Donald Matthew Redman (July 29, 1900 – November 30, 1964) was an American jazz musician, arranger, bandleader and composer.
Redman was announced as a member of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame on May 6, 2009.
Redman was born in Piedmont, West Virginia. His father was a music teacher, his mother was a singer. Don began playing the trumpet at the age of 3, joined his first band at 6 and by age 12 he was proficient on all wind instruments ranging from trumpet to oboe as well as piano. He studied at Storer's College in Harper's Ferry and at the Boston Conservatory, then joined Billy Page's Broadway Syncopaters in New York City. (He was the uncle of saxophonist Dewey Redman, and thus great-uncle of saxophonist Joshua Redman and trumpeter Carlos Redman.)
In 1923 Don Redman joined the Fletcher Henderson orchestra, mostly playing clarinet and saxophones. He soon began writing arrangements, and Redman did much to formulate the sound that was to become big band Swing. (It is significant to note that with a few exceptions, Henderson did not start arranging until the mid-1930s. Redman did the bulk of arrangements (through 1927) and after he left, Benny Carter took over arranging for the Henderson band.)
His importance in the formulation of arranged hot jazz can not be overstated; a chief trademark of Redman's arrangements was that he harmonized melody lines and pseudo-solos within separate sections; for example, clarinet, sax, or brass trios. He played these sections off each other, having one section punctuate the figures of another, or moving the melody around different orchestral sections and soloists. His use of this technique was sophisticated, highly innovative, and formed the basis of much big band jazz writing in the following decades.
In 1927 Jean Goldkette convinced Redman to join the Detroit, Michigan-based band McKinney's Cotton Pickers as their musical director and leader. He was responsible for their great success and arranged over half of their music (splitting the arranging duties with John Nesbitt through 1931). Redman was occasionally featured as their vocalist, displaying a charming, humorous vocal style.
Redman then formed his own band in 1931 (featuring, for a time, Fletcher Henderson's younger brother Horace on piano), which got a residency at the famous Manhattan jazz club Connie's Inn. Redman's band got a recording contract with Brunswick Records and a series of radio broadcasts. Redman and his orchestra also provided music for the animated short I Heard, part of the Betty Boop series produced by Fleischer Studios and distributed by Paramount. Redman composed original music for the short, which was released on September 1, 1933.
The Brunswick records Redman made between 1931-1934 were some of the most complex pre-swing hot jazz arrangements of popular tunes. Redman's band didn't rely on just a driving rhythm or great soloists, but it had an overall level of arranging sophistication that's unlike anyone else of the period.
Notable musicians in Redman's band included Sidney De Paris, trumpet, Edward Inge, clarinet, and singer Harlan Lattimore, who was known as "The Colored Bing Crosby". On the side Redman also did arrangements for other band leaders and musicians, including Paul Whiteman, Isham Jones, and Bing Crosby.
In 1933, his band made a Vitaphone short film for Warner Bros. which is available as of 2006 on the DVD of the Busby Berkeley feature film Dames.
Redman recorded for Brunswick through 1934. He did a number of sides for ARC in 1936 (issued on their Vocalion, Perfect, Melotone, etc.) and in 1937, he pioneered a series of swing re-arrangements of old classic pop tunes for the Variety label. His use of a swinging vocal group (called "The Swing Choir") was very modern and even today, a bit usual, with Redman's sophisticated counter-point melodies. He signed with Bluebird in 1938 and recorded with them until 1940, when he disbanded.
In 1940 Redman disbanded his orchestra, and concentrated on freelance work writing arrangements. Some of his arrangements became hits for Jimmy Dorsey, Count Basie, and Harry James. He appeared on Uptown Jubilee on the CBS Television network for the 1949 season. In the 1950s he was music director for singer Pearl Bailey.
In the early 1960s he played piano for the Georgia Minstrels Concert and soprano sax with Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle's band.
Don Redman died in New York City on November 30, 1964.
Donald Matthews Redman, conocido como Don Redman (Piedmont, Virginia Occidental, 29 de julio de 1900 - Nueva York, 30 de noviembre de 1964 ) fue un arreglista, compositor, director de orquesta, cantante, clarinetista, oboísta y saxofonista estadounidense de jazz tradicional y swing.
Tras realizar estudios musicales con su padre, y cen varios conservatorios, se traslada a Nueva York en 1923, para tocar con la orquesta de Billy Paige. En 1924 entra a trabajar en la big band de Fletcher Henderson, con quien realiza sus primeras grabaciones. Procedente de una ciudad con fuerte arraigo del blues (Blues de Piedmont), Redman acompañará a las mejores cantantes del género: Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Ethel Waters... En 1925 grabará un par de sesiones con Duke Ellington.
En 1927 se traslada a Detroit, para dirigir a los McKinney's Cotton Pickers, con quienes permanece hasta 1931, logrando un gran éxito. En 1931, regresa a Nueva York y forma su propia banda, con músicos de los Cotton Pickers. Con esta orquesta, permanecerá como fijo en el Connie's Inn, hasta 1940, con un enorme éxito que se plasma en programas de radio y grabaciones.
Paralelamente, realiza arreglos para las bandas de músicos como Louis Armstrong (1928), Paul Whiteman, Ben Pollack, Isham Jones y Bing Crosby, además de colaborar en grabaciones con Fats Waller y Billie Holiday. A partir de 1941 abandona su papel como director de orquesta, y se centra en la realización de arreglos para Count Basie, Jimmy Lunceford, Cab Calloway y Jimmy Dorsey. Puntualmente retoma su banda para realizar giras (1943, 1946). En 1949 graba junto a Sonny Rollins y realiza diversos programas de televisión. Pero a partir de 1955, comienza a ser cada vez más inusual su presencia en los escenarios, hasta su fallecimiento.
Redman es una figura esencial en el desarrollo del jazz. Dominador de la escena neoyorkina en los años 1930, su estilo de arreglos, planteado en su estancia con Henderson, influenció a todas las orquestas de la época y supuso el paso del jazz tradicional a la modernidad. Creó las relaciones entre secciones de metales que aún hoy se mantiene como fórma básica de los arreglos para big band, 1 y fue además un compositor notable, con temas que han permanecido en el jazz de las siguientes décadas. Inventó también una fórmula orquestal de coro vocal al unísono, contestando a la voz solista, que luego fue explotado al máximo por Tommy Dorsey con Frank Sinatra. También como cantante y solista instrumental, fue un músico notable.
Don Redman era tío del también saxofonista Dewey Redman y, por tanto, tío-abuelo de Joshua Redman.