Buddy DeFranco dies

Band leader and clarinettist Buddy DeFranco has died on Christmas eve in Panama City, Florida. He was 91.

Clarinettist Buddy DeFranco has died aged 91. He passed on Christmas eve in Panama City, Florida.

DeFranco’s career spanned seven decades, in which he recorded over 150 albums. After the clarinettist dominated American swing band era he pushed the boundaries and ideas for the instrument into the emerging be-bop sound pioneered by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

A classical clarinettist, DeFranco turned to jazz and by his mid teens was a travelling member of the Johnny Davis Big Band before joining drummer and band leader Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey and more. Looking for less constraint in his music he joined Count Basie in a septet. He formed his own band which included drummer Art Blakey and pianist Kenny Drew and also toured with Billie Holiday.

Buddy DeFranco began recording with his Orchestra, as well as quartets, quintets and sextets including Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis, Sonny Clark and Art Tatum. In 1966 he began a 12 year stint as director of the Glenn Miller Orchestra and during the 1980s onwards recorded with vibes player Terry Gibbs.

A jazz festival founded in 1980 in his name, hosted by The University of Montana, continues yearly.

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