History of Jazz

Big Band Boom

(1930's-1940's)
Previous: Early Big Band Next: Postwar Big Band

Despite the challenges as a result of the Great Depression and World War II, big band music continued to grow in popularity during the 1930's and '40's. Musicians played together in jam sessions after hours at bars and clubs. Radio broadcasts spread interest in big band music by bringing it into peoples' homes. Ballrooms such as the Savoy and the Roseland in New York City were wildly popular venues for hearing the latest big band sounds.

The big band boom of the 1930's and '40's brought together the greatest jazz musicians of the day playing together in bands led by clarinetist Benny Goodman, trombonist Tommy Dorsey, clarinetist and saxophonist Jimmy Dorsey, trombonist and arranger Glenn Miller, clarinetist and saxophonist Woody Herman, pianist and composer Duke Ellington, and pianist Count Basie. Some of the most well-known singers from this era appeared with bands like Ellington's, Basie's, Goodman's, and Herman's, and included suc legends as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Joe Williams. During the big band boom, leaders and musicians were as idolized as rock stars are today.

Did you know?

  • The invention of the microphone in 1935 changed the way vocalists approached singing with a big band, allowing for more subtle nuances.


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