thumbnail of Roots of jazz; Swing, continued
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
The following tape recorded program is a presentation of the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the 18th in a series of programs on the roots of jazz in the United States. On this program we continue our consideration swing.
Swing is big band music. It grew out of the meeting of two musical forces in western society. One the older more widely accepted author doxy of Western serious music from Bach to Brahms has bred a concern for accuracy. Accuracy in performing technique of the musician. And accuracy in the ruse laid down to govern the right or. The other for us the folk idiom of jazz from bowed into bite of the bread of freedom of expression by the musician as to tone technique rhythm and material.
The meeting of these two forces meant that jazz musicians were to be more concerned with classic technique and musical literacy and that composers of music both serious and popular would be more concerned with the many and varied musical possibilities on earth by jazz musicians. This process of meeting adjusting and the final assimilation took about 15 years to accomplish. From 1919 until 1935 the problems were slowly unravelled the knots on tide and a new synthesis emerged. This was not apparently a purposeful venture on the part of any particular group of people. It was an unconscious thing. The forces of the time principally economic in nature seems to have unconsciously guided the progress of this Assimilation. But there will as there always will be individuals who became the carriers of this progress and there were other individuals who successfully
combined these forces within their own personalities so that through the advantage of hindsight we were able to see the magnificent maturity of a particular artist who has one crying in a wilderness crying through the music he produced. I brought about this synthesis of forces which years later would be heralded as swing. Such a musician was Bix Beiderbecke who saw a serious composer such as Stravinsky. The intrinsic with the European tradition and in his own illiterate way manifested these lessons in the ever progressing subtlety of his inventions. Such a person also was James P. Johnson of whom we'll have more to say on a future program for he expressed through the piano what Dick's did with his home on this personal achievement blending the idioms and freedoms of jazz with the long sought out and tried principles the subtlety of serious compositions.
Then too there were the experimenters failing as they so frequently did. Yet persisting in their efforts as though they saw with some uncanny insight that while they failed in absolute achievement they constantly moved inch by inch toward saw me Lucy of gold which hung before them years away. Such men will Louis Russell Fletcher Henderson Duke Ellington and even in his crass way point to Whiteman. Then too we had the efforts on the part of serious composers to come halfway to jazz and though their efforts were fumbling and partial and often false they seemed to sense the possibilities. Such men as Debbie S.. Stravinsky himself and the most popular of this group George Gershwin swaying was not the final synthesis. The process still continues but with Swing began the concerted drive toward the achievement of that goal. For purposes of personal identification. Benny Goodman has been labeled the King of Swing.
But there were many others. Here is Bunny Berrigan.
Bunny Berrigan was born in Fox Lake Wisconsin. His grandfather gave him his first trumpet. He played all through his teens and later with Hal Kemp and poet. In the 30s he performed on records with the dossier by the US and Mildred Bailey. And in 1935 with the council Loma orchestra. In 35 and 36 he played with Benny Goodman and was a featured performer on the Saturday night swing club. Then he played in Tommy Dorsey's great band of 1936. And from 1937 to 1940. He led his own orchestra. Back was Dossie and back to his own band. And in 1942 he died at the age of 33. Very old and off sides of him Bunny Berrigan was a trumpeter with overtones of Bix in his playing but his style was essentially his own. He plumbed the lower depths of the trumpet and found an expansion of ideas in his bottom notes that
no other trumpeter was able to use to such advantage.
Tommy Dorsey is still climbing and still has a band. But in the spring of 1936 and until the end of 1937 he had a band which produced a swing without much arrangement. Perhaps it was the nature of his soloists. Many of them would Dixieland it was from the Chicago of the 1920s trumpeters Max Kaminski bunny Berrigan and yank Lawson kept the spirit alive and saxophonist Bud Freeman and drama Dave tuff. Those are the Dorsey sideman who made the famous Dorsey records of swing from 1935 to 1939 records such as Marie song of India and Canadian caper.
Tommy do us justice Benny Goodman and attracted to his band large numbers of the best jazz man from the 20s and the 30s. Swing was a music which paid off for jazz musicians. It may not have been the closest form of music to their hearts but it was a bread winner. There are a number of jazz critics who claim that swing was nothing else except a commercial adventure. Concerning the commercial adventure of swing here is the way Rex Harris puts it. The success of the early large orchestras did not escape the attention of big business interests of the United States in particular the busy organizations of
Manhattan which existed soley by the unrelenting exploitation of popular music. As has been noted men like Henderson Ellington and Louis Russell were seeking a form of expression which compared with traditional jazz was limited in musical content. Further dissemination of this mechanical music was intensified in the early 1930s. The time of the economic depression and when jazz musicians no longer enjoyed the lucrative employment offered by the dozens of clubs in Chicago. The outlet for the big orchestras became the big ballrooms of cities like New York and Chicago theatre and cinema circuits spectacle was the object in view and do this and bands grew bigger. The public were suitably impressed by the wild publicity accompanying the careers of the swing orchestras as they came to be called. And very soon there was no demand for anything but the highly disciplined aggregations who could churn out one arranged piece after another each meticulously rehearsed down to the last cymbal
crash. Managers agents high powered publicity agile a Tory public incessant repetition on radio and Jukebox a combination of these factors ushered in the swing era of 1934 onwards regardless of the commercial success of swaying they must have been something phenomenally important about this music for it appealed as nothing had appealed for the previous nine years to the young people of the United States. In an article by Frank Norris written for the Saturday Evening Post of 1938 he had this to say about Benny Goodman when Benny Goodman opened at the Paramount in New York last winter. Six or seven hundred people had already been waiting outside an hour when the sun came up at 6 o'clock. There were 3000 of them mostly high school kids from the Bronx and Brooklyn and Staten Island. At seven thirty the West Forty seventh Street precinct police station ordered Sergeant Harry Moore to saddle up
and proceed with ten mounted men to the scene. This was the first time the sergeant had ever been sent on a riot call at daybreak to herd a crowd of children and to hear a jazz band play on the sergeant's advice. The management opened the theatre at eight o'clock. For by this time Mr. Goodman's fans were multiplying by the minute pouring out of the Times Square subway exits like bees from a small talk. 55 ushers called for a special duty marshal three thousand six hundred thirty four of them inside before the fire department ordered the doors closed. The police detail was also increased and went into action on two fronts. Outside where about 2000 disappointed youngsters were massed onto the streets paralyzing early morning traffic and inside where the luckier music lovers were stampeding around the lobbies and never before in the city's history had police been called for duty inside a theater. But the cops had seen nothing yet. A rosy light prophetically suffused the orchestra
pit and the sound of wailing clarinet was heard. The orchestra began to rise on its elevator platform revealing first the brass section just Stacy at his piano and Harry Goodman slapping his bass. Then below them Gene Krupa behind his alabaster drums two rows of teeth flashing as they tramped gum in four four time. Then the rejection. And yes the clarinet. The glittering spectacles. The smiling punch like face of the veritable Goodman out in front it sounded as though the Navy had just completed a long forward pass for a touchdown. I'm handicapped by either weight or age. The Paramount audience began clawing at the chairs before the band got through its first chorus of Satan takes a holiday. Gene Krupa drums got off to an orgasmic uproar on the second chorus and certain shouts from the crowd became shrilly intelligible. Feed it to me Jane. Send me down. Goodwin took a chorus. Get off Benny swung it.
And then trampling ushers the children began to dance in the aisles. There were policemen in front of the bandstand but some of the kids got by them and up on the stage. They did the shag the Lindy Hop the Big Apple all the leaping Harlem dances. Well Goodman grinned and dodged them. This went on for a solid hour and no one has ever explained that kind of behavior satisfactorily. Maybe swing isn't jazz but it did more as in a long roundabout manner than any other single occurrence including radio. Oh. Of all of the music of the swing era of all of the excitement stimulated within the
youngsters of the 30s none was more meaningful than that produced by two bands one negro and one white who were never really at the top of the popularity poll. The negro band was that of Count Basie. The nucleus of this group had caused a great stir in the early thirties but nothing compared to its debut in New York City in 1936 under the count. The Count Basie Orchestra had within its group some of the outstanding instrumentalists of sway and one of them. Lester Young became known as a leader in the field of saxophone playing. In the words of Barry. He is the epitome of coolness among the distinguished ancestor.
The second and the white one which had great significance with the future of jazz was the Bob Crosby organization. This band was formed of the men in the Old Ben Pollock orchestra who were left when Ben went on the road in 1033 and after Jimmy McPartland and Benny Goodman had left the group. The Crosby outfit had one of the best tonal saxophone men ever turned out by New Orleans at MLA. There was Matty Matlock on clarinet yank Lawson on trumpet. Bob how I got bass and right would talk drums. These men plus several great ragtime or honky tonk pianists from Bob's Akita Joe Sullivan and just Stacey produced more than any other group. What is now known as Dixie Land.
From the Count Basie orchestra came many of the influences of what was later known as modern jazz from the Bob Crosby orchestra came the impetus for a rebirth of interest in the soulless music of the jazz New Orleans music.
Swing ended in the early 40s it ended with the Second World War. But it also ended because the peculiar forces of society which made this music so popular ended too. We as a nation were forcefully brought to realize the reality of life. And buoyant happy thrilling music didn't seem to have much in common with that reality.
This has been the 18th in a series of programs on the roots of jazz in the United States. The next program will bring to your ears the music produced by the small combos of the swing era. The roots of jazz is written and produced by Norman Cleary. Dick local was the sound technician break easy read. This is Norman Cleary speaking.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
Roots of jazz
Swing, continued
Producing Organization
Iowa State University
WOI (Radio station : Ames, Iowa)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-cr5ndn96).
Episode Description
This program continues the discussion of swing music.
Series Description
Music-documentary series in 26 parts, covering various aspects of jazz.
Broadcast Date
Media type
Director: Cleary, Norman
Engineer: Vogel, Dick
Host: Clark, Kenneth Bancroft, 1914-2005
Producing Organization: Iowa State University
Producing Organization: WOI (Radio station : Ames, Iowa)
Speaker: Geesy, Ray
Writer: Cleary, Norman
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 56-24-18 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:00
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Roots of jazz; Swing, continued,” 1956-10-28, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2022,
MLA: “Roots of jazz; Swing, continued.” 1956-10-28. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2022. <>.
APA: Roots of jazz; Swing, continued. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from