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Carney, Harry (Howell)

Carney, Harry (Howell)

jazz baritone saxophonist, clarinetist; b. Boston, Mass., April 1, 1910; d. N.Y., Oct. 8, 1974. His brother, Ray, was a pianist. Harry began on piano, then specialized on clarinet before taking up alto saxophone. He joined the Knights of Pythias student band at 13. He worked in Boston with Bobby Sawyer and pianist Walter Johnson, journeyed to N.Y. (with boyhood friend Charlie Holmes) early in 1927, gigged with Fess Williams at the Savoy Ballroom, and worked at the Bamboo Inn with banjo-guitarist Henri Saparo, briefly with pianist Joe Steele. He joined Duke Ellington during the last week of June 1927, playing first date at a one-nighter at Nuttings-on-the-Charles, near Boston. Except for a brief absence, he worked regularly with Duke Ellington. He originally played alto with the band, but soon began specializing on baritone sax. In 1944 he began doubling on bass clarinet. He was a pioneer in using circular breathing, a technique allowing the soloist to hold notes for inordinate periods. He was also Ellington’s driver and confidant. He continued to play with the Ellington Orch until his death, and was given co-composer credit for Ellington’s “Rockin’ in Rhythm.”


Harry Carney with Strings (1954); Moods for Girl and Boy (1954).

—John Chilton, Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter

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