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Don Redman

Don Matthew Redman

Composer, Arranger, Bandleader

(1900 - 1964)

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Don Redman (1900-1964) was a musical prodigy who played the trumpet and all of the wind instruments before he was a teenager. At Storer College in Harpers Ferry he was an honor student, played baseball, basketball, and football, and belonged to several musical groups and the debating team.

After graduation Redman played with Billy Paige’s Broadway Syncopators before joining the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra as arranger, clarinetist and saxophonist. His innovative arrangements elevated the band to prominence and earned him the nickname “Little Genius.” He holds the distinction of being the first jazz arranger for big bands. His ability to write for sections and still allow room for improvisation and his use of the “swing choir” (where the band chants a lyric phrase over the soloist) would be emulated by future band leaders. He was the first to include an oboe in the big band and is credited with the first scat vocal in 1924, “My Papa Doesn’t Two Time.”  

In 1927 Redman became the musical director for McKinney’s Cotton Pickers and in 1931 formed his own orchestra which remained together until 1940. They were even filmed playing Redman’s “Chant of the Weed” for a 1933 Betty Boop cartoon in which Redman had spoken lines and also played his composition “How’m I Doin’?”

Redman also arranged for such luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Paul Whiteman, Ben Pollack, Isham Jones, Bing Crosby, Count Basie, and Jimmy Dorsey. In 1946 he led an all-star band that was the first to tour Europe after WWII. In 1949 his band was featured on a CBS-TV show, and in the ‘50s he became the musical director for Pearl Bailey.

Redman’s best known compositions include “Cherry” (1928), “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” with lyricist Andy Razaf (1929), “Shakin’ the African” (1930), and “Hot and Anxious” (1931). The National Park Service established the Annual Don Redman Heritage Awards & Concert in Harpers Ferry National Park in 2001.

- Sandra Burlingame


Don Redman

Doin' What I Please

Don Redman

Swiss Radio Days, Vol. 11: Live from Geneva 1946

Don Redman

Doin' the New Lowdown

Don Redman

Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You

The Jimmy Rushing All-Stars
Reading and Viewing

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Mae Questel, Ethel Merman, David Rubinoff, Les Reis, Artie Dunn

Betty Boop 4

Republic Pictures

VHS - Includes vocals by Don Redman and accompaniment by his orchestra

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