When it comes to the clarinet, what is the 'Chicago Jazz' sound? According to Jim Cullum Jazz Band clarinetist Ron Hockett, it's characterized by a raw, emotional quality as big as the pioneer heart of the Windy City itself. Says Hockett, "If jazz was born in New Orleans around the turn of the century, and reached full maturity in New York in the 1930s, then it can be said to have come of age in Chicago in the 1920s. New Orleanians Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Johnny Dodds and Jimmie Noone moved to Chicago and influenced young players there who added ideas of their own. Youthful experimentation and search for identity on the part of these Chicagoans gave a freshness and new sound to the music."
Recorded live on stage at the historic Crest Theatre at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, Riverwalk Jazz presents three leading exponents of the 1920s Chicago reed style—Ron Hockett, Bobby Gordon and Kim Cusack. Our trio pays tribute to three jazz clarinet legends identified with the 'Chicago Sound'—Jimmy Noone, a New Orleans transplant with a fluid romantic tone; Frank Teschemacher, a hot jazz player with an unconventional technique; and Benny Goodman, a clarinet virtuoso and history's King of Swing. Our guests join The Jim Cullum Jazz Band on tunes of the era, including "Apex Blues," "You're Nobody's Sweetheart Now" and "Deed I Do."
Clarinetist Jimmie Noone made his first trip to Chicago from his hometown in New Orleans in 1917, and he played in South Side jazz clubs with New Orleans cornet legends Freddie Keppard and King Oliver. Noone was famous for his fluid, rolling style, which appealed to young players like Benny Goodman.
Clarinetist Frank Teschemacher was in the original Austin High Gang in the early 20s—a group of jazz-crazed Chicago teenagers who all attended the same high school and went on to make a significant contribution to jazz. Teschemacher developed a rhythmic style that added spice and color to the jazz clarinet tradition.
By the 1920s, Benny Goodman had not yet developed the swing sound that later made him an international star. Goodman’s early recordings were rooted in New Orleans jazz, and sounded more like Jimmie Noone’s playing than his later style as the King of Swing. It's interesting that Goodman studied classical clarinet in Chicago with Mr. Franz Schepp, the same teacher who taught Noone.
Our trio of Chicago reedmen breathes new life into the work of Noone, Teschemacher and Goodman, performing classics of 1920s' jazz in new arrangements created by Ron Hockett for three reeds, featured with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band.
Ron Hockett took over clarinet duties in The Jim Cullum Jazz Band in 1999. He was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois near Chicago and while in high school began playing jobs with George Brunies, the Salty Dogs and Bobby Gordon. Kim Cusack was also an early acquaintance. Ron is a graduate of
Princeton, and from 1970 to 1999, he was lead saxophonist and clarinet soloist in the "President's Own" U.S. Marine Band in Washington, D.C., performing throughout the U.S. and Europe, as well as at the White House.
San Diego clarinetist Bobby Gordon is also a former member of The Jim Cullum Jazz Band. He is known for his distinctive Chicago-style clarinet playing, having studied with Joe Marsala, who called Bobby his "most gifted student and protégé." Bobby has worked in bands with Eddie Condon, 'Wild Bill' Davison, Bobby Hackett and Muggsy Spanier. He was the house clarinetist at Condon's jazz club in New York City from 1977 to 1980.
Probably best known for his long association with James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band and his more than 35-year tenure with the venerable Salty Dogs Jazz Band, Kim Cusack has played and recorded with Turk Murphy, George Brunies, 'Wild Bill' Davison, and the Jan Garber Orchestra as featured tenor saxophonist.
Photo credit for home page teaser image: Clarinetist Ron Hockett. Photo courtesy Riverwalk Jazz
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick ©2009