|Visit Us On FB
THE INSTRUMENTS, THE SOUNDS, THE PERFORMERS
big band in 1937. The chief Luncef ord memory is that of a highly trained group of well-disciplined and musically literate musicians playing in a style that involved the use of staccato phrases, suddenly soaring brass chords and sharply contrasted mellow, almost glutinous saxophone section work, interspersed with novelty vocals sung by a trio, a single instrumentalist doubling as rhythm vocalist, or a ballad singer. Lunceford, who fronted the band but played no instrument (though fully qualified on saxophones and flute) was a professional bandleader in a sense that had nothing in common with the earlier concepts of the term. Henderson worked wonders within the limitations of his own nonchalant personality; Ellington could write arrangements in a taxi on the way to the recording session and wait hours for his musicians to arrive; but Lunceford made a success out of his organization on every level. The musicians not only worked well together, but even waved the brass derbies over their horns in perfect unison. To some this meant that the band was too correct, to the point of stiffness; yet the Lunceford band in person was as exciting a sound and sight as can be observed on any bandstand today.
Sy Oliver, who played trumpet in the band and took an occasional puckish vocal, wrote most of the great arrangements; others were the work of Edwin Wilcox, the band's pianist. Dream of You, written by Oliver in 1934, is still being copied, while the routines and orchestrations established on Margie, For Dancers Only and dozens of others have survived through the pseudo-Lunceford bands of the 1950s. The influence of the Lunceford style, carried directly to the Tommy Dorsey band when Sy Oliver joined the latter as staff arranger late in 1939, has been observed no less distinctly in the orchestras of Billy May, Georgie Auld and George Williams, and in occasional excursions along similar lines by Ray Anthony and others.
In contrast with the brittle and shrill Lunceford approach to big band jazz, the Count Basie orchestra offered more informality and longer solo opportunities in a looser setting than any other band of the '30s. The free-flowing rhythm section, with Freddie Greene's guitar, Walter Page's bass, Jo Jones' drums and the leader's piano, was the key to the rhythmic miracle achieved by Basie.