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Study in Frustration: The Fletcher Henderson Story Box set

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, June 14, 1994
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Editorial Reviews

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Pianist, arranger, and bandleader, Fletcher Henderson led the greatest and most important of the pioneering big bands. And although he boasted such extraordinary sidemen as Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Buster Bailey, Rex Stewart, Ben Webster, Chu Berry, Benny Carter, Buster Bailey, Roy Eldridge, and Red Allen, the band's legend and contributions have been eclipsed in the public's consciousness by the great bands of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Benny Goodman, for whom Henderson eventtually worked as an arranger. Formed in 1924 as a dance band, the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra only evolved as a jazz group with the addition of Louis Armstrong as a featured soloist in '25-'26. But the musicians who followed in his footsteps made the group a feature for some of the music's most exciting soloists, and the arrangements of orchestrator Don Redman helped define the standard forms for big band jazz--a form that Henderson and his brother, Horace, helped extend with their subsequent superb charts. Indeed, such comparatively late Henderson recordings as "Christopher Columbus," "Stealin' Apples," and "Queer Notions" are among some of jazz's greatest if least celebrated works. --Fred Goodman
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 14, 1994)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B0000029ED
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #282,610 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen Espinola on January 5, 2005
Format: Audio CD
The other reviewers' comments about Fletcher Henderson's music are generally accurate, and I will let those speak for themselves.

This SHOULD be a definitive collection of Fletcher Henderson's music. It is intelligently selected, programmed, and annotated, as was the original issue of this set, in 1961, when it was a box of 4 LPs on the Columbia label. I have that set.

Unfortunately, this 3 CD version suffers from the same EXACT problem as that set and a later (1970's) 2-LP Smithsonian collection based on that set. The mastering on the 1961 version was inexusably bad, the worst I have ever heard on a major-label compilation of recordings of 78's. Amazingly, this set uses the same exact transfer tapes as the original, in spite of the existence of far better source discs.

The original engineer apparently took it upon himself to remove the clicks in the 78's by making small cuts in the tape, which sounds much worse than any original scratches. (Alternately, I suppose the transfer tapes may have been damaged and simply spliced to piece them back together....unlikely given some of the editing choices.) The problem is worst on the earlier material, but the edits continue even through some of the late 1930's recordings.

The result is that band appears to momentarily lose their sense of rhythm: uncannily, in perfect sync. This may account for the descriptions, over the years, of the band lacking a "sense of swing" in the early years. These transfers have been, for the last 44 years, the most accessable and listened-to recordings of the early orchestra. In addition, some pretty lousy EQ'ing was done on many of these recordings, making them sound much tinnier than necessary.
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Format: Audio CD
This is a wonderful collection, on two levels. First, it contains five dozen excellent prime big band jazz records from the 1920s and 1930s. It makes for great listening on that basis alone.
On another level, however, "A Study In Frustration" is the story of the evolution of swing music. It begins in 1923. At that time, there were two models to follow, the large dance orchestra, as developed by Paul Whiteman and Ferde Grofe, and the hot jazz band, personified by King Oliver and his protege, Louis Armstrong. Fletcher Henderson and his arranger, Don Redman, started out by using the Whiteman model, but in 1924 Armstrong joined the band for a year and added swing to the mix. Armstrong's influence was absorbed and assimilated by Henderson, Redman, and the many great musicians - listed in the other reviews of this set - that passed through the band.
For a while, the jazz solos swung, but the band as a unit did not. Gradually, the Henderson band got hotter, and the Whiteman model was discarded. A new style of big band music was coming into being. By late 1932, Henderson had become his band's chief arranger. The band could swing as a unit, and the musical basis for the Swing Era was in place. This set clearly shows that evolution.
Henderson did not work in a vacuum, of course. In 1923, Isham Jones's band, influenced strongly by King Oliver, could outswing Henderson's. In addition, Henderson's decade-long growth was paralleled by the growth of the Duke Ellington and Bennie Moten Orchestras, both of which were influenced by Henderson, and both of which in turn influenced the swing style. But it was Fletcher Henderson's style that became the style of a generation of big bands, and which is still vital today. "A Study In Frustration" lets us hear it develop and mature. It is musically satisfying and historically significant.
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Format: Audio CD
Fletcher Henderson was pure and simple the true father of Swing,along with Jelly Roll Morton;actually what Henderson did was to chart Morton's polyphony more effectively than Morton himself did SO this meant that Fletcher put his own ideas over more successfully than Morton articulated his own;Fletcher's strong yet subtle ear and his impeccable taste in arranging is the determining point in the freshness and vitality of his music here;he had an ear for imaginative soloists and Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins are merely two of the parade of ace instrumentalists on hand in this set,-from the early Charleston flavored "Dicty Blues" to Armstrong's precocious choruses on "Sugar Foot Stomp" on to Fletcher's work in the 30s,we are made aware by this set of just how much the Big Band era SHOULD have accorded Fletcher Henderson but that were not to be in a predominantly White band era....this set was actually released a long time ago by Columbia and is herein reissued again,thus,giving a new generation a chance to sample the mind of one of the finest jazz arrangers ever.Bravo!
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
What a great musician and song writer. I am proud to own this album by this gentleman. A crying shame he didn't get the recognition he so greatly deserved. I expect to have many hours of pleasure listening to these great selections.
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