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The following tape recorded program is a presentation of the National Association of educational broadcasters. With a series of programs on the routes in the United States. In this program we trace the origins of sway. Just because the negro originated the spiritual develop the works of
Advent the blues and play jazz. So the negro under the civilized influence of Western tradition and music produced the essential ingredients of what became known as when. The Negro began his experiments in swinging larger bands. In 1990 and it took 17 years before we had a new way to give what they did it took 17 years of Negro development before white musicians realized that once again the negro had brought for a new vital musical idea. In these programs we will consider several swing orchestras and the
first is that Fletcher Henderson bludger Henderson born eight thousand ninety eight in Georgia is the best and chronologically the first example of a musician who drew upon the jazz idiom just sufficiently to suit his own and which was to produce a music which at once satisfied his own musical tendencies and at the same time satisfied the customers at the Roseland Ballroom in New York. Yes we are in New York because that's where Swing began just as Negroes had moved north from the south central states up the Mississippi River to Chicago. So had Negroes from the southeastern states moved north by rail and by boat to the cities of the East. The city of course was New York. Here was a metropolis where there were so many different nationalities and races of people that a live and let live attitude had long since been developed. It gave work to negroes. They had their own municipality column and there was a need and a
demand for music but there was a good deal more to be said about Fletcher. His father was a schoolteacher in Cuthbert Georgia Fletcher studied chemistry for a while and then played the piano in a roadshow around 1900 formed his first band for Rose land where he appeared off and on for the next 15 years. It was the first hot musician to build a big band with full brass Reed and rhythm sections and to orchestrate four sections in a matter now familiar as may be gathered from his record of what you call them blues which was made in 1924. And here is what you call a blues recorded over 30 years ago. What Fletcher Henderson did was to take a song and arrange it so that times his
brass played in unison against the reeds or vice versa or so that the brass was split between trumpet and trombone and the reeds between saxophones and clarinets the rhythm was kept clear and constant. All of the song was not arranged otherwise we would no longer have jazz. But places were left where a trumpet or a trombone or a saxophone or a clarinet of the piano could freely improvise against a prearranged background of other orchestral sections. This is the way jazz became possible in a large band heretofore in New Orleans and Dixieland jazz. There were only three or four of the most melody instruments and these three or four men knew each other's ideas feelings and reactions so well that improvised harmonies and polyphonic sound was not hard to bring forth. But you can imagine the bedlam the lack of unity and discursiveness of music produced as many as by as many as three trumpets three saxophone the trombone a piano and a tuba. So
the influence of Western music once more impinged upon jazz. And while a few played in an improvised fashion the rest played what was either written down or rehearsed into head arrangements. This was the first step towards swing music. It allowed the freedom of the jazz idiom to be expressed within the framework of organized sound patterns. Drive was the overwhelming point of Fletcher Henderson's music and there was plenty of competition to establish the point. Each soloist vying with the others in half serious and sometimes deadly earnest instrumental battles Fletcher scored his arrangements to give the same quality to Section choruses so that brass and Reed phrases sounded like spontaneous solo bursts with this band. The exciting reiteration of two and four bar phrases usually build on a blues pattern became a basic big band jazz formula. This drive and reiteration had become ordinary jazz currency by the time swing appeared
but none wrote it better than Fletcher which is why Benny Goodman sent for him when the goodman band was on its way to success. That was Barry old enough writing in his book A History of jazz in America. Here is what Rex Harris says in his book jazz. He played very little more than dozens of other larger bands of the period in content that is. But what he did was generally a much better more polished. The arrangements were neater and an important factor. They were not too complicated either for them or a musician to play or average audience to follow. The trite cliches the standard contrast of rate against brass the repeated riff all the hallmarks of the swing era some 10 years later are to be found in almost any Henderson record of the mid twenties. And here are the woods of wild Hobson writing in the book jazz man. It is hard work to develop large 12 to 16 piece jazz combinations to get ensemble finish precise Indonesian unified attack. The sections
phrasing and blending well among themselves and with each other. Many currently popular bands are very musician Lee in this sense. They have a Polish which Henderson seldom if ever had and for which I imagine he never tried but his best combinations had quality beside which a high polish seems a rather routine if difficult achievement. It might be called ensemble ease and spontaneity. Listen to the records of fidget feet or nuking quarter stop. There was a sense of relaxation lack of strain reserve strength. This was perhaps largely a matter of individual talent where the brass team such as Russell and Joe Smith lad near Green and Harrison It would have been too bad to insist on precision. They might have delivered it but the music would have lost the spirit of these men attacking with their natural enthusiasm. Henderson's best large bands played with the buoyancy of a fine small improvising combination. Obviously a few other bands have had such musicians but even so there is recently
seem to be a fetish with regard to precision. And it would seem that in obtaining at a large lot of the players gusto is often lost. In the playing of Henderson's Big John the premium is on the warm spontaneity care less in the best sense of the word. Which was one of the reasons why for years virtually every jazz musician in New York sometimes sat at one of the chairs across the floor from the Roseland bandstand and listened to Fletcher Henderson. And here is an example of that boy and relaxed arrangement in Fletcher Henderson's new king Porter's stock. This record presents a parade of soloists but behind their sometimes brilliant work. You can hear the music that was arranged and it's subtle. It preserves the beat and the chord patterns of the song and it moves quietly and in relaxation through the solos until in the end it emerges dominant and closes the recording with considerable drive. It doesn't sound too different from any number of better known more recent swing orchestras.
And yet it was recorded twenty three years ago. Yes.
OK. Uh uh. Uh uh
uh. Uh. Uh. The second great contribution of the hundreds in orchestra was its encouragement of individual musicians while the Hobson says he has had certainly a good 50 percent of the finest negro talent in the country. For some reason Henderson attracted or was intuitive enough to select musicians who have become great instrumentalists and leaders. No other orchestra boasts such a roster of names. You may not recognize them but if you begin to collect records of jazz even contemporary records you will soon that many of the greats started with Fletcher Henderson with his club Alabama orchestra he began his properly famous series of recordings for Will Kalyan and associated labels. His trumpets Howard Scott and Elmer chambers were notable chiefly for their contributions to the concerted ensemble drive. The rest of his personnel
reads like a who's who of Harlem jazz for the next two decades. Charlie Greene played trombone funny trombone less like Kid Ory than like George brownies. Don Redmond fitted his long face and little body beside the suave figure of Coleman Hawkins his alto sax was the brilliant counterpart of Hawk's tenor. Fletcher led the band from his piano is moon face and gentle smile a trademark the rhythm section consisted of banjo as Charlie Dixon bassist Bob Escudero and drummer Kaiser Marshall on and on the records came. Louis Armstrong filled out the trumpet section in 1924 and in the same year Buster Bailey added his clarinet to the sax of Don and hawk the next year the toots Miss Russell and Joe no relation replaced chambers and Scott when Louie left the brass was reduced to a two man from foot section until Rex Stewart joined in the spring of 1926 at the end of that year Jimmy Harrison came in on trombone in one thousand twenty seven Don Redman left not to be replaced satisfactorily until the
next year when Benny Carter became Fletcher's star soloist. When Benny joined the band Joe Smith was out suffering from the paralysis that killed him at an early age. Bobby Stark was the new trumpeter Benny Morton was in on one trombone for a while and was later replaced by Claude Jones. Neither recorded with the band in one thousand twenty nine. There wasn't much record work either before or right after the crash. The New Orleans trumpeter Tommy Ladd near was in for a while two in one thousand twenty six and twenty seven. And you can add many more trumpeters Rex do it. Cody Williams Henry Allen and Roy Eldridge and on other instruments Dickie Wells Benny Morton Fats Waller to Barry J.C. Higginbotham Ben Webster John Kirby and Big Sid Catlett. There will never be a single orchestra in the history of jazz to come which will contain as many potentially great jazzmen. Another aspect of this gathering of musicians which should be
mentioned is the fact that so many of them were highly educated men. Barry Ulanov says the great figure in the Henderson band was Coleman Hawkins. Until Lester Young came along with Count Basie there was only one way to play tenor sax the way Hawk played it just to man recapture the Hawkins flavor Chu Berry and Ben Webster. To them came naturally the Haagen sound audible breathing and great swoops of swollen phrase tied together with a languorous for a brothel. They gave their tenor Jazz both piquancy and power. Hawks wildness of appearance and smoothness of language cried for Continental appreciation which they received when he moved to Europe for five years in 1934. He spoke in a round deep bass baritone voice usually using few words but carefully pointed to what he wanted to he could be charming. He was also capable of a high seriousness and his conversation sometimes took a learned musical turn. He began to study cello in
1912 at the age of five after rudimentary piano instruction by his mother. At nine he took up the tenor saxophone and in three years at Washburn college in Topeka Kansas he was a zealous student of all the technical branches of music. Harmony counterpoint composition. Surely his early mastery of the cello at St. Joseph Missouri where he was born played a significant part in the development of that large lovely mellow tone he affected on the tenor. Certainly his playing experience at Washburn and with local bands in Topeka was an excellent preparation for his first professional job of consequence with Mamie Smith's jazz hounds. Bowie joined in Kansas City in 1923. He spent about a year accompanying mamy one of the blues singing Smith girls playing alongside trumpeter bubur Miley and making with him and other dozens of sighs for OK backing me in 1924 when Mamie's jazz hands arrived in New York.
Hawke joined Fletcher and here is Coleman solo on. Can you take it. Smack as Fletcher has been called since his college days when he had a roommate named Mack had a remarkably well educated band. Don Redmond was born in 1900 at Piedmont West Virginia. He picked up the trumpet at three played in a kids band at six and began to study the piano at
eight. At college he studied all the instruments and like Hawk addressed himself seriously to the problems of traditional music. He studied some more privately and at conservatories in Boston and Detroit before he joined Fletcher Henderson in 1925. And here is Don Redmond solo on six or seven times. Benny Carter who replaced Don Pascual who had replaced Redmond was also a
college man. Benny was born in New York City in 1970 went to Wilberforce University where he did not specialize in music but did play in the college band led by Fletcher as pianist brother Horace is professional experience before joining SMAC included a stretch with Duke Ellington Buster Bailey christened William in Memphis Tennessee in 1902 was a music student in high school and later when he moved to Chicago and several private teachers the most important of whom was from Shope the Chicago Symphony clarinetist who also taught many Goodman before joining Fletcher Buster played with W. C. Handy's orchestra and the vendôme theatre orchestra under Ersten Tate for three years from 1919 to 1922. And here is Busta Bailey playing clarinet. And you put them all together and you have a great orchestra striving to
produce the music of the next 20 years. Hey hey hey hey hey hey hey. Here is Louis Armstrong. And Busta Bailey.
And Coleman Hawkins. Fletcher Henderson formed his first orchestra in 1919 and he played at a New
York dance hall called the Roseland Ballroom. He continued to lead his orchestra until 1934 16 years later and he always had a great group of musicians and admirers. Here are the words of both a musician ended Myra in the person of Benny Goodman writing and writing in his own book the kingdom of swing without Fletcher. I would probably have had a pretty good band but it would have been something quite different from what it eventually turned out to be. And Bette should know because his reputation was built on the arranging genius of Fletcher Henderson. Everyone has tried to define swing musicians musicologists jazz fans but that Tim has evaded them all. We can draw certain conclusions about it from how it has been used. Generally it's a music of an orchestra of 10 or more
musicians. It has a arrangement to preserve unity and improvisation to provide relief and individuality. It has a fast tempo. And the music seems to be going faster than it really is. That's all we know about it except that ever since Fletcher Henderson we've heard it read like. This has been the thirteen in a series of programs on the roots of jazz in the United States. The next programs bring us the music of Duke Ellington. The roots of jazz is written and produced by Norman clear vocalist the sound technician radios he is the reader. This is Norman Cleary speaking. This is the N.A. E.B. Radio Network.
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Roots of jazz
Big Bands: Hendersons
Producing Organization
Iowa State University
WOI (Radio station : Ames, Iowa)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program dicusses the development of big bands and swing.
Series Description
Music-documentary series in 26 parts, covering various aspects of jazz.
Broadcast Date
Big bands--History
Media type
Director: Cleary, Norman
Engineer: Vogel, Dick
Host: Clark, Kenneth Bancroft, 1914-2005
Producing Organization: Iowa State University
Producing Organization: WOI (Radio station : Ames, Iowa)
Speaker: Geesy, Ray
Writer: Cleary, Norman
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 56-24-13 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:52
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Chicago: “Roots of jazz; Big Bands: Hendersons,” 1956-09-23, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 28, 2024,
MLA: “Roots of jazz; Big Bands: Hendersons.” 1956-09-23. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 28, 2024. <>.
APA: Roots of jazz; Big Bands: Hendersons. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from