Swing is a form of jazz that developed in late 1920 as a well known style in USA. It came from New Orleans, then spread over New York and other cities. Swing music usually has crowded and large ensemble of musician, and this is where the name BIG BAND came from, including double bass, drum, brasses and also strings. Swing also has different composition and notation. There’s big dependency to the band leader, since usually the spirit, the power and the timing for improvisation came from them. Because of that, there’s no surprise that many swing band leader became popular, like Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman to mention a view. The composition could easily producing chaos sound, that came from spontaneous improvising of more than 10 musicians at the same time.
For Benny Goodman, the “King of Swing”, Swing defined as a “free speech in music.” “The most important element in Swing,” said Benny, “is improvisation. The liberty a soloist has to stand and play a chorus in the way he feels it, instead of the way in which it was written, a liberty never given any musician in classical performances. That is why I say Swing is genuinely American. It’s the expression of an individual -a kind of free speech in music. It’s the democratic privilege of rising from a storekeeper to President.” That’s how the swing was originally styled, eventhough in the progress, swing could composed more percisely and planned as well. The typical song of swing usually would feature a strong and anchoring rhythm section supporting the freedom of brass sounds, strings and vocals. The most common style is having a soloist be the main man at the center of the stage, and improvised a solo within the framework of the band. However, while the soloist improvised, there is also normal for some band members improvising as well.
Tommy Dorsey, that Sentimental Gentleman, had his own defination. “Jazz was modern music in its infancy and Swing is the infant grown up with all the vigor of eight to the bar come of age. Zestful, reflecting life’s present-day tempo, Swing is sweet and hot at the same time and broad enough in its creative conception to meet, every challenge tomorrow may present.”
Harry James offers a straight matter of fact explanation: “Swing is improvised music, rranged and played in the various styles of big time bands.”
Swing style reached its golden years throughout 30’s to 40’s, and later began to decline during the world war II, mostly because there were many musicians at that time were overseas fighting in the war. Also, when the crisis hit America during the war, the cost of touring with large ensamble was prohibited.
There are many genres appeared after the world war II, but still swing survive until today. There are also many crossover in swing, which enriched this one of the most famous style in jazz. Many important names were given the key to continue the life of swing. Imagine what would it be without Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, then the next generation like Frank Sinatra, then the Rat Pack, or Nat King Cole. Later on in the modern world, there are set of crooners like Harry Connick Jr, Michael Buble, Steve Tyrell and many others. The ladies took such an important part too. Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday or Julie London for example had their moment too in swing.
From the old fashioned and genuine swing, to the new born nu-swing or electro swing which popularized by G Swing in the millenium era, we can be sure that swing will still have its part in the musical world.