Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Big Bands Play On

I like the big bands. That may be somewhat of an understatement, when you consider that I have been co-writing a newspaper column on them for twenty-five years. There are marriages that have not lasted that long -- lots of them.

All too often, four or five people get together and call themselves a band, for whatever the occasion. They can play well, but there's no depth of sound. You can't get any real body without two or three trumpets, the same amount of saxes and trombones, some rhythm and a piano.

Those numbers are so important that, when you hear an Original Cast Recording of a Broadway show, you are listening to an enhanced orchestra. You are getting the original pit band plus a few extra pieces added in to provide an extra kick that you would experience if you were in the theater itself.

There are times when even the best of bands used trios, quartets and quintets. But they were only "breakout" units, used for more intimate sounds and usually with a band singer. The best music came from that extra brass instrument, the additional strings, the effort to make a fuller sound.

They cost a lot to run and, because of the draft, many shut down during and after World War 2. The band singers became solo acts with maybe a combo behind them. You can still hear these great sounds on compact discs. Go for it.


Blogger Dave said...

Love the big bands! Duke Ellington and his band I like the best. Why? Don't know. The high energy of Mr. Louie Bellson behind the drum kit during the performance of "Skin Deep" is simply electrifying to hear.

April 06, 2006 11:33 AM  

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