Regular readers of Aesthetic, Not Anesthetic know that Buster Bailey and Don Murray are two of its favorite subjects. Both were simply amazing clarinetists, gifted with a bright tone and a beautifully busy style, equally effective in solos, breaks and high-flying lines behind ensembles. Benny Goodman admired the two of them and even shared a teacher with Buster Bailey. Unfortunately Bailey and Murray remain amazingly underrated footnotes in jazz history.
Now, for some further critical vindication, here’s Ellington sax section anchor and baritone sax pioneer Harry Carney‘s thoughts on these musicians:
My first influences [on clarinet] were Buster Bailey with Fletcher Henderson, and Don Murray with Jean Goldkette. As a brash kid, I always wanted to play faster than anyone on clarinet, and both Buster and Don Murray were great technicians. Too bad I didn’t stick with them! Perhaps I’d be a clarinetist today. Buster has always sounded to me like a perfect man for the symphony, and on those up-tempo numbers with Fletcher Henderson he always showed what a well-schooled musician he was.
Apparently this blog keeps some sharp company in terms of taste! More importantly, Carney reminds all of us to stay positive and to not be bashful with sincere compliments. One never knows who, or when, someone is listening.
It reminded me again that great art is color-blind and not hemmed in by schools and styles. When I asked the wonderful Chicago clarinetist Frank Chace about his early self-training as a musician, I of course assumed that he was paying attention to his great forebears — Pee Wee Russell, Frank Teschemacher and others. But he corrected me. “We listened to EVERYTHING. We thought it was our job to do this!” Musicians are often so much wiser than the critics and “fans.”
If they were good enough for Carney and Goodman, they must be worth listening to. And don’t get me started on the fact that Armstrong enjoyed Lombardo, Hawkins dug opera and Bach couldn’t get enough of Vivaldi!
Also a reminder that our heroes had/have their own heroes…
…and just how important it is to have heroes. Thanks, Michael!
Another underrated musician, iinfluenced Harry Carney was bassaxplayer Adrian Rollini. Both Carney and Gerry Mulligan talkes with admiration about him. Mulligan even took some lessons for Rollini.
Very true, Bo. I think Carney said that he tried to sound like Rollini in the lower register and Coleman Hawkins in the upper range. Either way, a lot of great musicians who obviously listened to one another very deeply. Music doesn’t happen in a vacuum!
Thanks so much for reading and joining the conversation, Bo.