Boogie-Woogie Essentials

Boogie-Woogie Essentials

Ragtime, with its syncopated rhythms and swingin’ melodies, was a game-changing phenomenon, but it also had serious limitations—its music was almost exclusively written and performed on piano, guitar, and banjo. Developing out of the ragtime of the South at the end of the 19th century and cresting in the ‘20s, boogie woogie quickly blossomed into a rich, enveloping sound that got people out of their seats and onto the dance floor. Pianists and bandleaders like Pete Johnson and Count Basie began dabbling in a more improvisational style, since boogie woogie’s blues structures made it easy to rip an unexpected solo. Over the next few decades, boogie-woogie encompassed the breezy, big-band jaunts of Tommy Dorsey, the nascent piano rock of Jerry Lee Lewis, the bluesy stylings of Jimmy Yancey, and the lively harmonies of the Andrews Sisters. From the genre’s many peaks, it was only a hop, skip, and a jump to swing and bebop.

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