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CD Salute to Big Bands of the WWII Era

On May 25, 2004, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings will release Tribute to a Generation: A Salute to the Big Bands of the WWII Era. The 17-track collection pays homage to the big-band songs that came to represent the American way of life during a difficult period in U.S. history. Compositions and arrangements by such giants as Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman (pictured), Artie Shaw, Glen Miller, and more were recorded live by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.

Annotated by Rob Bamberger, host of National Public Radio’s Hot Jazz Saturday Night Tribute to a Generation provides new insight and stellar performances of such classics as Artie Shaw’s “Begin the Beguine” and “Summertime,” Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train,” and Benny Goodman’s “Mission to Moscow,” as well as songs by Lionel Hampton, Benny Carter, Tommy Dorsey and others.

The swing era is said to have begun on August 21, 1935, the day Benny Goodman opened at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles. Goodman’s “hot” arrangements sparked a national craze for this exuberant dance music. The sounds of the big bands would ultimately become a soundtrack to the World War II years, as radio networks broadcast their performances across the country. Efforts by the USO and the Armed Forces Radio Services brought the music to soldiers overseas, for whom swing was an inspiring symbol of the way of life threatened by fascism.

The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra was founded with a congressional appropriation in recognition of the importance of jazz in American culture. It is the jazz orchestra-in-residence at the National Museum of American History. The orchestra draws on the Museum’s History of Jazz Collection and its Duke Ellington Collection to present classic jazz in authentic performances.

Visit the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings website at

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