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Fletcher Henderson: He’s the Hottest Man in Town

May 3, 2010

Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra
He’s the Hottest Man in Town

Recorded in 1924

Coleman Hawkins was terribly embarrassed whenever he heard one of his old records from the beginning of his career. Sometimes he would flat-out deny that he had played that solo. Other times he would sheepishly declare, “Oh, that was my grandfather.”

This particularly good performance by Fletcher Henderson’s band gives Hawkins a full chorus to demonstrate to us whether he really had anything to be embarrassed about. I think what embarrassed him was that his style changed radically over the years, and a musician is apt to regard his stylistic changes as a course of continuous improvement and discovery. We might hear his early style as something legitimately good in its own right, but to the musician it seems like what he played when he didn’t know any better.

In late 1924, Coleman Hawkins was just coming out of his “chicken tenor” phase and heading toward his “staccato” phase. In this solo, we still hear a bit of poultry-like squawking on the bridge, but the rest of the chorus seems to be headed for something more sophisticated.

I mentioned earlier that I thought Adrian Rollini might have been the world’s best jazz saxophone player in 1924. The obvious competition is Coleman Hawkins, and here’s Hawkins doing some of his very best work. I still stand by my opinion. Hawkins would go on to be the greatest jazz saxophonist of all time; he just wasn’t quite there yet. Rollini, on the other hand, was already in peak form by 1924.

There are other notable musicians on this record, too. The first-rate banjoist Charlie Dixon gets a quarter-chorus solo, and Charlie Green gets a quarter chorus to show us why he might just have been the best jazz trombonist alive in 1924. Louis Armstrong is in this band as well, although he doesn’t get a solo. The arrangement is probably by Don Redman.


From → Jazz

  1. Javier Soria permalink

    Louis Armstrong wasn’t present on the Henderson recordings until the September 29 recording session, where he improvised on “Manda” and “Go’ Long Mule”.

  2. Javier Soria Laso permalink

    An excellent recording with a good charleston rhythm on this Don Redman arrangement.

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