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THE BIRTH OF BIG BAND JAZZ with Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Tommy Ladnier

Jazz Archives #1000(10”) 


Flethcer Henderson and His Orchestra (on #1):

Howard Scott (cnt) Elmer Chambers (cnt) Charlie Green (tb) unknown (cl) Don Redman (as) Coleman Hawkins (ts) Fletcher Henderson (p) Charlie Dixon (bj) Bob Escudero (tuba) Kaiser Marshall (drs)  New York; Summer, 1923

On #2 and 3: add Louis Armstrong (cnt) Buster Bailey replaces unknown (cl) Other personnel the same             New York; Winter, 1924

On #4: Joe Smith (cnt) Green (tb) Bailey (cl) Henderson (p) Dixon (bj) Marshall (drs) New York; April 3, 1926

On #5 and 6: Russell Smith (cnt) Joe Smith (cnt) Tommy Ladnier (cnt) Green (tb) Jimmy Harrison (tb) Bailey (cl) Don Pasquall (as) Hawkins (ts) Henderson (p) Dixon (bj) June Coles (tuba) Marshall (drs) New York; June 24, 1927

The Dixie Stompers (#7 and 8); probably same personnel     New York; early, 1928


  1. When You Walked Out (3:22) (Irving Berlin)

  2. Mandy, Make Up Your Mind (3:05) (Irving Berlin)

  3. Prince of Wails (3:07) (Elmer Schoebel)

  4. When Spring Comes Peeping Through (3:10) (Bernard – Stept)


  1. Swamp Blues (2:57) (Burke Bivens)

  2. Off to Buffalo (2:54) (Candullo – Carroll)

  3. Hop Off (3:19) (N. L. Kincaid)

  4. Rough House Blues (3:11) (Joe Jordan)

   There are two major pints of be noted about FLETCHER HENDERSON and his music, one being that he contributed more than any other single figure to the development of the whole concept of big-band, arranged jazz, and the other listing of Henderson personnel is bound to look very much like a “Who’s Who in Jazz” of today.

   The presence of so many talented and famous names on the Henderson roster (and many of them, of course, became famous names by virtue of their work with him) is in no way to be taken as accidental. They were there because Fletcher knew good men when he heard them and always wanted to work with skilled, creative jazzmen – and because his band was always known to be good enough, and successful enough, to attract the best.

   It cannot be said that Henderson deliberately and specifically set out to create something called “big band jazz” (life, of course, is never nearly that simple). But it can be put pretty much like this; Henderson, by applying his own talents and those of his sidemen to the problem of creating good dance music with a satisfying lift and beat to it, came up with the best and most workable formula for making upwards of ten men swing together. Although not necessarily the first and of course not the only leader to use these techniques, he was in a very real sense the trail-blazer.

   When the ex-chemistry student known as “Smack” came up to New York from Georgia shortly after World War I, the band he formed went into Broadway’s Roseland Ballroom, and various Henderson bands were to return there regularly between 1919 and 1935. The use of a three-man sax section, rather than the single clarinet of traditional New Orleans instrumentation would seem a direct result of the requirements of playing in large Northern dance halls and night clubs. Soon enough there three trumpets and two trombones, and the use of increasingly complex arrangements. Eventually, of course, there were the large orchestras and intricate scorings of the Swing Era of the ‘3-s – made considerable and important use of Henderson arrangements.

As indicated above, Fletcher’s significance does not lie in the number of men he used, or even in the bare fact that he relied on arrangements (although he was the originator of many now-standard effects and devices). It is, rather, in the quality of those men and arrangements. The recordings reissued here, which make up a sampling of his work during a five-years, kid ‘20s period, serve to indicate this quality. They serve also to trace the gradual development of his band style: from a rough drive to an increasingly smooth but no less powerful kind of jazz; and never at least not within this period, getting too far away from an allegiance to the bedrock blues pattern.

   The earliest of the number here, When You Walked Out, is one of the many fairly insubstantial pop tunes that Henderson molded to his own purposes, usually quite successfully. The banjo of Charlie Dixon sets the tone here, and there’s a touch of the alto sax of one of the band’s early stars, Don Redman. Mandy, which follows, belongs to the period in which a fast-rising young horn man named Louis Armstrong was with Henderson; it includes a memorable Armstrong chorus. The gutty trombone of Charlie Green is a notable feature of When Spring; and when you turn to the slightly later records that make up Side 2, what might be called a collective star begins to make its impact felt – the sax section, playing with impressive drive.

   Coleman Hawkins was at this time moving towards his position as the greatest of tenor sax artists; he is an easily recognizable and major asset here, both as a section man and as a soloist – as, for example, on Off to Buffalo. That number and Hop Off also display the driving, slightly acid, New Orleans horn of Tommy Ladnier, who must be counted among the early greats. Swamp Blues includes a stand-out solo from the firm, deep trombone of Jimmy Harrison. These men – and such others as Joe Smith, Buster Bailey and Henderson himself – in their solo turns and as part of the increasingly cohesive teamwork this group was building during this period, help to make this album a valuable cross-section of the formative years of a band that was one of the most important influences jazz has ever known.

   A note on the original recordings. Seven of these selections first appeared Paramount or affiliated labels, the other on Gennett. Their original label and (in parentheses) master numbers are –When You Walked Out : Puritan 11239 (1414-2); Mandy: Para 20367 (1974-2); Prince of Wails: Triangle 1111455 (1973-3); Off to Buffalo were coupled on Para 12486 (2827 and 2828); Hop Off and Rough House Blues were Para 12550 (2859-1 and 2860-2).

   Seven of these selections reissued by special arrangement with Paramount Records and John Steiner. The slight surface noise audible on this LP is due to the limitations of early recording processes; it has not been entirely removed in order to preserve highest fidelity possible and to give more faithful reproduction of original tone qualities.

   Riverside “Jazz Archives” LPs include reissues of the finest and most important early jazz material, the work of many of the greatest jazz names among those featured in this album, Armstrong can be heard on:

Louis Armstrong Plays the Blues – with Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra (RLP 1001)

Louis Armstrong with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band (RLP 1029)

New Orleans Horns (RLP 1005)

… and Ladnier can be heard on:

Tommy Ladnier: Blues and Stomps (RLP 1026)

Tommy Ladnier Plays the Blues (RLP 1044)

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Tape-editing by J. Robert Mantler.

Notes by Orrin Keepnews

Cover art by Robert J. Lee


418 West 49th Street New York 19, N.Y.

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