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Jump Blues evolved from big bands such as those of Lionel Hampton and Lucky Millinder. These early 1940s bands produced musicians such as Louis Jordan, Jack McVea, Earl Bostic, and Arnett Cobb.

Blues and jazz were part of the same musical world, with many accomplished musicians straddling both genres. Jump blues, or simply "jump," was an extension of the boogie-woogie craze. Jump bands such as the Tympany Five, which came into being at the same time as the boogie-woogie revival, achieved maximum effect with an eight-to-the-bar boogie-woogie style.

An early recording of jump blues can be found in Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (1941) by The Andrews Sisters.

Lionel Hampton recorded a stomping big band blues, "Flying Home," in 1942. Featuring a choked, screaming tenor sax performance, the song was a hit in the "race" category. When released, however, Billboard described the tune as "an unusually swingy side" "with a bright bounce in the medium tempo and a steady drive maintained, it's a jumper that defies standing still". Billboard also notes that Benny Goodman had a hand in writing the tune "back in the old Goodman Sextet Days". Billboard goes on to state that "Apart from the fact that it is Lionel Hampton's theme, "Flying Home" is a sure-fire to make the youngsters shed their nickels-and gladly." Five years later Billboard noted inclusion of "Flying Home" in a show that was "strictly for hepsters who go for swing and boogie, and beats in loud, hot unrelenting style a la Lionel Hampton." "...the Hampton band gave with everything, practically wearing itself out with such numbers as Hey Bop a Re Bop, Hamp Boogie and Flying Home..."

Both Hampton and Jordan combined the popular boogie-woogie rhythm, a grittier version of swing-era saxophone styles as exemplified by Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster, and playful, humorous lyrics or verbal asides laced with jive talk.

As this urban, jazz-based music became more popular, both bluesmen and jazz musicians who wanted to "play for the people" began favoring a heavy, insistent beat. This music appealed to black listeners who no longer wished to be identified with "life down home."

Jump accomplishes with three horns and a rhythm section what a big band does with an ensemble of sixteen. The tenor saxophone is the most prominent instrument in jump. Jump groups, employed to play for jitterbugs at a much lower cost than big bands, became very popular with agents and ballroom owners. Saxophonist Art Chaney said "[w]e were insulted" when an audience wouldn't dance.

Jump was enormously popular in the late 1940s and early 1950s, through artists such as Louis Jordan, Big Joe Turner, Roy Brown, Billy Wright and Wynonie Harris.

Revival

It was revived in the 1980s by artists such as Joe Jackson and Brian Setzer (building on the work of bands like The Vanessa Davis Band, Big Twist & The Mellow Fellows, Roomful of Blues and The Nighthawks) and is performed today by bands like Roomful of Blues, MoPac and The Blue Suburbans, Ray Collins' Hot Club and Mitch Woods and His Rocket 88s. Contemporary swing bands such as Lavay Smith, Steve Lucky & The Rhumba Bums Featuring Miss Carmen Getit, Johnny Nocturne Band with Kim Nalley and Stompy Jones also include many classic jump blues numbers in their repertoire, writing original songs in this style as well. In the 1990s The Mighty Blue Kings also played jump blues.