Buster Bailey

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John Kirby and Buster Bailey, Washington DC, circa May 1946.
Photograph by William P. Gottlieb .

William C. "Buster" Bailey (* 19 July 1902 in Memphis (Tennessee) ; † 12. April 1967 in New York ) was an American jazz - clarinetist and saxophonist of Old Time Jazz and Swing .


Bailey began playing the clarinet at the age of thirteen and received his training on this instrument from Franz Schoepp of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who had also taught Benny Goodman . He joined the WC Handy orchestra at the age of 15 . After two years on tour with a cell phone, Bailey left the formation in Chicago in 1919 : After the trip I came home and made Memphis a boiling jazz metropolis , Bailey reported in his memoirs.

In 1919 Bailey became a member of Erskine Tate's Vendome Orchestra , stayed with Tate until 1923, and then played with Joe "King" Oliver . As a member of King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band , Bailey met Louis Armstrong who was working in the band at the same time. In 1924 Armstrong left King Oliver's Jazz Band to play in Fletcher Henderson's orchestra in New York. After a month, Armstrong invited Buster Bailey to follow him in Henderson's band. That's how Bailey came to New York . The first important phase of his career at Henderson lasted from 1924 to 1927; after leaving, he went to Europe with Noble Sissle in 1929 and 1931. After appearances with Edgar Hayes and again with King Oliver, he worked briefly again in the 1930s with Fletcher Henderson and was also a sought-after sideman in bands by Perry Bradford , Lucky Millinder , Carroll Dickerson and others, recorded and played a large number of tracks both clarinet and occasionally soprano saxophone .

At the end of 1934, Bailey became a member of Stuff Smith's Band, later John Kirby 's band , the Onyx Club Boys . The bassist's sextet, The Biggest Little Band in the Land , as they were also known, pioneered the small jazz combos that would become popular in the 1950s; a specialty of her repertoire was the adaptation of classical European compositions ( Anitra's dance , the serenade by Schubert , Impromptus, Nocturnes, and the title Lucia di Lammermoor ). Bailey stayed in Kirby's band until 1946, but at the same time recorded records with other musicians. Bailey also played with the Mills Blue Rhythm Band in 1934 and 1935 and was a session musician for Midge Williams and Her Jazz Jesters in 1937 . He also recorded under his own name as Buster Bailey and His Rhythm Busters records.

In 1946, after leaving Kirby, Buster Bailey briefly had his own formation. In 1947 he went to Wilbur de Paris and performed with him until 1949. In the 1950s and 1960s he worked as a sought-after studio musician, also as a guest with Eddie Condon , Wild Bill Davison , Big Chief Russell Moore (1952/53), otherwise with Henry "Red" Allen . He performed with Allen in 1959 and 1960 at the Newport Jazz Festival . Bailey was a member of the Saints And Sinners formation (1963/64); in 1965 he reactivated his old friend Armstrong and became a member of Louis Armstrong's All-Stars formation. Bailey has appeared at countless festivals, also played in symphony orchestras, such as in the theater version of Porgy and Bess and in film music projects, such as in the film Splendor in the Grass by Elia Kazan and occasionally worked with Leonard Bernstein (1956/1964) .

Buster Bailey died of a heart attack in April 1967. At the time he was living in Brooklyn , New York.


His clarinet playing was inspired by New Orleans clarinetists like Jimmie Noone , but developed them further. Bailey is an important transition between the traditional New Orleans style of playing and the style of Benny Goodman , who borrowed many elements from Bailey. He is considered one of the most important older swing clarinetists, whose influence extended into the late 1930s. Goodman and Coleman Hawkins admired the clarinetist's impressive technical brilliance (particularly impressive example: Man With a Horn Goes Berserk from December 1938 with John Kirby, or his bebop-influenced "Sunday Parade" from 1958). His highly melodic, skilful playing - unmistakable through his very own burlesque figurations - always remained blues-related . Bud Freeman said of Bailey: He was an impeccable clarinetist and certainly one of the greats .

His major titles include Fletcher Henderson's Fidgety Feet (1927) and Stealin 'Aplles (1936), Bessie Smith's Young Woman Blues (1929), Henry Allen's Rug Cutter's Swing (1934), Teddy Wilson's Warming Up, and Blues in C Sharp Minor (1936) ), Lionel Hamptons Rhythm Rhythm (1937), John Kirby's I May Be Wrong (1938) and under his own name the title Shanghai Shuffle (1934). Bailey also recorded with Chu Berry , Benny Carter , Clarence Williams and Willie The Lion Smith and the Red Onion Jazz Babies (1924). He also accompanied the singers Ethel Waters , Ma Rainey , Mildred Bailey , Ida Cox and Billie Holiday on their recordings.

Film appearances

Buster Bailey has appeared in three films over the course of his career: The first was a film called That's the Spirit (1933) in which he played himself. Bailey made his second appearance on a 1961 television program entitled The DuPont Show of the Week in an episode "America's Music - Chicago and All That Jazz." His last appearance was at the side with Louis Armstrong in When the Boys Meet the Girls (1965), again as a musician.

Web links


Individual evidence

  1. a b Kunzler, Martin: Jazzlexikon . Reinbek, Rowohlt, 1993, p. 64