There have been many different transitional periods in Jazz history but no more as dramatic and unique as the change in the sound, the popularity, and the formation of early swing bands. These early bands first took shape out of period in jazz history called small combo Jazz. This period of Jazz his can be characterized for Its use of collective and solo improvisation, a smoother rhythm, the use of a front line and a rhythm sections, and relatively small band size.
From the small combo Jazz era would come a few great musicians who would push Jazz Into a new level of popularity hat had never been seen before and never has since. Some of the transformers who pioneered early swing Jazz were Fletcher Henderson,Calmly Luncheons, and Paul Whitman. The “Swing Era” (1928-1945) was a mixture of popular and classical music that created universal appear and artistic quality for Jazz music. Early formation of the swing bands came from dance bands that gave people what they wanted, dance music that swung but still had an elegant sophistication, which, had existed in earlier jazz such as small combo jazz.
These early dance bands began to take up some of he unique features of small combo jazz such as blue notes and short improvisation pieces for solo instruments. Most of these changes into the swing era took place largely in New York where the success of early dance bands had begun to grow. There were quite a few differences between the two periods of jazz. Swing era bands where also called “big bands” due to the large number of performers in the band while small combo band contained Just a few players.
Big bands where then broken into three sections based on brass players, reed players, and rhythm players (Griddle 84). Most of these ideas had come from a symphony type of structure which were adapted by musicians such as Fletcher Henderson and Feared Grope, pioneers for the transformation into swing music (Cooke 82). In addition to following a symphony structure, swing era music was composed and written down this format was hardly found in small combo Jazz.
The amount of collective improvisation and solo improvisation found in swing music was on a far lesser scale then that found in small combo Jazz (Cooke 78). The introduction of the saxophone as a major Instrument in swing music and was used on a greater level then In small combo jazz; forever, the tuba a popular combo Jazz Instrument was rarely played In swing band (Griddle 84). Swing music popularized the use of riffs within songs and was able to reach a greater acceptance from listeners due to Its easily repeated rhythms.
As far as sound of the music goes, swing music became music you could dance to, but lacked the traditional creative quality found In earlier Jazz styles. Fletcher Henderson had one of the largest roles In the transformation of small combo jazz Into the swing era. He earn public attention In New York during the mild twenties where his knowledge of classical music helped him arrange bands that Include the virtuoso Luis Armstrong and saxophone great Coleman Hawkins which helped brought jazz to the swing era. Henderson set the foundation for swing music 83).
The instrumentation of his band consisted of three trumpets, one trombone, three saxophones and four-piece rhythm section, which would also become a standard for later swing bands. Henderson had help from his music director, Don Redden who was introducing call and response play between sections as well as including “riffs” within the bands music. Riffs would later go on to define swing music and was used nearly though out the swing era weather it was played softly in he background to support a soloist improvisation or it became the melody itself (Cooke 83).
The over use of riffs in Henderson music would go on to hurt the creative sound of his band as well as his inability to be an effective band leader but Henderson and his band cannot be forgotten as a pioneers of swing music daze 1) . Paul Whitman can be accredited to bringing dance and swing music to a sophisticated level of acceptance during the sass’s and sass’s. Having played in few orchestras and symphonies groups, Whitman applied his experience to Jazz. Most of his works were popular and based on pre-composed music and a highly Jazzy style or its time daze 1).
His music can be distinguished by his grasp of harmony and his orchestration style. However, Whitman never truly embraced improvisation in his scores, which lead to a loss of respect by follow Jazz performers of his time (Cooke 80) Jimmie Luncheons reached the national level with his swing music during the sass’s. Lunchroom’s group work lead the way to swing standards that was widely imitated by many groups JAZZ 1). By becoming less of a soloist band and focusing on ensemble play, Luncheons paved the way to the basic swing performance structure.
His use of the two beat swing at medium tone was also quite popular with other bands daze 1). As an arranger, Luncheons applied a strict discipline to the formation and structure of his band. His arrangement capabilities allowed for the quality of the swing feeling to flow from each section of the band to create a smooth, even Jazz swing feeling. This too was also popular way to arrange bands and set their sound standards. The transition into the swing era did not happen over night nor was it obvious of the change as it took place, but with a few musicians of that time, a new sound was reduced.