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Albert Nicholas

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A superb clarinetist with an attractive mellow tone, Albert Nicholas had a long and diverse career but his playing was always consistently rewarding. He studied with Lorenzo Tio, Jr. in New Orleans, and played with cornet legends Buddy Petit, King Oliver, and Manuel Perez while in his teens. After three years in the Merchant Marines, he joined King Oliver in Chicago for much of 1925-1927, recording with Oliver's Dixie Syncopators. He spent a year in the Far East and Egypt, arriving in New York in 1928 to join Luis Russell for five years. Nicholas, who had recorded in several settings in the 1920s, sounded perfectly at home with Russell, taking his solos alongside Red Allen, J.C. Higginbottham, and Charlie Holmes. He would later re-join Russell when the pianist had the backup orchestra for Louis Armstrong a few years later, and Nicholas also worked with Jelly Roll Morton in 1939 (he had recorded with Morton previously in 1929). Things slowed down for a time in the early '40s, but the New Orleans revival got him working again in the mid-'40s with Art Hodes, Bunk Johnson, and Kid Ory; by 1948, the clarinetist was playing regularly with Ralph Sutton's trio at Jimmy Ryan's. In 1953, Nicholas followed Sidney Bechet's example and moved to France where, other than returning to the U.S. for recording sessions in 1959 and 1960, he happily remained for his final 20 years. ~ Scott Yanow

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27 May 1900 in New Orleans, LA

Years Active:

'20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

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