Early Bands

There was a time, of course, when musical dinosaurs (the big bands) traveled the earth-the Swing Era. The early bands of the Swing Era emerged on the scene in the early ‘20s, and credit for the beginnings of the big band era must go to leader-arranger Fletcher Henderson, who somewhat enlarged the format of what had been combo music into bigger ensembles as early as 1923.

By establishing sections of trumpets, trombones, saxophones and rhythm, Henderson and other arrangers were able to create music of greater color, range, texture and power. At almost the same time, Duke Ellington began expanding his smaller groups into larger ensembles and big band music had found its greatest composer and arranger. The early recordings of the Henderson and Ellington bands appeared in 1931.

Many of the early aggregations started as territory bands, which became famous if they happened to click with the public in recordings or on the radio. The big bands of Paul Whiteman, Jean Goldkette and Ben Pollack found brief fame early in the era but their music rarely achieved any lasting value.

As the ‘30s progressed, bands led by Don Redman, Luis Russell, Jimmie Lunceford, Earl Hines, Andy Kirk, Benny Carter and Count Basie expanded the variety of sounds offered by the larger aggregations.

Other early units considered more in the dance-band genre were Glen Gray, The Dorsey Brothers, Glenn Miller and Bob Crosby.

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