Fletcher Henderson & His Orchestra

1924, Vol. 1

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Originally appearing on the Pathe Actuelle, Brunswick, Ajax, Vocalion, Emerson, Columbia, and Banner phonograph labels, Fletcher Henderson's recordings from early 1924 make for peculiarly pleasant listening. It is possible to face up to these heavily arranged dance band records from the early '20s and actually enjoy the rickety arrangements. All you need to do is shed any preconceptions of what jazz is or ever was supposed to sound like. Anatol Schenker's liner notes point out that this music was intended to accompany theatrical performances. Even without that kind of historical perspective, this stuff sounds good with no context whatsoever, provided the listener surrenders to the weirdly wonderful world of thoroughly outmoded popular music. At the very least, these are funny old records. From the standpoint of early jazz, Coleman Hawkins and Don Redman are in here slogging away on their clarinets and saxophones, treading where few had ever set foot before them. Teddy Nixon periodically asserts himself with the slide trombone, and Kaiser Marshall proves to have been a spicy, resourceful percussionist. "Ghost of the Blues" appears to have been co-composed by Sidney Bechet, and sounds a lot like a product of that fine musician's mind. Redman's "Teapot Dome Blues" contains a rare example of Howard Scott soloing on the cornet. "Mobile Blues" allows room for a muffled solo by an unidentified kazoo player. Redman contributes a fine and sassy scat vocal on "My Papa Doesn't Two-Time No Time," which also exists elsewhere as a Rosa Henderson vocal backed only by Fletcher Henderson (no blood relation) at the piano. "Somebody Stole My Gal" bumps along marvelously and has a bass sax solo by Coleman Hawkins with Don Redman playing a weepy clarinet, even removing the mouthpiece from the instrument to achieve maximum cornball effects. "After the Storm" actually has segments of Rossini's William Tell Overture grafted into the chart, with someone blowing a siren whistle and Redman taking a solo on oboe. Nixon opens "Feeling the Way I Do" with growling trombone and Charlie Dixon demonstrates how a banjo could be used to propel nine other instruments by executing a series of well-timed blows across the strings. Together with piano and drums, the banjo was an agitator in these early ensembles. "Red Hot Mama" is an exciting illustration of how, during the first half of 1924, Henderson's band began to settle down and play something like real jazz.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:49
2 3:10
3
3:08
4
2:53
5
3:09
6 2:53
7
2:47
8
3:22
9
3:03
10
2:55
11
3:03
12 3:17
13 3:04
14
3:00
15 3:08
16 3:19
17 3:01
18
3:11
19
3:11
20 3:08
21 3:06
blue highlight denotes track pick