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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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FLETCHER HENDERSON

Sweet and Hot

Le Chant du Monde 274 1463-1464

 

 

 


CD1

1. Dicty Blues
2. Copenhagen
3. Alabamy Bound
4. Money Blues
5. The Stampede
6. Jackass Blues
7. The Chant
8. The Henderson Stomp
9. Snag It
10. Stockholm Stomp
11. Fidgety Feet
12. St Louis Shuffle
13. Variety Stomp
14. I'm Coming Virginia
15. Whiteman Stomp
16. Goose Pimples
17. Hop Off
18. King Porter Stomp
19. Feeling Good
20. Easy Money
21. Freeze and Melt
22. Blazin’
23. The Wang-Wang Blues
CD2

1. Chinatown, My Chinatown
2. Keep a Song in your Soul
3. Sweet and Hot
4. Sugar Foot Stomp
5. Clarinet Marmalade
6. Hot and Anxious
7. Singin’ The Blues
8. New King Porter Stomp
9. Honeysuckle Rose
10. Queer Notions
11 Yeah Man!
12. Hocus Pocus
13. Big John's Special
14 Shanghai Shuffle
15. Wrappin’ It Up
16. Rug Cutter's Swing
17. Stealin’ Apples
18. Blue Lou
19. Christopher Columbus
20. Jangled Nerves
21. Rhythm of the Tambourine
22. Sing You Sinners
23. There's Rain In My Eyes
24. Moten Stomp (Moten Swing)
 

Fletcher Henderson has a lot to answer for. As the father of big-band orchestration (in cohort with his chief arranger Don Redman), he introduced many of the devices subsequently used (and over-used) by other big bands. He showed how a large jazz orchestra could be moulded into an efficient organization and his methods were widely copied, often slavishly. Many big bands use similar call-and-response passages from the reeds and brass, saxophones stating the melody with interjections from the brass, and riffs behind solos. Henderson’s arrangements of numbers like King Porter Stomp and Big John’s Special were taken up by Benny Goodman’s band, assisting Benny’s reputation as "The King of Swing" and thus becoming models for subsequent arrangers.

In fact Fletcher Henderson used these devices imaginatively, so that a number like Clarinet Marmalade has lots of different things going on, with separate elements coming together to form an intricate whole. Note also such inventive touches as the asymmetric breaks in the 1931 version of Sugar Foot Stomp or Don Redman’s peculiar ending for Copenhagen which, in Gunther Schuller’s words, "leaves the piece hanging harmonically in mid-air".

As this double CD shows, Henderson also introduced or used many musicians who became famous and influential. At various times his band contained Louis Armstrong, Cootie Williams, Rex Stewart, John Kirby, Benny Carter, Henry "Red" Allen, Tommy Ladnier, Don Redman, Emmett Berry, Israel Crosby, Buster Bailey, Roy Eldridge, Chu Berry, Ben Webster, Sid Catlett - and, of course, Coleman Hawkins, who found his voice on the tenor sax and influenced generations of sax players. The Henderson band recorded Coleman’s composition Queer Notions which was a remarkably prescient anticipation of future developments in jazz.

This album illustrates the work of Fletcher Henderson’s band from 1923 to 1938, although it omits some important recordings, such as Hot Mustard, Mandy, Make Up Your Mind, and Go ‘long Mule. There are only three of Louis Armstrong’s recordings with the band (tracks 2-4 of the first CD). Nonetheless, this selection gives a clear picture of why Henderson’s band was so influential, and why his contribution to big-band jazz should never be underestimated.

Some years ago, introducing a collection of 64 recordings by Fletcher Henderson, John Hammond called it "a study in frustration". He argued that Henderson was frustrated because his colour deprived him of the success he deserved – a success which was later gained by the likes of Benny Goodman on the back of Fletcher’s innovations. This double album is a salutary reminder of Henderson’s pivotal role in the development of swing and the achievements of his remarkable bands.


Tony Augarde

 



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