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Jimmie Noone is one of the greatest clarinetists in the history of jazz and an excellent representative of the “Creole school”. His style is paired with incredible technique and a purity of sound that allows the listener to “hear the wood”. Jimmie Noone has a romantic feel because of his vibrato, and some have even termed it as overly sweet, but none can argue that he “makes the clarinet sing” as the famous French jazz critic Hughues Panassié said. Jimmie Noone was incomparable in his sense of ensemble playing, which can be heard in the way he used the clarinet, more than anything else, as a counterpoint in collective improvisations. He influenced countless jazz musicians from Omer Simeon to Benny Goodman.
Jimmy Noone was born on the 23rd of April 1895 in Cut-Off, Louisiana, not far from New Orleans. He first studied the guitar before switching to the clarinet at the age of 15. At the end of 1910 his family moved to Croissant where the young Jimmie took lessons from Sydney Bechet. Jimmie Noone began his professional career in 1913 with Freddie Keppard, and a year later he and Buddie Petit created the Young Olympia Band. The trio, led by Jimmie Noone played at Pythian Temple Roof Garden in the summers of 1916 and 1917. During this time he also occasionally played with Kid Ory and Papa Celestin. Near the end of 1917 Noone moved to Chicago where he joined Freddie Keppard’s Original Creole Band. The band played often at the Logan Square Theatre and toured widely before breaking up in the spring of 1918 only to reform again with different members (King Oliver, Bill Johnson…) in order to play a gig at the Royal Garden that autumn. After the final demise of the Creole Band, Noone played in several bands at once in various clubs around Chicago and then joined Doc Cook’s band in 1920, where he stayed until 1926. During this period Jimmie Noone was also quite active with his own band: Earl Hines, Doc Poston, Bud Scott and Johnny Wells. Up until 1931 they played many local clubs including the Nest (later the Apex Club), the Ambassador, and El Rado, and between 1928 and 1910 they recorded many memorable tracks under the name Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club.
Later, Jimmie Noone played for a month in the Savoy in New York, then, back in Chicago he played at the Dixie club in 1932, The Lido in 1933, and Midnite in 1934. In 1935 he tried to form a new orchestra in New York with Wellman Braud. They performed for a short stint at the Vodvil club. Back in Chicago again he took over a small band and played the Platunum Lounge (1937), Swingland (1938) and then took the band on tour around the country, most notably to New Orleans, which he had left 20 years before. When he got back to Chicago Jimmie Noone continued to play the club circuit: Delisa, The Cabin Inn (1939), The Coach (1940-41), Yes Yes Club (1941), Downbeat-Garrick (1942), etc. In 1942, following two brief contracts in Omaha and San Antonio, Noone made his way to California where he recorded for Orson Welles’ radio program with Kid Ory. Their collaboration would ultimately be a short one, for Jimmie Noone died suddenly of a heart attack on April 19th 1944 in Los Angeles. His last gig was to be a part in the Wallace Fox film Block Busters in 1944.