Famous Clarinet Players
Although first used in orchestral music, the clarinet has been used in a number of other genres, perhaps most notably jazz. Some of the most famous clarinet players came into public view at the height of the big band era. Among the best known big band players were Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw.
Benny Goodman was born in Chicago in 1909. He was already playing professionally in his teens and made his first recording in 1926 with a popular Chicago band. Just two years later was recording under his own name. Goodman was a gifted and innovative clarinet player who enjoyed success in his time that could be compared to that of top rock stars in later years. Goodman also made history in the early 30's when he hired black musicians to play in his band. At the time, black and white musicians could not play together in many venues, and racial segregation was still being enforced in Southern States. He continued to play the clarinet until his death in 1984.
The second of our featured famous clarinet players is Artie Shaw. Shaw, whose real name was Arthur Arshawski, was born in New York in 1910. By the age of 16 he was already on the road playing with a band. During the Swing era of the 1930's and 40's Shaw led his own band which enjoyed great popularity and success. He was known as an innovator in the big band scene. Shaw also left his mark on racial integration history when he hired Billie Holiday as his vocalist, becoming the first white band leader to have a black female as his full-time vocalist. Shaw stopped playing in the mid 1950's to concentrate on his writing career. He died in December of 2004.
It would be difficult to include everyone's favorite clarinetist on this page. There have been numerous well-known players the jazz arena including Eddie Daniels, Acker Bilk, Buddy DeFranco, Woody Herman, Pete Fountain and many others.
We plan to add to our list over time, so if there are clarinetists you'd like to see featured here for any musical genre - jazz, classical, klezmer...you name it - drop us a note and tell us about them. Email
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