Editor, Webmaster: Phil Cartwright Editor@earlyjas.org
|In Tune -- by Eric Seddon
Perhaps no virtuoso has been more obscured since his death than the great Jimmie
Noone (1895-1944), whose achievement as a jazz clarinetist is unique and in many ways
unparalleled. As a player of the Albert system clarinet, his technique was unmatched, going
beyond the realm of jazz men from his era, even surpassing many classically trained virtuosi.
It wasn't until a younger crew of clarinetists--Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Buster
Bailey--all undoubtedly influenced by Noone, would play in such a way that might even admit
Like Goodman and Bailey, Noone studied clarinet technique with Franz Schoepp in
Chicago. Unlike those younger players, however, he was already an established professional.
It’s a mark of his seriousness and humility that he would take the highly unusual step (in that
day) of bothering with lessons.
Noone's facility was so fleet that the most difficult of his figurations can sound simple
and straightforward, when in fact they are nearly impossible for lesser players to accomplish.
I've often wondered if this hasn't hindered appreciation--had he made his passages sound
more strained, his virtuosity might be paradoxically noticed. That aside, it’s nice to see his
work finally recognized in this remarkable collection from JSP records.
Disc one begins with Noone's earliest recordings as a sideman in groups such as Ollie
Powers' Harmony Syncopators and Cook's Dreamland Orchestra, though quickly progresses
to Noone's seminal Apex Club Orchestra, which twenty years later was compared to
Thelonious Monk's early groups at Minton's--"That band at Minton's made an era of it's
own," wrote critic Paul Bacon, "much as Jimmy Noone's did at the Apex Club." [The Record
Changer, Nov. 1949]. This group's recordings are particularly important to the history of jazz
clarinet, demonstrating the strength of the instrument as a lead voice.
This box is dominated by great Apex Club sides, which fill roughly two and half discs of
the set. Over the course of those cuts, a significant portion of the jazz clarinet canon was
established, with Noone laying down the first important interpretations of tunes like "I Know
That You Know", "Sweet Sue", Four or Five Times", "Sweet Lorraine", "She's Funny That
Way", "I Can't Give You Anything But Love", "After You've Gone", "Blues My Naughty
Sweetie Gave to Me", "Am I Blue", and "Ain't Misbehavin'." Anyone familiar with the work
of Benny Goodman, Edmond Hall, Pete Fountain and countless other clarinetists can
immediately tell how influential Noone's choices were. Speaking personally, it’s a rare week
indeed when I don't play at least one or two of these tunes on a job. Over 80 years later,
Noone's leadership and soloing at the Apex Club on the South Side of Chicago echoes
wherever clarinet is swung.
Having said this, some rare and exceptional recordings are collected on the last disc,
especially the live date of the Jimmie Noone Quartet recorded at Chicago's Yes Yes Club on
July 17, 1941. Seven brilliant tracks survive, including essential versions of "A Porter's Love
Song", "Body and Soul", "Lady Be Good", "Memories of You" and "Honeysuckle Rose."
Jimmie Noone's rich chalumeau, which never sacrificed intonation for depth, his clarion
and altissimo registers which were never overblown or distorted, while still retaining extreme
levels of subtlety and power, was unmatched in his day. He paved the way for Benny
Goodman and Artie Shaw, especially, whose music was to unite, for one brief era, jazz with
mainstream popularity. This four disc set does justice to his work.
|Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning for
Jazz Advancement and Socialization
“Chicago Rhythm-Apex Blues” *
The Recordings of Jimmie Noone 1923-1943 * JSP926