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The Big Bands
The whole band played as if it were one vast rhythm section. Most of the best numbers were founded simply on the 12-bar blues, or on easily digested 32-bar patterns, including occasionally a popular song of the day. Basie's band later acquired a girl singer (the sedately swinging Helen Humes) and a retinue of arrangers, among them Jimmy Mundy, Buster Harding and Don Redman, but the accouterments of fame and fortune did little to increase the emotional value of the original, genuine article. The trigger-fingered, elliptical piano style of the Count (occasionally expanded into a Fats Waller "stride" technique) was but one of the band's many solo virtues; the others, in the old band, were Buck Clayton and Harry "Sweets" Edison on trumpets, Dickie Wells and Benny Morton on trombones, Lester Young and Herschel Evans on tenor saxes.
During the late 1930s Ellington, Lunceford and Basie contested for recognition as the country's foremost Negro jazz orchestra. Ellington had arrived first and was firmly set as the master composer-conductor-songwriter, already an international legend; Lunceford achieved new heights of commercial recognition on the strength of his superb showmanship; Basie was the surprise contender from left field. Meanwhile, on the white side of what was still an almost completely segregated jazz world, a chain reaction had begun. What Goodman and his men were to Harlem swing, Bob Crosby and his band became to old-time Dixieland jazz as Bing's younger brother was made nominal leader and vocalist with what was mainly a resurrection of a band that had been led until 1934 by Ben Pollack.
The arrangements featured by the Crosby band resembled a Brobdingnagian counterpart of the music that had been played a decade earlier by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings and other pioneer white bands, with a few important added elements, noticeably the voicing of clarinets and tenor saxophones. The band had a joyous ensemble spirit and a succession of capable soloists, most of whom were later to abandon their lives as touring jazzmen and settle down in Hollywood and New York as high-priced studio musicians. They included Matty Matlock, clarinet; Eddie Miller, tenor sax; Yank Lawson, trumpet; Bob Haggart, bass. The musical direction of the band was in the