The Most Popular Big Band, Ranked

Choose the big band you think is the most popular!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on May 21, 2024 06:31
When trying to decide which big band to listen to, one often sifts through a sea of names and styles. It’s a musical landscape populated with a plethora of bands, each boasting their unique flair and historical significance. This makes selecting one to enjoy a bit daunting, especially for newcomers to the genre. By casting your vote on your preferred big bands, you aid in shaping a collective perspective, offering a clearer picture for all fans. This dynamic ranking reflects current listening trends and preferences, helping everyone from casual listeners to dedicated enthusiasts find the bands that resonate the most with the community.

What Is the Most Popular Big Band?

  1. 1
    Glenn Miller Orchestra
    FloNight (Sydney Poore) · CC BY-SA 3.0

    Glenn Miller Orchestra

    Glenn Miller
    One of the most iconic big bands of all time, known for hits like "In the Mood" and "Moonlight Serenade."
    The Glenn Miller Orchestra is an iconic big band that gained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. Known for its distinctive swing sound, the orchestra played a significant role in defining the Big Band era. It featured a large ensemble of talented musicians, playing a variety of instruments such as saxophones, trumpets, trombones, pianos, and drums. The Glenn Miller Orchestra is renowned for its smooth and polished arrangements, catchy melodies, and tight harmonies.
    • Formation Year: 1938
    • Genre: Big Band, Swing, Jazz
    • Signature Song: "In the Mood"
    • Members: Around 18-25 musicians
    • Record Sales: Over 75 million records sold worldwide
  2. 2
    Count Basie Orchestra
    Film screenshot · Public domain

    Count Basie Orchestra

    Count Basie
    Led by Count Basie, this band was known for their unique swing style and hits like "One O'Clock Jump" and "April in Paris."
    The Count Basie Orchestra is one of the most popular big bands in jazz history. Known for its swing style and innovative arrangements, the orchestra has been influential since its formation in 1935.
    • Genre: Jazz
    • Formation Year: 1935
    • Style: Swing
    • Size: Around 16-18 musicians
    • Notable Musicians: Lester Young, Jo Jones, Jimmy Rushing, Freddie Green
    Count Basie Orchestra in other rankings
  3. 3
    Duke Ellington Orchestra
    Hans Bernhard (Schnobby) · CC BY-SA 3.0

    Duke Ellington Orchestra

    Duke Ellington
    Led by the legendary Duke Ellington, this band was known for their jazz and swing classics like "Take the A Train" and "Mood Indigo."
    The Duke Ellington Orchestra is one of the most renowned and influential big bands in the history of jazz music. Led by the legendary American composer, pianist, and bandleader Duke Ellington, this orchestra played a pivotal role in shaping the development of jazz from the 1920s through the 1970s.
    • Genre: Jazz
    • Formation: 1923
    • Number of Members: Typically around 15-20 musicians
    • Style: Swing and big band jazz
    • Piano: Duke Ellington
  4. 4

    Benny Goodman Orchestra

    Benny Goodman
    Led by the "King of Swing," this band was known for hits like "Sing Sing Sing" and "Stompin' at the Savoy."
    The Benny Goodman Orchestra was one of the most popular big bands of the Swing Era in the mid-20th century. Led by American clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman, the orchestra played a significant role in popularizing jazz and swing music.
    • Formation: 1934
    • Genre: Swing
    • Instrumentation: Big band
    • Period of Activity: 1934-1946
    • Record Label: Columbia Records
  5. 5
    Known for their unique blend of swing and jazz, this band had hits like "Begin the Beguine" and "Stardust."
    The Artie Shaw Orchestra is a renowned big band that emerged during the Swing Era in the late 1930s and remained popular throughout the 1940s. Known for its smooth and sophisticated sound, the orchestra had a significant impact on the development of jazz and swing music.
    • Formation: Formed in 1936
    • Genre: Swing, Jazz
    • Instrumentation: 18-20 members (varies over time): brass, woodwind, rhythm section
    • Hits: Famous for hits such as 'Begin the Beguine' and 'Stardust'
    • Innovative Techniques: Artie Shaw introduced complex harmonies and unique instrumental combinations
  6. 6

    Tommy Dorsey Orchestra

    Tommy Dorsey
    Led by the "Sentimental Gentleman of Swing," this band was known for hits like "I'll Never Smile Again" and "Opus One."
    The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra was a renowned big band that achieved great popularity during the swing era of the 1930s and 1940s. Led by trombonist and bandleader Tommy Dorsey, the orchestra gained significant recognition for its smooth, polished sound and high-quality musical arrangements.
    • Formation Year: 1935
    • Genre: Swing
    • Instrumentation: Big band ensemble
    • Signature Song: I'll Never Smile Again
    • Vocalists: Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Connie Haines
  7. 7

    Harry James Orchestra

    Harry James
    Led by trumpeter Harry James, this band was known for hits like "You Made Me Love You" and "I've Heard That Song Before."
    The Harry James Orchestra is a popular big band that was formed in the 1930s. Known for its energetic and swinging style, the orchestra has left a lasting impact on the world of jazz and big band music.
    • Formation Year: 1939
    • Genre: Big Band
    • Style: Swing
    • Lead Instrument: Trumpet
    • Vocalist: Helen Forrest
  8. 8
    Known for their smooth sound, this band had hits like "Sentimental Journey" and "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm."
    Les Brown and His Band of Renown is one of the most popular big bands in American history. Formed in the 1930s, the band gained widespread recognition for their smooth sound, tight arrangements, and energetic performances. Led by bandleader Les Brown, the group became known for their distinctive musical style that blended swing, jazz, and pop elements. With their dynamic brass section, rhythmic saxophones, and talented vocalists, they established themselves as a major force in the big band era.
    • Leadership: Les Brown
    • Formation: 1936
    • Genre: Big Band, Swing, Jazz, Pop
    • Famous Hits: Sentimental Journey, I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm, My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time
    • Vocalists: Doris Day, Jo Ann Greer
  9. 9

    Woody Herman Orchestra

    Woody Herman
    Known for their energetic sound, this band had hits like "Woodchopper's Ball" and "At the Woodchopper's Ball."
    The Woody Herman Orchestra is one of the most popular big bands in the history of jazz. It was formed by bandleader Woody Herman in the 1930s and remained active for several decades.
    • Genre: Jazz
    • Formation Year: 1936
    • Disbandment Year: 1987
    • Size of the Band: Initially a four-piece ensemble, later expanded to full big band size
    • Musical Style: Swing, bebop, cool jazz
  10. 10

    Cab Calloway Orchestra

    Cab Calloway
    Led by the "Hi De Ho Man," this band was known for hits like "Minnie the Moocher" and "Jumpin' Jive."
    The Cab Calloway Orchestra was a highly popular big band formed by American jazz singer and bandleader Cab Calloway. Known for its energetic performances and distinctive musical style, the orchestra played a significant role in the swing era of the 1930s and 1940s.
    • Formation: Formed in the late 1920s
    • Musical Style: Swing, jazz, and big band
    • Signature Song: Minnie the Moocher
    • Featured Instruments: Saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, drums
    • Vocalist: Cab Calloway

Missing your favorite big band?


Ranking factors for popular big band

  1. Musical Impact
    Consider the band's contribution to the development and evolution of the big band, swing, or jazz music styles. This could include their influence on other musicians, and their role in defining or popularizing particular sub-genres or techniques.
  2. Quality of Music
    Take into account the band's musicianship, the complexity and originality of their arrangements, and their overall ability to engage and captivate audiences. This can also include the talent of individual band members, as well as their improvisation skills.
  3. Commercial Success
    Look at the band's album sales, chart performance, and concert attendance records to gain an idea of their popularity and the demand for their music.
  4. Longevity
    Consider how long the band has been active and successful, either with its original members or through various line-up changes. This can demonstrate the band's ability to adapt and maintain relevance over time.
  5. Awards and Recognition
    Examine if the band has won any significant music industry awards or received recognition from peers or critics for their work.
  6. Legacy and Influence
    Take into account the extent to which the band's music has influenced subsequent generations of musicians and their impact on popular culture more broadly.
  7. Innovation
    Consider whether the band introduced new techniques or styles to the big band genre, or if they were known for pushing creative boundaries and experimenting with their sound.
  8. Stage Presence and Showmanship
    Evaluate the band's ability to captivate an audience through their live performances and the quality of their stage shows, including elements such as showmanship, energy, and audience interaction.
  9. Consistency
    Look at the band's body of work to determine if they have consistently produced high-quality music throughout their careers, or if they have experienced significant peaks and troughs in terms of quality.
  10. Iconic Songs or Albums
    Consider if the band has any particularly iconic or memorable songs or albums that have become synonymous with the big band genre or have achieved widespread recognition beyond the genre's core fan base.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most popular big band. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or Ensemble is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 179 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each Ensemble once every 24 hours. The rank of each Ensemble is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

More information on most popular big band

Big bands were a prominent feature of the American music scene during the 1930s and 1940s. These large ensembles, consisting of brass, woodwind, and rhythm sections, were known for their powerful sound and energetic performances. Some of the most famous big bands of the era included those led by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, and Glenn Miller. These bands were at the forefront of a cultural revolution, bringing jazz and swing music to the masses and inspiring generations of musicians to come. Today, many people still enjoy listening to the classic sounds of big band music and continue to appreciate the enduring legacy of these iconic musical groups.

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