Sam Wooding

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Sam Wooding
Born(1895-06-17)17 June 1895
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died1 August 1985(1985-08-01) (aged 90)
Occupation(s)Pianist, arranger, bandleader

Sam Wooding (17 June 1895 – 1 August 1985) was an American jazz pianist, arranger and bandleader living and performing in Europe and the United States.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, between 1921 and 1923 Wooding was a member of Johnny Dunn's Original Jazz Hounds,[1] one of several Dunn-led lineups that recorded in New York around that time for the Columbia label.

He led several big bands in the United States and abroad. His orchestra was at Harlem's Smalls' Paradise in 1925 when a Russian impresario booked it as the pit band for a show titled The Chocolate Kiddies, scheduled to open in Berlin later that year, featuring music by Duke Ellington and starring the performers Lottie Gee and Adelaide Hall.[2] While in Berlin, the band, featuring such musicians as Doc Cheatham, Willie Lewis, Tommy Ladnier, Gene Sedric, and Herb Flemming, recorded several selections for the Vox label.

In 1929, with slightly different personnel, Wooding's orchestra made more recordings in Barcelona and Paris for the Parlophone and Pathé labels.

Wooding did return to America in 1934. On 14 February 1934, Wooding and his orchestra were featured at The Apollo theater in Harlem in a Clarence Robinson production titled Chocolate Soldiers, starring the Broadway star Adelaide Hall.[3] The show ran for a limited engagement and was highly praised by the press and helped establish The Apollo as Harlem's premier theater.[4] It was the first major production staged at the newly renovated theater.[5]

Wooding returned to Europe, performing on the Continent, in Russia and England throughout most of the 1930s. Wooding's long stays overseas made him virtually unknown at home, but Europeans were among the staunchest jazz fans anywhere, and they loved what the band had to offer. "We found it hard to believe, but the Europeans treated us with as much respect as they did their own symphonic orchestras," he recalled in a 1978 interview. "They loved our music, but they didn’t quite understand it, so I made it a load easier for them by incorporating such melodies as "Du holder Abendstern" from Tannhäuser - syncopated, of course. They called it blasphemy, but they couldn't get enough of it. That would never have happened back here in the States. Here they looked on jazz as something that belonged in the gin mills and sporting houses, and if someone had suggested booking a blues singer like Bessie Smith, or even a white girl like Nora Bayes, on the same bill as Ernestine Schumann-Heink, it would have been regarded as a joke in the poorest of taste."[6]

Returning home in the late 1930s, when World War II seemed a certainty, Wooding began formal studies of music, attained a degree, and began teaching full-time, counting among his students trumpeter Clifford Brown. He also led and toured with the Southland Spiritual Choir.[7]

In the early 1970s, Sam Wooding formed another big band and took it to Switzerland for a successful concert, but this venture was short-lived.


  1. ^ The Red Hot Jazz Archive: Jazz Hounds discography Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  2. ^ 'Underneath a Harlem Moon ... the Harlem to Paris years of Adelaide Hall' by Iain Cameron Williams. Chapter 6, 'The Chocolate Kiddies Come To Town' - pages 68-87.
  3. ^
  4. ^ 'Underneath a Harlem Moon ... the Harlem to Paris years of Adelaide Hall' by Iain Cameron Williams. page 289.
  5. ^ 'Underneath a Harlem Moon ... the Harlem to Paris years of Adelaide Hall' by Iain Cameron Williams. page 289.
  6. ^ Interview with Chris Albertson for Official Souvenir Program of Spoleto Festival U.S.A. - 1978.
  7. ^ Listing in Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music - Donald Clarke, 1989