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Mr. Clarinet

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Album Review

Over the years, Buddy DeFranco's admirers have often wondered why the clarinet's popularity as a jazz instrument declined considerably after World War II and the swing era — why haven't more improvisers applied Charlie Parker's ideas to the clarinet, and why is the clarinet usually stereotyped as a swing/Dixieland/classic jazz instrument rather than a bebop, post-bop, avant-garde, soul-jazz, or fusion instrument? Perhaps it has something to do with the demands of the clarinet — it is a tough instrument to master, and it becomes even more demanding when you're dealing with the complexities of bop. But those challenges never stopped DeFranco, who was 30 when he recorded Mr. Clarinet for Verve in 1953. By that time, DeFranco was being hailed as "the Charlie Parker of the Clarinet," and he lives up to that title on this excellent album (which boasts Kenny Drew on piano, Milt Hinton on bass, and Art Blakey on drums). Throughout Mr. Clarinet, DeFranco makes the clarinet sound perfectly logical as a bop instrument — which was certainly an innovative thing to do back in the late '40s and early '50s. Whether he is playing original material or standards (including "But Not for Me" and "It Could Happen to You"), DeFranco refuses to let the clarinet's evolution end with Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Sidney Bechet, and Barney Bigard; he has no problem making the clarinet sound relevant to the bebop scene of 1953. (It should be noted that Shaw was also exploring bop on the clarinet in the early '50s, but regrettably, he decided to retire from music in 1955.) Most of the bop-oriented recordings that DeFranco provided in the '50s are well worth owning; Mr. Clarinet (which Verve reissued on CD in 2002) is no exception.

Customer Reviews

cool, cool, cool

Typically, this is presumed to be underestimated considering that most of Defranco's great albums involved the suberb teaming up with vibraphonist, Terry Gibbs, but I beg to differ!!! tracks 4, 6 and 8 are remarkable in their own league. For the serious buyer, I recommend tracks # 5 and # 6-classic!


Born: February 17, 1923 in Camden, NJ

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Buddy DeFranco is one of the great clarinetists of all time and, until the rise of Eddie Daniels, he was indisputably the top clarinetist to emerge since 1940. It was DeFranco's misfortune to be the best on an instrument that after the swing era dropped drastically in popularity and, unlike Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, he has never been a household name for the general public. When he was 14, DeFranco won an amateur swing contest sponsored by Tommy Dorsey. After working with the big bands of Gene...
Full Bio
Mr. Clarinet, Buddy DeFranco
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  • $5.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Bop
  • Released: Jul 1953

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