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The Father of the Big Bands

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Album Review

As a entrée into Fletcher Henderson's sizeable catalog, this EPM sampler works quite nicely. Sporting good sound and a tidy 20 tracks, Father of the Big Band follows the jazz innovator from his early days with Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins (the trumpeter was a major reason the band advanced so rapidly from 1924-1925) up through the progressively leaner years of the '30s. Full of first-tier arrangements by Don Redman, Benny Carter, and both Fletcher and brother Horace Henderson, the disc thankfully emphasizes quality material over the many novelty songs the band cut with increasing frequency during the '30s. The collection is also blessed with high quality contributions by Henderson's fully loaded roster, which over the course of some 12 years included Rex Stewart, Ben Webster, Chu Berry, Russell Procope, Henry "Red" Allen, and J.C. Higginbotham, among many other jazz luminaries of the time. Before delving deep into Henderson's catalog via Classics' many chronological titles, check this disc out first to settle on the years you like best.


Born: 18 December 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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