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Monday, May 15, 2006

THE BIG BANDS: SWING, JAZZ, AND BENNY GOODMAN

by Jim McAllister

Once upon a time in America couples actually touched each other while dancing. Not only that, if you really got into "fast" dancing you needed some athletic ability plus you better be in good physical shape. If you see movies such as "Cabin in the Sky" (1943), The Marx Brothers’ "A Day at the Races" (1937) or "Hellzapoppin’" (1941), you will see dancing being performed that will take your breath away. Popularly known as "jitterbugging" or "swing dancing" many years ago, this style was originally an outgrowth from a popular dance in the 1920's called the "Lindy Hop", named after transatlantic crossing aviator Charles Lindbergh.
In the 1920's, the so-called society orchestras played a ragtime style dance music that included a lot of strings. By the latter part of the decade, artists like Louis Armstrong were breaking away from that style fronting smaller groups consisting mainly of brass sections, piano, and drums. As the 1930's emerged these "swing" bands became larger and louder (they were now known as "Big Bands") and were led by such future stars as the Dorsey brothers, Cab Calloway, Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, and Benny Goodman.

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