Big Band Era

In 1929, the market crash brought many people searching for a new style of music. They found it in the Big Bands led by musicians such as Duke Ellington, Glen Miller, Benny Goodman, and many more.

What exactly is a Big Band?

A "Big Band" is musical ensemble of generally at least 12 and sometimes all the way up to 25 musicians. It is typically made up of saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and a rythem section. Big Band music, in contrast to smaller jazz group music, is typically always arranged, prior to the performance, and is written on sheet music. Although the era of Big Band ended in the late 1940s, the Count Basie orchestra survived this and continued to play "big band" style music all the way to the death of Count Basie, and even past that.

Historical Context


Al Grey was born in 1925, 14 years before World War 2. During World War 2, Al Grey played in one of U.S. Navy's most prestigious groups, the Great Lakes Naval Training Center Band.

In the 1950s, one of the pinnacles of Al Grey's musical career, the U.S. was in a state of great conflict. The nascent civil rights movement was in full swing, and Americans strongly crusaded against communism.

In the 1960s, another stage in Al Grey's musical career, John F. Kennedy became the president of the United States, was assassinated, the Veitnam War was in it's peak, the civil rights movement was at it's height, with events such as Martin Luther King's 'I have a Dream' speech pushing for equality.