Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Boniface Ferdinand Leonardo De Franco...

... was better known as Buddy De Franco, the greatest jazz clarinetist after Goodman.

In a way, that superlative is damning with faint praise, because after all, how many have there been? The liner notes to "Mr. Clarinet," one of De Franco's albums from the 50s, state: "It's the stepchild of jazz, the clarinet, and it is curious why this should be so– but true it is."

If one were to speculate on what killed the jazz clarinet, the suspects might include bebop, or the saxophone... but really, those both amount to pinning it on Charlie Parker, and I don't believe he did the crime... though he was capable: even a gifted bopper like De Franco was no match for Bird. My own theory is that it was the LP. Let's face it: the clarinet's tone usually wears out its welcome after a couple of tunes. Mind you, with sidemen like Kenny Drew and Art Blakey, Buddy's welcome was more durable than most.

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