Personalities | Charlie Barnet | Forties | Jazz & Blues

(Various saxophones, 1913–91)

Charlie Barnet led a successful big band from 1933 until the late 1940s and was one of the earliest white bandleaders to employ black musicians, beginning with Benny Carter as a guest soloist and arranger in 1934. He introduced singer Lena Horne as an unknown in 1941 and featured many notable musicians in his line-ups. His style was based on an energized Basie-like riff formula, but he was also an undisguised admirer of Duke Ellington, and attempted to graft elements of the Ellington band’s sophisticated harmonies into his own band arrangements.

He is best remembered for Billy May’s arrangement of the much-covered ‘Cherokee’ in 1939, but enjoyed a number of hits with other riff-based favourites, including ‘Pompton Turnpike’ and ‘Redskin Rhumba’, both from 1940. Like Harry James, he attempted to move into acting, and was also involved in the restaurant business, but continued to perform intermittently until the 1970s.

Styles & Forms | Forties | Jazz & Blues
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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


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