Don Redman is considered the first jazz composer/arranger by many. He was also the first musician with both the inspiration and academic knowledge for this style of music. In short, he invented jazz writing for the big band, not only writing separate parts for reed and brass choirs, leaving room for hot solos, but putting sections in opposition which solved the problems of the new style, thus showing everyone else how to do it.
His brother led a band in Cumberland, Maryland and his father was a noted music teacher and had performed in a brass band. His mother was a singer. Don began playing the trumpet at the age of three, joined his first band at 6 and by the age of 12 was proficient on all wind instruments including the oboe.
Don studied music at Storer's College in Harper's Ferry and conservatories in Boston & Chicago. He joined Billy Paige's Broadway Syncopators and traveled to New York with them in 1923. Redman's first recording sessions were in 1923, with Fletcher Henderson, he joined Henderson's band in 1924, as a reed player and staff arranger and stayed with the unit until 1927. During the early twenties Redman also recorded with many other jazz and blues greats including Clarence Williams and Bessie Smith.
In 1927, Don joined McKinney's Cotton Pickers in Detroit as the leader and musical director, remaining in that position for four years. This band at one point included such jazz legends as Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter and Fats Waller. Always in demand as an arranger, Redman recorded some sessions with Louis Armstrong in 1928.