The next breakthrough came from the Goodman’s band in the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles. After a long streak of unsuccessful nights, Goodman’s band became a hit out of the blue. Goodman became known as “King of Swing.” Other bands started to take notice and the swing era became fully realized.
With the flood of orchestral bands that followed, Count Basie’s stands out the most. The Basie bands encouraged improvised solos and rarely wrote their music. It was the age of innovator saxophonist Lester Young, Buck Clayton, and trombonist Dicky Wells. The band continued to tour until Basie’s death in 1984, which indicate how popular their unique style was.
Notably, it was an interesting turn in the history of jazz. Because for the first time the role of composer-arrangers was evident. At the time, the average jazz fan believed in the soloist improvisers and ignored those who provided the framework.
Influential swing soloists of the era include saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, pianist Art Tatum, and singer Billie Holiday. That era produced masterpieces such as “Body and Soul.”
A Return to the Roots
Between the 1930’s and 1940’s, jazz started to return to small group players after a decade of big bands. That’s when racially mixed jazz groups started to take hold as well.
Goodman led most of those combo groups while touring the United States. In 1937, pianist Nat King Cole formed the trio but it wasn’t until 1940 that he started singing and recording. Furthermore, he launched his solo singing career with smashing hits such as “Straighten Up and Fly Right” 1943).
Jazz Turning Point
During World War II, a new form of jazz dominated the jazz scene, bebop. Jazz became divided into swing, earlier styles, and breakaway singers including Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat King Cole.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, jazz and classical music merged together and produced a “third stream.”
Today, the jazz scene hasn’t evolved much. It has three main styles, traditionalist, contemporary mainstream, and “anything goes.”