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Thursday, December 16, 2010

The beginning of a huge list.....Fletcher Henderson...Pt.1 of 7 parts....yeah, SEVEN!

Fletcher Henderson

James Fletcher Hamilton Henderson, Jr. (December 18, 1897 – December 28, 1952) was an American pianist, bandleader, arranger and composer, important in the development of big band jazz and swing music. His was one of the most prolific black orchestras and his influence was vast. He was often known as "Smack" Henderson.

Fletcher Henderson was born in Cuthbert, Georgia. He attended Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia and graduated in 1920, where he was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter organization established for African Americans. After graduation, he moved to New York City to attend Columbia University for a master's degree in chemistry. However, he found his job prospects in chemistry to be very restricted due to his race, and turned to music for a living.
He was recording director for the fledgling Black Swan label from 1921-1923. In 1922 he formed his own band, which was resident first at the Club Alabam then at the Roseland, and quickly became known as the best African-American band in New York. For a time his ideas of arrangement were heavily influenced by those of Paul Whiteman, but when Louis Armstrong joined his orchestra in 1924 Henderson realized there could be a much richer potential for jazz band orchestration. Henderson's band also boasted the formidable arranging talents of Don Redman (from 1922 to 1927). During the 1920s and very early 1930s, Henderson actually wrote few, if any, arrangements; most of his recordings were arranged by Don Redman (c. 1923-1927) or Benny Carter (after 1927-c. 1931). As an arranger, Henderson came into his own in the mid-1930s.
His band circa 1925 included Howard Scott, Coleman Hawkins (who started with Henderson in 1923 playing the low tuba parts on bass saxophone and quickly moved to tenor and a leading solo role), Louis Armstrong, Charlie Dixon, Kaiser Marshall, Buster Bailey, Elmer Chambers, Charlie Green, Ralph Escudero and Don Redman.
In 1925, along with fellow composer Henry Troy, he wrote "Gin House Blues", recorded by Bessie Smith and Nina Simone amongst others. He also wrote the very popular jazz composition "Soft Winds" among others.

From 1925-1930, he primarily recorded for Columbia and Brunswick/Vocalion under his own name as well as recording a series of acoustic recordings under the name The Dixie Stompers for Columbia's Harmony and associated dime store labels (Diva and Velvet Tone). During the 1930s, he recorded for Columbia, Crown (as "Connie's Inn Orchestra"), ARC (Melotone, Perfect, Oriole, etc.), Victor, Vocalion and Decca.
At one time or another, in addition to Armstrong, lead trumpeters included Henry "Red" Allen, Joe Smith, Rex Stewart, Tommy Ladnier, Doc Cheatham and Roy Eldridge on trumpet. Lead saxophonists included Coleman Hawkins, Buster Bailey, Benny Carter and Chu Berry. Sun Ra also worked as an arranger during the 1940s during Henderson's engagement at the Club DeLisa in Chicago. Sun Ra himself said that on first hearing Henderson's orchestra as a teenager he assumed that they must be angels because no human could produce such beautiful music.
Beginning in the early 1930s, Fletcher's piano-playing younger brother, Horace Henderson contributed to the arrangements of the band. At different times in Horace's career he was Billie Holiday's and Lena Horne's pianist. Later he led a band of his own that also received critical acclaim.
Although Fletcher's band was very popular, he had little success managing the band. But much of his lack of recognition outside of Harlem had to do more with the times in which he lived. After about 1931, he was well regarded as an arranger – and his arrangements became influential. In addition to his own band he arranged for several other bands, including those of Teddy Hill, Isham Jones, and most famously, Benny Goodman. Henderson's wife, Leora, said that a major turning point in his life was an auto accident which occurred in 1928. Henderson's shoulder was injured and he apparently sustained a concussion. Leora claimed that Fletcher was never the same, and that after this point he lost his ambition and became careless. According to Leora, the accident was a major cause of Henderson's diminishing success. She claims that John Hammond and Benny Goodman arranged to buy Henderson's arrangements as a way to support Henderson, and points out that Goodman always gave Henderson credit for the arrangements and said that the Henderson band played them better than the Goodman band. In addition, Goodman and Hammond arranged broadcasts and recordings to benefit Henderson when he was ill. 
Although Henderson's music was popular, his band began to fold with the 1929 stock market crash. The loss of financial stability resulted in the selling of many arrangements from his songbooks to the later-to-be-acclaimed "King of Swing" Benny Goodman.

In 1934, Goodman's Orchestra was selected as a house band for the "Let's Dance" radio program. Since he needed new charts every week for the show, his friend John Hammond suggested that he purchase some Jazz charts from Henderson. Many of Goodman's hits from the swing era were played by Henderson and his own band in the late 1920s and early 1930s. In fact they usually were head arrangements that Fletcher transcribed from his own records and then sold to Goodman.
In 1939, Henderson disbanded his own band and joined Goodman's, first as both pianist and arranger and then working full-time as the staff arranger. He reformed bands of his own several times in the 1940s, toured with Ethel Waters again in 1948-1949. Henderson suffered a stroke in 1950 resulting in partial paralysis that ended his days as a pianist. He died in New York City in 1952.

Henderson, along with Don Redman, established the formula for swing music. The two concocted the recipe every swing band played from (i.e. sections 'talking' to one another, 'hot' swing). Swing, its popularity spanning over a decade, was the most fashionable form of jazz ever in the United States
Henderson was also responsible for bringing Louis Armstrong from Chicago to New York, thus flipping the focal point of jazz in the history of the United States.

Fletcher Henderson was the brother of Horace Henderson and led the most important of the pioneering big bands, which helped to set the pattern for most later big jazz bands playing arranged music. Henderson was born into a middle-class black family and studied European art and music with his mother, a piano teacher. He grew up to be a good-looking, well-mannered youth, and (atypically for someone of his race at that time) went on to take a degree in chemistry and mathematics at Atlanta University. Despite his advantages of means and station, Henderson was almost painfully diffident. In 1920, he moved to New York, ostensibly to find a career as a chemist, but this was then nearly impossible for an African-American, and especially so for a young man of Henderson's passive temperament. He picked up work as a song demonstrator with the Pace-Handy Music Company, an early black publishing firm, and when Harry Pace founded Black Swan, the first black recording company, Henderson joined it as musical factotum. He began to put together groups to back the company's singers, and in this way drifted into a career as a bandleader. He occasionally obtained work for these little bands at clubs and dances, and probably in January 1924 began to perform in the Club Alabam on Broadway. The same year he was offered a position at the Roseland Ballroom, later to become the best-known dance hall in New York. (These clubs were restricted to white customers.) Henderson's band remained there for a decade, using Roseland as a springboard to national fame. 

At the outset, Henderson's group was an ordinary dance band, not a jazz band, though its music was inflected with the "raggy" rhythms that had been popular for some time. Northern blacks of the time had little first-hand experience of spirituals, work songs, and the blues, and only slowly came to grips with the new jazz that was emerging from the South. Henderson, although he had been brought up in Georgia, had been insulated from black folk forms by his middle-class parents who, like many blacks of their position, frowned on "low" music. Henderson had to learn to play jazz in his 20s, and never became more than an adequate jazz pianist. 

Henderson's band was no different from the thousands of dance bands that were springing up across the USA in response to the vogue for social dancing. But musicians everywhere were drawn to the new jazz music, and in 1924 Henderson brought Louis Armstrong, whom he had heard briefly in New Orleans three years earlier, into his band as a jazz specialist. Armstrong's style was rapidly maturing, and his playing entranced not only Henderson's men, but also other New York musicians with its propulsive swing and melodic invention. Although Armstrong was not the only jazz influence on New York musicians, he was the most important one, and Henderson's band members began to emulate his solo style.
At about the same time the band's music director, Don Redman, was working out what was to become the basic pattern of big-band arrangements for decades: the interplay of brass and reed sections, sometimes in call-and-response fashion, at other times with one section playing supporting riffs behind the other. Many solos were interspersed between the arranged passages. Redman and Henderson were not alone in developing this formula; the Paul Whiteman Orchestra was employing the technique in rudimentary form in 1920, but Redman and Henderson developed it fully. However, in 1924 and 1925, the band was still learning to play with a jazz feeling, and the recordings made then are notable mainly for solos by Armstrong; among these are Copenhagen, Go 'long Mule, Shanghai Shuffle, Sugar Foot Stomp, and a reworking of King Oliver's Dippermouth Blues. The last piece became the band's first hit, and pressings of it remained available for a decade.
Armstrong left Henderson's band in the fall of 1925, but the seed sown by him and others took root, and by 1926 the band was playing excellent jazz with first-rate soloists and an ability to make the arranged passages swing. From this time until the mid-1930s, the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra was one of the principal models for big jazz bands.
Until 1927, Redman wrote virtually all of the band's arrangements, and it is difficult to estimate Henderson's particular contribution to the development of the big-band format. However, in 1927, Redman left Henderson to become music director of McKinney's Cotton Pickers, and Henderson was forced to take on much of the band's arranging (though he continued to buy arrangements from freelance musicians, and in 1930-31 his sideman Benny Carter supplied a number of important scores). He proved to have a remarkable talent for it — his arrangements were spare, clean, and delicate, with an easy and natural manner that made them comfortable for his musicians to play and yet generated an infectious swing. Among his best works from this period are King Porter Stomp, Down South Camp Meeting, and Wrappin' It Up.
Henderson also had a remarkable gift for discovering new talent. In steady succession, he engaged virtually all of the major black jazz players of the time, many of whom, like Armstrong and Lester Young, he raised from obscurity. As a consequence, few bands ever matched his in the quality of their soloists. Unfortunately, Henderson lacked the traits that make a successful leader. He had little understanding of salesmanship and promotion, and could not control his frequently unruly players, who were often lured away by other bandleaders. Several times his bands broke up owing to his poor management. In 1934, financial problems forced him to sell some of his best arrangements to Benny Goodman, who was then in the process of starting his own band. Henderson's arrangements were an important element in Goodman's rapid rise to popularity, which in turn triggered the enormous success of swing bands from 1935 to 1945. Henderson led bands until 1939, when he joined Goodman as a full-time staff arranger. From 1941, he returned to bandleading and writing arrangements for a living, left behind by the swing-band boom which he had played so large a part in bringing about. He suffered a severe stroke in December 1950 and was partially paralyzed until his death.
Despite his lack of personal force, Henderson's musical intelligence and taste were important factors in creating the character of big-band jazz. Although he was not alone in shaping the big-band style, his group was the principal model for this music, and its second-hand influence, through the bands of Goodman and others, was profound. His personal papers are in the holdings of the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University in New Orleans. 

Probably the one band that I first think of when people mention swing bands.....Fletcher Henderson.  This is a huge list, and I'm not even including his sessions as accompanist to other singers, perhaps I'll get to that one at a later date.

Hmmm..........enough.....let's swing some sides, shall we?

Pt. 1

Ain't cha glad 1934
Ain't she sweet (The Dixie Stompers) 1-20-1927
Alabama bound 2 (Louis Armstrong/Fletcher Henderson/Colman Hawkins w/ the F.H.Orch.) 2-6-1925
Alabama bound 3 (L. Armstrong/F.  Henderson/C.Hawkins w/ the F.H.Orch.) 2-6-1925
Alabama bound 4 (L. Armstrong/F.H./C. Hawkins w/ the F.H.Orch.) 2-6-1925
Alabamy stomp  (from "Earl Carroll's Vanities") (The Dixie Stompers) 10-10-1926
All God's chillun got rhythm (From "A Day At The Races") v= Jerry Blake 6-3-1937
Alone at last (L. Armstrong/F.H. The Southern Serenaders) 1925
Araby 11-17-1924 (L. Armstrong/F.  Henderson/C.Hawkins w/ the F.H.Orch.)
Baby, won't you please come home 1-19-1927
Back in your own back yard 3-22-1937
Baltimore (The Dixie Stompers) 10-24-1927
Big chief De Sota  1936
Big John's special 9-11-1934
Black horse stomp (The Dixie Stompers) 1-20-1926
Black Maria  (The Dixie Stompers) 10-24-1927
Blazin'  5-16-1929
Blue Lou 3-27-1936
Blue moments 3-11-1932 (Connie's Inn Orchestra)
Blue rhythm (Connie's Inn Orchestra) 1931
Blues in my heart 10-16-1931
Brotherly love 10-10-1926 (The Dixie Stompers)
Bull blues (Fletcher Henderson And His sawin' six) 12-1923
Business in F 10-16-1931
Bye and bye (L. Armstrong/F.  Henderson/C.Hawkins w/ the F.H.Orch.) 1-23-1925
Can you take it 8-18-1933
Carolina stomp 10-21-1925
Casa Loma stomp 1932 (Connie's Inn Orchestra)
Charleston crazy 11-23-1923 (Henderson's Club Alabam Orch.)
Chattanooga (down in Tennessee) (Fletcher Henderson And His sawin' six) 12-1923
Chinese blues (The Dixie Stompers) 12-22-1925
Chris and his gang 6-3-1937
Christopher Columbus (A Rhythm Cocktail)  3-27-1936
Clap hands! her comes Charlie! (The Dixie Stompers) 11-23-1925
Clarinet marmalade 12-8-1926
Cold mamas (burn me up) 9-24-1924
Come on Coot, do that thing (L. Armstrong/F.  Henderson/C.Hawkins w/ the F.H.Orch.)
Come on, baby! 12-12-1928
Copenhagen 1 10-30-1924 (L. Armstrong/F.  Henderson/C.Hawkins w/ the F.H.Orch.)
Copenhagen 1  10-30-1924 (L. Armstrong/F.  Henderson/C.Hawkins w/ the F.H.Orch.)
Cornfed!  (The Dixie Stompers) 5-12-1927
Cotton picker's ball 1-29-1924  (Henderson's Club Alabam Orch.)
Chinatown, my Chinatown 10-3-1930
I'm crazy 'bout my baby (and my baby's crazy 'bout me) 1931

Yup.........only part 1..........there's about 6 more parts to go.......stay tuned!

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