|Stylistic origins||1920s Jazz|
|Cultural origins||1930s United States|
|Typical instruments||Clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, double bass, drums, keyboards, electric guitars, acoustic guitars|
|Derivative forms||New jack swing|
Swing music, or simply Swing, is a form of American music that developed in the early 1930s and became a distinctive style by 1940. Swing uses a strong rhythm section of double bass and drums as the anchor for a lead section of brass instruments such as trumpets and trombones, woodwinds including saxophones and clarinets, and sometimes stringed instruments such as violin and guitar, medium to fast tempos, and a "lilting" swing time rhythm. The name swing came from the phrase ‘swing feel’ where the emphasis is on the off–beat or weaker pulse in the music (unlike classical music). Swing bands usually featured soloists who would improvise on the melody over the arrangement. The danceable swing style of big bands and bandleaders such as Benny Goodman was the dominant form of American popular music from 1935 to 1946, a period known as the Swing Era. The verb "to swing" is also used as a term of praise for playing that has a strong rhythmic "groove" or drive.
Swing has roots in the late 1920s use of larger ensembles using written arrangements. The period between 1935 and 1946 is when big band swing music reached its peak and was the most popular music in America. This period is known as the Swing Era. A typical song played in swing style would feature a strong, anchoring rhythm section in support of more loosely tied wind, brass. The most common style consisted of having a soloist take center stage, and improvise a solo within the framework of his bandmates playing support. Swing music began to decline in popularity during World War II because of several factors. Most importantly it became difficult to staff a "big band" because many musicians were overseas fighting in the war. By the late 1940s, swing had morphed into traditional pop music, or evolved into new jazz styles such as jump blues and bebop. Swing music saw a revival in the late 1950s and 1960s with pop vocalists such as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Nat King Cole, as well as jazz-oriented vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald.
The best-known bandleaders of the Swing Era were Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Glenn Miller, and Artie Shaw. The best-known arrangers included Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Noted wind and brass players included clarinettists Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw; sax players Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Johnny Hodges, and Charlie Parker; trumpeters Louis Armstrong and Louis Prima; and trombonists such as Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. Notable rhythm section performers included Jimmy Blanton, Milt Hinton, and Slam Stewart on bass; Lionel Hampton on marimba; Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, and Art Tatum on keys; Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich on drums; Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt on guitar. Some of the best-known Swing vocalists were Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
Swing was blended with other genres to create new styles. In country music, artists such as Jimmie Rodgers, Moon Mullican and Bob Wills introduced many elements of swing along with blues to create a genre called western swing. Gypsy swing is an outgrowth of Venuti and Lang's jazz violin swing. In the 1970s and 1980s, fans of the big band swing music attended swing music performances at supper clubs. In the late-1980s (into the early 1990s) a trendier, more urban-styled swing-beat emerged called the new jack swing spearheaded by Teddy Riley. In the late 1990s (1998 until about 2000) there was a short-lived "Swing revival" movement, led by bands such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Royal Crown Revue, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers, the Lucky Strikes, Hipster Daddy-O and the Handgrenades, and Brian Setzer. In Canada, some of the early 2000s records by The JW-Jones Blues Band included swing revival elements.
- 1 1920s: Origins
- 2 1930: Birth of swing
- 3 1935-1946: The Swing Era
- 4 Peak and decline
- 5 1950s-1960s: Swingin' pop
- 6 Cross-genre swing
- 7 1970s-1980s: Big band nostalgia
- 8 Late 1980s and early 2000s: Swing revival
- 9 Early 1990s to present: Swing House, Electroswing and Swing Pop
- 10 Notable musicians
- 11 See also
- 12 Notes
- 13 Further reading
The styles of jazz that were popular from the late teens through the late 1920s were usually played with rhythms with a two beat feel, and often attempted to reproduce the style of contrapuntal improvisation developed by the first generation of jazz musicians in New Orleans. In the late 1920s, however, larger ensembles using written arrangements became the norm, and a subtle stylistic shift took place in the rhythm, which developed a four beat feel with a smoothly syncopated style of playing the melody, while the rhythm section supported it with a steady four to the bar.
As with jazz, swing was created by African Americans, and its impact on the overall American culture was such that it marked and named an entire era of the United States, the Swing Era – as the 1920s had been termed the Jazz Age. Such an influence from the black community was unprecedented in any western country. Swing music abandoned the string orchestra and used simpler, "edgier" arrangements that emphasized horns and wind instruments and improvised melodies.
Louis Armstrong shared a different version of the history of swing during a nationwide broadcast of the Bing Crosby (radio) Show. Crosby said, "We have as our guest the master of swing and I'm going to get him to tell you what swing music is." Armstrong said, "Ah, swing, well, we used to call it syncopation — then they called it ragtime, then blues — then jazz. Now, it's swing. White folks, yo'all sho is a mess."
1930: Birth of swing
In comparison with the styles of the 1920s, the 1930s represents a more sophisticated sound, but with an exciting feel of its own. Most jazz bands adopted this style by the early 1930s, but "sweet" bands remained the most popular for white dancers until Benny Goodman's appearance at the Palomar Ballroom in August 1935. Swing's birth has been traced by some jazz historians to Chick Webb's stand in Harlem in 1931, but they noted the music failed to take off because the onset of the Depression in earnest that year killed the nightclub business, particularly in poor black areas like Harlem. Fletcher Henderson, another bandleader from this period who needed work, lent his arrangement talent to Goodman. Goodman had auditioned and won a spot on a radio show, "Let's Dance," but only had a few songs; he needed more. Henderson's arrangements are what gave him his bigger repertoire and distinctive sound. The show was on after midnight in the East and few people heard it, but unknown to them, it was on earlier on the West Coast and developed the audience that later led to his Palomar Ballroom triumph. The audience of young white dancers favored Goodman's rhythms and daring swing arrangements. "Hot Swing" and Boogie Woogie remained the dominant form of American popular music for the next ten years. Standards like "Moten Swing" by Bennie Moten and the Kansas City Orchestra were important in the development of swing music and the move towards a freer form of orchestral jazz.  Audiences raved at the new music, and at the Pearl Theatre in Philadelphia in December 1932, the doors were let open to the public who came crammed into the theatre to hear the new sound, demanding seven encores from Moten's orchestra.
1935-1946: The Swing Era
The period between 1935 and 1946 is when big band swing music reached its peak and was the most popular music in America. This period is known as the Swing Era. With the wider acceptance of swing music around 1935, larger mainstream bands began to embrace this style of music. Up until the swing era, Jazz had been taken in high regard by the most serious musicians around the world, including classical composers like Stravinsky; swing on the contrary, with its "dance craze", ended being regarded as a degeneration towards light entertainment, more of an industry to sell records to the masses than a form of art. Some musicians, after failing at "serious" music, switched to swing.
In his autobiography W.C. Handy wrote, "This brings to mind the fact that prominent white orchestra leaders, concert singers and others are making commercial use of Negro music in its various phases. That's why they introduced "swing" which is not a musical form."
Large orchestras had to reorganize themselves in order to achieve the new sound. These bands dropped their string instruments, which were now felt to hamper the improvised style necessary for swing music. This necessitated a slightly more detailed and organized type of composition and notation than was then the norm. Band leaders put more energy into developing arrangements, perhaps reducing the chaos that might result from as many as 12 or 16 musicians spontaneously improvising. But the best swing bands at the height of the era explored the full gamut of possibilities from spontaneous ensemble playing to highly orchestrated music in the vein of European art music.
A typical song played in swing style would feature a strong, anchoring rhythm section in support of more loosely tied wind, brass. During the swing era, string and/or vocals sections were also common. The level of improvisation that the audience might expect at any one time varied depending on the arrangement, the band, the song, and the band-leader.
The most common style consisted of having a soloist take center stage, and improvise a solo within the framework of his bandmates playing support. As a song progressed, multiple soloists would be expected to take over and individually improvise their own part; however, it was not unusual to have two or three band members improvising at any one time.
Many of the songs during the swing era were selections from the Great American Songbook. The music of the swing era is often regarded as one of the most influential precursors to traditional pop music, as it helped popularize many American "standards."
Peak and decline
Swing jazz began to be embraced by the public around 1935. Prior to that, it had had limited acceptance, mostly among black audiences. Radio remotes increased interest in the music, and it grew in popularity throughout the States. As with many new popular musical styles, it met with some resistance from the public because of its improvisation, fast erratic tempos, lack of strings, occasionally risqué lyrics and other cultural associations, such as the sometimes frenetic swing dancing that accompanied performances. Audiences who had become used to the romantic arrangements (and what was perceived as classier and more refined music), were taken aback by the often erratic and edginess of swing music.
German swing bands were virtually unknown to British and American fans, but thrived in the early 1940s in spite of an official Nazi campaign against "decadent Western music". German authorities in fact created a Swing band called "Charlie and His Orchestra" to record hot Swing and dance music. Some songs included lyrics ridiculing and abusing the leaders and people of Allied nations. Records were dropped over "enemy" lines by parachute.
In the US, by the late 1930s and early 1940s, swing had become the most popular musical style and remained so for several years, until it was supplanted in the late 1940s by the pop standards sung by the crooners who grew out of the Big Band tradition that swing began. Bandleaders such as the Dorsey Brothers often helped launch the careers of vocalists who went on to popularity as solo artists, such as Frank Sinatra.
Swing music began to decline in popularity during World War II because of several factors. Most importantly it became difficult to staff a "big band" because many musicians were overseas fighting in the war. Also, the cost of touring with a large ensemble became cumbersome because of wartime economics. These two factors made smaller three- to five-piece combos more profitable and manageable. A third reason is the recording bans of 1942 and 1948 because of musicians' union strikes. In 1948, there were no records legally made at all, although independent labels continued to bootleg records in small numbers. When the ban was over in January 1949, swing had morphed into traditional pop music, or evolved into new jazz styles such as jump blues and bebop.
1950s-1960s: Swingin' pop
Swing music saw a sort of a revival in the late 1950s and 1960s. Today, this music is sometimes referred to as easy listening. It was, in essence, an updated form of the big band swing music that had been popular in the 1930s and 1940s. This music, however, emphasized the vocalist more so than the instrumentation. Like the music of the Swing Era, many of these songs were also selections from the Great American Songbook.
This brand of music was made popular by arrangers such as Nelson Riddle and pop vocalists such as Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Dean Martin, Matt Monro, Judy Garland, and Nat King Cole, as well as jazz-oriented vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald and Keely Smith. Many of these singers were also involved in the "less swinging" vocal pop music of this period.
By the late 1960s, this form of swing had largely faded, replaced by the contemporary forms of rock music.
Many of the crooners who came to the fore after the swing era had their origins in swing bands. Frank Sinatra used the swing-band approach to great effect in almost all of his recordings and kept this style of music popular well into the rock 'n' roll era.
In country music, artists such as Jimmie Rodgers, Moon Mullican and Bob Wills introduced many elements of swing along with blues to create a genre called western swing. Like Sinatra did, Mullican went solo from the Cliff Bruner band and had a successful solo career that included many songs that maintained a swing structure. Artists like Willie Nelson have kept the swing elements of country music present into the rock 'n' roll era. Nat King Cole followed Sinatra into the pop music world bringing with him a similar combination of swing bands and ballads. Like Mullican, he was important in bringing piano to the fore of popular music.
Gypsy swing is an outgrowth of Venuti and Lang's jazz violin swing, the style emerging in its own right in Europe with Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli. The repertoire overlaps that of 1930s swing, including French popular music, gypsy songs, and compositions by Reinhardt, but gypsy swing bands are formulated differently. There is no brass or percussion; guitars and bass form the backbone, with violin, accordion, clarinet or guitar taking the lead. Gypsy swing groups generally have no more than five players. Although they originated in different continents, similarities have often been noted between gypsy swing and western swing, leading to various fusions.
Rock 'n' roll era hitmakers like Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent and Elvis Presley also found time to include many swing-era standards into their repertoire. Presley's hit "Are You Lonesome Tonight" is an old swing standard and Lewis' "To Make Love Sweeter For You" is a new song but in the old style. Domino made the swing standard "My Blue Heaven" a rock 'n' roll hit. Among the critically acclaimed band leaders of the 1930s and 1940s whose performances included elements of both "Sweet Band" music and traditional swing music was Shep Fields.
1970s-1980s: Big band nostalgia
Though swing music was no longer a mainstream musical style at this point, fans of the big band swing music of the Swing Era were able to attend swing music performances at supper clubs throughout the 1970s and 1980s. These were known as "big band nostalgia" tours. They featured some of the famous bandleaders and vocalists of the swing era who were now, essentially, in semi-retirement. Notable individuals who participated in these tours included bandleader Harry James and vocalist Dick Haymes, as well as many notable musicians whom had been popular in the 1940s.
Late 1980s and early 2000s: Swing revival
In the late-1980s (into the early 1990s) a trendier, more urban-styled swing-beat emerged called the new jack swing spearheaded by Teddy Riley and Bernard Belle the fusion genre became popular form by using the hip-hop "swing" beats created by the drum machine, and hardware samples, seeped into pop culture and was the definitive sound of the inventive Black New York club scene during the golden age of hip hop, with contemporary R&Bstyle singing. " Encyclopædia Britannica states that the "key producers" were Babyface and Teddy Riley.
In the late 1990s (1998 until about 2000) there was a short-lived "Swing revival" movement, led by bands such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Royal Crown Revue, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers, the Lucky Strikes, Hipster Daddy-O and the Handgrenades, and Brian Setzer. Many of the new bands of this period played a style of music ��� often referred to as neo-swing — that combined swing jazz with contemporary styles of music such as Rockabilly, Ska, and Rock music. The style also accelerated the revival of swing dancing, both in a traditional style, and in hybrid approaches which blended 1930s dancing with 2000-era dance styles.
In 2001 Robbie Williams released his fifth studio album consisting mainly of popular swing covers titled "Swing When You're Winning" which proved to be popular in many countries selling more than 7 million copies worldwide.
In 2006, the singer Christina Aguilera released her studio album "Back to Basics" when she mixed several different styles including swing, jazz and blues. The album was another commercial success for Aguilera's career.
In recent years Swing music has become fairly popular in Germany. Singers Roger Cicero, Tom Gaebel, and Thomas Anders have attained large followings both in their native country and world wide. Cicero’s style is predominantly that of 1940s and 1950s swing music, combined with German lyrics; he became Germany's participant for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2007.
Early 1990s to present: Swing House, Electroswing and Swing Pop
In November 2013, Robbie Williams released another swing album, Swings Both Ways, including a series of covers and other new songs which used a music style mixing swing and pop. The album became quite famous, having sold a total of 1.5 million copies worldwide as of January 2014, and reaching number one in music lists in five different countries.
- Band leaders: Count Basie, Charlie Barnet, Les Brown, Cab Calloway, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Glen Gray, Erskine Hawkins, Fletcher Henderson, Woody Herman, Tiny Hill, Earl Hines, Harry James, Louis Jordan, Hal Kemp, Gene Krupa, Kay Kyser, Jimmie Lunceford, Glenn Miller, Red Norvo, Gloria Parker, Louis Prima, Buddy Rich, Fred Rich, Artie Shaw, Charlie Spivak, Chick Webb
- Arrangers: Van Alexander, Ralph Burns, Toots Camarata, Benny Carter, Buck Clayton, Ray Conniff, Eddie Durham, Duke Ellington, Bill Finegan, Jerry Gray, Bob Haggart, Buster Harding, Lennie Hayton, Neal Hefti, Fletcher Henderson, Horace Henderson, Gordon Jenkins, Billy May, Jimmy Mundy, Sy Oliver, Nat Pierce, Johnny Richards, Ebgar Sampson, Eddie Sauter, Billy Strayhorn, Mary Lou Williams, Michel Legrand
- Clarinet: Barney Bigard, Benny Goodman, Peanuts Hucko, Artie Shaw
- Saxophone: Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Herschel Evans, Lester Young, Johnny Hodges, Charlie Parker, Sam Butera, Charlie Barnet, Jimmy Dorsey, Glen Gray, Willie Smith, Otto Hardwick, Earle Warren, Vido Musso, Georgie Auld, Bud Freeman, Eddie Miller, Ernie Caceres, Tex Beneke, Al Klink, Tony Pastor, Chu Berry
- Trumpet: Louis Armstrong, Bunny Berigan, Billy Butterfield, Buck Clayton, Roy Eldridge, Ziggy Elman, Harry Edison, Harry James, Hot Lips Page, Louis Prima, Charlie Spivak, Cootie Williams
- Trombone: Tommy Dorsey, Jack Jenney, Glenn Miller, Fred Rich, Jack Teagarden
- Bass: Artie Bernstein, Jimmy Blanton, Bob Haggart, Milt Hinton, John Kirby, Walter Page, Slam Stewart
- Vibraphone: Lionel Hampton, Red Norvo
- Marimba: Gloria Parker
- Piano: Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Earl Hines, Nat Jaffe, Jelly Roll Morton, Jess Stacy, Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, Fats Waller, Mary Lou Williams
- Drums: Sid Catlett, Sonny Greer, Jo Jones, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Chick Webb
- Guitar: Oscar Aleman, Charlie Christian, Freddie Green, Django Reinhardt
- Violin: Svend Asmussen, Stephane Grapelli, Ray Nance, Eddie South, Joe Venuti
- Accordion: Art Van Damme, John Serry Sr.
- Vocal: Martha Tilton, Bea Wain, Bob Eberly, Ray Eberle, Dean Martin, Dick Haymes, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Tex Beneke, Helen Ward, Helen Forrest, Helen O'Connell, Marion Hutton, Kitty Kallen, The Andrews Sisters, Michael Bublé, Robbie Williams, etc.
- Steven Lewis' Bing Crosby Internet Museum
- Argyle, Ray (2009). Scott Joplin and the age of ragtime. McFarland. p. 172. ISBN 0-7864-4376-6.
- Father of the Blues by William Christopher Handy. 1941 MacMillan page 292
- Lawn, Richard (2013). Experiencing Jazz. Routledge. p. 161. ISBN 978-0-415-69960-0.
- Driggs, Frank; Director, Marr Sound Archives University of Missouri-Kansas City Chuck Haddix (1 May 2005). Kansas City Jazz : From Ragtime to Bebop--A History: From Ragtime to Bebop--A History. Oxford University Press. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-19-536435-4.
- Daniels, Douglas Henry (January 2006). One O'clock Jump: The Unforgettable History of the Oklahoma City Blue Devils. Beacon Press. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-8070-7136-6.
- Father of the Blues by William Christopher Handy. 1941. MacMillan. page 292. no ISBN in this early edition
- The Dance Band Era. Albert McCarthy. Chilton Book Company. 1971. page 140. ISBN 0-8019-5681-1
- retrieved September 2010
- Erenberg, Lewis A. Swingin' the Dream: Big Band Jazz and the Rebirth of American Culture (1998), a history of big-band jazz and its fans.
- Gitler, Ira. Swing to Bop: An Oral History of the Transition in Jazz in the 1940s (1987), on the emergence of bop from big-band swing.
- Hennessey, Thomas J. From Jazz to Swing: African-Americans and Their Music, 1890–1935 (1994).
- Schuller, Gunther. The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1930–1945 (1991), a musicological study.
- Spring, Howard. "Swing and the Lindy Hop: Dance, Venue, Media, and Tradition ". American Music, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Summer, 1997), pp. 183–207.
- Stowe, David. Swing Changes: Big-Band Jazz in New Deal America (1996), a musicological study.
- Tucker, Sherrie. Swing Shift: 'All-Girl' Bands of the 1940s (2000)
- Yanow, Scott (2000). Swing. San Francisco, California: Miller Freeman Books. ISBN 0-87930-600-9.
- Milkowski, Bill (2001). Swing It: An Annotated History of Jive. Bob Nikard, ed., and Alison Hagge, ed. New York, New York: Billboard Books. ISBN 0-8230-7671-7.