Don Redman

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Don Redman

February 19, 2018- Today's Harlem Topic: Don Redman

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Don Redman is considered to be the first great arranger in jazz history.  He pioneered the jazz oriented big band by creating arrangements that incorporated improvised jazz solos. He came to prominence with The Fletcher Henderson Orchestra.

By 1924 Fletcher Henderson led one of the most popular dance bands in New York at the Roseland Ballroom and Don Redman was his chief arranger.  
Not long after the Roseland engagement started Louis Armstrong came to New York and was added to the trumpet section. 
This turned out to be a major turning point for Redman and the band.  Once Redman was exposed to Louis’ style and approach
he was able to translate it to his writing and the band really began to swing.

The clarinet trio became one of Don Redman's favorite arranging devices and the signature sound of the Henderson orchestra. 
Redman’s innovative concepts led to the orchestra being one of the first in which reed and brass sections played against each other, creating a call-and-response effect. 
The work Redman's did for Fletcher Henderson was widely imitated by other arrangers and composers, including Duke Ellington.
In 1927 Redman left the Henderson band to take over leadership of McKinney’s Cotton Pickers who soon became major competition to Fletcher Henderson.  
McKinney’s Cotton Pickers made a number of important recordings during Redman’s tenure as leader including Redman originals such as Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You and Cherry.

In 1931 Don Redman formed his own Big Band that lasted for about ten years. By the time the swing era was going strong, Redman’s band was just about over.
He disbanded in 1940 never really getting the recognition he deserved as one of the music’s important pioneers and the man that paved the way for the sound the defined the era.

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