Clarinet Jazz: a brief history
A brief history of clarinet jazz
For the 20th century history of the clarinet jazz has played a major part. Adopted by jazz musicians from the birth of the movement, the clarinet continues to play an important part of the modern jazz scene, and some of the most famous clarinet players in history have been jazz musicians.
The clarinet was included in some of the earliest jazz ensembles, especially groups known as ‘Dixieland’ bands. This commonly consisted of clarinet, cornet, baritone, tuba, drums, and piano. The clarinet was in its jazz heyday with the arrival of the Big Bands and ‘Swing Era’, a sound synonymous with the WWII period. This time in jazz is also associated with the most famous jazz clarinetist of all time, Benny Goodman.
Goodman began his professional career at 14 playing in local dancehalls. After a period in Chicago that involved some classic recordings, Goodman moved to New York, where he worked as a freelancer before putting together the first of his jazz bands. Goodman has been credited as being one of the initiators of the Swing Era. He continued to tour and perform for fifty years, and inspired many students to take up the clarinet. Another famous jazz clarinetist was Artie Shaw, a direct contemporary of Goodman’s, and also a band leader and virtuoso jazz clarinetist.
Since the big band era, that clarinet has been eclipsed as a jazz woodwind instrument by the saxophone, though there are some modern day clarinetist who are renowned jazz players, including Alan Barnes in the United Kingdom, Don Burrows in Australia and Eddie Daniels in the US.
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