Don Redman

Donald Matthew Redman, born July 29, 1900, and died November 30, 1964, was an American jazz musician. He was also an arranger, bandleader, composer, and pianist. Redman was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame May 6, 2009. Redman was born in Piedmont (West Virginia). Redman’s father was a musician and his mother was a singer. Don started playing the trumpet when he was three years old. He joined his first band at six years old and was fluent on all instruments, including the oboe and piano by twelve years of age. After studying at Storer College, Harper’s Ferry, and the Boston Conservatory he joined Billy Page’s Broadway Syncopaters of New York City. He was Dewey Redman’s uncle and great-uncle. Career Don Redman was a clarinetist and saxophone player in the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, which he joined in 1923. Redman quickly began to write arrangements and helped to create the big band Swing sound. It is important to note that Henderson didn’t start arranging until the middle of the 1930s, with some exceptions. Redman was responsible for most arrangements from 1927 to 1927. After he retired, Benny Carter assumed the arranging duties for Henderson. Redman was a key figure in the creation of arranged jazz. Redman’s main trademark was his ability to harmonize melody lines and pseudo-solos within different sections, such as clarinet, sax or brass trios. These sections were played off one another by Redman. He would have one section punctuate another’s figures or move the melody around various orchestral sections and soloists. This technique was highly original and sophisticated. It was the foundation of many big band jazz compositions over the next decades. Jean Goldkette convinced Redman in 1927 to become the musical director and leader of McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, a Detroit-based band. Their great success was his responsibility. He arranged half their music, splitting the arranging duties between John Nesbitt and Redman through 1931. Redman occasionally performed as their singer, with a charming and humorous voice. Don Redman and Orchestra Redman formed their own band in 1931. Fletcher Henderson’s younger brother Horace played piano, which earned them a residency at Connie’s Inn, a famous Manhattan jazz club. Redman signed with Brunswick Records, and did a series radio broadcasts. Redman and his orchestra provided music for the animated short I Heard. It was part of the Betty Boop series, produced by Fleischer Studios. Paramount distributed it. Redman wrote the original music for this short, which was published on September 1, 1933. Redman’s Brunswick records, which he made from 1931-1934, were among the most complicated pre-swing jazz arrangements of popular songs. Redman’s band was not reliant on a driving rhythm and great soloists. It had an overall level arranging sophistication unlike any other of its time. Redman’s band featured notable musicians such as Henry Allen, Sidney De Paris, Henry Allen, trumpet Edward Inge and Harlan Lattimore (popularly known as “The Colored Bing Crosby”). Redman was also a musician and arranger for musicians such as Paul Whiteman, Isham, Jones and Bing Crosby. His band produced a Vitaphone short film in 1933 for Warner Bros. It is now available on DVD as the Busby Berkeley feature film Dames. Redman recorded for Brunswick from 1934 to 1936. Redman then recorded a variety of sides for ARC, including some on their Vocalion and Perfect labels, Melotone albums, etc. He also pioneered swing arrangements of classic pop songs for the Variety label in 1937. Redman’s sophisticated counterpoint melodies and his use of a swinging vocal ensemble (called “The Swing Choir”) were very modern. Bluebird signed him in 1938. He recorded with them until 1940 when he left. Redman became a freelancer and began to write arrangements after his orchestra was disbanded. Some of his arrangements were a hit with Harry James, Jimmy Dorsey and Count Basie. For the 1949 season, he appeared on Uptown Jubilee (CBS Television Network). He was the music director for Pearl Bailey in the 1950s. He was a pianist for the Georgia Minstrels Concert in the 1960s and soprano-sax player with Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake’s band. On November 30, 1964, Don Redman was killed in New York City. – Wikipedia

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