Claude Hopkins

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Claude Hopkins

February 27, 2018- Today's Harlem Topic: Claude Hopkins
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Claude Hopkins was an accomplished stride piano player and arranger that led a very successful big band in Harlem during the nineteen thirties.
At the age of 21 he took his first important job with the band of Wilbur Sweatman. In 1925 he went to Europe as musical director of the review that featured Josephine Baker. The band that he directed included a young Sidney Bechet.

He returned to the United States in 1927 eventually taking over the Charlie Skeets band at the Cocoanut Grove in Harlem.

He changed the name to The Claude Hopkins Orchestra which ended up with long residencies at both the Savoy Ballroom and The Cotton Club.

In 1932 his band worked opposite Fletcher Henderson at the Roseland Ballroom. During that engagement they were featured on regular coast to coast broadcasts bringing the band a great deal of recognition. One of the devices he liked to use was having all the brass in cup mutes which gave the band a sweeter sound than some of the other Harlem based bands.

They did quite a bit of recording and many notable players went through the band including Jabbo Smith, Vic Dickenson and Edmund Hall.  Jimmy Mundy wrote many of the arrangements.

He broke up the big band in 1940 but continued to work in small groups for the remainder of his career. He played with Red Allen's group during much of the 1950s, led his own band during 1960-1966, and in 1968 was in the Jazz Giants with Wild Bill Davison

He died in New York in 1984.
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