A (Brief) History of the Jazz Clarinet and its Fundamental Players

This is a work in progress. I want to learn more about styles of music that I do not play. Jazz is one of them. My studio is heavily classical based. We all play Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms sonatas and concertos (which are wonderful teaching tools in my opinion) and we play the standard of clarinet rep (Stravinsky, Copland, Debussy, etc) I love my clarinet professor and he has taught me so much, but I would love to learn more on secondary techniques and jazz. 


New Orleans seems to be the birthplace, like jazz, of jazz clarinet. Some characteristics include the “talking” style/sounds, richness of chalumeau and a “rounded” sound. Lorenzo Tio and his father and grandfather brought classical music theory to ragtime, blues and jazz musicians down south. Many reed players studied with him. Their method of playing was the double lip embouchure and soft reeds that allowed complete control of sound, pitch and effects. Sidney Bechet was said to have been the first jazz musician to have a fully developed solo style. (Alto Sax) Often clarinetists were saxophone doublers. Johnny Dodds recording with Armstrong’s Hot Fives is influential. The clarinet starts to become more common and used in professional recordings.  The jazz clarinet travels to Chicago in 1928 with Jimmie Noone, who was known for rapid triplet figurations, flexiblity between the registers of the clarinet and impecable technique. He took lessons from Franz Schoepp. Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw are two extremely popular jazz clarinetists. The Goodman Quartet is one of the most important small groups in the history of jazz clarinet. Goodman also leads the first All Jazz Concert in Carnegie Hall. Artie Shaw later preforms The Blues at Carnegie Hall.

Lorenzo Tio

Leon Roppolo

Sidney Bechet

Benny Goodman- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2S1I_ien6A

Artie Shaw

Buddy DeFranco


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