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Buster Bailey

Buster Bailey - clarinet

A highly virtuosic clarinetist from the formative years of jazz, Buster Bailey was a distinguished professional and one of the great figures of jazz clarinet.

Born William C. Bailey, 19 July 1902, in Memphis, Bailey was one of two famous jazzmen to be taught by the Chicago-based classicist Franz Schoepp, the other being Benny Goodman.

After working with bands led by W.C. Handy, Erskine Tate and King Oliver, Bailey joined Fletcher Henderson's orchestra in New York in 1924. He remained an important member of the band until 1937, playing alongside outstanding reed players such as Coleman Hawkins, Hilton Jefferson, Russell Procope and Ben Webster.

After leaving Henderson, Bailey moved to John Kirby's musically distinguished sextet. It was in this setting, in association with perfectionists such as Procope, Charlie Shavers and Billy Kyle, that the clarinetist came into his own and the exemplary technique developed during his tuition under Schoepp was allowed to shine. The stylish playing of the Kirby band earned it great and justified popularity, both in concert and on record. Apart from minor breaks, Bailey stayed with Kirby until 1946, where after he played in a number of traditional or mainstream bands including those led by Wilbur De Paris and Henry "Red" Allen.

In 1957, Bailey was a member of the Henderson All Star big band assembled for the Great South Bay Jazz Festival. Bailey continued working into the 60s, playing again with Red Allen and with Wild Bill Davison. In 1965, he joined Louis Armstrong's All Stars, with whom he remained until his death in April 1967. Source: Encyclopedia of Popular Music


Album Review

Buster Bailey: All About Memphis

Read "All About Memphis" reviewed by Andrew J. Sammut

Buster Bailey's skill as both an improviser and section man made him a shoo-in for some of the best gigs in jazz history. Starting, from his teenage years, with W.C. Handy, steady employment under King Oliver, Fletcher Henderson, John Kirby and Louis Armstrong also left the clarinetist little time (perhaps need) to record as a leader. Fortunately jazz raconteur Stanley Dance saw fit to put just Bailey (and some of his original compositions) in front of a rhythm section on ...

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