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Leo Reisman

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Dubbed "the String Quartet of Dance Bands" by composer Jerome Kern, the Leo Reisman Orchestra also gained fame as a launching pad for talents including Fred Astaire, Eddy Duchin, Harold Arlen, and Dinah Shore. According to the Big Bands Database, Reisman was born in Boston in 1897 and began violin studies at age ten; within just two years, he was already performing professionally. A series of stints in local hotel bands predated a tenure with the Baltimore Symphony, and in 1919 Reisman formed his own big band, which soon after accepted a residency at New York's Hotel Brunswick. The orchestra remained at the Brunswick for a decade, in 1929 moving to the Central Park Casino; at this point the lineup included Duchin and fellow pianist Nat Brandywynne, as well as vocalist Lee Wiley. Upon taking up residency at the famed Waldorf Astoria, by 1932 the Reisman Orchestra's lineup swelled to include Astaire and Arlen; other alumni of note include cornetist Johnny Dunn as well as trumpeters Max Kaminsky and Bubber Miley, the latter a future member of Duke Ellington's group. Shore, meanwhile, sang with the band during its 1939 stay at the Strand Theatre. By the following decade, however, Reisman's lush, sophisticated style had fallen out of favor in the wake of swing's new popularity. Leo Reisman died on December 18, 1961. ~ Jason Ankeny

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October 11, 1897 in Boston, MA

Years Active:

'20s, '30s, '40s