An Introduction to Big Band Jazz
with “The Heartland Jazz Orchestra”
“All of Me” (Gerald Marks and Seymour Simon): This is an arrangement of a great American tune as performed by Count Basie and his Orchestra. It is an example of swing, big band jazz. Basie was from Kansas City, Missouri. He was quite influential in the development of swing. Other famous jazz musicians from Kansas City are Benny Moten, Andy Kirk and Charlie Parker. This arrangement by Billy Byers contains a surprise.
“Hotter Than That” (Louis Armstrong): Our exploration of the history of jazz starts in the city of New Orleans (Louisiana). Many cultures met and played music together. Classically trained musicians provided a rich harmonic element to the music whose heart was in the rhythms of Africa. French, Spanish and Creole influences added the spice that makes jazz a unique American art form.
“Hotter Than That” was recorded on Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Hot Sevens records. These recordings influenced all jazz that followed.
Louis Armstrong traveled to Chicago to join a band led by his mentor King Oliver. The town had never heard such sounds before. A passion for jazz exploded.
Other famous musicians from New Orleans include Sidney Bechet, Baby Dodds, Pops Foster, Kid Ory and Lil Hardin-Armstrong.
“Happy Go Lucky Local” (Duke Ellington): Duke Ellington, born in Washington, D.C., moved to New York, where he became one of America’s finest composers and band leaders. Individual musicians became stars in their own right, including Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams, Harry Carney and Paul Gonsalves.
“Happy Go Lucky Local” is an example of program music, describing the journey of a meandering train. Be sure to listen for the sounds of the trains in the music. The second half of this song is blues, one of the most important forms of jazz.
“Tripple Inn Stomp” (Tim Ouimette): This tune is an example of a later form of Swing Jazz. Based on riffs, this is Tim’s tribute to the great composer and arranger Sy Oliver. A riff is a short musical phrase that is repeated several times. This tune was named after a night club in New York City.
“Five Love Bison” (David Hoffman): This tune is an example of a style of Jazz called bebop. This style was developed in New York in the 1940’s. Bebop is a more harmonically and rhythmically complex style, featuring fast tempos and intricately moving melodies. Some famous bebop musicians are Charlie “Bird” Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell and Thelonious Sphere Monk.
“Ita Morreal” (Bebo Valdez): This is an example of a mambo, a form of music from Cuba that combines traditional elements of Cubin music with Jazz. The influence of jazz spread to Cuba and extended to other Latin American countries, including Brazil, where the bossa nova was born. Many Cuban musicians immigrated to the United States in the 1940’s and 50’s, including Bebo Valdez, Chano Pozo and Perez Prado. The influence of these Cuban musicians helped to create a new genre, Latin Jazz.
“A Child is Born” (Thad Jones): Thad Jones was an American trumpeter and composer who played with many big bands, including Count Basie. In the late 1960’s, Thad and drummer Mel Lewis formed their own big band, the Thad Jones – Mel Lewis Orchestra. They performed every Monday at the Village Vanguard located in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. After the death of Thad and Mel, the band changed its name to the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. They continue to perform every Monday evening.
“A Child is Born” is a beautiful jazz waltz. Listen to the masterful interplay between the brass and saxophones.
“Two Seconds to Midnight” (Alan Baylock): Jazz was a large influence on rock and roll, soul, and rhythm and blues. These forms in turn inspired a new kind of Jazz called fusion. Some famous fusion bands include Weather Report, The Brecker Brothers and Snarky Puppy.
“Two Seconds to Midnight” features a rock beat, jazz harmonies and electronic instruments.
“Nutville” (Horace Silver): Following the esoteric influence of bebop, musicians and listeners longed for organically less complex melodies, forming a style know as hard bop. Pianist Horace Silver, along with Art Blakey (on drums) formed a band called The Jazz Messengers. An influential record company, Blue Note Records, inspired a revitalized interest in Jazz.
“Nutville” features a quick tempo and both Latin and swing rhythms. This arrangement was written for the Buddy Rich Big Band. Buddy, along with Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson, Duke Ellington and Count Basie continued to tour with their bands into the 1970’s.
“Li’l Darlin” (Neal Hefti): Written by the trumpeter for the Count Basie Orchestra, the piece showcased the orchestra’s mastery of very slow tempos. Lil Darlin’ is one of the slowest jazz tunes you will ever hear.
“I Want You” (Horace Silver): Our last selection takes us back to where we started to the Mississippi Delta and the city of New Orleans. You can always find a parade there, with a brass band playing music in their own original and personal style. The cultural elements still exist just as they did in the early 20th century. When you go to New Orleans be sure to bring your instrument for you will surely be asked to join in.