Big Band music is a term used to cover a period of music that began roughly in the mid thirties and continued until the mid fifties. In some forms Big Band music still exists today in the embodiment of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy or Brian Setzer Orchestra as well as the touring versions of such well know bands of the past such as Duke Ellington's Band and the Glenn Miller orchestra. Big Band music was made possible and popular by the convergence of the orchestra instruments with the melodies and independent Rhythms coming from the popularity of the Black Jazz artists of the 20's and 30's. In a very real sense Big Band music was the age old battle of youth versus the older generation. Taking the highly structured instruments of the formal orchestra and combining the Jazz melodies with the more formal sound that was the sound of the day created the Big Band Sound that developed and continues to this day. As with any birth of a style of music today only the most popular are heard from but some of the "grandfathers" of the sound should be acknowledged.
Jelly Roll Morton: A Jazz pianist was one of the first to blend in the Trombone (Kid Ory in the 1927 hit Grandpa's Spells) Clarinet ( Johnny Dodds playing on the 1928 hit Wolverine Blues) with the traditional Piano and Trumpet that was part of the New Orleans blues music of the mid to late twenties. Jelly Roll was the composer of the Big Band Standard King Porter Stomp that is a part of most all performances of Big Band entertainers.
Irving Aaronson And His Commanders with hits from the late twenties to the mid thirties this Big Band launched the careers of such notables as Artie Shaw, Tony Pastor and Gene Krupa.
Smith Ballew & Orchestra a singer and Band leader that helped further the careers of Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Bunny Berigan and others. Also played arrangements by Glenn Miller giving the public the first taste of the rich Glenn Miller signature sound.
Isham Jones & Orchestra from the early twenties to the late thirties his orchestra pioneered the smooth sound of the Big Bands Combined with the Swing music that became so popular in the mid thirties this created the all inclusive Big Band performance program.
Paul Whitman & Orchestra everyone has heard his music as he was one of the pioneers and most popular Big Bands from the 20's to the 40's Bing Crosby gained singing stardom while with this Band. Strangely he seems to have become a forgotten star of the era.
Big Band music for today's audience does of necessity require playing mostly well know artists that will bring back memories to one's listeners. As you get into later periods do not forget to include the modern Big Band Singer such as Dean Martin, Doris Day, Al Martino etc. There are also some current artists that are creating the Big Band Style in the traditional sense like Michael Civisca and Jimmy Roselli. Roselli especially has remade many of the late 40's hits and a CD or two of his (Saloon songs One, Saloon Songs Two or Saloon Songs Three) are a excellent way to carry a bit of Big Band without having to buy a large number of CD's.
the modern DJ that wants to advertise him/her self as carrying and playing Big Band Music would do well to carry CD's as follows:
Leading Men Vol. two and Three
The Legendary Big Bands Goodman, Herman, Kyser
Barry Manilow Singin' With The Big Bands
Glenn Miller Pure goldWayne Newton Greatest Hits
Patti Page 20 Smash Hits
Louis Prima and Keely Smith Buona Sera
Sentimental Journey Vol. 1
Artie Shaw and His Orchestra
Great Ladies of song Sweet and Lovely
Those Wonderful Years (Two CD Set)
Those Wonderful Years Fever
Those Wonderful Years South Of The Border
Those wonderful Years Till We Meet Again
The White cliffs Of Dover
Stage Door Canteen Two CD Set
The Big Bands of the thirties Enoch Light
Big Band Hits of the 30's and 40's Enoch Light
The Andrews Sisters
20 Girl Vocal Big Band Classics
Nat King Cole
Hollywood Sings The Blues
The Mills Brothers
Stars of Las Vegas
The above CD's would allow you to present an evening of Big Band Music with variety and depth. For just a few songs to mix in the Canteen Series (two CD Set) and the those wonderful Years Series are really a great snapshot of the modern big band era starting in the WW2 era. there is also a series called Nipper's Greatest Hit's the 30's, The 40's and The 50's that is useful to cover parts of this era. I find the Nipper's sets valuable in many cases because they also carry some country tunes of the era. Recently Released Stars of Las Vegas also cover some of the standards. You will find that there is a blurring of Big Band and Country during the late 40's and early 50's so it is well to carry some country of this time frame.
I have also built a data base of Big Band music showing the type of dance that would be done to it that I would be glad to send to anyone that would like it. This helps provide a variety of beats without having to have a in-depth knowledge of the genre.
The modern Big Band era started in the fifties and was helped greatly by the movies. Movies starring Doris Day, Bing Crosby and others of the like keep that Big Band sound alive and artists such as Tony Bennett, Jimmy Roselli and Michael Civisca and Lorrie Morgan's Secret Love CD great entertainment for the older set. There is some confusion between Big Band and Ballroom music today and I would like to point out they are different. Ballroom dancing today is touted as a sport and in fact is going to be in future Olympics. Because of the changes during the past few years of Ballroom Dancing many of the traditional Big Band songs that had a Ballroom Beat are no longer acceptable to the "strict tempo" ballroom dancer. If you think you are going to be in a position where there are Ballroom dancers I would suggest two CD's Superior Dancing Vol. Two and Giants of Latin The Modern Way. These two CD's will cover the occasional request for a "Ballroom" strict tempo dance. As an added feature both CD's have the proper dances identified for each song. One other common occurrence is the Senior Citizen coming up to a DJ and asking for a Waltz. Many times we DJ's think they really want a Ballroom waltz when in fact they are just looking for a slow song to dance to. When I first started Dj'ing for older groups this was one of the misunderstandings that came up. So be sure and identify what the requestor is looking for. One way to cover yourself is to play either, Tennessee Waltz by Patti Page or Could I Have this Dance by Anne Murray they are both slow waltz songs with the proper tempo for the slow or English waltz and yet will keep someone happy if they just want a slow dance. I would also recommend Joel Whitburn's Book Pop Memories 1890-1954 for further detailed information of the artists and songs of the era. I will also be presenting a paper Called " A Trip Down Memory Lane" that will detail exactly how I conduct a program of music and commentary to a Seniors Group. This might be of interest of one is curious of the order songs can be played to provide a rounded grouping.
This is one of two artilce Vance "Bear" Holt wrote for DJzone. He was a dear freind and member of http://www.DJchat.com that finally was called away to play that big gig in the sky on 07/28/03.