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What is a jazz big band standard?

Jazz music has a rich history that is deeply intertwined with American culture. One of its enduring legacies is the big band, which emerged in the early 20th century and reached its peak popularity during the Swing Era of the 1930s and 1940s. Big band music is characterized by its large ensembles, consisting of anywhere from 10 to 20 musicians, and its distinctive arrangements that blend together horns and rhythm sections. Perhaps most importantly, big band music is defined by its repertoire of standards, which are beloved and enduring songs that have become part of the jazz canon.

The Origins of Big Band Music

The origins of big band music are as diverse as the music itself. Much of its roots can be traced back to the brass bands and ragtime music that were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These groups were made up of brass instruments, woodwinds, and percussion and would march through the streets playing popular tunes of the day.

One of the most important early big bands was the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, which was formed in the 1920s. Henderson’s band was unique in that it featured a reed section and a brass section, something that had not been commonly seen in jazz music until that time. Henderson also arranged many of the band’s songs, which highlighted the musicians’ skills and showcased their talents.

The Swing Era

The most famous era of big band music is the Swing Era of the 1930s and 1940s. This era saw the emergence of great bands like the Count Basie Orchestra, Duke Ellington Orchestra, and Benny Goodman Orchestra. It was during this time that the big band became the dominant form of jazz music and set the standard for future generations.

One of the defining elements of the Swing Era was the use of arrangements, which took simple melodies and transformed them into complex compositions. Arrangers like Fletcher Henderson, Benny Carter, and Billy Strayhorn used their creativity to add harmonies, counterpoint, and dynamic interplay between the various sections of the band. These arrangements elevated the music to a new level and helped make the big band sound so distinctive.

The Repertoire of Standards

The repertoire of standards that is associated with big band music is vast and varied. These songs are beloved by jazz musicians and fans alike and continue to be performed and recorded to this day. Some of the most well-known big band standards include “Take the A Train” by Duke Ellington, “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller, and “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Benny Goodman.

These songs have become classics for a reason. They are timeless melodies that showcase the talents of the musicians and capture the spirit and energy of the era. They have also become part of the collective memory of American music and culture.


In conclusion, big band music is an important part of the jazz tradition. It represents a time when large ensembles of musicians came together to create complex arrangements and play beautiful music. And the repertoire of standards that is associated with big band music is a cherished part of the jazz canon. These songs continue to be performed and appreciated by generations of jazz fans, and they remain an enduring legacy of this remarkable style of music.


What’s the difference between a jazz combo and jazz big band?

Jazz music is a genre of music that has been around for over a century and has evolved over time. One of the things that have made jazz music so popular and distinct is the use of different types of music ensembles that make up the various sub-genres of jazz. Two popular types of jazz ensembles are the jazz combo and the jazz big band. Although they are similar in some ways, they have distinct differences that set them apart from each other.

A jazz combo is a small jazz ensemble that is typically composed of three to seven musicians. The group usually includes a pianist, a bassist, a drummer, and one or more horn players such as a trumpet player or a saxophonist. Jazz combos are often found playing in small venues such as nightclubs, coffee shops, and even restaurants. Jazz combos are known for their ability to improvise and communicate with each other musically. They perform with a great deal of interaction and spontaneity, and they are generally relatively low in volume. Jazz combos are usually less expensive to hire than a big band due to their smaller size.

On the other hand, a jazz big band is a larger ensemble that is made up of ten or more musicians. The standard big band lineup consists of five saxophones, four to five trumpets, four to five trombones, and a rhythm section that includes a piano, a bassist, and a drummer. Big bands are normally found playing in large venues such as ballrooms, dance halls, and theaters. Unlike jazz combos, big bands are known for their tight arrangements and precision. Their sound is often louder and more powerful than a combo, which is required to fill the space in a large venue. Big bands have a more structured sound and are often less improvisational than jazz combos.

Another major difference between jazz combos and jazz big bands is their forms of arrangements and compositions. Jazz combos will usually focus on crafting a small number of tune standards, arranging them for their particular ensemble, and highlighting solos from each of the individual members. They will perform a more stripped-down version of jazz standards. Conversely, big bands perform arrangements that are scored out for the thirteen or more musicians playing. These arrangements are usually more complex and require more precise timing as well as technical skills for the musicians to pull off.

Jazz combos and jazz big bands are two different types of jazz ensembles that have distinct differences. While they both play jazz music and have a lot of similarities, they have their own unique sound and role in the jazz community. If you’re after a more intimate musical experience, then a jazz combo is the way to go while a big band is perfect for a large venue.

What are the characteristics of big band jazz?

Big Band jazz is a genre of music that emerged in the 1920s and has been popular ever since. It is characterized by the presence of a large ensemble of musicians, often featuring at least three trumpets, two or more trombones, four or more saxophones, and a “rhythm section” of accompanists playing some combination of piano, guitar, bass, and drums. The exact makeup of the ensemble can vary, but the key characteristic is always the large number of musicians.

One of the defining features of Big Band jazz is its use of arrangements. Rather than playing improvised solos over a standard tune, as in small group jazz, Big Band jazz relies heavily on pre-written arrangements. These arrangements involve specific parts for each instrument, creating tight harmonies and intricate rhythm sections. As a result, Big Band jazz tends to be highly orchestrated.

Another characteristic of Big Band jazz is its use of the soloist. While the ensemble plays a large role in Big Band jazz, soloists are also an important part of the music. Soloists are often given the spotlight to showcase their technical abilities and creativity. The most famous of these soloists is the saxophonist, who can often be heard taking extended solos that build in intensity and energy.

Big Band jazz is also notable for its use of syncopation. Syncopation means placing emphasis on off-beats instead of on-beats. This approach gives the music a driving, swinging feel that is instantly recognizable. The use of syncopation is especially important in the rhythm section, where the drummer and bassist work together to create a steady, syncopated groove.

Finally, Big Band jazz is highly danceable. In its heyday, Big Band jazz was the music of choice for ballrooms and dance halls across the country. The driving swing rhythms and catchy melodies made it perfect for couples looking to dance the night away. Even today, Big Band jazz is often associated with dancing and socializing.

Big Band jazz is a genre of music characterized by the presence of a large ensemble of musicians, pre-written arrangements, soloists, syncopation, and danceable rhythms. These characteristics have made it a beloved genre of music that is still popular today.

What are at least 2 differences between a big band and a jazz combo?

Jazz music is a genre that has a wide variety of styles and subgenres, among these styles are the big band and the jazz combo. These two styles have unique features that distinguish them from each other. A big band typically has between 12 and 19 musicians, whereas a jazz combo generally consists of four to six musicians. The size of the groups affects different aspects of the music they produce.

One of the main differences between a big band and a jazz combo is the amount of improvisation involved in their performances. Big bands often rely on written arrangements that orchestrate every aspect of a song, including solos. The sections of the band play together in harmony, and the soloists are featured within the framework of the song’s structure. There may be some opportunities for improvisation, but it is typically limited to solo sections of the song. The big band’s concentration on written arrangements means that they can create a rich, vibrant sound with a full spectrum of harmonies, counterpoints, and instrumental colors.

On the other hand, jazz combos often rely on improvisation as the core of their performance. There is plenty of space for each musician to express themselves through improvised solos. The musicians in a combo often take turns improvising on the main melody or framework of the song while the others play rhythm. Jazz combos allow for greater musical interplay between the musicians, as each is encouraged to contribute their unique interpretation of the song in real-time. This improvisational style of playing often results in an intimate, conversational musical experience that highlights the individual skills of each member of the group.

Another significant difference between big bands and jazz combos is the types of charts they play. Big bands often perform arrangements of popular songs that have been tailored to suit their specific ensemble. These arrangements tend to be more complex, with more dynamic contrasts and intricate harmonies than the original versions of the songs. Jazz combos tend to play more straightforward arrangements of classic jazz standards or original compositions. In a jazz combo, the focus is on the individual musicians’ abilities to interpret and improvise within a musical framework.

The primary differences between big bands and jazz combos lie in the number of musicians, amount of improvisation and the types of charts they play. Big bands rely on written arrangements and offer fewer opportunities for improvisation but can create a fuller, more robust sound. Jazz combos prioritize improvisation over written arrangements and allow for greater musical interplay between the musicians but typically create a simpler, more intimate sound. Both styles of music have their unique strengths and can offer listeners an enjoyable and exciting listening experience.

What is the definition of a big band?

A big band is a musical ensemble that typically has more than 10 musicians and plays a variety of jazz and swing music. The concept of big bands emerged in the early 1900s with the expansion of jazz and the incorporation of larger instruments such as saxophones, trombones, trumpets, and a rhythm section that generally includes a piano, bass, drums, and sometimes a guitar. In a big band, the rhythm section provides the foundation for the music while the horns play their parts in harmony or individually, sometimes with a vocalist.

Big bands became increasingly popular in the 1930s and 1940s, with bands led by musicians like Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington becoming household names. These bands brought together musicians with different styles and backgrounds and often included soloists and improvisation. Big bands also provided a platform for singers like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald to showcase their talents.

The arrangements in big band music are usually more complex than those in smaller ensembles, and they often have a section of the band dedicated to playing “shout choruses,” which are typically loud and exciting parts played in unison by the entire band. Big band music has remained popular through the years and has influenced many other genres, including rock and pop.

A big band is a musical group consisting of more than 10 musicians playing jazz and swing music. It typically includes brass, woodwind, and rhythm sections that work together to create complex arrangements. These bands have played an important role in the history of jazz and continue to be an influential force in the music industry.