Jammin' for the Jackpot: Big Bands and Territory Bands of the 30's
Today's listeners are likely to associate jazz with nightclubs and concert halls or, historically, with Chicago speakeasies and New Orleans houses of prostitution. In fact, however, the typical occupation of most jazz musicians through the 1940s was playing for dancing. For about three decades after World War I, jazz musicians were in frequent creative tension with the dance-band industry—exploiting and expanding its musical resources, learning its professional lessons, earning its wages, and chafing under its difficult working conditions and many artistic restrictions.

As dance orchestras grew steadily in number, size, and popularity through the 1930s and early 1940s, they came to be called "big bands." Like many of America's musics from the same period— Broadway and Hollywood musicals, rural blues, "folk" music—big-band music of the swing era has been weighted with a nostalgic value that is difficult to support. Since the 1950s, jazz enthusiasts have praised these years as a period of good taste, originality, and high musical standards, with correlative prominence for jazz soloists and jazz-trained arrangers. To some extent this was the case. Dance bands of the day always fed on the work of jazz soloists: their innovations in phrasing and rhythm; their repertoire, including adaptations and assimilations from "classical" music; and, perhaps most tellingly, their own self-popularizations. But though the improvising jazz musician provided inspiration for much of the music of the big bands, not all the better dance orchestras were strongly jazz-oriented (Ray Noble's band was one of the better examples of a musically interesting group with a low jazz quotient); and even the finest jazz bands some of the time played straightforward versions of not always memorable popular tunes.

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Like most other New World jazz reissues, this record is intended to represent the music of an era through worthwhile but neglected selections—usually by historically or artistically undervalued orchestras—that for the most part are otherwise unavailable. Understandably, this approach gives little attention to the better-known groups of the time. In the period of the present album, the greatest influence was Fletcher Henderson's orchestra. It was the preeminent black band of 1930, still a style setter though its first major arranger, Don Redman, had left more than two years earlier and the "Henderson style" that so many would copy had not yet evolved. Through the early 1930s, with assistance from his brother Horace and saxophonist Benny Carter, Henderson developed a style exemplified by "Down South Camp Meetin'," "Big John Special," "Wrappin' It Up," and his version of Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton's "King Porter Stomp." These were principally distinguished by close calland- response phrasing between brass and saxophone choirs, similar to responsorial patterns in black American sacred music. Many of Henderson's arrangements were purchased by Benny Goodman from late 1934 on and made a great contribution to the younger man s success. Henderson's own band broke up in November, 1934, though he regrouped with other musicians almost immediately and had another vogue before disbanding in 1939 to work for Goodman as a staff arranger and pianist. (Among the selections here, "Jammm' for the Jackpot" and 'Madhouse" are perhaps closest to the classic Henderson style.)

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The end of that craze was hardly as sudden as its beginning. 1942 was the decisive year-a year of wartime draft, wartime shortages, a wartime entertainment tax, and wartime travel restrictions, and the beginning of a two-year recording strike imposed by officials of the American Federation of Musicians. Although bands grew steadily larger and musicians’ salaries steadily higher, by the late forties the continued existence of an industry of large dance bands in large ballrooms was in doubt, and by the early 1950s that industry was moribund. The big bands had outlived their time perhaps artistically, perhaps economically. And though their time was not of incomparable richness that has often been painted, it was fertile enough that a great deal of its interesting work is still unheralded after many years-as the present volume clearly shows.

Various Artists

Jammin' for the Jackpot: Big Bands and Territory Bands of the 30's

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Caravan
Juan Tizol, Duke Ellington,, Irving Mills
Buy
Casa Loma Stomp
Gene Gifford
Buy
Dallas Blues
Hart Wand, Lloyd Garrett
Buy
Madhouse
James Mundy, Earl Hines
Buy
Heebie Jeebies
Boyd Atkins
Buy
Pickin' the Cabbage
Dizzy Gillespie
Buy
Ebony Silhouette
Benny Payne, Milt Hinton
Buy
Jammin' for the Jackpot
Eli Robinson
Buy
Toby
Eddie Barefield, Buster Moten
Buy
Blues of Avalon
Unknown
Buy
Sensational Mood
Henri Woode, Horace Floyd
Buy
Original Dixieland One-Step
Robinson, Crandall, La Rocca, Jordan
Buy
Atlanta Low Down,
Henry Mason
Buy
Auburn Avenue Stomp
Henry Mason
Buy
West End Blues
Joe Oliver, Clarence Williams
Buy
Good Feelin' Blues
Unknown
Buy

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