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The Big Bands
in Chicago in 1925 but later enjoyed popularity in Chicago and New York, was a drummer who knew the value of such sidemen as Benny Goodman, Jimmy McPartland and Glenn Miller, all of whom were heard on his early records. The arrangements, often by Glenn Miller, drew from popular songs of the day, standard blues themes and occasional original instrumentals. Goldkette, a concert pianist who was never a jazz instrumentalist, hired such musicians as Bix Beiderbecke and Frankie Trambauer for his band, a quasi-symphonic dance outfit with arrangements by Bill Challis. There were some records of interest in 1926-7, but their value today lies entirely in the solo passages.
Goldkette, active in the Detroit area, also participated in jazz as a businessman, organizing and booking other bands. It may be contended that the contribution he made to jazz with his own orchestra was less valuable than the role he played in booking McKinney's Cotton Pickers. Bill McKinney was an ex-drummer who lent his name to a band in which Don Redman, as alto saxophonist, arranger and musical director, played the most important role. Redman had his own orchestra from 1931 to 1940; the first Negro band ever to be part of a regularly sponsored radio series, it was known to millions through the Redman composition used as the band's theme, the smoky and sonorous Chant of the Weed.
The 1930s saw the rise and fall of innumerable big bands and a gradual increase in the size and scope of their instrumentation. The saxophone section, some or all of whose members doubled on clarinets, usually numbered four, but was increased to five by Ellington in 1939; the trumpet section increased occasionally from three to four and the trombones from two to three. The rhythm section remained unchanged.
The Negro ballrooms and night clubs such as Fairyland Park in Kansas City, the Grand Terrace in Chicago and the Savoy Ballrooms in Chicago and New York provided the settings for the music of a number of hard-swinging bands during the '30s. Chick Webb, a dirnunitive drummer who fought an amazingly successful battle against both Jim Crow and a natural physical deformity, led his invincible gladiators through a "Battle of the Bands" against Benny Goodman one night at Harlem's Savoy and scored a memorable victory. The Webb band's instrumental