Originally, the clarinet was a crucial instrument in jazz as it played an illustrious and vital role in the history and development of jazz. In modern jazz, the clarinets are still fairly common mostly in ensembles, the instrument’s exclusion from modern jazz can be greatly attributed to modern fashion with music.
Despite the clarinet being an important instrument in the early development of jazz, its importance in the genre has been overshadowed by other front-line instruments like the trumpet and saxophone. The clarinet was important to the sound of the Swing Era and early jazz music. Unfortunately, as the Swing Era faded and bebop came in, the clarinet practically faded too, and the saxophone became the dominant reed instrument used in jazz. In today’s era, though the clarinet is making a comeback to the jazz world, the dominance is not as widespread as it was before in early jazz.
The evolution of clarinet in jazz
It is argued that the clarinet had its most significant impact on jazz during the New Orleans Infancy music and later on in the Swing Era during the 30s and the 40s. Several pioneers of New Orleans jazz like Jimmie Noone, Johnny Dodds, and Sidney Bechet produced some of the earliest jazz clarinet recordings. These recordings were significant in spreading jazz across the country. Furthermore, working with legends like Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, and Kid Ory, these early jazz clarinets played an integral role in defining the jazz sound we know today. These musicians also had a direct impact on the Swing Era of jazz.
In the late 40s, the Swing Era faded, and bebop took an explosive rise which saw the clarinet being pushed to the side in favor of the saxophone as the main wind instrument of the era. And though some musicians like Pete Fountain still made a notable impact with the clarinet during this era, the jazz world seemed to largely consider the clarinet unfashionable.
Currently, it is safe to say that the clarinet never recovered its place in jazz. On the other hand, its brass cousin, saxophone, has survived many decades of some influential jazz music stars from the late 40s and 50s. Even in today’s jazz music with some greatest jazz musicians, Dexter Gordon, Coleman Hawkins, Michal Brecker, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, and Sonny Rollins, to name but a few greatest jazz musicians that have shaped the genre, play the saxophone compared to the clarinet instrument.
However, there are a few great jazz musicians who have stuck to the clarinet like Eddie Daniels and Buddy Defranco. However, other jazz clarinetists have not gained enough popularity to inspire young jazz musicians to use the instrument.
Best clarinets for modern jazz
If you are looking for the best jazz clarinets, then you will want to opt for an instrument with a full lower and mid register. Traditionally, Bb clarinets were widely used in jazz as they produce a warm tone that perfectly suits the genre. Additionally, the bass clarinet is also used in jazz though it is far less popular. Consequently, when dealing with jazz, the mouthpiece is an important consideration to prioritize as it is where the initial sound is produced.
Among the best beginner and intermediate clarinets for jazz include;
Jean-Paul Student CL-300/ Intermediate Clarinet CL-400
The Jean Paul Student CL-300 is a decent clarinet that goes for less than $1000 and can be used to learn how to play jazz effectively. The body of this clarinet is made of ebonite combined with nickel keys which give the clarinet a beautiful finish and produces a brilliant sound that fits the jazz genre. Furthermore, this clarinet is durable and hence reliable. And though this instrument is not designed for professionals, it is the perfect band/student clarinet and one of the best clarinets for jazz clarinets.
Yamaha YCL-255 Standard Bb Clarinet
Yamaha has cultivated a remarkable long-lasting reputation for making reliable and high-quality musical instruments. Consequently, Yamaha has a more diverse range of instruments and has fostered a reputation for excellent build quality and great design. This makes the Yamaha YCL-255 clarinet the best clarinet for beginner and intermediate jazz clarinet players.
The barrel, bell, and body of this clarinet are made from ABS resin, a durable material hence you are sure that this clarinet will serve you for a long. Consequently, unlike wooden instruments, the Yamaha YCL-255 Standard Bb Clarinet, the pitch and the sound produced by this clarinet is affected less by the elements.
Recently, the bell of this clarinet was redesigned to be lighter and include a resonance chamber. These redesigned have improved the intonation of this clarinet hence making it the best instrument for early jazz players.
In conclusion, the clarinet instrument has lost its popularity and dominance in jazz music over the years. This instrument has had remarkable contributions to the development of jazz music. Before the explosive rise of bebop, the clarinet was the widely played instrument in the jazz genre as it shaped the sound of jazz we know today. However, this instrument has been overshadowed by the trumpet and saxophone. In the current world, most great jazz musicians have bent more towards the saxophone side than the clarinets. It is therefore hard to convince young jazz musicians to play the clarinet as it is viewed as old-fashioned.
Why are clarinets not popular in modern jazz?
Though the clarinet had a significant impact in early jazz, it lost its popularity to the saxophone. This is mainly attributed to people viewing the clarinet as old fashion as the jazz genre evolved.
What instruments are best for jazz?
Though the saxophone and the trumpet have gained more popularity in jazz music, the trombone, piano, clarinet, drums, and bass instruments have been featured in the jazz genre historically.
Which clarinet is best for jazz?
The Bb clarinets have been popular in jazz music since they produce a warm tone that suits the jazz genre well.