Playlist: Beyond the Big Band... The Clarinet in Jazz


Listen to our jazz clarinet playlist!

News | Nov, 15th 2019

The jazz clarinet was crucial to the sound of early jazz music and the Swing Era. Many pioneers of New Orleans jazz like Johnny Dodds, Jimmie Noone, and Sidney Bechet put out some of the earliest jazz clarinet recordings, which helped spread jazz across the country. Working with legends like Kid Ory, King Oliver, and Louis Armstrong, these clarinetists played an integral role in defining the sound of jazz as we know it today. These musicians had a direct influence on the Swing Era of jazz as well: Dodds and Noone spent much of their careers in Chicago, the home to young clarinetist Benny Goodman. As swing overtook the American soundscape, big bands led by clarinetists like Goodman and Artie Shaw came to prominence.

Eventually, as the Swing Era faded and bebop took hold, the clarinet practically disappeared and the saxophone became the dominant reed instrument in jazz. Some musicians who primarily played clarinet adapted—Benny Goodman had a good few years as a bop player—but  the instrument mainly served as a double in the toolkit of multi-reedists. It wasn’t until recently that the clarinet began to play a significant role in jazz again. Nowadays, the clarinet is making a resurgence in the hands of musicians like Anat Cohen and through the continued excellence of artists like Don Byron.

Enjoy listening to this curated playlist, featuring some of the greats of the jazz clarinet!




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