For most people, `Big Band Music’ conjures up the image of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, or perhaps Artie Shaw, in some driving toe tapping number that was simply made to be danced to.
What was called `swing’ music.
But Big Band encompasses so much more than just that.
In fact, there are a number of different types of big band music. Some perhaps not as well remembered today, but at the time, still very popular.
1935 was a line of demarcation between the old style of big band music – which was played `sweet’, usually with a string section, and very little wandering from the melody line – to the `hot’ swing bands – that would dominate later
Paul Whiteman and his orchestra was probably the best known of the sweet bands, although Ben Bernie, Rudy Vallee, Ben Pollack, Shep Fields, and Fred Waring were immensely popular as well.
In the 1920s, Whiteman was dubbed by the media as The King of Jazz, although his version of jazz consisted of formal arrangements, not the sort of improvisation that most associate with the genre.
Whiteman brought respectability to jazz, and sold more records than any other band leader of the 1920s.
There were also jazzier jazz bands, many that played New Orleans or Kansas City style, and they too were popular during the 1920s and 1930s.
Swing music as we know it today was looked upon as a curiosity before about 1935, and a number of famous band leaders of the late 1930’s and 1940s failed in their first attempts to put together successful bands.
Benny Goodman playing Carnegie Hall in 1937 changed the landscape for the Swing Bands of the day, and for more than the next decade, Swing music dominated the music scene.
The Internet Archive has a number of excellent compilations of Swing & Big Band Music available to listen to or to download.
One of the best is a 4 1/2 hour radio broadcast on KUOW, Puget Sound Public Radio from March of 2007.
You can also download in 96Kpbs MP3, or Ogg Vorbis format by visiting the webpage.
Just a small sampling of some of the music from this collection includes:
Tommy Dorsey Orchestra Lets Get Away From It All Sentimental
Kay Starr With The Charlie Barnett Orchestra Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen
Andrews Sisters Pennsylvania Polka Hits Of 42
Duke Ellington Harlem Suite
Doris Day Sentimental Journey Early Days 44-49/Asv
Ester Williams, Ricardo Mantalban, Red Skelton & Betty Garrett Baby Its Cold Outside Hollywood’s Best The 40s/Asv
When The Lights Go On Again Vaughn Monroe
Sing Sing Sing Pt 1
Andrews Sisters Rum And Coca Cola Hits Of 44/Living Era
Mario Lanza Be My Love
Casda Loma Orchestra Big Band Blast/Memoir
Bing Crosby Swinin On A Star
Mills Brothers Paper Doll Billboard
Jumpin At The Woodside Count Basie Big Band
Edith Piaf La Vie En Rose (English 1950)
Nat King Cole Guadalajara N/C/C/ Cole Espanol And More/Capitol
Ink Spots Java Jive 1940 Ink Spots Greatest Hits/Decca
Sarah Vaughn Black Coffee 1949 The Divine One/Living Era
Duke Ellington Jazz Cocktail Thye Young Duke 1927-40/Pavilion
Harry Belafonte Jamaica Farewell 1955 The Essential H.B./Rca Legacy
Fats Waller The Minor Drag 1929 Fats And His Buddies/Bluebird
Ella Fitzgerald The Lady Is A Tramp The Songbooks/Verve
Sammy Davis Jr That Old Black Magic 1955 The S.D.Jr.