Fletcher Henderson: Ken Burns Jazz

Rating: A-

Columbia Legacy

The PBS documentary series “Jazz”, by Ken Burns, has brought with it a series of CD anthologies. 22 different CDs spotlight some of the artists that are featured in the documentary. But the one that I had to pick up the day it hit the store, was this Fletcher Henderson collection. Largely ignored by the world of reissue CDs, Henderson’s music has been hard to come by, but thanks to Ken Burns this legend is easily accessible once again. Henderson and his orchestra helped pioneer the style that so many famous named orchestras would later emulate and eventually call Swing. From the mid 1920’s through the 30’s, Henderson’s orchestras played host to some of the most well known musicians to hit the Jazz world, many of which would garner great success in their own right.

Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldrige, Art Blakey, Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong were among some of the great musicians that all took part in Henderson’s big bands. The songs on this collection echo the days of the Harlem Renaissance and belie its’ significance to the history of Jazz, instead we are given a glimpse into a dance music that conveyed a more innocent past. Amongst the 25 tracks is the Henderson standards, “King Porter Stomp”, “Shanghai Shuffle”, “Christopher Columbus” and others that would become the standards by which the Swing era would be gauged.