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James Melvin "Jimmie" Lunceford (Fulton6 June 1902 - SeasideOregonJuly 12, 1947) was an American saxophonist and jazzbig band-leader in Swing. His orchestra played songs with original arrangements and often funny lyrics and was one of the bands of the 1930s. Lunceford was incorporated into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.


[hide]*1 the beginning

The beginning[Edit]Edit

Lunceford in Denver went to high school and studied with the father of the later famous band leader Paul Whiteman and at Fisk University. In 1922, he played in a band, where Andy Kirk also was active, and in the following years, he played with Elmer Snowden and Wilbur Sweatman. In 1927, he taught at a school in Memphis and founded a band with students on Chickasaw Syncopators, which, a few years later was renamed Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra.

Cotton Club[Edit]Edit

The Orchestra toured (inter alia in Cleveland and Buffalo) and made several recordings (the first in 1927). In 1934, the band was booked by the famous Cotton Club in HarlemNew York City, to replace the Cab Calloway's Orchestra. The new house band grew in the following years into a successful act. The Orchestra formed a cohesive unit, had good musicians, the music and lyrics were often humorous and the show was colorful, with costumes and funny lash out at the ' white ' orchestras. The Orchestra was more known for its ensemble than to his solo work: the solos were always short. The ' Lunceford-style ' (among other things the use of a two-beat-rhythm) was partly due to the inventive and original arrangements by trumpeter Sy Oliver. Commission determines the sound was the deployment of trumpeters who played high notes, such asTommy Stevenson-Lunceford was the first bandleader who did that. Musicians who played with Lunceford included Willie Smith (the leader of the saxophone-section), Trummy YoungJoe Thomas, singer Than Grissom and (later) Gerald Wilson and Snooky Young. Lunceford played himself not usually, but was limited to leading the band, with a baton. On some recordings he played on the flute. The band also played for years in Apollo Theater and was one of the most popular groups under the 'blacks'. In the heyday of the band, the Orchestra was bracketed with that of Duke EllingtonCount Basie and Earl Hines.


The Orchestra took different plates on for Victor and Deccathen made plates, for which she scored a series of hits, such as "Mood Indigo", "Black and Tan Fantasy" (both Ellington-numbers) and "Rhythm Is Our Business", which was the theme song of the band. In 1938 Lunceford plates went for a sublabel of ColumbiaVocalion. Because of disappointing revenue dropped Lunceford returned back to the Group and Vocalion Decca.

The last years[Edit]Edit

In 1937 the group toured extensively in Europe, but a second tour had to because of the outbreak of the Second World War be called off. In that same year, Sy Oliver to the Tommy Dorseyband, probably because he was better paid than at Lunceford. He was replaced by Gerald Wilson. Other musicians have left for that reason Lunceford's Orchestra, like Tommy Stevenson (in 1936) and Willie Smith (1942). In 1947, when he was still popular, Jimmie Lunceford died during a signatures-session to a cardiac arrest. Possible he is poisoned in a seafood restaurant by the owner who was angry that he had to serve a ' Negro ': other band members have become sick after dinner. After his death kept Ed Wilcox and Joe Thomas the Orchestra continued standing and made this even more recordings.

' New ' Lunceford Orchestra and festival[Edit]Edit

In 1999 the band leader Robert Veen Initiative undertook to get permission and arrangements of the original Orchestra charts can be used. Debuted In 2005 the The Jimmy Lunceford Legacy Orchestra at the North Sea Jazz Festival.

In 2007 a Jimmy Lunceford Jamboree Festival started, held in Memphis.

Discography (selection)[Edit]Edit

  • The Uncollected Jimmie Lunceford and His Harlem Express (live recordings 1944), Hindsight, 1985
  • 1930-1934Chronological Classics, 1990
  • 1934-1935, Classics, 1990
  • 1935-1937, Classics, 1990
  • 1937-1939, Classics, 1990
  • 1939, Classics, 1990
  • 1939-1940, Classics, 1991
  • Rhythm is Our BusinessASV/Living Era, 1992
  • 1940-1941, Classics, 1992
  • Stomp It Off (best Decca Recordings), GRP, 1992 (' Allmusic album pick ')
  • For Dancers Only (Decca Recordings 1935-1937), GRP, 1994
  • Volume 1 (1927-1934), Masters of Jazz, 1995
  • Volume 2 (1934), Masters of Jazz, 1995
  • 1941-1945, Classics, 1996
  • Masterpieces, vol. 9EPM, 1996
  • Andrew: Jimmie Lunceford, GRP, 1998
  • 1945-1947, Classics, 2000
  • Lunceford Special: 1939-1940Columbia, 2001
  • 1948-1949 (Lunceford Orchestra recordings after death), Classics
  • 1943-1945 Broadcasts, Soundcraft, 2001
  • Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra, vol. 1Black & Blue, 2002
  • Anthology 1934-1942Cabu, 2007


  • Eddie DetermeyerRhythm is Our Business: Jimmie Lunceford and the Harlem Express. The University of Michigan Press, 2006.

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