Tag Archives: Benny Goodman

Rhythm and Swinging

“Swinging” is one of the most amazing things in Vintage Jazz and probably the most mysterious and hardest to explain.  Case in point take an arrangement from any great jazz arranger like Quincy Jones and give it to a jazz musician and a classical musician.  When the jazz musician interprets the notes it will swing and when a classical musician interprets the notes except in rare cases, it will not.   Why, as they are the same exact notes on the page ?  Duke Ellington wrote a famous song :  “if it aint got that swing it don’t mean a thing” and I believe he meant it in the truest sense. Through the years I have noticed any great jazz arrangement I have played no matter how good, had little notations made by previous players related to interpretations of the music.  When I did the 50th anniversary at Carnegie Hall of the 1938 historic Benny Goodman Concert for Bob Wilber we had the original music from Library of Congress.  I was playing lead trumpet and there were handwritten notes on the music from Harry James who played lead trumpet in 1938.   So the point I am making is “jazz interpretation” by the player is key to playing any jazz written or otherwise.  All this has a very simple solution in my opinion.  Listen to the “great swingers” in jazz and it will eventually be obvious.  Of course one could explain technically what someone is doing when they swing like my football analogy on the earlier post but I believe a more direct and enjoyable route is just groove on the great swingers of all time and try to emulate that in your own playing.   Also a tip on the subject of “how to listen” in general which I will expand upon in subsequent posts.   When listening you can focus on a specific area, for example you can listen specifically for the “swing” factor in a performance and isolate that.  Let me say one more thing about this and this is in no way to invalidate later art forms which have their own strengths and beauty.  You will not hear the same “swing” in more modern forms of jazz and players that you will with “Vintage Jazz” and players.   Just like you won’t hear the same rhythmic factors (their own kind of swing) in Bach and Mozart that you would hear in Bartok or Stravinsky. That’s the beauty of it great art is an individual thing.