Monday, May 24, 2010

It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing (Music for Mondays)

Tis is the season of school music concerts. Our oldest son, an eighth grader,  loves playing the upright bass in his middle school jazz band. As a parent, I find it  such a joy to watch 25 awkward middle school students, most of them boys, transform into confident jazz drummers, saxophone players, trumpeters and bassists. Much of what they play is swing music, a form of jazz music that became popular in the 1930s. The music, has fans worldwide, speaks to the sheer exuberance for life  we can feel when we begin to count our blessings.

One of the best parts of being a parent is that our children take us places. I never had much of an interest in jazz music, or specifically in swing music, until our son developed an enthusiasm for it. Here is a clip from the 2004 Japanese movie "Swing Girls" that gives a sense of the transforming power of this music. In the movie, which won seven Japanese Academy Awards, a group of delinquent high school students from rural Yamagata prefecture form a jazz band.  Here is a clip of their first efforts to learn to play swing music.

Who cannot tap one's feet and smile when hearing Louis Prima sing "Pennies From Heaven?" The ebullient  Italian-American trumpeter, singer, and songwriter from New Orleans was born into a musical family from Sicily and was strongly influenced by fellow New Orleaner Louis Armstrong. Prima's style adapted to the times, but perhaps he is best known for the swing combo he led in the 1930s.

Glen Miller was one of the first famous swing band leaders. Here is his band playing Tuxedo Junction, one of the tunes my son's jazz band plays.


The 1930s generated many great swing band leaders and musicians; for starters,  the Dorsey Brothers, Cab Callaway, Artie Shaw, and Fats Waller. Thank God that Pandora Radio allows us to  listen to these greats. I especially like this Pandora station: Big Band/Swing.

Here is Louis Armstrong in 1959 performing in Stuttgart, Germany. I figured this tune was especially appropriate to end this YIM Catholic post.