Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Bob Wilber and the Tuxedo Big Band: Fletcher Henderson’s Unrecorded Arrangements for Benny Goodman

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Short of discovering another batch of previously unissued recordings of the classic late 1930s Goodman big band, the best stroke of fortune in recent years was the unearthing of a number of Fletcher Henderson charts that, for one reason or another, never got past the stage of on-the-gig performance. It took clarinetist Bob Wilber, a lifelong Goodman admirer, to gain access to the scores, find an organized big band with the skill and desire to interpret Henderson’s phrasing faithfully and, with the help of Arbors Jazz, bring the project to fruition.

The 16-piece working swing band that Wilber located had been formed in Toulouse in 1990 by altoman Paul Cheron, and it is encouraging to report that all of the players sound perfectly at home in the swing idiom of the ’30s. Even the ad-lib solos by Coleman Hawkins-inspired tenorman Michel Pastre and trumpeter Jacques Sallent maintain a degree of convincing period authenticity without being imitative. With Wilber’s always formidable clarinet at the helm, the band swings through 16 Henderson charts, inclusive of “Out of Nowhere,” “Thou Swell,” “Sunday,” “Sweet Lorraine,” “S’posin’,” “Sugar” and “Milenberg Joys,” and all with the contagious spirit of the day remarkably preserved. The only non-Henderson arrangement on the disc is the one Wilber outlined for solo clarinet and rhythm on Jerome Kern’s improvisationally challenging “Bojangles of Harlem.”