[Dixielandjazz] Sweet vs. Swing

David W. Littlefield dwlit at cpcug.org
Sat Jun 25 20:28:08 PDT 2005

There's another distinct category of dance music I always have trouble
naming: the pre-sweet, pre-swing dance orchestras that play 2-beat pop-show
tunes of the latter 20s-early 30s. Unfortunately, many of the tunes are
crap, eg many tracks in the JSP Berigan and Jazz Oracle Jack Purvis sets.
But the arrangements and style very often have considerable musical
qualities. Ray Noble with Al Bowlly made some fine recordings of very nice
tunes such as "What more can I ask", "The Very thought of you", "Goodnight
sweetheart". Nothing sappy about those records...


At 03:52 PM 06/25/05 -0500, Charles Suhor wrote:
>Larry, the vocabulary of musicians I knew from that era was basically a 
>distinction between swing and Mickey (Mouse) bands, aka society or 
>tenor bands.... Most of them 
>executed well but were seen by jazz-oriented players and fans as corny, 
>commercial, and hard to stomach.
>The other distinction was a longstanding one between "sweet" and "hot." 
>The latter usually meant jazz and not just the snappy, upbeat dance 
>music of the Mickey bands.... 
>If you look back, though, the roots of cool jazz are found in Bix and 
>Tesch and Fazola, but that's another topic.
>On Jun 25, 2005, at 2:53 PM, LARRY'S Signs and Large Format Printing 
>> Not being an adult in the Miller era I really didn't have all the 
>> different
>> types of music from that time imprinted on me.  St. Louis was and is a 
>> swing
>> town.  From what I understand there were "Swing" bands and "Sweet" 
>> bands.  I
>> have played in each.  I play with the Jan Garber band when they come 
>> to St.
>> Louis or occasionally on their tours and they are a Sweet band (sound 
>> very
>> much like Lawrence Welk).  The technique is entirely different than 
>> swing
>> and as I understand it these bands competed with swing and were
>> predominately from the upper Midwest and Canada.  Swing just happened 
>> to,
>> historically, end up on top as the music of the 40's.
>> Maybe someone else might have a better perspective on Sweet vs. Swing 
>> Bands.
>> Larry - St. Louis
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Charles Suhor" <csuhor at zebra.net>
>> To: "Steve barbone" <barbonestreet at earthlink.net>
>> Cc: <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
>> Sent: Saturday, June 25, 2005 11:52 AM
>> Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz]Beating Up Glenn Miller-was Beneke & Klink 
>> sax
>> solo
>>> I'm not quite sure I get the beat-up-on-Glenn-Miller thing that's been
>>> showing up so much. Granted, the fame and the durability of many of 
>>> his
>>> charts outstrip their quality, especially in light of great big bands
>>> that weren't getting the same kind of exposure, popular adulation, and
>>> dough. Granted, his soloists didn't hold a candle to those in the
>>> jazzier big bands. Granted, his "smooth/sweet" book was crammed with
>>> sentimental schmaltz, often sung with dreamy malaise by bland
>>> vocalists, with a few fine tunes showing up.
>>> Having said that, how about some perspective?
>>>  From memory of tons of 78s and from the 20+ double CD "Big Band Box"
>>> (which includes more than the biggest hits of the best known bands) I
>>> can testify that most of the big bands had a "sweet" book with bland
>>> charts and an on-site "crooner." (We all know the exceptions, but they
>>> were few.) They also had very trivial novelty stuff aplenty--as in the
>>> jazzed up nursery rhyme and jazzing the classics crazes. (Again, some
>>> came off well, like Ella's "A-Tisket..." and Les Brown's "Bizet Had 
>>> his
>>> Day" and hey, Miller's "Volga Boatman," but most were thin gruel.)
>>> Also, the much maligned "In the Mood" and "String of Pearls" and many
>>> other Miller charts actually have lines that swing. (This is
>>> conceptually a world away from Lombardo--please!--who cultivated very
>>> different traditions of syncopation, orchestration, etc.) It's just
>>> that we've played and heard the Miller stuff so much that the juice 
>>> has
>>> gone out of our performance. I play with a big band that's tired of
>>> 'em, but as a drummer I try to accentuate the positive, literally,
>>> kicking the phrases with left hand and bass drum support in tasteful
>>> ways that hopefully refresh the oomph that's in the lines. It's not
>>> "vintage" performance but it's a way of re-appreciating what's there.
>>> Charlie Suhor
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