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On Buddy DeFranco

Buddy DeFranco (1923-2014), one of my all-time favourite musicians, sadly passed away on Dec 24th. He has produced a huge catalog of recording, of which many have become my personal favourites. Mr.Clarinet, Buddy DeFranco and Oscar Peterson play the George Gershwin Songbook, the Sonny Clark recordings and last but not least the Art Tatum/Buddy DeFranco recording come to mind.

Not since the swing era influence of Benny Goodman, and to a lesser extent Artie Shaw, has any individual done so much to breathe life back into the clarinet as an accepted jazz symbol. German Jazz critic Joachim-Ernst Berendt has rightfully titled Buddy DeFranco “the Charlie Parker of the clarinet1

I always enjoyed the clarity and richness of his lines. They are elegant, harmonically interesting and joyfull. For example I like how he had been using upper-structure triads in a very melodic fashion.

As a homage, NPR has re-released Buddy DeFranco: The Clarinetist Who Swung To Bebop a very insightful documentary from the year 1998 which marked his 75th birthday. A must listen.

There is room for all kinds of music, providing this music is played with some degree of honesty and played well.

Buddy DeFranco in DownBeat Magazine


And since I’m just at it, here are two interviews with Buddy that I have found:

You can find more information on him on his website.


During my studies I have transcribed quite a few of his solos and here’s an old one of his solo on Autumn Leaves2 from The Artistry of Buddy DeFranco:

  1. in John Kuehn and Arne Astrup Buddy DeFranco: A Biographical Portait and Discography, p. IX 
  2. I made the transcription many years ago and haven’t error-checked it since then, which means there might and will be errors in it. 
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