Buddy DeFranco was a jazz clarinettist in a league of his own, the preferred accompanist to the great jazz and swing singers of his age, a player in renowned big bands, and a soloist extraordinaire.
The Associated Press delivered the sad tidings today:
Jazz Great Buddy DeFranco Dies at Age 91
Renowned jazz clarinetist Buddy DeFranco — who collaborated with Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and other top singers and musicians of his era — has died at the age of 91, his family said Friday.
DeFranco, a member of the American Jazz Hall of Fame, performed at venues around the world for 75 years and recorded with musicians including Sinatra, Holliday, Art Tatum, Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett. He conducted the Glenn Miller Orchestra for eight years from 1966 to 1974.
“Buddy DeFranco almost single-handedly was the clarinetist who moved the harmonic and rhythmic language forward from where Benny Goodman left off into the much more adventurous territory of bebop and beyond, while never forgetting his roots in swing music. He was also unfailingly kind and supportive to every other clarinetist who came after him,” said leading jazz clarinetist Ken Peplowski.
DeFranco began his career as a teenager in Philadelphia and went on to play with legendary bands including Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Gene Krupa and Charlie Barnett.
Composer Nelson Riddle wrote the musical “Cross Country Suite” in 1958 for DeFranco, and Nat King Cole introduced DeFranco when he premiered the work at the Hollywood Bowl.
Just how good was he? Consider this undated recording of the haunting standard “Laura” posted by vlogger jclc1608:
Buddy DeFranco: Laura
From vlogger konidolfine, another outstanding solo performance of a jazz standard:
The Buddy DeFranco Quarter: The Things We Did Last Summer
And listen to his exuberant accompaniment to Billie Holiday on this 1954 performance of a Billie Holiday standard, recorded live at Jazz Club U.S.A. in Cologne, Germany, via vlogger Taro Cross:
Billie Holiday And Her Orchestra: Bille’s Blues
And finally, what more fitting way to conclude that with this 1991 performance via vlogger SwingCla:
Memories of You – Buddy DeFranco