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Jazz, Big Band
A big band is a large musical ensemble that plays jazz music. The term is synonymous with the bands of the Swing Era, which were popular through the 1930s and 1940s, but is generally applied to any large jazz ensemble. The term jazz orchestra is also used. more...
Music for big band is highly 'arranged', leaving only specified gaps for jazz soloists, in contrast to the improvisational nature of most jazz combos.
The band is divided up into a number of sections, by instrument. While composers and arrangers have written for many combinations of instrument, conventional bands since the 1930s have had a rhythm section (composed of drums, bass, piano, and possibly guitar), a trumpet section, a trombone section, and a saxophone section. In the second half of the twentieth century, a standard 17-piece instrumentation evolved, for which many commercial arrangements are available. This instrumentation consists of five saxophones, four trumpets, four trombones and a four-piece rhythm section.
The saxophone section (known as the reeds, the sax section, or just the saxes in jazz parlance) usually comprises five players: two altos, two tenors and one baritone. The 'leader' of the section, who sets overall style, volume, and phrasing, is always the first alto player. If the arrangement requires it, the players double on other wind instruments, such as flute, clarinet, and soprano saxophone.