Why swing music?

James McFadyen

New Member
W.Rimmer - spot on about 4 tubas playing the quassi pizz bassline - absolute suicide, unless u've got a really tight bass section and let's face it, with Bb Basses fumbling about, it often sounds stodgy and uncomfortable! - unless of course ur black dyke or grimey!

stick with one bass in true 'walking bass' style, non of the quassi pizz nonsence!! :wink:

The Bassline must groove with the drums, after all, like W.Rimmer says, the rythm section is so important - and I second that a million times over!

Although saying all that, quite a few concert goers, particularly of the older generation like a good 1920's jazz arrangment, which suits the Brass Band slightly better!
 

Boneman

Member
Sorry but I firmly with JessopSmythe in this thread . .

Why are we being so high minded about this? if it works and sounds good why not? - it may not be 'right' but who's right is right? - My experience is that most of a Brass Band audience very much enjoy the more 'swinging' pieces.

I also think we are vastly underestimating the talent we have in,our bands - many bands (of all standards - not just Black Dyke) have players/conductors who are very familiar with this style of music, and are more than capable of playing it!
 

GJG

Well-Known Member
James McFadyen said:
.... blues scales, be-bop scales, alto penataonic scales and so on as well as learning the rather complicated modal system and knowing which 'blue notes' sit in each chord and what modes you can play in a chord. Basically speaking, Mixolydian is the jazziest mode, with Phrygian coming a very close second!


What IS that smell?

G.
 

Despot

Member
Some brass bands can swing.....some can't.
Some jazz bands can swing .....some can't......in fact quite a large percentage of amatuer jazz/big bands can't!

If you compare the small local village band to the Maynard Ferguson recording you have at home, no I don't it'll quite match up, but I don't think their rendition of any given march will match up to a recording of a top section band either! Does that mean they should never play marches?

This is just the same kind of snobbery we've always faced for playing classical, pop etc.....
 

Keppler

Moderator
Staff member
W.Rimmer said:
Music that powerfully evokes a certain attitude and culture being played by a cosily familiar home-spun group that just can't handle it.

What attitude is that then? We're certainly getting a lot of it here.
Without degenerating into a "my band is better than your band" handbags-at-10-paces scrap (or have some of us already gone there?), we all accept that different musical ensembles and different instrumental combinations will have different takes and styles on various different musical genres. Of course there are those who specialise in a particular genre, and those who specialise in being a little more general.

I've seen big-band players playing in brass bands, with varying results, some make the "transition" with ease, others with less ease. I've seen players who refuse to bend from "their" style, resulting in an unholy mess.

I've been to swing band / big band concerts. Frankly, after a couple of numbers, I was bored. Yes, I've heard this rhythm before etc etc..
If I don't want to play it, or listen to it, I won't. I don't make a big song and dance (or in swinger's terms - a big overly complicated attention hugging solo) about eradicating it from the face of the planet.

Anyway - sorry to go on. I shall put my views into motion by ignoring your posts.

(well, read enough to moderate anyway)
 

Straightmute

Active Member
There’s nothing magic about swing. Playing in this style can be learnt like any other; it needs practice, some time spent listening to the experts and then more practice, but its characteristics are quite distinctive so are not difficult to assimilate.

True, the least good performances stand out for all the wrong reasons but that’s the same in as any other style of music making and we should judge the suitability of bands to swing on the evidence of the best, not the worst. We need swing technique to play a wide range of music, including some original band compositions (e.g. Lightwalk, Hallelujah Parade…) and a great deal of film music, so it’s well worth learning, possibly even an essential technique for all brass players.

The quality of swing arrangements has improved significantly over the last decade or so, and they’re often produced by musicians with considerable swing experience such as Bill Geldard, who obviously doesn’t feel that brass bands and swing don’t mix.

The difference between cornet and trumpet is mainly in the mind of the player, and in any case what is to stop bands using trumpets in concert performances? Horns don’t automatically sound like saxes, but emphasis on a really smooth legato, no tongued accents and really tight phrasing pays dividends. Basses need to be light and driving forward as part of the rhythm section, and a good kit player is essential. Euphs can get in the way if they are too prominent, but they can fill in fourth trombone parts or baritone sax lines if they can be persuaded to blend with those sections.

Even the detractors seem to admit that both players and audiences enjoy bands’ attempts to swing. If we’re only going to upset the purists I shalln’t lose any sleep since (a) they probably won’t come to our concerts anyhow and (b) imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

Thanks for a thought-provoking debate.

D
 

Okiedokie of Oz

Active Member
While I agree with a lot of the comments being said, I wanna just be the Devil's Advocate for one moment.

If we use the excuse brass band's do no have the same sound as a jazz/swing group, then we need to be honest. We also sound nothing like a symphony orchestra, either!!!! So, let's go and burn our copies of the Planets, William Tell, Pomp and Circumstance, and so forth, because a cornet cannot reproduce the same same delicate sounds (**gags as he types this**) as a violin!

Sometimes, we as bandsmewn have to stop thinking as artists, and think as retailers. What do THE CUSTOMERS (aka the AUDIENCE) want to hear? If they wanna hear a good arrangement of Sing Sing Sing, then give 'em Sing Sing Sing. Even if Louis Prima did it better, our first job as musicians is to entertain an audience.

This is also why there are so many (sometimes dodgy) pop arrangements.

I have also heard some dodgy brass band arrangements played elsewhere, but that is NOTHING like a modern writer trying to rewrite a traditional piece. Malmo Brass had a CD that opend with an arrangement of Colonel Bogey that was positively horrendus!!!! I personally thought the original was rather nice.....
 

W.Rimmer

Member
Okiedokie of Oz said:
Sometimes, we as bandsmewn have to stop thinking as artists, and think as retailers. What do THE CUSTOMERS (aka the AUDIENCE) want to hear?

Better to think "what type of audience (customers?) do we want to attract?". Do you want the satisfaction of playing good quality compositions and arrangements to a discerning audience or are you content to just play tasteless stuff in the hope of entertaining the "play something we know" element?

People can book what they expect to be a traditional brass band for an engagement these days and end up with third rate big band. THAT is failing to take the customer's wishes into account.

I'm starting to realise that lots of players here actually think what brass bands do with "swing" is acceptable. Gents, you need to get out more, musically that is. I know I'm going to upset people. It appears as if I'm saying "I have better musical taste than you lot".
It's just that I think British brass band culture is unique and wonderful, and unless we present our very best in public, we could face extinction. How much longer will Radio 2 executives put up with bands self-indulgently attempting to play big band music on their station? They already have the BBC Big Band. Duplication by misguided amateurs isn't needed.

Keep music tasteful!
 

Cantonian

Active Member
We need to use all genres of music in brass band playing. We can learn from them all.
I believe that one of the problems of (some) brass players not playing 'swing' very well is that they are brought up on brass bands and believe that the sixties, seventies and even eighties were the heyday of brass bands. In those times there was a great store laid on accuracy i.e. notes in the middle, quavers, crotchets etc the same length and the only diversion from tempo was in an individual's rubato solo.

To play swing and similar types of music you have to 'feel it' looking beyond crotchets, quavers, bar lines and tempi. However in a band, or a section of, all must be of the same mind. This I feel is where some bands come unstuck in that there is a proportion of the band who just read what is on the copy.

All of these points apply in singing. Len Ballantine in the SA dragged Songsters ( choirs) into the 1990's by his leading of the Staff Songsters, writing of 'different' songs but most importantly carrying out workshops to demonstrate his techniques. Again some choirs just can't sing these songs effectively for the same reasons as in bands.
 

Accidental

Supporting Member
W.Rimmer said:
Better to think "what type of audience (customers?) do we want to attract?". Do you want the satisfaction of playing good quality compositions and arrangements to a discerning audience or are you content to just play tasteless stuff in the hope of entertaining the "play something we know" element?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't playing stuff people know and enjoy is the best way to ensure thay come back to the next gig and keep paying for tickets etc?!!
I'm fairly confident the gents (and LADIES!) do "get out more" and are trying to play the sort of music they enjoy and believe appeals to their widest possible audience.
If you don't like bands playing swing, then don't listen to them! :wink:
 

Despot

Member
Discerning audiences? It's the same no matter style of music you play. I've played quite a bit in all styles and saw no difference over the years.

Generally, a jazz audience wil want to hear the standards. A "classical" audience will not want to hear the newest compositions, or the less played compositions of more famous composers. How many people that will go to the oprea or a classical performance know the first thing about it? If a big band decides to hold a night of new compositions and a night of Glen Miller tunes, which one will draw a bigger audience? It's no different. Or is the arguement that because people want to listen to more populist music, that they are somehow lesser? These discerning listeners, or musical snobs, are few and far between.

Brass bands will not be kept on the airwaves because one or two musical snobs approve of what they're playing. It's ratings, the largest audience it can draw, that will keep it there. In other countries, where there is no tradition of brass bands and audiences are hearing them for the first time, the strength of a brass band is it's versatility. In no other concert will you get the range of music and that's what people love.

If brass bands stick to "traditional repetoire", brass bands would quickly fade into history. THere'll be very few who want to come listen to them, and very few who'll want to play in them.

Despot.
(P.S. If most British Brass Bands can't swing as you say, so what? Neither can most British Jazz Bands! Lets face it, when have you ever heard a good one! :wink: )
 

James McFadyen

New Member
Okiedokie of Oz said:
Sometimes, we as bandsmewn have to stop thinking as artists, and think as retailers. What do THE CUSTOMERS (aka the AUDIENCE) want to hear? If they wanna hear a good arrangement of Sing Sing Sing, then give 'em Sing Sing Sing. Even if Louis Prima did it better, our first job as musicians is to entertain an audience.

What kind of audience are you referring to? If you ask me we're starting to get in a very gray area here!

Do we really want to keep playing music to the older generation? not that that's bad or anything - but bands are still happy to play to 50 or so grey-haired people tapping their feet! We need to attract young people, particuarily Women between the ages of 18-25! :wink: Sorry, that's my personal wish :lol:

I know I have kinda gone off course a little, but your statement, to me anyway, IMHO, is a little naive - I'm afraid it's just not that simple, if it we're we wouldn't be doing it.

It's a shame that Brass Bands aren't out there doing more and more and more concerts to a WIDE AGE GROUP - do you know, you can even have a number one hit and be in the charts with Brass Band music - has this ever been considered by a top band - perhaps that's a place bands don't want to be? I don't know.

Things might change, but it's gonna need a group of inovationists to make brass banding all it can be.

Anyhow - back to swing! :wink:
 

Okiedokie of Oz

Active Member
James McFadyen said:
Do we really want to keep playing music to the older generation? not that that's bad or anything - but bands are still happy to play to 50 or so grey-haired people tapping their feet!

That's a little bit short-sighted, isn't it? I mean, I do agree with the fact that brass bands are unique and should play more in "our" genre. But who says swing is dedicated to the Pensioner audience?

Universities in Australia are currently devoting entire campuses to jazz styles. My own University has established a Conservatorium dedicated mainly to modern musical genres. They play in their chosen field DARN WELL!!!!!! Songs like "Don't Know Why" keep people remembering that style and appreciating it. Australian Idol dedicated one night's theme to a Big Band Night, where they played with a live swing band, doing Sinatra covers and such. Swing is an appreciated style by any audience!

As for mainly playing contemporary music for the audience, I want you to have a look at some of the lower grade test pieces being composed. They are inspired by pop songs!! OR Swing! Or whatever!

To dismiss Swing now for brass bands is the same as what righ white people did when the negros first started singing spirituals in this "new" style. I say if you don't like the way bands play this style, teach your band to do it properly. In my opinion, I thinks that's all that's wrong.
 

JamesC

New Member
Any group can swing, thats what jazz is all about!

It seems that some people assume that it is only big bands that play this kind of music succesfully. If you really search through the jazz sections of a record store you will find so many different setups of band, thats the joy of Jazz, there are no boundaries.

The fact that 99% of Brass Band musicians have never learnt how to swing doesnt mean its beyond them. I heard Cory a few years ago when they used to play Sing sing sing, they had a good crack at it, but never quite pulled it off. A few months ago I had the privelage of hearing a rough edit of the recording Cory did with Barry Forgie playing his arrangments especially for Brass Band. It was awesome, it sounded like a brass band but it had such energy and drive, it just sounded right. I know that Barry Forgie was so impressed with how the band adapted their techniques under his direction. I dont think any of us can argue with someone so influential in the world of Jazz, if he thinks it works, it does!

So maybe it does all come down to the man (women) in the middle. I will say though, Jazz music is not to be taken lightly, it needs to be worked on as hard if not harder than any test piece if it is to work. The hardest part of playing any type of Jazz is to make it sound easy, and that is very hard indeed!
 

Brian Bowen

Active Member
W.Rimmer said:
It's just that I think British brass band culture is unique and wonderful, and unless we present our very best in public, we could face extinction. How much longer will Radio 2 executives put up with bands self-indulgently attempting to play big band music on their station? They already have the BBC Big Band. Duplication by misguided amateurs isn't needed.

Here, here (in reference to broadcasting)!
 

Straightmute

Active Member
W.Rimmer said:
It's just that I think British brass band culture is unique and wonderful, and unless we present our very best in public, we could face extinction. How much longer will Radio 2 executives put up with bands self-indulgently attempting to play big band music on their station? They already have the BBC Big Band.

I also think that British brass band culture is unique and wonderful. The BBC used to offer us a programme of original band music on Radio 3 but unfortunately Bandstand was dropped from the schedules more than 10 years ago. Whereas Radio 3 now broadcasts music from every corner of the world it's neglect of our native brass band culture is almost complete.

Radio 2's policy dictates a preference for 'light music' so that's what we get, like it or not.
 

groovy

Active Member
Why should brass bands not swing? We want to provide music that will appeal to the audience, and from my experience, a lot of people enjoy a Glenn Miller piece for example, and the band will probably enjoy it too.
Isn't that what we want? Does it really matter if some people turn their nose up at that? And if a band "can't" swing, then isn't that what a rehearsal is for?
 

James McFadyen

New Member
Glenn Miller is a different kind of swing, it's that sound of the very early 1900's - as is the swing and jazz of Gershwin - these are the kind of things that are acceptable types of swing.

But not that of Ellington, Grusin, Brubeck, etc. Hefti you will get away with, with some of his works! Particularly; Splanky, Girl Talk, Cute, etc.

Our drummer, Bill is a great Jazz drummer. Jazz in the true element of the word - non of this cheesy and not-quite-so-groovetastic BB versions, but true BigBand style jazz!

Anyone see Pop Idol last night - Troms powerful and sassy, Trumpets screemin and strong, Saxes silky and sexy, Rythm section very tight and pulling the thing on!!!! That's Jazz! Loud and sexy and swings like hell!!!
 

JamesC

New Member
Pop Idol was awful

James McFadyen said:
Anyone see Pop Idol last night - Troms powerful and sassy, Trumpets screemin and strong, Saxes silky and sexy, Rythm section very tight and pulling the thing on!!!! That's Jazz! Loud and sexy and swings like hell!!!

James, I sincerely hope that, if you are as knowledgeable about Jazz as you seem to be, you didnt think pop idol was good last night! :? I thought it was terrible, they cant sing, and when they try and look cool they just look sad! The band were half decent but I wouldnt use it as an example of what a really top big band should sound like. I recommend people listen to something like the Phil Collins Big Band, or the Buddy Rich Big Band. Those musicians arent just reading the parts, they make the music come alive, like we do as Brass Banders with the music we play.

I'm all for rearranging famous music for different formats, what gets on my nerves is when people stick themselves on live tele singing a song that frank sinatra made famous, then trying to do the same, when they are baltently not Frank Sinatra. why cant Pop Idol be a bit more like Fame academy, but take it even further. Lets have a show where the contestants perform there own works. I'm fed up of covers. i made a deal with a friend years ago, if anyone ever covers bohemain rhapsody i will quit the music industry. (The brass Band arangment doesnt count!)

Sorry to rant, but I think anyone who calls themself a musician should be appalled at what shows like Pop Idol are doing to the music industry in this country and round the world.

Ta :wink:
 

James McFadyen

New Member
while there are certain philiosophcal aspects of Pop Idol which just don't seem right, we shouldn't forget the good points!

To say last night broadcast was not good is, IMHO, not true, the band (alhough certainly not as good as the buddy rich big band, granted) kicked ass and the vocalists really followed suit. there were the odd occasional out of tune notes, but hey it's live!

Also, the vocalists arn't gonna get that chance much, to play with a big band or any other large music ensemble, so, they really are experienceing somthing a little more than ur average pop star.

Today's pop industry is getting worse for an artistic point of view, but, didn't someone to say that it's what the people want, what the buying public are buying!!!!!!

Once again the battle between artistic expression and commercialism creeps in - like i've said all along (in the Sibelius thred and in the dredded Viscaya thread that I created and disagreed with big names in here!) this battle will never be solved, and still many composers and musicians are blind to this fact, if ur commercial - you'll never be appreciated but u'll make a tonne of money - if your artistic u'll be really appreciated, your name will live after you die, u become a legend, but you don't maake any money!! Of course there are always exceptions to the rule! :wink:

Fame Academy, IMHO was very bad, the girl who won is crap, IMHO - But I bet she'll still become a millionaire, if not already!

JamesC, while ur opinion on Frank Sinatra covers, etc is veyr valid, and I agree with u to a point, but, if you look at it from another angle, we are re-living what Frank Sinatra and all that did, the greatest songs of all time are till remembered and sung today! I don't thik anyone would be cheeky enough to say that they could make the songs better than the big names! :wink:

You made a very important point about the real big bands don't just read the parts - a very unique thing in Jazz, the dots really are just for brief reference. Comments have been made here about orchestral transcription is no more different than swing transcription - indeed not true, the performance is what counts in Jazz and BB's are just not hard-wired with that thought in mind, they read the notes and that's partly why it doesn't swing and also coz it's simply too damn nice sounding all the time - Jazz ain't nice! well, except for the ballads, but even they need a certain sophistication and sexyness that a lot of BB's just can't deliver.

BB's view on swing is Sugar Blues, etc - very old fashioned Jazz as it is!
 
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