Big Bands and Bandmasters

What is the importance of big bands in African-American culture?

Big bands, playing jazz music, dominated African-American musical culture from 1920 until the 1950s. The bands were most prolific in the 1930s and 1940s, or the Swing Era. Bands during this era usually had twelve to fifteen members, and the bands were divided into four sections: saxophone, trumpet, trombone, and rhythm. By the time the bebop style emerged in the 1940s, the Swing Era had ceased. Jazz clubs, such as the Cotton Club and the Savoy in New York City and Chicago’s Sunset/Grand Terrace Café were the common sites for the big bands. Radio broadcasts and recordings gave national spread to the music of the big bands.


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