For collectors of oldies hit singles transformed into mp.3 format it is indeed frustrating to see an artist represented in several otherwise excellent CDs, but not one among them offering all their hits in one volume - especially when they only had a relatively small number. Such is the case with Jazz giant Donald Matthew Redman, born in Piedmont, West Virginia on July 29, 1900.
Accomplished on just about every instrument imaginable by the time he was a teenager, he came by his love of music honestly, as his mother did some singing and his dad was a local music teacher. He furthered his education through studies at Storer's College in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia and then the Boston Conservatory of Music. After his professional debut in New York with Billy Page's Broadway Syncopators in the early 1920s, he joined the Fletcher Henderson orchestra where, for the most part early on, he played clarinet or saxophone.
However, it wasn't too long before Henderson handed over the arranger task to Redman and it is now generally accepted by historians that he was the one who turned them into becoming the first true "swing band" of that era with his complex arrangement. This involved having the melody constantly shift around various complete sections (clarinet, brass, saxophone) and even soloists, thereby introducing what would become later known as "the battle of the bands" into similar competitions within a single orchestra. This technique can be heard in such Henderson hits as Sugar Foot Stomp, Carolina Stomp and Dinah, where Louis Armstrong can be heard on cornet. .
He then joined Bill McKinney's Cotton Pickers in the same capacity in 1927, directing the band while playing mainly alto sax, and even doing some singing in his easy laid-back and often humorous style that was as unique for its time as were his sophisticated arrangements. Finally, in 1931, he formed his own band and got a recording deal with Brunswick, with whom he remained through to 1934. That year he moved over to the ARC consortium of labels where, to 1938, he cut discs for their Perfect, Vocalion, Mellotone and Variety outlets (just two in January 1934 and none until May 1936), before joining Bluebird in 1938 where he would record through to 1940. .
These are the selections featured in these three separate volumes from the France-based Classics Jazz with quite good sound reproduction and informative notes by European Jazz historian Anatol Schenker. The first volume contains his first three hits for Brunswick, and in this second release you get both sides of his 4th and 5th hits for that label: Sophisticated Lady - # 19 June 1933 on Brunswick 6560 b/w That Blue Eyed Baby From Memphis; and Lazy Bones with vocal by Harlan Lattimore - # 4 (his best ever) August 1933 on Brunswick 6622 b/w Watching The Knife And Fork Spoon. His last two hits and their B-sides for Variety and Bluebird are found in the third volume.
Other musician/vocalists employed by Redman: trombonists Claude Jones, Gene Simon, Fred Robinson and Benny Morton; trumpeters Langston Curl, Reunald Jones, Henry "Red" Allen, Shirley Clay and Sidney DeParis; pianist Don Kirkpatrick; drummer/vibraphonist Manzie Johnson; guitarist/banjo player Talcott Reeves; clarinetists Jerry Blake (also alto & baritone sax); Edward Inge, Rupert Cole (also alto sax); saxophonists Harvey Boone (alto & baritone), Robert Carroll (tenor) and Bob Ysaguirre (baritone); vocalists Harlan Lattimore and Chick Bullock).
Along the way Redman also did arranging by request from such as Bing Crosby, Isham Jones and Paul Whiteman, and after he folded his own band in 1940 he did the same for Count Basie, Jimmy Dorsey and Harry James, and in the earliest days of TV he appeared on CBS's Uptown Jubilee (1949). In the early 1950s he was hired as musical director by the legendary Pearl Bailey, and backed her on her 1952 hit Takes Two To Tango on Coral, which featured trumpet player Taft Jordan. As late as the early 1960s he was called upon to play piano at a Georgia Minstrels concert as well as soprano sax for the bands of Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle, all clear illustration of the esteem in which he was held.
Small wonder he was inducted posthumously into the West Virginia Music Hall Of Fame on May 6, 2009, some 45 years after his death in New York at age 64 on November 30, 1964.