Grownup Music For Kids: Big

Big Band music history

The origins of jazz, an urban music, can be traced in the late 19 th century to the plantations of the Southern USA, the streets of America's cities, and from two distinct musical traditions, those of West Africa and Europe. West Africa provided the incessant rhythmic drive, but the European influence had more to do with classical qualities of harmony and melody.

Although New Orleans is credited as being the centre for Jazz in the early 20 th century, the music really took off in the early 1920s, when trumpeter Louis Armstrong left New Orleans to create a revolutionary new music in Chicago. This was followed by a movement of musicians to Chicago and New York bringing a permanent shift from South to North.

The early bands of the Swing Era emerged on the scene in the early '20s, and credit for the beginnings of the big band era must go to leader-arranger Fletcher Henderson, who somewhat enlarged the small combo bands into bigger ensembles. By establishing sections of trumpets, trombones, saxophones and rhythm, Henderson and other arrangers were able to create music of greater colour, range, texture and power.

Big band became the popular music of its day, hitting its peak in the mid 1930s. Well-known bandleaders like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Chick Webb, Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnet, Jimmy Lunceford and Glenn Miller wrote and recorded a virtual parade of hit tunes that were played not only on radio but in dancehalls everywhere.

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