Magazine article IAJRC Journal

The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz

Magazine article IAJRC Journal

The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz

Article excerpt

The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz by Jeffrey Magee (2005, Oxford University Press, New York, NY).

Fletcher Henderson was an outstanding jazz figure who not only assembled and led bands composed of the best musicians, but provided distinctive arrangements, culminating in a unique collaboration with the "crowned" King of Swing, Benny Goodman; these arrangements defined the Swing Era. Contrasting views of Henderson's rôle have been taken by some previous jazz writers. "Frustration" (remem-ber the title of that 1950s Columbia LP boxed set from John Hammond?), in which point of view Henderson and his band were eclipsed by (a) players who went on to lead more well-known bands, and (b) his shift in emphasis to arranging, particularly for Goodman. These arrangements, transcending race, defined the Swing Era, but obscured the man himself. There is, however, an element of racism in this view; similarly, a quote by Howard Scott, attributed to Paul Whiteman, said "if Fletcher were a white man, he would be a millionaire". …

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