Bigard, Barney (Albany Leon)
Bigard, Barney (Albany Leon)
Bigard, Barney (Albany Leon), noted New Orleans-style clarinetist, b. New Orleans, March 3, 1906; d. Culver City, Calif., June 27, 1980. His uncle, Emile Bigard was a violinist; his brother, Alex, a drummer. Barney was one of the most highly regarded jazz clarinetists, whose unique “woodsy” sound was featured with Ellington for about 12 years and Armstrong for about nine. The Bigard brothers are cousins of Natty Dominique. He started on E-flat clarinet at the age of seven, lessons from Lorenzo Tio Jr. He first worked as a photo-engraver, did some parade work on clarinet, but began specializing on tenor sax. In late 1922 he joined Albert Nichoias Band at Tom Anderson’s Cabaret, in the following year worked with Oke Gaspard’s Band at the Moulin Rouge. He left in the summer of 1923, played briefly with Amos White at the Spanish Fort, before returning to work for Albert Nicholas and Luis Russell at Tom Anderson’s Cabaret. He went to Chicago in late 1924 to join King Oliver after two months with Dave Peyton joined Oliver for residency at The Plantation, playing tenor until Darnell Howard left the band, from then on specialized on clarinet. He left Chicago with Oliver in April 1927, played in St. Louis and N.Y., then after a brief tour left Oliver to join Charlie Elgar at the Eagle Ballroom in Milwaukee (summer 1927). He returned to N.Y. to join Luis Russell for two months, then joined Duke Ellington in December 1927. Bigard remained with Duke until June 1942 (except for brief absence in summer of 1935). He left in Calif., formed his own small band in August 1942, disbanded to join Freddie Slack in November 1942, left in summer of 1943, did some studio work including a soundtrack for the film I Dood It, then formed his own small band for Los Angeles residencies. He led a small band at Onyx in N.Y., from autumn 1944 until early 1945. He returned to Los Angeles, did film-studio work and led a small band in L.A. He played regularly with Kid Ory during 1946, and also took part in filming of New Orleans. He joined Louis Armstrong for debut of the All Stars in August 1947, remaining with him until the summer of 1952. Returning to the West Coast, some free-lancing and led a small band, then rejoined Armstrong in spring 1953 until August 1955; led a small band, then played with Ben Pollack’s Band (late 1956), also did studio work including an appearance in the film St. Louis Blues. He was on tour with Cozy Cole’s Band from November 1958 until March 1959. Following a spell in New Orleans Creole Jazz Band, he led his own band at Ben Pollack’s Club before playing again with Louis Armstrong’s All Stars from April 1960 until September 1961. He joined Johnny St. Cyr’s Young Men of New Orleans” playing at Disneyland; worked briefly with Muggsy Spanier in San Francisco during the autumn of 1962. Since then he has left full-time music, playing mainly in and around Los Angeles, including some gigs with Rex Stewart in 1966 and 1967 and appearancesd with Art Hodes on Chicago TV (February 1968). He recovered from cataract operation (1971) and toured with Hodes, Eddie Condon, Wild Bill Davison (October 1971). He toured Europe with the Pelican Trio in summer of 1978.
Ellington: “Mood Indigo” (1959).
B. Bigard, With Louis and the Duke: The Autobiography of a Jazz Clarinetist (N.Y., 1985).
—John Chilton Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter