Along with the four great name bands discussed in chapter 2, there were at least a dozen additional black units active during the period from 1930 to 1941. These organizations also made singular contributions to the history of jazz and at times competed successfully with the name bands, even outdueling them on occasion, as when Chick Webb’s band faced off against that of Count Basie at the Savoy in one of the many “Battles of the Bands” held at that famous dancehall. Some of these bands were designed primarily to feature instrumental stars such as Louis Armstrong, Earl “Fatha” Hines, and Hot Lips Page, or a singer such as Cab Calloway. In such cases the band itself was not the major attraction but rather the soloist or singer, and with respect to Armstrong and Page, the star instrumental soloist was also the band’s notable vocalist. Other bands—like those of drummer Chick Webb, vibraharpist-pianist-drummer Lionel Hampton, and altoisttrumpeter Benny Carter—frequently spotlighted their leaders as instrumental soloists, but were at times outstanding in themselves. Although black units other than the name black bands could showcase a soloist of the stature of Armstrong, a singer as entertaining and unique as Calloway, or a multi-instrumentalist as talented as Hampton, most of these organizations also presented the work of such influential arrangers as Edgar Sampson, Jimmy Mundy, and Mary Lou Williams, performances by pace-setting ensembles, and solos by sidemen who were illustrious in their own right. As a group, these “lesser” black bands made a mark on the Swing Era that was almost equal to that of the name bands and certainly vital in its way to the development of jazz in this second major decade of the music.
As the musician who is credited with single-handedly changing the emphasis in jazz from an art of collective group improvisation to one of soloistic virtuosity, Louis Armstrong had perhaps made his most remarkable