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Barney Bigard

Albany Leon Bigard

Clarinetist, Saxophonist, Bandleader

(1906 - 1980)

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Films at imdb.com
On Broadway at ibdb.com
Barney Bigard carried the influence of his birth city, New Orleans, throughout his career. He played tenor sax but later concentrated on clarinet, which he studied with Lorenzo Tio. In 1925 he was hired by King Oliver and moved to Chicago. After two years with Oliver, he joined Duke Ellington’s Orchestra where he would remain for 15 years. Bigard’s New Orleans-style clarinet added another dimension to Ellington’s palette. His individual style and articulation were universally admired. His woody sound was a highlight of “Mood Indigo,” which he co-wrote with Ellington, “Harlem Air Shaft,” and “Rose Room.” He was also a valued ensemble player and capable improviser.

In 1936, Helen Oakley, the wife of journalist Stanley Dance, was the A & R (artist and repertoire) manager for Irving Mills’ new Variety label. She suggested to Mills that they try some small group recordings using musicians from the Ellington Orchestra. Given the go ahead Oakley arranged for a number of sessions, including a few led by Bigard under the name Barney Bigard and His Jazzopaters. Their December 19, 1936 session introduced the jazz standard “Caravan.”

After leaving Ellington, Bigard did sound track work in California, played with Freddie Slack and Kid Ory, and then joined the Louis Armstrong All-Stars in 1947, where he found a home until 1955 when he tired of touring. In the late ‘50s he played in Cozy Cole’s big band, rejoining Armstrong in 1960 for another year. He semi-retired in 1962 but played with a Dixieland band at Disneyland. From 1970-1973 he was a featured performer at Dick Gibson’s jazz parties in Vail, Colorado.

Bigard wrote several other songs with Ellington, some performed, some not, although Oscar Brown, Jr. recorded their “Ducky Wucky.” Bigard also co-composed “Lament for Javanette” with Billy Strayhorn, performed by the Ellington band. His autobiography is entitled With Louis and the Duke: The Autobiography of a Jazz Clarinetist.

- Sandra Burlingame

The Legends of Jazz & Barney Bigard

Barney Bigard

B.B.B. & Co.

Benny Carter, Ben Webster, Barney Bigard

Clarinet Lament

Barney Bigard

Barney's Bounce

Barney Bigard & Friends

Story 1929-1945

Barney Bigard


Barney Bigard
Reading and Viewing

At Amazon.com you can often buy used for a fraction of the new price

Barney Bigard

With Louis and the Duke: The Autobiography of a Jazz Clarinetist

Oxford Univ Press

Joshua Berrett

The Louis Armstrong Companion

Schirmer Books

(Includes a Barney Bigard interview)

Arturo de Cordova, Marjorie Lord, Irene Rich, Louis Armstrong and His Band, Billie Holiday, Woody Herman, Woody Herman and His Orchestra

New Orleans

Kino Video

DVD (Includes performances by Louis Armstrong, Billie holiday, Barney Bigard, and many others.)

James Stewart, June Allyson, Harry Morgan, Charles Drake, George Tobias

The Glenn Miller Story

Universal Studios


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