to swing music Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and by 1938 Ella Fitzgerald. Armstrong, who had heavily influenced jazz as its greatest soloist in the 1920s when working with both small bands and larger ones, now appeared only with big swing bands. Other musicians who rose during this time include Jimmy Dorsey, his brother Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Goodman's future rival Artie Shaw, and Woody Herman, who departed the Isham Jones band in 1936 to start his own band. Several factors led to the demise of the swing era: the 1942–44 musicians' strike from August 1942 to November 1944 (The union that most jazz musicians belong to told its members not to record until the record companies agreed to pay them each time their music was played on the radio), the earlier ban of ASCAP songs from radio stations, World War II which made it harder for bands to travel around as well as the "cabaret tax",[3] which was as high as 30%, the rise of vocalist-centered pop and R&B as the dominant forms of popular music, and the rising interest in bebop among jazz musicians. Though some big bands survived through the late 1940s (Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Stan Kenton, Boyd Raeburn, Woody Herman), most of their competitors were forced to disband, bringing the swing era to a close. Big-band jazz would experience a resurgence starting in the mid-1950s, but it would never attain the same popularity as it had during the swing era.