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Jazz Age Lawn Party


'Barbaric' Swing

September 04, 2013 at 7:55 AM

I was looking through some old issues of Down-Beat magazine and was struck by this article by Guy Lombardo.  Anybody remember Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians?  They were at the opposite pole from the likes of Count Basie or Benny Goodman.  Most notably they kept a semblance of big band music alive by their annual New Year's Eve broadcasts from the Waldorf-Astoria - until they were superceded by Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve.

It's hard to remember that Swing was a new and exciting music that had many proponents and opponents pulling it in different directions.  Here's Guy's take on it from October 1938:

Lombardo Changes Ideas About “Barbaric” Swing  . . .

By Guy Lombardo

Ed. Note – Ever since Guy Lombardo, long considered an opponent of swing, conducted the Benny Goodman band in a CBS broadcast – swing and sweet fans everywhere have been wondering whether Guy really has a secret fondness for swing and if so, whether his band will begin playing it.  Here’s how Guy feels about it:

I must say that my opinion of swing has undergone a slight change for the better during the past year.  My former criticism that swing was too barbaric must now be amended slightly.  During the past year many of the objectionable features, such as loud drums and deafening brass, have been soft-pedaled.

Under leaders like Goodman and Whiteman (when he plays it) swing is becoming more symphonic with the melody peeping through the clouds a lot more than formerly.  There’s very little of the every-man-for-himself hodge-podge.  Every man now has a score and, within limits, sticks to it.

Naturally when a schooled musician with interesting ideas sits down and orchestrates swing as is now the case, the result is far more worth-while than when a hot man improvises on the spur of the not-always-inspired moment.

Although I can now listen to and appreciate swing, my orchestra will never play it.  I have by no means become its exponent.  Leading Benny’s band was a swell experience – something to tell the grandchildren about.  But my orchestra and I will stay on the sweet side of the fence where we feel happy and at home.


Any thoughts?


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