The first negro big band was organized in New York in 1922 by former blues pianist
Fletcher Henderson (1897),
who had arrived in 1920 to study chemistry.
He and his arranger Don Redman (the alto saxophonist) introduced written scores
into jazz music: written music that sounded like improvised music.
Tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins (who had moved to New York in 1922 and had
joined Henderson in 1923) raised the standard of musicianship, incidentally
making the saxophone (until then a marginal instrument) one of the distinctive
features of jazz music.
The partnership among these three giants (all three coincidentally born far
away from New York, and college educated) was largely responsible for evolving
the early standard of the big band out of the original model of
King Oliver's sound.
Hawkins learned the art of embellishing a melody from Louis Armstrong (who
played with them in 1924 and 1925) and from Art Tatum.
Redman's genius developed quickly from
Dicty Blues (august 1923), the first experiment with separate reed and brass sections,
to King Oliver's Dippermouth Blues with Armstrong, renamed Sugar Foot Strut (may 1925),
from Walter Melrose's Copenhagen (october 1924) to
The Stampede (may 1926), credited to the Dixie Stompers, a powerful example of how Redman's arrangements smoothly incorporated even the most individual solos and Hawkins' solo that signaled his break with the tradition,
from Tozo (january 1927), Redman's first experiment with ternary rhythms,
to Rocky Mountain Blues (january 1927),
culminating with the dadaist The Whiteman Stomp (may 1927).
Clarinetist Buster Bailey,
trumpeter Tommy Ladnier,
trombonist Jimmy Harrison (the main stylist between Teagarden and Tommy Dorsey,
who adapted Armstrong's innovations to the trombone)
also contributed to the sound of the era.
Redman and his cohorts invented jazz for orchestra based on the coexistence of written scores and on improvised solos, an epochal change of format for jazz music.
He managed to harmonize the language of the sections of the orchestra and the
language of the soloing instruments.
Redman's passion for saxophones (ignored in New Orleans but already popular in white orchestras) and for clarinets (his specialty) added fire to the texture.
After Redman left in 1927, Henderson took up composing and arranging chores
with the collaboration of alto saxophonist Benny Carter (who had joined in 1928),
notably with Keep A Song In Your Soul (december 1930),
Down South Camp Meeting (september 1934) and Wrappin' It Up (september 1934).
Henderson subscribed to the same general philosophy of sound, but greatly
simplified Redman's intricate arrangements.
The most significant innovation of this period was the replacemente of the tuba with John Kirby's double bass, for example in Jean Schwartz's Chinatown My Chinatown (october 1930), an act
(inspired by Jean Goldkette's bassist Steve Brown)
that would change the rhythm section of jazz forever.
In 1932 Carter left, in 1934 Hawkins left and in 1936 Kirby left too, although new talents came in
(notably trumpeter Henry "Red" Allen).
Henderson's last influential recordings were
tenor saxophonist Leon "Chu" Berry's Christopher Columbus (march 1936) and
Louis Prima's Sing Sing Sing (august 1936).
He died in 1952.
Direttore di produzione della "Black Swan",
animatore della scena di New York,
direttore della prima Big band,
Fletcher Henderson proveniva in realta' da Atlanta. A New York era arrivato
nel 1920 come pianista di studio per Handy e Pace.
L' influenza di James Europe lo spinse a mettere insieme una sua orchestra,
che tre anni dopo era gia' l' attrazione del "Club Alabama". Si trattava di
un' orchestra a dieci strumenti che riprendeva la struttura delle orchestre
di classic jazz, ma aggiungeva i sassofoni.
La musica di Henderson era un
jazz ben equilibrato e coordinato, il cui arrangiamento veniva stabilito
Le due caratteristiche armoniche del suo stile erano i tre clarinetti,
usati all' unisono in contrappunto alla tromba, e il call-and-response fra
ottoni e canne.
Dal 1924 al 1936 l' orchestra di Henderson fu una delle principali attrazioni
delle grandi sale da ballo, in particolare la "Roseland Ballroom", e il suo
organico crebbe fino a comprendere sedici musicisti.