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Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra


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Paul Whiteman (March 28, 1890 – December 29, 1967) was a popular white American orchestral leader. He was born in Denver, Colorado. After a start as a classical violinist and violist, Whiteman then led a jazz-influenced dance band, which became locally popular in San Francisco, California in 1918. In 1920 he moved his band to New York City where they started making recordings for Victor Records which propelled Whiteman and his band to national prominence. Whiteman became the most popular band leader of the decade. In the late 1920s he recorded for Columbia Records.

In the 1920s and early 1930s Whiteman became widely known as The King of Jazz (see: Jazz royalty). Much of what his band played hasn’t been considered “true” jazz by later generations. Others reject these notions, and regard Whiteman’s music as an interesting development in jazz history. He recorded Hoagy Carmichael singing and playing Washboard Blues to the accompaniment of his orchestra in 1926.[1]

While today most fans of jazz consider improvisation to be essential to the musical style, Whiteman thought the music could be improved by scoring the best of it. Modern revisionists might look back and say “that wasn’t the True Jazz”, but his notions were critically popular and commercially successful at the time. Whiteman’s music was often the first jazz of any form that some people heard.

Duke Ellington wrote in his autobiography: “Paul Whiteman was known as the King of Jazz, and no one as yet has come near carrying that title with more certainty and dignity.”


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