Jump blues is an up-tempo style of blues, usually played by small groups and featuring saxophone or brass instruments. It was popular in the 1940s and was a precursor of rhythm and blues and rock and roll. Appreciation of jump blues was renewed in the 1990s as part of the swing revival.
|Cultural origins||Late 1930s, United States|
Jump blues evolved from the music of big bands such as those of Lionel Hampton and Lucky Millinder. These bands of the early 1940s produced musicians such as Louis Jordan, Jack McVea, Earl Bostic, and Arnett Cobb.
Blues and jazz were part of the same musical world, with many accomplished musicians straddling both genres. Jump bands such as the Tympany Five, which came into being at the same time as the boogie-woogie revival, achieved maximum effect with an eight-to-the-bar boogie-woogie style.
Lionel Hampton recorded the stomping big-band blues song "Flying Home" in 1942. Featuring a choked, screaming tenor sax performance by Illinois Jacquet, the song was a hit in the "race" category. When released, however, Billboard described the tune as "an unusually swingy side...with a bright bounce in the medium tempo and a steady drive maintained, it's a jumper that defies standing still". Billboard also noted that Benny Goodman had a hand in writing the tune "back in the old Goodman Sextet Days". Billboard went on to state that "apart from the fact that it is Lionel Hampton's theme, "Flying Home" is a sure-fire to make the youngsters shed their nickels—and gladly." Five years later Billboard noted the inclusion of "Flying Home" in a show that was "strictly for hepsters who go for swing and boogie, and beats in loud, hot unrelenting style a la Lionel Hampton....The Hampton band gave with everything, practically wearing itself out with such numbers as 'Hey Bop a Re Bop', 'Hamp Boogie' and 'Flying Home'"
Both Hampton and Jordan combined the popular boogie-woogie rhythm, a grittier version of swing-era saxophone styles as exemplified by Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster, and playful, humorous lyrics or verbal asides laced with jive talk.
As this urban, jazz-based music became more popular, both bluesmen and jazz musicians who wanted to "play for the people" began favoring a heavy, insistent beat. This music appealed to black listeners who no longer wished to be identified with "life down home."
Jump groups, employed to play for jitterbugs at a much lower cost than big bands, became popular with agents and ballroom owners. The saxophonist Art Chaney said "[w]e were insulted when an audience wouldn't dance".
Jump was especially popular in the late 1940s and early 1950s, through artists such as Louis Jordan, Big Joe Turner, Roy Brown, Charles Brown, Helen Humes, T-Bone Walker, Roy Milton, Billy Wright, Wynonie Harris, Louis Prima, and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.
Jump blues was revived in the 1980s by artists such as Joe Jackson and Brian Setzer and is performed today by bands including Roomful of Blues, the Lucky Few (Denver, Colorado), and Mitch Woods and His Rocket 88s. Contemporary swing bands, such as Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers and the Mighty Blue Kings, continue the tradition.
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