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Swing (genre)

(Redirected from Swing music)
This article is about a period of jazz music history. For the rhythmic effect, see swung note.

Swing music, also known as swing jazz, is a form of jazz music that solidified as a distinctive style during the 1930s, in the United States. Swing is distinguished primarily by a strong rhythm section, usually consisting of double bass and drums, medium to fast tempo, and the distinctive "swing" that's common to all forms of jazz.



Though swing evolved out of the lively experimentation that began in New Orleans, and that developed further (and in varying forms) in Kansas City, and New York City, the swing style diverged slightly from the former in ways that distinguished it as a form in its own right.

Swing bands tended to be bigger, and more crowded than other jazz bands, necessitating a slightly higher level of organization than was then the norm. This resulted in band leaders putting more energy into developing arrangements capable of cutting down on the chaos that would result from as many as 12 or 16 musicians spontaneously improvising.

Instead, a typical song played in the swing style would feature a strong, anchoring rhythm section in support of more loosely tied wind, brass, string, and vocal sections. The level of improvisation that the audience might expect at any one time varied depending on the arrangement, the band, the song, and the band-leader. The most common style consisted of having one soloist at a time taking center stage, and take up an improvised routine, with her/his bandmates playing support. As a song progressed, multiple soloists might be expected to pick up the baton, and then pass it on. That said, it was far from uncommon to have two or three band members improvising at any one time.

As jazz in general, and swing jazz in particular, began to grow in popularity throughout the States, a number of changes occurred in the culture that surrounded the music. For one, the introduction of swing in the early thirties, with its strong rhythms, loud tunes, and "swinging" style led to an explosion of creative dance in the black community. The various rowdy, energetic, creative, and improvisational dances that came into effect during that time came to be known, collectively, as swing dance.

The second change that occurred as swing music increased in popularity outside the black community, was, to some extent, an increasing pressure on musicians and band leaders to soften (some would say dumb-down) the music to cater to a more staid and conservative, Anglo-American audience. Similar conflicts arose when Swing spread to other countries, especially in Germany, where it conflicted with Nazi ideology (see Swing Kids).

In later decades, this popular, sterilized, mass-market form of swing music would often, and unfortunately, be the first taste that younger generations might be exposed to, which often led to it begin labeled something akin to 'old fogey big-band dance music'.

Ironically, early swing musicians were often in fact annoyed by the young people who would throw a room into chaos by seemingly tossing each other across the floor at random -- thus somewhat nullifying the idea that swing was developed as dance music, when in fact, swing dancing evolved among young aficionados to complement the energy of the music.


Band leaders

Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fletcher Henderson, Jean Goldkette, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Gene Krupa, Glenn Miller


Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw


Roy Eldridge, Harry Edison,...

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