Fletcher Henderson

Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra, 1923-1927

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This superb collection of tracks by the Fletcher Henderson orchestra covers a period beginning with the group existing as basically a freelance recording band through their reign on top of the big band heap at the famous dance club Roseland in 1927. Like many issues by this label during this time, there is no time or energy wasted on glitzy gatefold packaging or pretentious liner notes. There is simply a wonderful black-and-white band photograph on the front cover and three columns of closely set black-on-white type on the back. The first column has all the relevant information about the recording sessions and the players, minus only the names of composers, while the notes by Walter Allen provide useful facts, especially info about the comings and goings of various players. And that is sure to be an attraction for jazz fans as two of the greatest soloists in the history of the music, bar none, are featured here as prominently as soloists tended to be featured on these short arrangements. No track is much over three minutes in length. Nonetheless, one can still hear the makings of many future saxophone solos and many future saxophone styles in just eight bars of Coleman Hawkins improvising, while the obligatti dished out to singers by the great Louis Armstrong is masterful, to say the least. The Henderson band was hard swinging with the rhythm section sometimes coming through like a punch. The second side shows the band's talent as a backup unit to various singers such as Trixie Smith and the vaudeville duo of Coot Grant and Kid Wesley Wilson, who bring the song "Meet Me at the Greasy Spoon" to life so vividly that the listener may develop heartburn. Other soloists who play well but failed to develop gigantic reputations are trumpeter Bobby Stark, trombonist Charlie Green, and, of course, cornetist Joe Smith, who take a triumphant ride on "Everybody's Doing the Charleston Now."

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