Fletcher Henderson

Fletcher Henderson was the leader of one of the most successful African-American Jazz bands in the 1920s. His orchestra’s smooth sound was the foundation of the Swing style that emerged over the next decade. Henderson was from middle-class family and received a degree from Atlanta University in chemistry. In 1920, Henderson moved to New York to pursue post-graduate work as a chemist. However, he discovered that many jobs were not available to him due to his race. Instead, he found work as a sheet music demonstrator for W.C. Handy is the music publisher. Handy left the company to become a manager of Black Swan Recording Company and organized a group to support Blues singer Ethel Waters. Fletcher led a group at Club Alabam in 1922. They later moved to Roseland Ballroom (Broadway, 50th St.), where they remained for the next ten year. Coleman Hawkins was the saxophonist of the band. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest saxophonists in Jazz. He hired Louis Armstrong, a young trumpet player from Chicago. Armstrong had previously been playing with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. The Orchestra continued to record and tour until 1939, when it was disbanded. Armstrong joined Benny Goodman Orchestra in the role of arranger and pianist. It was the first time a “White” band had hired a black musician to perform onstage with an orchestra. Goodman used the same arrangements that the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra used. The band became one of the most well-known Swing bands. From 1943, Henderson quit Goodman’s group until 1947 when he returned to Goodman as an arranger. In 1948 and 1949, he toured with Ethel Waters as an accompanist. He suffered a stroke in 1950 and was never able play again. from http://www.redhotjazz.com

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