September is the month for Big Bands at Doo-Bop Jazz Bar as we announce the launch of Big Band Tuesday’s as well as a number of other ‘Big Bands’ set to take the Doo-Bop stage. Ever wondered what exactly it is that  makes a big band BIG? read on to find out…

A quick history of the era of swing aka big band jazz!

Written by Emma Ives

Whilst big band refers to a jazz band with more than ten players, it also refers to a style of music, to the era of swing, to the peak of jazz.  A big band consists of four sections, a minimum of four saxophones, at least three trumpets, two or more trombones, and a rhythm section consisting of guitar, piano, double bass, and drums.  The combining of these sections in various ways, became a defining characteristic of big bands.

Big bands had been around in some form since the early 1920s, but it was from 1935-1946 when jazz music eclipsed all other genres in popularity, that they came into their own.  Jazz had been gaining popularity since the turn of the century and jazz clubs were often full, but by 1930 the Great Depression had hit, and few people could afford to go out to see live music, leaving many musicians working radio station studios. Radios rapidly became as source of free entertainment and it is estimated that by 1935, 91 million Americans had access to a radio.  Prior to 1934 radio entertainment consisted of shows such as “Tarzan” with background music and the few music shows were kept to “sweet” bands.  The invention of the juke box, huge advances in microphone and vinyl technology began to pave the way for a better music listening experience.

Unlike today where we have the choice of hundreds of radio stations, in the 1930s there were only a few and they were nationwide.  With the time differences between the coasts, scheduling was often too late for those on the east, so when Benny Goodman played his new style of swing jazz to the ears of college age west coasters on the radio, a new craze was born.

With Benny Goodman’s huge success other talented soloist garnered the courage to form their own bands.  Jazz in the form of big band swing swept across a nation and filled dance halls and radio airwaves.  The music was fun, energetic, and showcased the constantly changing talent of the time, but it wasn’t to last.

Many bands suffered loss of band members and audience during WWII.  Then the rise of R&B, a high cabaret tax, a union standoff, radio station politics, and an interest in bebop jazz from jazz musicians led to the eventual demise of the swing era.  Whilst it would have a resurgence in popularity during the 50s, jazz has never again reached such a pinnacle as was seen in the era of the big bands.

So what big bands can you look forward to seeing at Doo-Bop?

BIG BAND TUESDAY’S: ENTHUSIASTIC MUSICIANS ORCHESTRA  September 4th – Brisbane’s premier vehicle for the composition and performance of new and exciting music for large jazz ensemble. With all the bluster and bombast of a classic big band as well as the subtlety and refinement of a modern jazz orchestra, EMO is driven to swing!

JUNKADELIC BRASS BAND – September 7th – The Junkadelic Brass Band from Perth Western Australia combine a smokin’ hot brass section, funky ass junk percussion and sassy soul vocals to create one of the most unique brass band experiences in the Southern Hemisphere – guaranteed to have you shakin’ what your mama gave you on the dance floor.

BIG BAND TUESDAYS: JEFF USHER + THE LOVE SUPREME SUPER BAND – 11 September – The band includes Jeff Usher (piano, vocals, arranger) , Brad Esbensen (trumpet), John Nagy (flute and baritone sax); Ivan Cocking (trombone); Martin Kay (alto sax); Alfredo Lopes (tenor and soprano sax); Cathy Esbensen (bassoon); Andrew Shaw (bass); Steve Fischer (drums)

BRISBANE CONTEMPORARY JAZZ ORCHESTRA 14 September –  “For a big band experience that engages the ears and the mind, it’s hard to go past the BCJO for the exciting, contemporary big band sound”  BCJO is a 19 piece big band featuring Ingrid James on vocals and Pablo Matus (Chile) on percussion. They perform modern big band jazz music and is a showcase for established and emerging Brisbane jazz musicians.

WILD SILK STRINGS PROJECT CD LAUNCH “COLOURS OF YOUR LOVE” 29 September Wild Silk Strings Project has grown out of a long-standing musical collaboration between Australian jazz singer/lyricist Ingrid James and Canadian-born, Australian-based pianist/composer/arranger Louise Denson. This 9-piece ensemble is proud to launch their new CD “Colours Of Your Love” tonight. They will present a rich program of songs from around the world, drawing from folk, jazz, Brazilian, pop and classical repertoire.