DE FRANCO was born in Camden, New Jersey, USA on February 17, 1923. He
started playing the clarinet when he was 14 years old. His musical
career was launched when he entered an amateur swing players' contest in
Philadelphia, sponsored by Tommy Dorsey in 1940. After playing in big
bands for three years (with Gene Krupa from 1941 to 1942 and Charlie
Barnett from 1943 to 1944, he became the principal soloist in Dorsey's
"When I think of all the excellent musicians there are in this world, to be chosen as a recipient of this great award is indeed an honor." – Buddy DeFranco
A brilliant improviser and prodigious technician who has bridged the swing and bebop eras, Buddy DeFranco was born in Camden, New Jersey, in 1923, was raised in South Philadelphia, and began playing the clarinet at age nine. At 14, he won a national Tommy Dorsey Swing Contest and appeared on the Saturday Night Swing Club with Gene Krupa. Johnny "Scat" Davis soon tapped him for his big band, inaugurating DeFranco's road career in 1939. DeFranco subsequently played in the bands of Gene Krupa (1941) and Charlie Barnet (1942-43) and in 1944 became a featured soloist with Tommy Dorsey. Meanwhile, the modern jazz revolution was in progress, led by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie (JM). Excited by the improvisatory freedom of their music, DeFranco became the first jazz clarinetist to make his mark in the new idiom of bebop.
In 1950, DeFranco joined the famous Count Basie (JM) Septet. He toured Europe with Billie Holiday in 1954, led a quartet for three years with Art Blakey (JM), Kenny Drew and Eugene Wright, and then joined with Tommy Gumina in a quartet that explored polytonal music, further solidifying his reputation as a "musician's musician." In 1958, he premiered Nelson Riddle's Cross Country Suite at the Hollywood Bowl and later recorded the composition for Dot Records. His other notable concert and recording appearances have included dates with Art Tatum, Nat King Cole, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Lenny Tristano, Billy Eckstine, Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown (JM), Mel Torme, Louie Bellson (JM), Oscar Peterson, and the John Pizzarelli Trio, as well as several Metronome All Star sessions. He was a featured artist in numerous Jazz at the Philharmonic tours of Europe, Australia, and East Asia. In 1966, he became the leader of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, a post he maintained until 1974.
Since the mid-1970s, DeFranco has combined a busy teaching career with extensive touring and recording. His numerous television performances have included appearances on The Tonight Show with both Steve Allen and Johnny Carson. He was a featured soloist on Stars of Jazz; had his own program on public television, The DeFranco Jazz Forum; and with his long-time musical colleague, vibraphonist Terry Gibbs, shared the spotlight on a segment of the PBS series Club Date. DeFranco has played at concerts and festivals throughout the United States, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, and Argentina. To date, he has recorded more than 160 albums, has won the Downbeat All Stars award 20 times, and the Metronome poll 12 times. The University of Montana, Missoula, now hosts The Buddy DeFranco Jazz Festival each April.
JM: NEA Jazz Master
RETURN TO CAMDEN'S INTERESTING PEOPLE PAGE
RETURN TO DVRBS.COM HOME PAGE