Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Music Styles of blues : Jump blues

Not all varieties of the blues are sad and down-tempo. A prime example of a style of the blues that doesn’t feel so “blue” at all is Jump blues. This up-tempo and energetic style of blues music became popular in the 1940’s and thrilled audiences at the time as it was just the kind of music to get you up, close to someone and moving with them.

Jump blues was the music that came just before R&B, and is a step in the musical evolution that brought us rock and roll. Without Jump blues, and the musicians who played it, the current musical landscape would look very different.

Styles of blues music: Jump blues

Back in the days of the 1940’s, music was a much more flexible than what we may see it as now. Few musicians woke up and said ‘I’m a blues player and only a blues player.’ Jump blues evolved because jazz musicians, notably horn players, moved back and forth between blues, jazz and big bands.

Jump blues itself evolved mainly from traditional blues music that had started to incorporate more and more musicians since it moved from the Delta to the big cities up North. Horn sections became common and this lead to a brighter, brassier sound being made by blues bands - Jump blues were not far off from starting the moment a horn player was first invited to play with a blues band.

The first bands to play Jump blues

Jump blues evolved from traditional blues by a gradual addition of horns and other players. Some of the earliest bands and artists to fall under the Jump blues genre include:

     The Tympany Five
     Lionel Hampton
     Louis Jordan
     Jack McVea
     Earl Bostic
     Arnett Cobb

Every artist here was a part of a larger band that would back them up and provide that big sound that got audiences up off their seat and shaking what they were once sitting on.

The instruments of Jump blues

Jump blues fully embraced the big band ethos and incorporated anywhere from five to ten instruments, or more, on stage at once. You would expect to see an electric guitar, drums, upright bass, piano, horns and a saxophone at a Jump blues concert.

The saxophone was a big component of the Jump blues style, perhaps almost as important as a dynamic vocalist. No matter the combination of instruments, they all had to come together in a way that got people jumping!

Modern Jump blues performers

Jump blues underwent a tremendous revival in the early to mid 1990’s with the swing revival and the success of Brian Setzer’s big band orchestra. Brian still plays a mix of blues, Jump blues and swing at all of his concerts and continues to push the genre forward with his dynamic and searing guitar virtuosity.

Other modern Jump blues performers include Roomful of Blues, The Lucky Few, Mitch Woods, The Mighty Blue Kings and Lavay Smith. They all play a mix of big band and blues that is easily defined as Jump blues by all those who hear it and know the classic bands.


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