A Completely Unofficial History of Big Band Music

In YouTube Clips

In the spirit of transparency, what follows began as a deeply researched and rigorously culled collection of historic footage intended to give an efficiently inclusive overview of big band history in American and elsewhere.


What then occurred was a deep-dive into the offerings of a certain online video-streaming service which is usually reserved for bored days at work or used to quickly end an exciting party. Needless to say, one enjoyable clip led to another equally enjoyable clip and then to a band that "absolutely must be included!" and then, "well, if that band is included, you HAVE to have show people this clip of THIS band!" and, as the digital smoke cleared, the word "rigor" was anthropomorphically hiding under my desk.


It took a couple of weeks of editorial hand-wringing until a friend reminded me that this, in a decidedly more humanist fashion, was the exact way that we learned about the music we loved. It may have been done with LPs and cassettes, but the spirit was the same. So, it was decided that the list remain in its original, non-rigorous, completely unofficial, open-to-debate state with the hope that the reader will not come away from the page understanding anything about the history of big band, but with a deep appreciation for what big bands are and can be.


The order is as it came during the online-bacchanalia; not to be read in to too deeply. Start where you like, end where you like, and enjoy.


-Nate Wooley, Editor-In-Chief, Sound American



Woody Herman's Thundering Herd



Buddy Rich



Charles Mingus

Paul Gonsalves's Famous Solo on Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue

(2 Versions)



Count Basie

Benny Goodman's Famous Carnegie Hall Performance

Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra
Maria Schneider
Sam Rivers
Muhal Richard Abrams
Anthony Braxton's Sonic Genome
Don Ellis
Maynard Ferguson
Toshiko Akiyoshi
Globe Unity Orchestra
London Jazz Composers Orchestra
Sun Ra Arkestra
Willem Breuker Kollektief
Ray Barreto
Eddie Palmieri
Fire! Orchestra