Jimmie Noone is considered one of the best clarinetists of the Roaring Twenties. His style differs from the other two great New Orleans clarinet players, Johnny Dodds and Sidney Bechet because of his smoother, more romantic tone. Noone's style was a major influence on the Swing music of the Thirties and Forties.
Growing up in New Orleans Jimmie took clarinet lessons from Lorenzo Tio Jr. and Sidney Bechet (Bechet was 13 years old at the time). Noone went on to play with Freddie Keppard in the Olympia Band. In 1917 he followed Freddie to Chicago to join Keppard's Original Creole Orchestra. After it broke up the following year he became a member of King Oliver's band.
In 1918 he settled in Chicago, where he played with Doc Cooke's band (1920"26, 1927) and studied with classical clarinetist Franz Schoepp. He recorded with King Oliver's Creole Band in 1923. By the late 1920s he was also leading his own group at the Apex Club (1926"28) and other Chicago venues. Despite some touring, he remained largely in Chicago throughout the 1930s and led a big band in 1939. About 1943 he resettled in California, where he led a band and also played on recordings and radio programs with Ory.
A masterly ensemble player in the traditional New Orleans style, Noone also proved an adept partner for the more modern Louis Armstrong, as the two accompanied singer Lillie Delk Christian's 1928 recordings. Noone's greatest impact was as a soloist. His full sound, melodic fertility, and graceful command of instrumental technique influenced other early jazz players and also swing-era clarinetists, most significantly Benny Goodman.
The 1928 recordings of his Apex Club band, featuring his interplay with alto saxophonist Joe Poston, are a transition between the early jazz ensemble style and the more modern swing style, as represented by the solos of Noone and his pianist, Earl Hines. They include “Apex Blues,” “Four or Five Times,” “Sweet Sue,” and “I Know That You Know” and are considered Noone's finest works.
Noone worked steadily in Chicago throughout the Thirties. A young Joe Williams was in Noone's band in the late Thirties, but they never recorded together. Noone played with Kid Ory's band in California in the Forties when he suddenly died of a heart attack.