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Swing

What is swing?

The New York style, with the boost it gave to big bands, was the main current of jazz in the late 1920s and gave birth to swing, one of the most popular musical genres in the 1930s.

In order for swing to be accepted by the white bourgeoisie and to survive the economic crisis of 1929, it was given a more western image and was influenced by European tradition and music hall.

The Washingtonians - It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing) (1932)

Theme written by Duke Ellington and performed by his orchestra with singer Ivie Anderson. Example of a genuine swing theme.

Edward Kennedy Ellington was a composer, conductor and pianist born in the city of Washington. He is considered one of the most important and influential jazz composers in history, along with Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker or Miles Davis. His orchestra, a regular at the Cotton Club and a specialist in blues, set the benchmark for almost all the black bands of the following decades. His biographer, Derek Jewell, claims that Ellington was able to write some five thousand pieces of music.

How does swing evolve?

The colonization of swing led to a differentiation between swing bands, which emphasize the rhythm and improvisational work of the soloists, and sweet bands, which focus on the melody and its arrangements, aimed at dance.

The succulent benefits generated by these dance orchestras led to the domination of jazz by white economic interests, who controlled its development through fashionable dances or the image of the musicians.

Benny Goodman - Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing) (1938)

Version of the famous song written by Luis Prima, a jazz trumpet player born in New Orleans and a Sicilian descendant.

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Benjamin David Goodman, known as Benny Goodman, was a clarinetist and jazz bandleader born in Chicago of Polish parents. Based in New York City since the age of 20, he worked as a freelance musician in recording sessions, radio shows and Broadway musical orchestras. He also made recordings under his own name with rented orchestras. In the process of creating dance-oriented white swing, the press awarded him the title of King of Swing.

What about the big bands?

In order to adapt these dance-oriented orchestras to the white audience, it was decided to play straight, i.e. just the main theme, reducing the improvisations to a few bars. This was the case with Glenn Miller or Harry James.

These types of orchestras caused swing to be considered commercial and typical of less talented musicians. That's why professionals like Duke Ellington were moving away from the style.

Glen Miller - In the Mood (1940)

Great success of the big band genre. It is an old tune reviewed by Wingy Manone, Andy Razaf and Joe Garland.

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This is perhaps Glen Miller's best known song and a good example of the white swing that represented the American lifestyle of the 1940s. During World War II, Miller enlisted in the Air Force in 1942, where he received the rank of major and played for the displaced American troops in Europe. He died in a plane crash in the English Channel while traveling from London to Paris to tour for troops in liberated France.

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