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Bennie Moten's Orchestra, c. 1926-27 MMF Photo Collection, #146

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Bennie Moten Band, 1924-28

Once established, the Moten band grew steadily into a full size band. After taking over management of Paseo Hall, Moten expanded the band to eight pieces. Harry Cooper joined on cornet and Harlan Leonard on alto saxophone. Leonard studied with Major N. Clark Smith and William Dawson at Lincoln High School. An aspiring engineer, he studied math and engineering at college, while playing on the side with George E. Lee. The addition of Cooper and Leonard allowed Moten to organize the band into sections, creating a more sophisticated orchestral expression of jazz.

The Moten band recorded two more sessions for the Okeh label before switching to the Victor label in 1926. The eleven piece band toured the Midwest and East Coast in 1928, playing the same venues as white bands in the Victor roster. The band wrapped up the tour with engagements at the Lafayette Theater and Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. The dancers in Harlem loved the band's western, stomp-down style because it differed from Fletcher Henderson, Duke Elllington and other New York bands. Ironically, Moten began moving the band to a smoother, highly orchestrated style modeled after the East Coast bands.

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