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Henderson influence the creation of a wide swing bands in the 30s such as mini Goodmans bunny Barrington's Tommy Dorsey's Harry James Charlie Barnett and Woody Herman's bands that also often play the blues and stop music the music however none of these groups of the 30s makes a new contribution nor has real prominence. Though the Woody Herman unit in the late 40s did become quite important in the evolution of modern jazz. But it is often forgotten in criticizing the swing bands that the public which listened to Dorsey and Goodman and James and Barnett would otherwise have been listening exclusively to Whiteman Grove fake hostel Lynott Skylon by Joe Kay Kaiser blue Baron and the like. The better white swing bands introduced a new public to music honestly orchestral compelling and it sound based on living folk material King Porter stomp sure if it's one o'clock jump in the mood or Tuxedo Junction where a far better music than the pretentious imitation symphony pastry offered by the
general run of lines dance bands. Although they are not impressive to those who have heard the far better music from which they derive. Goodman success and a new host of listeners often do it to explore jazz. And he played a Henderson kind of music. In fact Anderson did many arrangements for him just as good as he and the other bands began also to play a music influenced by basi Ellington. And in a case on Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke music. There is furthermore continues as anything goes stand some very original music on the Henderson records though it's often a music of fragments of one or two startling solos in a performance. His early groups lost some of their impact on recording because the old acoustic records couldn't begin to transmit the power of a 12 or 15 piece band a performance by Henderson band in the flash apparently was a far more thrilling experience than the record suggests. Yet on the records there are remarkable passages to be heard from Lad
NEA Stewart Harris and Greene Smith and Hawkins rolling tenor sax with its brilliant rhythmic patterns and contrast of long drawn and staccato phrases. Here is a 1930 recording of the Henderson band which bears out the fact that the solos provide most of the jazz interest and the rest of the writing for a large band. By 1930 I still had not developed. The place where it was. I am.
Oh. The large band Finkelstein concludes gave the negro musician a new collective instrument to handle and later the white musician with a new riches of instrumental color and dynamic contrasts. It provided the possibility for a new level of emotional expression suited to the needs of a community that was living and thinking differently from that of New Orleans and Chicago and the other centers of early jazz which again I may say does not mean that the early jazz is any the less valid any the less exciting now than it was when it began in New Orleans but there was the need for a new kind an evolving kind of jazz. A large band like the popular tune brought to the musician a host of new problems problems of chord sequences of melody of instrumental tambour and its relation to harmony of musical form of uniting on a
higher level the individual contribution with the entire group. These problems had to be slowly and painfully worked out. And as in this 1930 recording they were at first only solutions at first or rather an adequate as the sections between solos on this record of just blues would indicate much remained to be done. For this reason Henderson's music may be called a transitional music. It is an Ellington's work that we can begin to see these problems solved before we turn to Duke Ellington I'd like to point out that the man in the Henderson band. In the 20 days increase their knowledge of and fluidity in the use of the jazz language not only by hearing and playing with men like Louis Armstrong but also by making records themselves in smaller units generally to
accompany blues singers like Bessie Smith and thereby becoming more flexible in their use of the blues and the jazz language as a whole. Many of the Bessie Smith recordings that have been played in the course of these lectures have had as a company an artist man who at the time were working in the Fletcher Henderson band. And also these musicians not only in the Henderson then but all over the country continued to learn in the jazz language and after hours sessions and rent parties parlors socials in jamming with other musicians whenever the occasion arose. Here is a recording a recreation of a Harlem rent party recorded in 1933 by Bessie Smith. She's accompanied by Frank Newton a very young at that time Harlem trumpet player Jack Teagarden the trombonist from Texas originally. Chu Berry who was playing in the Fletcher Henderson band on tenor saxophone
buck Washington who had had extensive Rockville experience on piano Bobby Johnson guitar Billy Taylor bass and from Chicago young Benny Goodman on clarinet and indication of the constant interaction of these different styles different geographical backgrounds and the constant experimentation and willingness eagerness to learn from other musicians on the part of jazz man all through the history of jazz. Here is Bessie Smith then at a rent party.
Break the. Thing. So all through the evolution of the larger band there remain the continuing vitality the continued formative influence of the small units. And as Sidney Finkelstein mentioned many alumni of the Henderson and other big bands are and have been highly proficient in freely improvised a small band jazz perhaps more so because of the greater technical skills they learned in
reading the increasingly complex arrangements of the large bands and the resultant increase in their knowledge of harmony and theory and their greater confidence in improvising. In 1940 a group of Henderson alumni recorded in New York included were Coleman Hawkins and tenor and note how far his style has evolved in the 70 years from 1933 the last recording chronologically that we read his work on Roy Eldridge on trumpet. Then he caught her alto saxophone bring out Addison guitar John Kirby bass and Big Sid Kaplan on drums. They dedicated his head arrangement and original tune to Henderson calling it by his nickname smack. It's a particularly stimulating example of the small band jazz of the 30s which as I pointed out continued to support in a sense to a trance mute the large band
music. It's a particularly good example of the small band jazz not the flow or variations on the theme by each man. And the Reliance almost entirely on solos and the very limited use of model linear ensembles as in New Orleans and Chicago. This model linear concept was not to return to the mainstream of jazz until the late 40s. In one development of modern jazz This then is the small band music that was to it. That was to be heard throughout the 30s in the early 40s. Oh.
You. Go out. OK. With. It. Let. Me. Give. You.
The. Letter. The musical development of Duke Ellington and his contributions to jazz would merit I believe a course in itself.
So let me preface this account of Ellington by saying that it is only a brief survey of his music and of the enormously gifted soloist who over the years have played it in one sense Ellington is a development unto itself while part of the mainstream of jazz certainly his music did not lead as directly to modern jazz as did that played by the Count Basie Orchestra for example. As I had occasion to write in an article in November 1952 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Ellington as a major orchestra leader his work though it has steadily evolved does not fit into pre-arranged categories of style and influence and time periods. Through both his more creative and his sometimes less stimulating stages. Ellington has remained uniquely him self and his orchestra has sounded except very recently uniquely Ellington. There has also been the contention by some that Duke himself was never too vital a factor that he built his reputations on the gifts of
the men in his band. The best succinct answer to that was written in the French magazine jazz heart. In the course of an article by a Duke as always they were present behind his images behind his orchestra. It is he was speaks and it is his accent his particular touch that is always felt. Now more than anyone else will cover in the chorus is sort of suspended above the Jazz mainstream. His song have always been part of it both in his own band and in their later work. But he is rather a tributary stream of his own. He has influenced other jazz orchestra certainly his advanced use of harmony. For his era led in many respects to modern jazz and his influence was also potent by the very fact of his presence his individuality and individuality that has encouraged other musicians to fulfil their own particular proclivities as fully as possible.
So while many of us soloists have often influenced younger musicians largely through their work it must be said in the context of his orchestra. He himself has been potent among other ways as an example and for many years during which jazz was looked down on by people who had never really listened to it. The dignity and unquestionable achievements of Ellington were a source of confidence and inspiration to the jazz musician. It was Ellington at Carnegie Hall who had had the first in my mind major jazz concert the goodman concert in 1038 is will see was less important in terms of jazz as a major musical language. The concert in January 1943 actually was one of the major forces an opening large concert in symphony halls throughout the country to jazz. I don't mean open in the sense of they're allowing the halls to be rented. But in terms of the fact that the concerts began to be attended by more and more of the same people who would go to hear Toscanini I think that
more than anyone else had for as Duke Ellington has led classical musicians and serious concert goers to do some rethinking about their jazz preconceptions and through listening to him many have gone father and discovered both the early sources of jazz and its later development. High shouldn't give the impression that Ellington has received Ana Lloyd accolades all through his career. On the occasion of his first tour of Europe in 1933 the London Times remarked with a muted acidity. Mr Duke Ellington is exceptionally and remarkably efficient in his own line and the excitement and exacerbation of the nerves which are caused by the performances of his orchestra are the most disquieting by reason of his complete control and precision. It is not an orgy but a scientific application of measured and dangerous stimuli. This reviewer in jazz terminology may have been a square
but his attitude indicates that even those who did not like Ellington's music treated it with a grudging. However hostile respect. In this country Ellington never achieved the really sensational acclaim in the way of that of the vastly inferior inventively Benny Goodman Artie Shaw orchestras did in the 20s the rather quote test Paul Whiteman orchestras Ellington has always had a group of devoted Tay's and his band has always had work. But like most of the musicians we are discussing Ellington would not compromise his concept of jazz to play the kind of popular music the kind played by the ordinary dance bands and that even many of the swing bands would incorporate into their books of the kind that does lead to huge income but little if any musical self-respect. And that is not only in Duke Ellington but in the huge percentage of jazz musicians over the years. That is a remarkable and I believe a very heartening phenomenon the fact that once a musician has learned
to you and a lot of the jazz language in a very real sense to need that language to express himself he will not compromise it except under the pressure of economic duress and he will not be happy during those periods of compromise until he can play jazz again. Now linked in by the force of his musical and personal character has never had to play anything but Ellington. With few exceptions and always though he did play his arrangements of a few popular tunes and some standards the great bulk of the Ellington repertoire consists of original compositions hundreds of them many of which have become nationally famous in terms of general public acceptance. The compositions both by himself and a few by other members of the band and others those that have not become popular tunes when someone else has added lyrics. Others have been influential in the evolution of jazz itself. Let me continue after this introduction to Ellington to quote
an analysis by Sidney thing Goldstein which we shall illustrate musically. This does not mean that Ellington's music was better than any jazz that had come before or was even the best jazz of its time. It does not even mean that Ellington was wholly understood by those who praised him. Ellington's music was not better than New Orleans music it was good for Ellington's time as New Orleans had been for its own time. Ellington used musical materials that were familiar to concert trained years making jazz music more listen to Bill to them. These however do not account for his real quality. He even did some harm to jazz although not of any permanent nature by falling into these subtle self-deprecation. This he did in his early years it seemed I should say he has been doing this for many years now by falling into the subtle self-deprecation forced upon members of a minority people who rise in the commercial entertainment world. We have already seen this happening in some of the Armstrong's performances and that's the jungle titles Ellington gave to some of his
earlier works. Frosted a wrong characterization of both himself and jazz. The work so described were generally mixtures of blues and sweet mountain folk song like the beautiful echoes of the jungle. Ellington has fought his way out of this kind of publicity. And so a later works work of his blues work very much like echoes of the jungle is given the far more meaningful title across the track blues. And in his concert appearances in his. Introductions to his various works Ellington as again and again pointed out the non jungle background to jazz into his own work and has tried very successfully I believe to dissolve some of the fallacies concerning the nature of jazz Ellington's work is in the main line of jazz to continue with incl Stein comparisons of better or worse between works of one period and those of another are meaningless and confusing the struggle of an artist to remain good. The world moves in art must change the problem of the creative artist has to do for his own
time for his own audiences. What the best achievements of the past did for their own times. It means a constant awareness of new human and musical problems and a struggle to solve them. This is Ellington's achievement in his work all the elements of the old music may be found. But each completely changed because it had to be changed. His record's taken singly and obviously better than any other single performances of the time he produced however the most consistent stream of first great jazz over a period of more than 20 years. It's at least a large band jams. And this was due to his ability to restore in terms of the new conditions he had to face something of a social character of New Orleans music. He gave jazz in a limited way a kind of permanent home and that's something that very few jazz musicians have had. First the economic security of a long term engagement and the security that leads to greater and experimentation of having worked with a
unit for enough time so as to know its capabilities and its limitations as well as his own in that context. Most jazz musicians have been forced to work in many units over. Periods of time that could not be predicted with any degree of certainty. Jazz musicians life has largely been an attunement one. Wellington however did give jazz in a limited way a kind of permanent home in which it could enjoy a degree of security and still continue to experiment. He provided at least within the confines of his own band an opportunity for communal music making. And on a higher technical level than had been possible in the past. At the same time owning a keen musical curiosity and a deep personal integrity he insisted on the right to change his music whenever he saw fit regardless of commercial demands. Next week
The Evolution of Jazz
Episode Number
Large Jazz Bands, Part Two
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program explores large jazz bands.
Series Description
Jazz historian Nat Hentoff presents a series that traces the history of jazz, from its musical and cultural roots to its contemporary forms. "The Evolution of Jazz" was originally broadcast from WGBH in 1953-1954, and was re-broadcast by the National Educational Radio Network in 1964.
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Big bands--History
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Host: Hentoff, Nat
Producer: Hentoff, Nat
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-32-21 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:28
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Chicago: “The Evolution of Jazz; 21; Large Jazz Bands, Part Two,” 1954-04-02, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 28, 2023,
MLA: “The Evolution of Jazz; 21; Large Jazz Bands, Part Two.” 1954-04-02. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 28, 2023. <>.
APA: The Evolution of Jazz; 21; Large Jazz Bands, Part Two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from