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The Big Bands
and occasional instrumental arrangements. Jimmy's success stemmed principally from the popularity of his singers. Tommy, while even more successful as a discoverer of vocal talent (Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, the Pied Pipers, etc.) developed a series of techniques for his instrumental numbers, first by adapting classical compositions (Song of India, Liebestraum, Mendelssohn's Spring Song) and later through the adoption of a strutting, Lunce-ford-like swing style for which the authentic arrangements were provided by Sy Oliver.
A gently rhythmic and delightfully subtle orchestra of the swing years was formed by Red Norvo in 1936, with the leader's xylophone, vocals by his wife, Mildred Bailey, and arrangements by Eddie Sauter that were, at the time, exceptionally colorful and venturesome. Norvo retained the big band format until 1942, by which time the imprint of the Eddie Sauter personality had been transferred to a rejuvenated Benny Goodman band.
Charlie Barnet, a saxophonist who had been active around New York since his late teens, made his first big hit when he recorded Cherokee in 1939. Barnet played an explosive style of tenor sax, an occasional Hodges-oriented solo on alto, and sometimes led his reed section most effectively on soprano sax. In the band he led between 1939 and '43, the arrangements by Barnet, Billy May, Andy Gibson and others often bore the unmistakable imprint of the Ellington band and at one point Barnet was publicized as "the white Duke." His had been the first white band ever to play at the Apollo Theater in Harlem in 1933, and during its peak years the band had a great deal of the driving enthusiasm, if not the originality, of the Ellington and Basie bands.
Of all the orchestras generated by the swing era, Woody Herman must be credited with the most evolutionary variety of styles. The original Herman band was founded in 1936 with a nucleus of the disbanded dance orchestra of Isham Jones, in which Herman had worked for two years. Using a slogan, The Band That Plays the Blues," Herman built up a repertoire that also included popular songs and miscellaneous instrumentals, scoring his first big hit with a fast-tempo blues titled Woodchoppers' Ball in 1939.