The sheer explosion in popularity of the big bands lead to a huge number of outfits performing during the thirties and forties. Many of the earlier twenties bands faded away as the swing era came in but many of the thirties bands stayed the course, even managing to survive in the rock era.
Many of those that stayed the course changed styles, changed personnel and instrument line-ups, and some changed the whole direction of their music. Ellington is the best known and probably the most revered of all the bands and his music evolved continuously over decades. He also almost certainly did more work as a soloist and with other musicians than any other bandleader, as did Kenton who as seen and heard in the previous piece pushed the boundaries as far as anyone; Basie less so, yet stayed at the top right to the end such was his popularity.
Here I am simply going to put up some pieces from a selection of bands in various styles to illustrate that variation and how they changed.
This early Ellington rendition of “Mood Indigo” shows Ellington had a piano style even then that traversed the ages and yet had Russell Procope on clarinet soloing, an instrument that diminished in usage as a front liner soon afterwards.
Filmed version of the above(embedding disabled): https://youtu.be/GohBkHaHap8
By 1943 Ellington had written this but it was not well received at the time, so he shortened the suites into six parts, one of which is here, and when re-released in ‘58 it became a classic, from Black Brown and Beige:
Kenton made his name with a huge swinging style and a run of popular numbers such as Artistry in Rhytmn and the Peanut Vendor and this from ‘62 “Malaguena” with its Latin theme and sumptuous brass section:
City of Glass I featured in the last piece but Kenton pushed the boundaries of big band music in other numbers and albums. This is a live ‘68 video of Kenton just back from a serious illness with Intermission Riff, big bands don’t get much better than this:
and then in ‘72 for contrast, “Here’s that Rainy Day”:
Kenton's Innovation Orchestra of 1950 was putting out some numbers that were advanced for the time and his delving into Latin American music predated the Bossa Nova period, plus albums like MacArthur Park added to his broad based output.
Always a slightly underrated outfit Terry Gibbs had various bands, this is his ‘Dream Band’, not underrated himself by anyone with knowledge of music; a long and successful career. "Don’t be that Way":
A very current big band the Amazing Keystone Big Band with Quincy Jones as arranger shows the big bands have not entirely disappeared, here in a Latin vein playing “Manteca” in 2014:
A classic number “A Child is Born” here played by the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, featuring Thad as arranger and playing flugelhorn. This was the resident band at the Village Vanguard NYC during the seventies, not as well known over here as they should be:
This is interesting. Oliver Nelson, musician-composer-arranger is one of my favourite jazz artists who went on to various strands of music with huge success. Here he is with a big band Jazz Interactions Orchestra the album Jazzhattan Suite and the number “Complex City” released in ‘68. To my mind the whole album is based on Kenton's “City of Glass” and has the same lush brass section - this also was not a complete success but an attempt, again in my view, to succeed where Kenton failed ? The similarities are too obvious.
Oliver Nelson will figure in more depth my next piece.