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The Walter C. Allen Family Donates Extensive Reference & Research Library to the Fletcher Henderson Museum


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The Allen Family of New Jersey has donated their father, Walter C. Allen's, complete library of materials to the Fletcher Henderson Museum. Walter C. Allen, the foremost authority on the career of Fletcher Henderson, was a jazz historian at the Smithsonian Institute. He was, also, one of the founding members of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University. Mr. Allen's monograph Hendersonia: The Music of Fletcher Henderson and His Musicians is now the authoritative work on Henderson's career.

The Allen Collection includes much on Henderson but, also, vintage sheet music, early recordings, many autographed first-edition books, recorded interviews, musical arrangements, rare photos, piano rolls, vintage magazines, correspondence, portraits of Henderson and Joe “King" Oliver and many one-of-a-kind items.

Fletcher Henderson, who survived discrimination in the music industry as well as in portions of the general public, is considered the Father of Big Band Jazz. Not only did he form the first jazz band, he developed “contrasting motions", “call and response" in jazz and was the first jazz band to play written arrangements. Duke Ellington said, “When I form my band, I want it to sound like Fletcher's." Trumpeter Rex Stewart, who played with both Henderson and Ellington, stated, “Today's jazz listener is likely to be unaware of the huge debt that current music owes to Fletcher. Jazz would not exist in its present form were it not for his many innovations, creations and contributions."

Fletcher's band was a jazz hall of fame. It has been said that, it would be easier to list those who did not play in Henderson's band. At least the list would be shorter. Louis Armstrong, stated that he wasn't ready to leave the band he considered “the world's greatest," but it was either the band or his wife at home in Chicago. Fletcher gave him a farewell party. When he went to thank Henderson for being so kind to him, he was so intoxicated that he vomited on Fletcher's shirt. Fletcher told band member Buster Bailey to take him home and put him to bed. The museum is scheduled to open in Fletcher's hometown of Cuthbert, Georgia in late 2007.

The board of directors, which includes musicians Ahmad Jamal and Don Braden, hopes to make the museum a national destination for viewing rare memorabilia, for scholars and for those who love jazz and history.

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