Jimmy Hamilton and Clarinet Lament – Tribute to Barney Bigard and Russell Procope




Between the years of 1980 and 1981 Jazz Music lost two of its great Ellingtonian clarinet men, Barney Bigard and Russell Procope, respectively. They were both known for their New Orleans, flavored, dark woody sound most notably from within the ranks of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. In New York, on May 17th a concert was held to memorialize these great gentlemen of Jazz featuring various other clarinetists from the swing era, and most importantly, the other major clarinetist from the Ellington organization, Jimmy Hamilton. It’s a swinging affair, as Jazz Memorials always are, featuring a great line of clarinetists: Haywood Henry, Johnny Mince, Norris Turney, Bob Wilber, and Jimmy Hamilton. Featured in the backing rhythm section are Tommy Flannigan on piano, Chuck Wayne on guitar, Major Holley on bass, and Oliver Jackson on drums. Haywood Henry who steps up first was a veteran baritone saxophonist of the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, but was also featured on clarinet. Here we hear his raw and guttural take on Juan Tizol’s Caravan. Johnny Mince was a veteran of many of the white big bands, such as Glenn Miller, Ray Noble, and Tommy Dorsey. Here we hear his excellent technique and effortless swing as he rips through Tizol’s “Perdido” and Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing” respectively. Norris Turney, who is next, brings us two gems, “Black Butterfly” and “Don’t You Know I Care”, both penned by the Duke. “Black Butterfly” is particularly significant because it’s one of the only songs Turney himself took a solo on with the clarinet, while performing with Ellington. The song was a Johnny Hodges vehicle from 1969-70, and here we get to hear the great Hodges protege give us a more robust taste of his clarinet playing. Sidney Bechet protege Bob Wilber pays tribute quite authentically to Both Bigard and Procope with Ellington’s “The Mooche” which was a feature number for both these legends. He next brings forth a previously unknown tune by the pen of Duke entitled by him as “Duke’s Melody”. This song does actually appear on one Ellington release called “The Eastbourne Performance” on RCA, as “The Piano Player”, but on that version had no direct melody, just Duke toying with the chord changes. There have also been some posthumous releases of archival studio recordings by Duke which had a big band arrangement of the actual song, but the title was unknown. It’s a wonderfully cheerful “Ellington” song, despite being possibly one of his last compositions. He concludes with a Bigard favorite, Stompy Jones, which swings joyfully. Next, enter Mr. Hamilton. After leaving the Ellington organization, he settled down in the beautiful island of St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. During this rare visit to New York, he was flown in specifically for this tribute to both his fallen bandmate and predecessor, Russell Procope and Barney Bigard respectively. Anchored by this great rhythm section, he brings us typical standard Ellington fare but presents it truly effortlessly, with a tone which when heard live, resonates perhaps more full and strong than on the various Big Band recordings we have heard of him in the past. In the grand finale we hear all the gentlemen of the ensemble come together for a very surreal clarinet summit indeed! Two songs closely associated with Bigard and Procope are heard, “Mood Indigo” and “C-Jam Blues”, with five great clarinetists at once, truly a unique occurrence in Jazz History.
Joseph Cavaseno

1. Caravan (Haywood Henry)
2. It Don’t Mean a Thing (Johnny Mince)
3. Perdido (Johnny Mince)
4. Black Butterfly (Norris Turney)
5. Don’t You Know I Care? (Norris Turney)
6. The Mooche (Bob Wilber)
7. Duke’s Melody (Bob Wilber)
8. Stompy Jones (Bob Wilber)
9. Take The A Train (Jimmy Hamilton)
10. I Didn’t Know About You (Jimmy Hamilton)
11. Do Nothing Till You Hear From me (Jimmy Hamilton)
12. Warm Valley (Jimmy Hamilton)
13. Satin Doll (Jimmy Hamilton)
14. Mood Indigo (All)
15. C-Jam Blues (All)

Additional information

Weight .25 oz
Dimensions 5 × 6 × .5 in
Media Type

mp3, CD


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