Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 27 Oct. '13, near Faith SD; d 2 Aug. '66, Lafayette LA) Saxophonist, composer, leader. Attended U of Chicago, where he led a campus band; turned pro and played straight 'sweet' style, later turned towards swing, came to NYC early '44, to the West Coast mid-'45 and entered the history books: from '44 to '47 the Raeburn and Woody Herman bands were playing the best arrangements and employing the best young boppers. Raeburn's sidemen variously incl. Sonny Berman, Al Cohn, Oscar Pettiford, Dodo Marmarosa, drummer Don Lamond, Trummy Young and Johnny Mandel on trombones, trumpeter Benny Harris (b 23 April '19, NYC; co-wrote 'Ornithology' with Charlie Parker); Serge Chaloff, Al Cohn, Hal McKusick and Shelly Manne recorded with the band; others later incl. Buddy DeFranco.

In Aug. '44 the band's book was destroyed by fire; Duke Ellington lent arrangements, but this opportunity to build a new book must have been important. Tadd Dameron, Budd Johnson and Dizzy Gillespie wrote for the band, Dizzy sitting in on records such as his 'Night In Tunisia' (aka 'Interlude'), the same arrangement Earl Hines played. Ed Finckel was important in the swing-band phase, contributing modernistic updates of Basie which he called 'orchestrated Lester' (Young) such as 'Boyd Meets The Duke', which didn't sound like Ellington, and 'Boyd Meets Stravinsky', which did not resemble Igor, but paid tribute to Don Redman's 'Chant Of The Weed'. Milt Kleeb's 'Boyd's Nest' and 'Bobby Socks' (aka 'Bernie's Tune') also come from this period. More contributors were Ralph Flanagan ('Hep Boyds'), George Williams and pianist George Handy (b George Joseph Hendelman, 17 Jan. '20, Brooklyn; d 8 Jan. '97). Williams and Finckel both wrote for Gene Krupa; Williams arr. Raeburn's medley 'Concerto For Duke'; Finckel and Handy were both infl. by Johnny Richards (see his entry) and Handy had studied with Aaron Copland. David Allyn was a good vocalist on the pop side, and Ginny Powell (who married Raeburn) was especially impressive, negotiating Handy's dar- ing versions of 'Temptation', 'Body And Soul' and 'I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me'.

Of all these Handy was the most important; his 'Dalvatore Sally' '46 on Jewel became the band's theme, with unusual colours such as trombones and flutes leading together; and was in fact the first part of a 'jazz symphony', whose other parts were 'Hey Look I'm Dancing', 'Grey Suede, Special Maid' and 'Keef (KeyF)', the last his arrangement of a tune by his wife Flo. McKusick and Handy co-wrote 'Tonsillectomy', Tommy Allison and Frank Socolow playing particularly fine solos, with a lovely theme-based saxophone backing for Allison; Handy's 'Yerxa' and his arr. of 'Temptation' show off the highly refined playing of the band, the latter also evidence of Handy's awareness of Duke Ellington without sounding anything like him. Richards took over from Handy; it is interesting to compare Richards's version of 'Temptation' with Handy's. Mandel wrote 'Eagle Flies', Marmarosa 'Amnesia'; all this and more was first-rate music for a large jazz ensemble, full of changing colours and textures, but it was too good for the marketplace; the 'jazz symphony' was not much good for dancing, which is where the Big Band Era had begun, and not enough fans had learned how to listen to the best music. Raeburn recorded for small labels (Guild, which folded '45 and sold masters to Musicraft, and Jewel on the West Coast) and had a contract with the Standard Transcription Service, which valued Handy's skill, but it was a time when bands were going broke: one of the best bands of the whole era had too short a life and made too few records. Raeburn disbanded '47, re-formed '48--50, sometimes gigged and recorded in NYC as a dance band until the late '50s; he left music and moved to the Bahamas, where Powell died in an accident '59. Reissues: Experiments In Big Band Jazz 1945 on Musicraft and Boyd Meets Stravinsky on Savoy (some duplicated tracks), The Legendary Jubilee Performances and The Transcription Performances on Hep (both '46 with Dizzy, Marmarosa, Lucky Thompson, Allyn, Powell); 1944 and 1944 And 1945 are on Circle (the latter incl. 'Barefoot Boy With Cheek').