Author Archives: bigbandspotlight

The Soft and Subtle Swing of Red Norvo

The loudest voices often get the most attention, but sometimes it’s the quieter ones that are more interesting. The Swing Era was filled with exciting big bands that roared, shouted and pounded, but some of the most satisfying musical sounds … Continue reading

Posted in Eddie Sauter, Mildred Bailey, Red Norvo | Leave a comment

Tommy Dorsey’s Greatest Band

Few big bands were quite the extreme study in contrasts as the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra of the early 1940s. It could blast the roof off with high-energy swing and then turn around and play the lushest, most romantic sounds imaginable. … Continue reading

Posted in buddy rich, Frank Sinatra, Sy Oliver, Tommy Dorsey, Ziggy Elman | Leave a comment

The Mellifluous Mr. Brown

More than any other big band, the Duke Ellington Orchestra was a collection of unique and diverse musical personalities. In choosing the men for his band, Ellington picked players with distinctive sounds and approaches to their instruments. Like a great … Continue reading

Posted in Duke Ellington, Lawrence Brown | Leave a comment

Woody Herman and the Band That Plays the Blues

Woody Herman led big bands for a half-century, but in the beginning it seemed unlikely he would last more than a year or so. Herman spent his first years as a bandleader struggling to find both an audience and a … Continue reading

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Benny Goodman and Harry James

The group dynamics of a big band were such that one musician could have an oversize impact on a group’s sound and spirit. Benny Goodman was already leading the hottest band in the country when Harry James joined, but the … Continue reading

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The Singing Bandleaders

The common images of the great Swing Era bandleaders include dazzling trumpeters with gleaming horns; handsome young clarinet virtuosos; and elegant pianists conducting from the keyboard. Singers were an important part of every orchestra’s success, but few of them were … Continue reading

Posted in Billy Eckstine, Bob Crosby, Cab Calloway, Jack Teagarden, Singers, Skinnay Ennis, Tony Pastor, Woody Herman | Leave a comment

Those Memorable Big Band Theme Songs

The most important song for every classic big band was its theme song. Heard at the open and close of live performances and radio broadcasts, themes established a band’s distinct musical character and identity. The best band themes were richly … Continue reading

Posted in Count Basie | 1 Comment