Don Redman

Picture of Don Redman

Don Redman was a talented musician of many instruments, as well as an innovative arranger and bandleader during the Big Band Era.

Redman was born in West Virginia. His father was a music teacher and his mother was a singer. Don began playing the trumpet at the age of three and joined his first band at the age of six. Think about that! Six years old and in a band! By the age of 12, Redman was proficient on all wind instruments ranging from trumpet to oboe as well and could even play piano.

In 1923, Redman joined the Fletcher Henderson orchestra, mostly playing clarinet and saxophones.  With Fletcher Henderson's band he began writing arrangements. Redman was very influential in establishing the sound that was to become swing.

In 1927, he joined McKinney's Cotton Pickers as their musical director and leader. He was responsible for their great success and arranged over half of their music selection.

Redman then formed the Don Redman Orchestra in 1931. They got a residency at the famous Manhattan jazz club Connie's Inn.  That year Redman also signed with Brunswick Records. The Brunswick records Redman made between 1931–1934 were some of the most complex pre-swing hot jazz arrangements of popular tunes.

Audio of Don Redman and His Orchestra performing "Lazybones"

The band hopped from label to label until 1940 when Redman disbanded the orchestra.  At that point in his career he concentrated on freelance work writing arrangements. Some of his arrangements became hits for Jimmy Dorsey, Count Basie, and Harry James. In the 1950's he was the music director for singer Pearl Bailey.

You can hear Don Redman right here on Swing City Radio.

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.

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