Swing Bands and Swing Music
The swing band and big band era occurred from approximately 1932-1946. It was a fusion of New Orleans ‘hot’ jazz, coupled with music from the jazz clubs of Kansas City and Harlem.
The first great artists of swing music were African American musicians – Fletcher Henderson (who had Louis Armstrong in his band), Duke Ellington and Jimmy Lunceford. It wasn’t until 1935 that white bandleader and clarinetist Benny Goodman took swing music into the popular musical mainstream, selling jazz to a mass audience.
The popularity of the big bands was heightened by its star vocalists: Frank Sinatra sang with Tommy Dorsey, Ella Fitzgerald with Chick Webb, Doris Day with Les Brown and Peggy Lee with Benny Goodman. It was mostly teenagers who were dancing to swing music in the 1940s and swooning over Frank Sinatra and, for the first time in history, the youth culture began to dominate record sales and entertainment in general.
After the Second World War, the economic climate in America changed and the big band era ended. The big band star vocalists went solo and became the centre attraction forging hugely successful TV, film and radio broadcasting careers.
Swing music eventually gave way to rock ‘n roll and the musical genres that followed in the subsequent decades. Like any great music though, it fades from fashion but never disappears; it just takes a back seat for a while.
Exponents of swing music continued to break through during the 1960s albeit in a more light pop format (Andy Williams, Bobby Darin) but with the release of the film “When Harry Met Sally” in 1989, Harry Connick Jr brought big band swing music to the forefront once more. The film features the songs “It Had to Be You”, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”. Around the same time Robbie Williams recorded “Swing When You’re Winning” inspired from his lifelong love for Frank Sinatra – songs from which featured in the films Bridget Jones’ Diary (Have You Met Miss Jones) and Finding Nemo (Beyond the Sea). Also in the 1990s, the hugely successful Rat Pack Show hit the West End stage, recreating the impromptu 1960s Las Vegas shows performed by Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.
Modern Day Swing Band Music
And then, along came Michael Buble. A rare commodity, Buble has managed to successfully take the swing genre to a pop market. His secret lies in his choice of material from swing standards such as ‘Mack The Knife’, ‘Georgia On My Mind’ and ‘You Make Me Feel So Young” to the Jackson 5’s “Who’s Loving You” blended with his self-penned hits — ‘Everything’ and ‘Home’.
Still frantically evolving and far from stabilising, swing music is alive and flourishing today in all forms and it is this that makes it a perfect choice for party and wedding entertainment for every generation to enjoy.