The Big Band era is remembered not just because of the melody of the music, or the interest of the lyrics, but also because of the arrangments used by the Big Bands. Yet, curiously, the names of most all the great arrangers remain in total obscurity.
Here is one list of pioneering Big Band arrangers I was able to uncover;
1. Ferdé Grofé (1892-1972), “The Father of Arranging” worked with Paul Whiteman.
2. Bill Challis (1904-) with Paul Whitman and Frankie Trumbauer, Jean Goldkette Orchestras.
3. Don Redman (1900 – 1964) first with Fletcher Henderson, then with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers.
4. John Nesbit who arranged for McKinney`s Cotton Pickers and Fletcher Henderson
5. Gene Gifford, for the Casa Loma Orchestra.
6. Russ Morgan (1904-1969) worked for Jean Goldkette Orch., later own band.
7. Roy Bargy (1894-1974), worked with Paul Whiteman.
8. Fud Livingston, for Whiteman, Trumbauer and others.
9. Lennie Hayton (1908-1971) with Paul Whiteman.
10. Jelly Roll Morton (1890 – 1941) wrote the arrangements for his Red Hot PeppersHere are a few.
Plus, these arrangers with the Big Bands in the 40’s and beyond;
Sy Oliver provided Tommy Dorsey with the fabulous arrangment for “On The Sunny Side Of The Street.”
Duke Ellington had Billy Strayhorn. “Take The A Train” for example.
Benny Goodman’s swing sound was by Fletcher Henderson. Many credit Fletcher’s arrangment..as the reason Goodman was crowned “The King of Swing.”
Later, Benny had Eddie Sauter. Pianist Mel Powell also made significant contributions. Sauter later wrote for the wonderful and often overlooked Ray McKinley band of the late ’40s.
Glenn Miller had Bill Finegan and Jerry Gray. Finegan later wrote for Tommy Dorsey, and then teamed up with Sauter for the also often overlooked Sauter-Finegan band.
Gil Evans wrote some extraordinary beautiful things for Claude Thornhill.
Count Basie used many arrangers, in the ’60s he used Neal Hefti.
Stan Kenton had Pete Rugulo.
Frank Sinatra offers a perfect example of an arranger’s importance.
As a singer with Tommy Dorsey, and later on Columbia, Axel Stordahl fashioned some sweet, simple arrangements for him that perfectly framed Sinatra as a sweet, sensitive, vulnerable young man.
When that phase petered out, Frank re-invented himself as a hip, swinging, “with it” guy with arrangements by Nelson Riddle and Billy May.
Can you add any others?