Widely recognized as one of the founders of big band and swing—especially lauded for establishing the big band reed section—Donald Matthew Redman (“Don”) was an African American composer, arranger, and musician who was among the great jazz artists of the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. Born in Piedmont, West Virginia at the turn of the 20th century, Redman began arranging music and playing a variety of instruments such as the alto saxophone and clarinet at a very young age. His musical career began in 1920 when, after graduating from Storer College, he joined Bill Paige’s Broadway Syncopators. The 1920s was a decade during which he grew as a professional jazz artist under the tutelage of such big band leaders as Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson and William McKinney, and served as clarinetist and arranger for the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra and as music director for William McKinney’s Cotton Pickers. During the 1930s, Redman formed his own orchestra. The last two decades of his musical career witnessed Redman discontinuing his own orchestra and returning to his former position as musical director and arranger for a number of big bands like those of Jimmy Dorsey and Count Basie. The unique improvisation styles that he created during his tenure as arranger, the most well known style being the wailing clarinet trio, contributed greatly to the musical genre.
-written by Felicia Bevel
Don Redman- "The Little Giant of Jazz"
Image Source (Top): - The Jim Cullum Riverwalk Jazz Collection: Stanford University Libraries -