Not that all jazz is good music, but Leonard Bernstein offered an open-hearted paean to jazz: “People who do not consider jazz to be art music are missing something profound.” And, to the oft-heard dismissive canard “Jazz is just folk music”, a jazzman once replied, “Jazz is not folk music. It’s too hard to play."
Not to get preference parochial on you, but I believe not many rock musicians are much concerned about room acoustics, but jazz musicians and classical music musicians alike are often very acoustics sensitive. Rock music is loud by design; it’s part of the overpowering energetic gravitas of the music; the decibels produced, all too often overwhelm and negate a rooms’ innate acoustics—and sometimes, Rock and Blues music can be so loud that everything in the room including my abdominal viscera vibrate in sympathy with the decibel load. Anyway, each room or space has its own acoustic voice, and I have many times heard a jazz musician wax mellifluent about a room with clean and pleasing acoustics.
I believe that people who think Big Band music is not jazz are… well… misinformed. So much for charitable bias, but the Duke of E and the Count of B would spin in their graves if Big Band music was somehow cast out of the jazz tent. It’s my firm belief that most Lindy Hoppers have little recognition of how many of the recordings they dance to are recordings made by Big Bands. Some day—probably after my knees finally go completely kaput—I am going to sit through DJed Lindy Hop dances so I can count the number of Big Band tunes as a percentage of all the music played. Didja know there is an American Big Band Preservation Society? Well! Go to www.americanbigband.org. I remember hearing Big Band music as a kid, but when it didn’t resonate in my teenage peers, I dropped my big band fan membership. I remember well my big band re-awakening. It was at a Saturday night dance at a regional Squash tournament in Cleveland, circa 1977. A REALLY GOOD SWINGING big band was playing, and I almost went bonkers. When they were playing, all I wanted to do is listen and let the acoustic sound from those 18 musicians wash over me. I couldn’t abide talking, so I just walked back forth in front of that band with a crazy grin on my face. The band must have thought I was a poor soul who had completely lost “it”, was looking for “it”, and couldn’t find “it”.
In 1963, Duke Ellington was asked, “How have you managed to keep a big band so long when so many others have broken up? Hasn’t the rise of rock ‘an’ roll taken away your audience?” Duke replied, “There’s still a Dixieland audience, a Swing audience, a Bop audience. All the audiences are still there.” Well, the Dixieland audience is fading fast. So too is the big band audience. Perhaps it’s time for you, L’il Lindy Hoppers, to create a new young big band audience. Go witness a good swinging big band—to hear one in full cry is one of the singular thrills found in American music. We, in Minnesota, just lost Chuck Beasley, the notable leader of a fine eponymous big band, and I surely hope someone picks up Chuck’s fallen banner and carries it forth. Lindy Hop can ill afford to lose a good big band which plays for swing dancers—know this, the origins of Lindy Hop and swinging big band music are inexorably joined at the hip.
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The name “jump” may derive from the pronounced rhythmic bounce which characterizes the music. “Jump” is most often known as “Jump Blues,” but that’s a misnomer, as Jump bands play compositions that are both blues (12 bar) and American popular music form (32 bar), and some are predominantly Jump Swing bands.
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