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Story: Study in Frustration
Fletcher Henderson
Story: Study in Frustration
Genres: Jazz, Pop
  •  Track Listings (24) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (24) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #3

Pianist, arranger, and bandleader, Fletcher Henderson led the greatest and most important of the pioneering big bands. And although he boasted such extraordinary sidemen as Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Buster Bailey, ...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Fletcher Henderson
Title: Story: Study in Frustration
Members Wishing: 3
Total Copies: 0
Label: Sony
Release Date: 6/14/1994
Album Type: Box set
Genres: Jazz, Pop
Styles: Swing Jazz, Traditional Jazz & Ragtime
Number of Discs: 3
SwapaCD Credits: 3
UPCs: 074645759623, 074645759647, 746405759623

Pianist, arranger, and bandleader, Fletcher Henderson led the greatest and most important of the pioneering big bands. And although he boasted such extraordinary sidemen as Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Buster Bailey, Rex Stewart, Ben Webster, Chu Berry, Benny Carter, Buster Bailey, Roy Eldridge, and Red Allen, the band's legend and contributions have been eclipsed in the public's consciousness by the great bands of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Benny Goodman, for whom Henderson eventtually worked as an arranger. Formed in 1924 as a dance band, the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra only evolved as a jazz group with the addition of Louis Armstrong as a featured soloist in '25-'26. But the musicians who followed in his footsteps made the group a feature for some of the music's most exciting soloists, and the arrangements of orchestrator Don Redman helped define the standard forms for big band jazz--a form that Henderson and his brother, Horace, helped extend with their subsequent superb charts. Indeed, such comparatively late Henderson recordings as "Christopher Columbus," "Stealin' Apples," and "Queer Notions" are among some of jazz's greatest if least celebrated works. --Fred Goodman

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CD Reviews

Disgraceful mastering of incredible music.
Stephen Espinola | Brooklyn NY | 01/06/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)

"The other reviewers' comments about Fletcher Henderson's music are generally accurate, and I will let those speak for themselves.

This SHOULD be a definitive collection of Fletcher Henderson's music. It is intelligently selected, programmed, and annotated, as was the original issue of this set, in 1961, when it was a box of 4 LPs on the Columbia label. I have that set.

Unfortunately, this 3 CD version suffers from the same EXACT problem as that set and a later (1970's) 2-LP Smithsonian collection based on that set. The mastering on the 1961 version was inexusably bad, the worst I have ever heard on a major-label compilation of recordings of 78's. Amazingly, this set uses the same exact transfer tapes as the original, in spite of the existence of far better source discs.

The original engineer apparently took it upon himself to remove the clicks in the 78's by making small cuts in the tape, which sounds much worse than any original scratches. (Alternately, I suppose the transfer tapes may have been damaged and simply spliced to piece them back together....unlikely given some of the editing choices.) The problem is worst on the earlier material, but the edits continue even through some of the late 1930's recordings.

The result is that band appears to momentarily lose their sense of rhythm: uncannily, in perfect sync. This may account for the descriptions, over the years, of the band lacking a "sense of swing" in the early years. These transfers have been, for the last 44 years, the most accessable and listened-to recordings of the early orchestra. In addition, some pretty lousy EQ'ing was done on many of these recordings, making them sound much tinnier than necessary.

For comparison, listen to a 3-CD collection called "The Complete Louis Armstrong with Fletcher Henderson" on the Canadian Forte Records label, mastered, masterfully, by John R.T. Davies. Compare take 4 of "Alabamy Bound" on that collection (disc 2, #22) with the same exact performance of "Alabamy Bound" on this set (disc 1 #8). The Forte transfer is has a full frequency range (given that it is a 1925 acoustic recording) and no edits. The Columbia transfer sounds like an old telephone, and is missing several complete beats from :32 through about :55 in the recording. I count 24 to 28 tracks on the CD with this same editing problem to varying degrees; 4 on Disc 2 are subtle and questionable, and I have nothing to compare them to. That's roughly 40% of the recordings in this collection.

I'm a sensitive guy, but everytime I hear the rhythm skip on this set I feel pummelled. When better transfers exist, there is no excuse for this in such an expensive set by a major label.

This is a complete listing of the tracks where I notice the problems. There may be more skips in each cut than the ones I noted:

Disc 1: 13 problematic tracks.
Shanghai Shuffle (1924) [edit 2:00]
Copenhagen (1924) take 13928 [bands' pauses edited at very end, making band appear to speed up]
Alabamy Bound (1925) [take 4, extreme edits at :32 -:50 & 2:37, poor EQ. This is the worst of a bad lot.]
T.N.T (1925) [poor edits & EQ]
The Stampede (1926) [bad edit at 1:31 etc]
Jackass Blues (1926) [1:22 bad edit]
Henderson Stomp (1926) [bad edit at 2:22]
The Chant (1926) [poor edit at 1:10]
Rocky Mountain Blues (1927) [poor edit at :28 seconds]
St. Louis Shuffle (1927) [poor edit at 2:34]
I'm Coming Virginia (1927) [violent cut at 1:11]
Variety Stomp (1927) [beat missing at 0:13]
St. Louis Blues (1927) [possible minor glitches at 1:26 and 1:37]

Disc 2: Somewhere between 7 and 11 problematic tracks
King Porter Stomp (1928) [edits at :12 and 1:10]
Old Black Joe Blues (1928) [rather abrupt cutoff at end]
Easy Money (1928) [edit at 1:26]
Come On Baby (1928) [edit at :25]
Raisin' The Roof (1929) [minor edit at :23]
Blazin' (1929) [edit at 2:31]
Wang Wang Blues (1929) [are they edits or actually sloppy performance? maybe the latter.]
My Gal Sal (1931) [almost subtle edits at :22, 1:25 and 1:46]
Clarinet Marmalade (1931) [1:22, perhaps?]
Comin' And Goin' (1931) [BAD skip at :03-4 and possibly at 1:25 & 1:56 & 2:21 & 2:56]
Sugar (1931) [possible small jumps at 0:25 and 0:57]

Disc 3: 4 problematic tracks.
Yeah Man (1933) [decently timed but audible edit at 1:57]
Stealin' Apples (1936) [edit at :53 or :54]
Back In Your Own Backyard (1937) [edit at 1:50]
Sing You Sinners (1937) [small edit at 2:06]

Unfortunately, I don't know of another set that is this comprehensive, and I don't even know of a single other set that has _all_ of the listed cuts in one place. The other options tend to be collections with every single take of every single song from a given period. From sampling tracks on Amazon, it appears that the Classics sets actually use some of these same edited versions. As does Ken Burns' recent Henderson collection.

Whoever packaged the set did a beautiful, beyond-fetishistic job of including every single photo and every line of text from the original package. Even notes containing information that was out-of-date after 1961 were re-included and carefully dated: The statement "A tome about Henderson is in the works" was true in 1961, but the book eventually came out, so updated notes correct the information elsewhere. It's too bad that the "authenticity" of the reproduction extended to the wretched sound of the original set.

Buyer beware.

(Update: Decent alternatives to the many of the 1920's era recordings found here are on "The Harmony & Vocalion Sessions, Vols. 1 & 2." These were mastered by John R. T. Davies and sound phenomenal. A few specific performances even overlap with those on this set. It's a better place to start, and has the added benefit of being in print.)"
Rethinking A Lost Genius
Peter Acebal | Christiansburg, VA United States | 12/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Fletcher Henderson was pure and simple the true father of Swing,along with Jelly Roll Morton;actually what Henderson did was to chart Morton's polyphony more effectively than Morton himself did SO this meant that Fletcher put his own ideas over more successfully than Morton articulated his own;Fletcher's strong yet subtle ear and his impeccable taste in arranging is the determining point in the freshness and vitality of his music here;he had an ear for imaginative soloists and Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins are merely two of the parade of ace instrumentalists on hand in this set,-from the early Charleston flavored "Dicty Blues" to Armstrong's precocious choruses on "Sugar Foot Stomp" on to Fletcher's work in the 30s,we are made aware by this set of just how much the Big Band era SHOULD have accorded Fletcher Henderson but that were not to be in a predominantly White band era....this set was actually released a long time ago by Columbia and is herein reissued again,thus,giving a new generation a chance to sample the mind of one of the finest jazz arrangers ever.Bravo!"