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The Clarinet
upper registers (known as the break) are sometimes tricky to execute in rapid improvisation. The clarinet, like the trumpet, is a B Flat instrument; music is written for it a whole tone higher than it sounds on the piano.
In skillful hands the clarinet is capable of dazzling chromatic runs and arpeggios, and of glissandi that may seem impossible to a lesser artist (Barney Bigard, of the old Ellington band, was a master of the slow and steady upward glissando).
Two kinds of clarinet, each with a different fingering arrange­ment, have been in general use in jazz: the Albert or "simple" system, and the Boehm system.*
Alphonse Picou was probably the first important jazz clari­netist; certainly he and George Lewis, also from New Orleans, have given us the only recorded examples of the earliest solo and polyphonic styles, though neither recorded until the 1940s, when they were well past their prime. First to establish any widespread impact and influence via recordings were Leon Rappolo of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, Larry Shields of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and Johnny Dodds of the King Oliver band.
A family of clarinetists by the name of Tio (Lorenzo Sr. and Jr., and Louis) has been remembered with fervor by con­temporaries, but except for a few obscure and unenlightening records by Lorenzo Jr. the Tios left no evidence to posterity.
During the 1920s jazz produced several musicians whose con­trol over the clarinet enabled them to express themselves with a variety of tonal shadings and, in some instances, with great emotional scope. Jimmie Noone, possibly the first true jazz giant in his field, had Benny Goodman, Frank Teschemacher, Joe Marsala and every other clarinetist in Chicago spellbound at the
* Ironically, the so-called simple system seems to most clarinetists harder of execution than that invented by Boehm. Among the leading clarinetists the Albert system adherents have included a number of the New Orleans veterans (Shields, Dodds, Bechet, Bigard, Simeon, Hall) as well as Russell Procope and Jimmy Dorsey. Those who have played Boehm clarinet (which, according to Buster Bailey, makes certain passages easy that are impossible on Albert) include Goodman, Teschemacher, Nicholas, Russell, Herman and Shaw. Bailey generally plays Boehm but is also fluent on the Albert clarinet