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Ken Burns Jazz: Fletcher Henderson

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Album Review

With cooperation from the Verve and Columbia Legacy catalogs, the Ken Burns Jazz series on CD individually spotlights the musical excellence of 22 jazz originators whose careers and influence are explored in Burns' PBS documentary Jazz. Bandleader Fletcher Henderson's ability as a composer and talent scout greatly outweighed his skills as either a pianist or showman. Henderson allowed his musicians to show off their own talents, while he preferred to stay in the background. A number of soon-to-be legends moved through his ranks over the years, including Don Redman, Benny Carter, Ben Webster, Roy Eldridge, Art Blakey, Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Rex Stewart, and even Sun Ra. This is also the band that led the initial swing craze, influencing many followers (especially Benny Goodman). On Ken Burns Jazz, Henderson's output for a number of labels is represented in chronological order from 1924 through 1940; classics on the CD include "Big John's Special," "King Porter Stomp," "Queer Notions," "The Chant," and "Christopher Columbus." While it's impossible to sum up the history of Fletcher Henderson on a single disc, the highlights on Ken Burns Jazz retain enough interest for the listener to continue searching out more material.


Born: December 18, 1897 in Cuthbert, GA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s

Fletcher Henderson was very important to early jazz as leader of the first great jazz big band, as an arranger and composer in the 1930s, and as a masterful talent scout. Between 1923-1939, quite an all-star cast of top young black jazz musicians passed through his orchestra, including trumpeters Louis Armstrong, Joe Smith, Tommy Ladnier, Rex Stewart, Bobby Stark, Cootie Williams, Red Allen, and Roy Eldridge; trombonists Charlie Green, Benny Morton, Jimmy Harrison, Sandy Williams, J.C. Higginbottham,...
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