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

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If Benny Goodman was the "King of Swing," then Fletcher Henderson was the power behind the throne. Not only did Henderson arrange the music that powered Goodman's meteoric rise, he also helped launch the careers of Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins, among others. Now Jeffrey Magee offers a fascinating account of this pivotal bandleader, throwing new light on the emergence of modern jazz and the world that created it. Drawing on an unprecedented combination of sources, including sound recordings, obscure stock arrangements, and hundreds of scores that have been available only since Goodman's death, Magee illuminates Henderson's musical output, from his early work as a New York bandleader, to his pivotal role in building the Kingdom of Swing. He shows how Henderson, standing at the forefront of the New York jazz scene during the 1920s and '30s, assembled the era's best musicians, simultaneously preserving jazz's distinctiveness and performing popular dance music that reached a wide audience. Magee reveals how, in Henderson's largely segregated musical world, black and white musicians worked together to establish jazz, how Henderson's style rose out of collaborations with many key players, how these players deftly combined improvised and written music, and how their work negotiated artistic and commercial impulses. And we see how, in the depths of the Depression, record producer John Hammond brought together Henderson and Goodman, a fortuitous collaboration that changed the face of American music. Whether placing Henderson's life in the context of the Great Migration or the Harlem Renaissance or describing how the savvy use of network radio made the Henderson-Goodman style a national standard, Jeffrey Magee brings to life a monumental musician who helped to shape an era.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 352 pages
  • 154 x 236 x 26mm | 639.58g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • 22 halftones, 122 music examples
  • 0195090225
  • 9780195090222
  • 2,016,619

Review quote

"Magee does an excellent job of placing his subject in the context of uncertain social changes in the African American community. Well researched and highly readable."--Library Journal"An invaluable survey of Henderson's life and music. Detailed analyses of numerous musical scores are juxtaposed against a view of the roller-coaster progress of Henderson's career in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance. Perhaps most important, Magee deals with the complex issue of Henderson's identity as both a creative facilitator of other musicians' efforts and the frustrated composer-arranger of music that was a foundational element in the Swing Era--bringing triumphs that had eluded his groups to leaders such as Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers and Isham Jones."--Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times"Magee paints a vivid portrait of the central figures of early jazz and swing (Louis Armstrong is a 'strong streak of color in a crazy quilt') as well as the business of recording and touring in the 1920s and '30s. While Benny Goodman is lauded as the major force behind the Big Band sound, Magee argues convincingly that Henderson was equally important in 'building the kingdom of swing.''--Publishers Weekly"An invaluable survey of Henderson's life and music. Detailed analyses of numerous musical scores are juxtaposed against a view of the roller-coaster progress of Henderson's career in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance. Perhaps most important, Magee deals with the complex issue of Henderson's identity as both a creative facilitator of other musicians' efforts and the frustrated composer-arranger of music that was a foundational element in the Swing Era--bringing triumphs that had eluded his groups to leaders such as Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers and Isham Jones."--Don Heckman, Los Angeles Timesshow more

About Jeffrey Magee

Jeffrey Magee is an Associate Professor of Musicology at Indiana University. His writings on jazz, ragtime, and American popular song have appeared in American Music, Lenox Avenue, International Dictionary of Black Composers, Musical Quarterly, the Cambridge History of American Music, and the Journal of the American Musicological Society.show more

Rating details

4 ratings
4.25 out of 5 stars
5 25% (1)
4 75% (3)
3 0% (0)
2 0% (0)
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