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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • Michelle B

    Nice collection of music! I happened to be in front of the school when the middle school kids were arriving for the concert. They were so cute! All excited to perform together, black pants/skirts and white tops with ties waiting for someone to tie! I just love the innocence of the age! It does make the spirit soar..

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02883685141057444220 Elaine

    Kids + music = joy. :) Even when it's played badly. (By middle school, it's sometimes even played well!)

  • Anonymous

    The music program at our Catholic school is a true gem. In public schools, the arts are being cut right now. Thankfully, we don't have to worry about that in our school. This year, our teacher moved from the classical Ode to Joy music and featured contemporary rock -including 60s classics. One would have thought we were at a rock concert by the enthusiastic response from the crowd. Music is a blessing from God.

  • Anonymous

    Sweet. And anything that leads kids to arts is a good thing in my book…