Let’s discuss some ‘bluesy’ clarinetists and/or deep low register players! Here goes…
1. Tony Scott – I like that Tony Scott was a modern jazz era player, classically trained and so forth, who still incorporated into his jazz the spirit of abandon, and some of the timbral/microtonal effects, of early jazz clarinetists. While his focus on hyper physical energy (especially on uptempo tunes) is sometimes a weak point, his blues and ballad playing is some of the best ever. Check out this link for sure!
2. Edmond Hall – I started my love affair with jazz via earlier styles. I heard Benny Goodman, Johnny Dodds, Sidney Bechet and others before I heard Hall…but Hall’s playing is REALLY what got me excited about the instrument! His playing is so fiery and I was only hearing the very delicate side of clarinet at school. His playing with Louis Armstrong’s All Stars on the album “Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography” in particular is AMAZING! It’s clarinet like never before: the instrument is matching the power and brassiness of the brass instruments it’s playing with! Explosive at times, and warm/subtone at others. Check out his playing on this track (start at 02:16 or slightly before):
2. Albert Nicholas – Another clarinetist deserving of more attention. Somewhere between Barney Bigard and Sidney Bechet in tone/approach. Huge low register and a sweeping high register with a touch more sweetness in the tone than some early jazz clarinetists. Sample his huge low register on the melody choruses (starting at the beginning of the track, with Sidney Bechet playing soprano saxbehind him) and his higher register on his solo chorus (starting at 01:18) on the following track. Sidney Bechet also takes some killer blues choruses starting at 2:31 (Nicholas joins him again at 03:07!)! This is BLUES clarinet!
3. Sidney Bechet – the king of wild bluesy clarinet and fast vibrato! He plays with Earl Hines on this one, coming in at 1:06:
4. Barney Bigard – Bigard is, to me, the king of sensual low register clarinetistry. He could also play fast, as he also later does on this track, but check the mood set on this example:
5. Johnny Dodds – Dodds is the quintessential EARLY early jazz clarinet sound! His wide vibrato, wild tone, and bluesy microtonal inflections—and an almost pre-swing/Armstrong, more ragtime-ish rhythmic feel (compare his feel to Armstrong’s on any recording where they play together)—defines that sound, I think, to a lot of people.
6. Pee Wee Russell – I have mixed feelings about Pee Wee. In any case, his style is one of the most eccentric of earlier jazz players, using weird sounds and rhythms. He also played with Monk, etc. Listen to his strange blues solo, starting at 1:23 on the following clip:
7. Jimmy Giuffre – Giuffre is the master of soulful yet quiet low register playing. Listen to his wonderful solo starting at 0:27.
8. Evan Christopher – I know Evan, and he is a master of the blues on clarinet! He knew Tony Scott (and Kenny Davern, etc) and his approach to the blues, though uniquely his own, hints at a nice mix of Scott with Evan’s other early jazz faves (Bechet, Hall, etc). Listen to this!