Luther Henderson

Arranger, Conductor, Musical Director, Musician, Orchestrator, Performer, Writer

Also known as: Luther Henderson, Jr.

Male

Born: March 14, 1919
Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Died: July 29, 2003
New York, New York, USA

Luther Henderson, the musical director, arranger, orcestrator and composer who helped give the distinctive sound to such musicals as Funny Girl, Play On! and Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, died July 29, 2003, after a long battle with cancer, according to colleagues in the theatre community. Mr. Henderson was 84. As dance arranger and/or orchestrator, Mr. Henderson's credits include Flower Drum Song, Do Re Mi, Hallelujah Baby and the revival of No, No, Nanette. He is the arranger of "Three Black Kings," composed by Duke Ellington, originally commissioned by the Dance Theatre of Harlem as Les Trois Rois Noirs.

His last work heard in New York City theatre were his orchestrations and arrangements for Little Ham, the Harlem-set musical inspired by a Langston Hughes play. It played Off-Broadway's John Houseman Theatre in 2o02 and a recording preserves his contribution.

In Off-Broadway and regional theatre, Mr. Henderson was the composer for the Amas Theatre production of The Crystal Tree and was musical supervisor, orchestrator, and arranger for The All Night Strut! at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., and for Jazzbo Brown in New York City.

His work over a long career included composing, arranging, conducting, and performing. According to his bio, he has worked on more than two dozen Broadway productions in various capacities. For Ain't Misbehavin' he was the original pianist as well as orchestrator, arranger and musical supervisor. For Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music on Broadway he was the musical consultant and arranged several selections.

Mr. Henderson orchestrated and co-composed the music of Jelly Roll Morton for Jelly's Last Jam (and was Tony Award-nominated for Best Score). In the inaugural year of the Tony for Best Orchestrations, he was nominated for his work on Play On!, the Jazz Age take on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

As early as 1946, he was one of the orchestrators for Broadway's Beggar's Holiday. In 1943, he performed, arranged and orchestrated the music for the pre-Broadway tryout of Tropical Review, seen in Toronto.

Mr. Henderson was said to have counted his work with Duke Ellington, Andre Kostelanetz, Jules Styne, Carol Haney, Richard Rodgers, Polly Bergen and Lena Horne as the most important milestones of his career, according yo a biographical webpage about him maintained by Canadian Brass, with whom he was a collaborator.

Mr. Henderson's work has also been heard on television. For NBC-TV he served as musical director, orchestrator, arranger, and pianist for the Columbia Pictures television special "Ain't Misbehavin'," for which he received an Emmy Award nomination. In addition, he worked on the Emmy Award-winning special "The Helen Morgan Story," starring Polly Bergen, as well as "The Bachelor," "The First Victor Borge Special," "The Second Victor Borge Special," and for PBS (WNET), "The V.D. Blues."

For film, Mr. Henderson was the composer and orchestrator for "Recess" and "The Slams."

Among his many albums are several with the Canadian Brass and Eileen Farrell's famous "I Got a Right to Sing the Blues," re-released in 1992. For Columbia Records, the Luther Henderson Orchestra recorded six albums. In addition, Mr. Henderson has contributed to various albums recorded by the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, Mandy Patinkin, Polly Bergen, Anita Ellis and others.

Mr. Henderson's composition "Ten Good Years" with lyricist Martin Charnin was recorded by Nancy Wilson on her "Coconut Grove" album.

He was born Luther Lincoln Henderson in 1919 to a father of the same name who was an actor and educator and a mother, Florence Black, who was also an educator. Mr. Henderson, a graduate of Evander Childs High School in New York City, was a math major at the College of the City of New York (1936-38) and eventually earned a B.S. in music and the Juilliard Institute of Musical Art in 1942. He also attended New York University's Graduate School of Music 19046-47.

His wife, actress-director Billie Allen, survives him.

 

Roles

Playbill Cover - Play On! Play On!
Mar. 20, 1997 - May 11, 1997
Musical Supervisor
(Original)
Who's Who
    Music Arrangements
(Original)
Who's Who
    Orchestrations
(Original)
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - Jelly's Last Jam Jelly's Last Jam
Apr. 26, 1992 - Sep. 5, 1993
Music Adapation
(Original)
 
    Additional Music
(Original)
 
    Music Orchestrator
(Original)
 
    Musical Supervisor
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Black and Blue Black and Blue
Jan. 26, 1989 - Jan. 20, 1991
Additional Orchestrations
(Original)
 
    Additional Arrangements
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Ain't Misbehavin' Ain't Misbehavin'
Aug. 15, 1988 - Jan. 15, 1989
Conductor
(Original)
Who's Who
    Music Arrangements
(Original)
Who's Who
    Music Supervisor
(Original)
Who's Who
    Pianist
(Original)
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - The First The First
Nov. 17, 1981 - Dec. 12, 1981
Dance Arrangements
(Original)
 
    Music Orchestrations
(Original)
 
    Musical Supervisor
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music
May 12, 1981 - Jun. 30, 1982
Music Consultant
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Happy New Year Happy New Year
Apr. 27, 1980 - May 10, 1980
Music Orchestrations
(Original)
 
    Musical Supervisor
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - The American Dance Machine The American Dance Machine
Jun. 14, 1978 - Dec. 3, 1978
Dance Arrangements
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Ain't Misbehavin' Ain't Misbehavin'
May 9, 1978 - Feb. 21, 1982
Music Supervision and Arrangements
(Original)
 
    Music Orchestrations
(Original)
 
    Musical Supervisor
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - So Long, 174th Street So Long, 174th Street
Apr. 27, 1976 - May 9, 1976
Music Orchestrations
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Rodgers & Hart Rodgers & Hart
May 13, 1975 - Aug. 16, 1975
Dance Arrangements
(Original)
 
    Principal Orchestrator
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Doctor Jazz Doctor Jazz
Mar. 19, 1975 - Mar. 22, 1975
Music
(Original)
 
    Incidental Music
(Original)
 
    Dance Arrangements
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Good News Good News
Dec. 23, 1974 - Jan. 4, 1975
Dance and incidental music composed and arranged
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Purlie Purlie
Dec. 27, 1972 - Jan. 7, 1973
Music Orchestrations
(Original)
 
    Dance Arrangements
(Original)
 
    Choral Arrangements
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - That's Entertainment That's Entertainment
Apr. 14, 1972 - Apr. 16, 1972
Music Orchestrations
(Original)
 
    Music Arrangements
(Original)
 
    Musical Director
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Wild and Wonderful Wild and Wonderful
Dec. 7, 1971 - Dec. 7, 1971
Music Orchestrations
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - No, No, Nanette No, No, Nanette
Jan. 19, 1971 - Feb. 3, 1973
Incidental Music
(Original)
 
    Dance Arrangements
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Purlie Purlie
Mar. 15, 1970 - Nov. 6, 1971
Choral Arrangements
(Original)
 
    Music Orchestrations
(Original)
 
    Vocal Arrangements
(Original)
 
    Dance Arrangements
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Golden Rainbow Golden Rainbow
Feb. 4, 1968 - Jan. 11, 1969
Dance Arrangements
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Hallelujah, Baby! Hallelujah, Baby!
Apr. 26, 1967 - Jan. 13, 1968
Dance Arrangements
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - I Had a Ball I Had a Ball
Dec. 15, 1964 - Jun. 12, 1965
Dance Arrangements
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Funny Girl Funny Girl
Mar. 26, 1964 - Jul. 1, 1967
Dance Orchestrations
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Hot Spot Hot Spot
Apr. 19, 1963 - May 25, 1963
Music Arrangements
(Original)
 
    Music Orchestrations
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Bravo Giovanni Bravo Giovanni
May 19, 1962 - Sep. 15, 1962
Dance Music Arrangements and Orchestrations
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Do Re Mi Do Re Mi
Dec. 26, 1960 - Jan. 13, 1962
Music Orchestrations
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Flower Drum Song Flower Drum Song
Dec. 1, 1958 - May 7, 1960
Dance Arrangements
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Ol' Man Satan Ol' Man Satan
Oct. 3, 1932 - Oct. 1, 1932
Disciple Performer
(Original)
 
 

Inside the Playbill (2)

See more Who's Who

Awards


Drama Desk Award

Year Category Production Winner/Nominee
2003 Outstanding Orchestrations Little Ham Nominee
1992 Outstanding Orchestrations Jelly's Last Jam Winner

Tony Award

Year Category Production Winner/Nominee
1997 Orchestrations Play On! Nominee
1992 Original Score Jelly's Last Jam Nominee
 
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