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4

The Swing Era

IV. Cultural Implications of the Swing Era

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Duke Ellington

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Count Basie

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Benny Goodman

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Art Tatum

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Eldridge & Stewart


A. Jazz’s most popular period

      

1.

hundreds of professional big bands flourished in the 1930’s and early 40s (only a handful are around today; however thousands of high school and college big bands are prevalent in today’s schools) 

      

2.

after the stock market crash of 1929, swing helped the country through the Great Depression, creating escape from economic realities via swing dancing 

      

3.

Swing served as a major morale booster during World War II 

      

4.

jazz reached new levels of sophistication in the Swing Era as an outgrowth of America’s need for self esteem following the Great Depression 

      

5.

because of the weak economy, many recording companies went bankrupt, however, jazz was proliferated throughout the country via radio; in the 1930s, over 70 bands had sponsored radio shows (e.g., Let’s Dance, Camel Hit Parade, Chesterfield Hour, Coca Cola Spotlight Series, etc.) 

      

6.

there were hundreds of performance venues 

            

a.

ballrooms (e.g., Roseland, Savoy, Cotton Club, Paradise, Blue Room, etc.). 

            

b.

movies (Hollywood Hotel, The fabulous Dorseys, Swing Fever, Orchestra Wives, etc.) 

            

c.

hotels (Manhattan Room in the Hotel Pennsylvania, Terrace Room in Hotel New York, Blue Room in the Lincoln Hotel, etc.) 

            

d.

record companies (Columbia, Decca, RCA Victor) 

      

7.

Benny Goodman, a young, white, jazz clarinet virtuoso, resembling young men on college campuses and playing with a mixture of urgency and impeccable European classical intonation and technique, brought jazz to young, educated audiences throughout the country; he was dubbed the King of Swing and sold millions of records  


B. Race relations

      

1.

in an era when racial integration was frowned upon by American society in general, jazz’s social liberalism was represented by racial integration in several important swing bands; perhaps for the first time, it did not matter what color you were, just how good you could play 

      

2.

first important interracial groups: The Benny Goodman Trio, Quartet, Sextet, and Big Band, 1935 

      

3.

jazz increased appreciation by both black and white communities for the cultural achievements of African Americans 


C. Geographical movement

   

The predominant geographical movement of jazz was from New Orleans to Chicago to New York City 


D. Popularity

   

Radio was crucial to the spread and popularity of jazz; without the radio, most experts believe jazz would not have survived, let alone flourished 


E. Jazz - a reflection of America

   

Jazz was (and remains) a symbol of urban American energy, optimism, and resilience 

the thelonious monk institute of jazz
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