Almost twenty-five years after the end of the so-called “Big Band Era,” many misconceptions still circulate about the music from this period. I heard one stereotype just the other day which, boiled down to the essentials, suggested that black music lovers only wanted to hear hot music, primarily for jitterbug dancing. Sweeter “dance music” was not part of the black music palate.
This is, of course, a notion that should have ceased circulation when Louis Armstrong first praised the musicianship and musicality of the Guy Lombardo reed section. Alternately – and this is just one of many possible examples – a careful listen to some of Jimmie Lunceford’s early sweet and vocal performances might prove instructive to those who failed to understand, that, paraphrasing Charlie Parker, good music is just good music.
Throughout much of the 1940s the mid-sized band led by Noble Sissle was firmly ensconced at Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe in Manhattan, playing for both the floorshow and dancers. Alternately, the band toured nationwide, often playing black theaters and ballrooms. The music was sweet, gentile and well-played, sometimes with jazz solos, sometimes not. But it was enjoyed by all, and I have not seen any criticisms in the black press about the sweeter music style played by Sissle and the band.
“Everybody’s Jumpin’ Now” comes from a date in October 1946 that was either the last, or next to last, recording and sideline session that would be produced for Soundies. From this point on, up to March 10 of the following year, the Soundies Distributing Corporation would rely on a backlog of shorts for their weekly releases. And then, fine.
Since the Noble Sissle band did not record in the 1940s, this is a rare treat both visually – the featured dance is Mabel Lee – and musically.