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Saturday, 2 May 2015

Van Alexander born 2 May 1915

Van Alexander (né Alexander Van Vliet Feldman, born May 2, 1915) is an American bandleader, arranger, and composer.

Alexander was born in Harlem and with his mother being a concert pianist, it wasn't a surprise to find him leading bands and arranging music from high school. H
e studied composition in Columbia University. He landed a job selling arrangements to Chick Webb in the middle of the 1930s and is best known for arranging Ella Fitzgerald's career-launching hit A-Tisket A-Tasket, which she recorded on May 2, 1938 with Chick Webb's band. Van arranged the children's song at Fitzgerald's suggestion and wrote the words along with her interchange with the band. Ella then tweaked the lyrics to make them hep. Van is the last surviving member of the Chick Webb organization and a direct link to the big band era before World War II.

Alexander later arranged other nursery rhymes for jazz performance, such as "Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?" and "Got a Pebble in My Shoe".

In the late 1930s he formed his own band and played theatres on radio into the 1940s, later arranging and conducting for radio. He joined ASCAP in 1941. In 1942 Alexander was hired as an arranger by Kay Kyser. He continued, though, to simultaneously lead his own orchestra until 1944, when it finally dissolved. During the remainder of the decade he worked for both Tommy Tucker and Larry Clinton.

Also in the 1940s, he was hired by Bob Crosby to work in Hollywood, and worked extensively as a composer, arranger, and

conductor for film scores. Alexander wrote a textbook on film arrangement in 1950 called First Arrangement, and Johnny Mandel studied under him. Alexander's scores include film noir titles such as Baby Face Nelson, The Big Operator, and The Private Lives of Adam and Eve.

His career was one of the best examples of a big band performer 
switching gears following the end of the Second World War, when most of the large touring musical organizations were collapsing. He was considered something of a genius in the art of "underscoring," or providing the incidental music that goes on in the background of a scene. It is a complicated art form, as on the surface the composer is creating something that nobody really pays attention to. Yet without the music, the scene would fall completely flat. His influence on Hollywood film music is all encompassing.

He arranged and conducted for variety shows starring Mickey Rooney, Gordon MacRae, Dean Martin, and James Stewart. Additionally, he was involved in recording sessions with Kay Starr, Dakota Staton, Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Dinah Shore, Doris Day, and Peggy Lee. In the 1950s he recorded several albums under his own name, backed by studio orchestras.

Here's "A-Tisket A-Tasket" taken from Van's 1959 album "The Home of Happy Feet"

Alexander also provided music for television shows such as Hazel, The Farmer's Daughter, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Dennis the Menace, and The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters (for one episode of which he received a nomination for a 1973 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction of a Variety, Musical or Dramatic Program).

Alexander won several Emmy Awards for his television scores, and was presented with the Henry Mancini Award for Lifetime achievement from ASCAP. (Info edited from various sources including Wikipedia & All Music)

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

In , 2001 EMI released two albums on one compact disc -- Home of Happy Feet (, originally released 1959) and Swing Staged for Sound . You’ll find it here: