The Chatham Community Band Jazz Ensemble plays music of the “Big Band” Jazz or Swing style. Big Band Swing first appeared in 1934 with the formation of the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, and was America’s dance music through the 1930’, 40’s and 50’s until the advent of Rock and Roll. Since then, swing has maintained a steady presence on the music scene, with both traditional swing bands still playing to large audiences and newer, more contemporary big bands continuing to develop the big band jazz or swing style of music to enthusiastic audiences.
Big band jazz has also taken a place in the school music curriculum, with most high schools and many middle schools offering jazz bands as part of the instrumental music curriculum. Regional and National competitions for both jazz ensembles and individual players are sponsored all over the world by groups such as the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE).
Jazz bands and dance bands of the 1920’s generally consisted of 2-3 saxes, 1-3 trumpets, a trombone, possibly violins, and a rhythm section. The big band style dispensed with strings for the most part, and used larger sections of trumpets trombones and saxophones. Early swing bands used 3 trumpets, 3 trombones and 4 saxes, growing to 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, and 5 saxophones which has become standard. Saxophone players frequently double on clarinet and flute to increase the variety of tonal colors.
The rhythm section consists of a drum set and string bass or bass guitar which lay down the basic rhythm pattern. The chordal structure is filled in by a guitar and/or piano which plays in a rhythmic fashion called “comping” to complete the rhythmic foundation for the band. The piano and guitar also serve as solo instruments – either to fill in between band phrases or for complete solo choruses.