Everything evolves over time, people, plants, animals, technology, even music. Nothing stays the same for decades at a time, little things change, then more little things change, then one compares it to its roots to find that it is largely different from what it evolved to. Music is no exception. The jazz music came to be as the result of someone taking European instruments and African beats and mixing the two together, evolving music to something new. It didn’t stop either, it continued to change and evolve. Ragtime, blues, hot jazz, Chicago style, boogie blues, swing and it goes on and on, and all of these styles came to be because someone decided to change a little bit. The fascinating thing about it is that this evolution isn’t just creating new styles of jazz it is evolving the styles themselves. Swing, for example, it began around the 1930s and died, in a sense, with America’s involvement in World War 2. However, the swing style came back in the 1990s and continued to change and evolve. From when swing style began to the present, there have been significant changes in styles and technologies that have made swing what it is today. Just as important as the present is the roots. There wouldn’t be swing style music if someone hadn’t come up with the idea for it and made it happen. “While the roots of swing music clearly lie in earlier forms of jazz—and particularly in African-American jazz performance styles—swing as we know it may just have been born at a specific time and in a specific place, with an electric performance by one particular Big Band for one particularly enthusiastic audience.” (The Swing Era Begins, 2009) The swing era began with none other than the King of Swing, Benny Goodman in 1935. Now others had been playing swing style music before Benny Goodman. Louis Armstrong, playing with Fletcher Andersen, played with a swing style that everybody loved. The swing dance the Lindy Hop even came out before Goodman. However, none of these sparked the beginning of the swing era.
It was Benny Goodmans performance in 1935 in Los Angelas, California, that brought swing to prominence. Swing wasn’t widely or well received in the eastern states. The western states was another story. Fans in the western states had heard Goodman and his band playing their songs on the radio and had come to hear Goodman perform these songs and received the swing music with wide open arms. This is what brought the swing era into full light (The Swing Era Begins, 2009). The swing era didn’t last forever, all good things come to an end eventually. The swing eras end came around the end of World War 2 (WW2) in 1945. There are several theories about why the swing style of music died out, the rise of a new style of jazz called bebop, the recording ban, the Cabaret tax, musicians wanting to play jazz that is similar to classical music, and even WW2 (The Death of Swing, 2018). The Cabaret tax made it difficult for nightclubs to afford big bands, so as a result, the nightclubs started to higher smaller bands and groups which allowed for other styles to come to the forefront. The recording ban in 1942 played a major role in the death of swing. Union members who implemented the ban were also members of the big bands. As a result, the big bands weren’t putting out new music, and singers were putting out music because the ban didn’t affect them. There were musicians like Artie Shaw a famous clarinetist, that didn’t want to play music that people would just dance to, they wanted to play more classic forms of jazz that people would sit down and really listen to and think about. Artie Shaw left when swing was most popular because he didn’t want to play dance music. During WW2 Glenn Miller had formed a band that would tour around entertaining the troops to raise morale. The troops would form their own bands to play swing music. As a result, after the war swing music served as a reminder of the pain and troubles of the war and the people wanted to move on from it. So they listened to and played swing less in favor of new styles, such as bebop. Dizzy Gillespie was a prominent trumpet player during the Swing era. Near the end of the era Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Thelonious Monk formed a new style of jazz that instantly came to the forefront and put swing on the backburner to slowly die out. This new sound is none other than bebop (Dizzy Gillespie is born, 2009). The beginning of bebop marked the end for swing. Of course, all the other theories helped bring the end of swing, however, bebop was the next big phase for jazz music. Fast forward several years to around 1989 swing has started to make an appearance once again. The band Royal Crown Revenue was one of the first bands to contribute to the resurgence of swing music. There “didn’t have a scene to join when the band formed in 1989. ‘The closest thing to us were rockabilly and ska bands,’ says guitarist lames Achor. ‘We were forced to play whatever gigs we could get’” (Levy&Swenson, n.d.).
They kept working to gain recognition and they got it when they got to play for the movie The Mask. Their determination for recognition paved the path for new rising swing artists. And the resurgence of swing doesn’t stop there, swing music is evolving. Cherry Poppin’ Daddies where also one of the first bands to help bring back swing. Like the Royal Crown Revenue, they were formed in 1989. Steve Perry says “‘The idea was to fuse the energy of punk rock, the rhythmic feel of swing, arid the lyric sensibilities of the mod period into one unified sound’” (Levy&Swenson, n.d.). The electric guitar is playing a new role in swing music. Perry says they “‘have a few songs where the whole band stops, the guitar pops out for a second, and then the guitar drops back into the mix again. That’s the whole vibe of swing–you cut holes in the band arrangement for the guitar to cut through’” (Levy&Swenson, n.d.). Big Bad Voodoo Daddy came with the resurgence of swing. “‘This past July, our record went gold,’ says Big Bad Voodoo Daddy guitarist Scotty Morris with pride. ‘Then, we played a show at the Hatch Shell–a huge outdoor venue in Boston–and 30,000 people showed up! The cool thing was, there were pockets of people just grooving, and there were kids near the stage moshing and crowd surfing, and then there were big pits of people swing dancing’” (Levy&Swenson, n.d.). Swing music is rising again in popularity, its catchy tune and danceable rhythms attract people of all sorts to listen to swing music again. As was said earlier, Morris plays the guitar, this has created a “hybrid of swing, rockabilly, and blues styles” (Levy&Swenson, n.d.). Of course, no swing band is complete without a horn section, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has four horns. Morris works with his horn section to create their sound. This isn’t the furthest swing has evolved, it is still changing. The band Caravan Palace is a perfect example of this continuous change. Caravan Palace is a seven-member Parisian band that released an album in 2008. They are paving the way for a new style of swing music, electro-swing.
The band name holds meaning for them. “‘Caravan’ nods to the band’s gypsy side and Duke Ellington’s classic hit, while ‘Palace’ refers to a nightclub in Paris” (ON ÉCOUTE, 2017). There music style is a combination of “swing and jazz with house and hip-hop influences, their sound is a distinctly funky marriage of old and new”(ON ÉCOUTE, 2017). The article “Swinging Together” talks a bit about the resurgence of swing and the popularity it is gaining. The author Peter Gerler wrote “Offbeat has observed that in New Orleans, ‘more traditional bands may play regularly today than at any previous time in jazz history,’ and audiences ‘have swelled into crowds of enthusiastic young people who turn out in droves from all over the world’”(Gerler, 2015). Swing is alive and well and doesn’t show signs of going away. Gerler quotes Bria Skonberg, a trumpet player and vocalist, she said “‘Coming out of the ‘next great depression…the music might be a way to bring people together. The energy is that much more important in dark times’” (Gerler, 2015). Swing music has come a long way from where it began. Jazz styles had evolved to create swing music with the ‘King of Swing’ Benny Goodman beginning the swing era. And even though swing style music had died out for a while it came back strong in the late 1980s in the resurgence of swing. New bands wanted to play swing music, with new technology. This has let swing music evolve even more. Even with all of this change the roots aren’t forgotten. New artists are taking the old combining it with their own styles and technology. Given how much swing music has changed it is reasonable to say swing music will continue to change. Where will this continuous change take swing next, what new technologies are in store for swing music?
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