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American National Biography Online Noone, Jimmie (23 Apr. 1895-19 Apr. 1944), jazz clarinetist, was born in Cut Off, Louisiana, the son of James Noone, a farmer, and Lucinda (maiden name unknown). Noone's full name is unknown; his first name has also been spelled Jimmy. Since the family's farm was ten miles outside New Orleans, Noone resided in Hammond while he attended school, returning home for vacations. At age ten he began to play guitar. In 1910 cornetist Freddie Keppard's Olympia Orchestra performed at a local dance hall, and Noone heard clarinetist Sidney Bechet. Inspired to learn the instrument, Noone began taking informal lessons from Bechet when his family moved to New Orleans later that year. At a performance in 1913, at a time when Bechet's clarinet was being repaired, Noone was forced to fill in for him. His performance was so impressive that he remained a band member until Keppard left for California in 1914, at which point Noone and cornetist Buddy Petit formed the Young Olympia Band. Noone also led a trio in the summers of 1916 and 1917 and worked with trombonist Kid Ory and trumpeter Papa Celestin. In 1917 Keppard invited Noone to Chicago to join the Original Creole Band, which after a residency there toured until it disbanded in the spring of 1918. In the fall, after further work in New Orleans, Noone returned to Chicago to join King Oliver in Bill Johnson's band at the Royal Gardens. Concurrently, he led a band after-hours. In the summer of 1920 Noone joined Doc Cook's orchestra as a clarinetist and soprano saxophonist. He began taking lessons from classical clarinetist Franz Schoepp, who had him play duets with fellow student Benny Goodman. Under Schoepp's direction, both men developed an unusual virtuosity. Also around this time, probably in 1922, Noone married Rita Thomas, a professional golfer; they had three children. While with Cook, Noone also joined Mae Bradley's orchestra at the Dreamland Cafe and Ollie Powers's Harmony Syncopators, with which he made his first recordings in September 1923. The next month he appeared at one recording session as a substitute for Johnny Dodds in Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. In the summer of 1926 Noone was playing at an after-hours club, the Nest; it is unclear whether he or Powers was the leader. Lavishly remodeled, the Nest became the Apex Club in the autumn of 1926, and Noone left Cook's orchestra to concentrate on his most significant work as featured soloist and leader of the Apex Club Orchestra, an ensemble with the unusual pairing of clarinet (Noone) and alto saxophone (Doc Poston, who also played clarinet), together with a conventional rhythm section of piano, banjo or guitar, and drums (Powers, who remained in the band). Noone also returned to work with Cook's orchestra in 1927. Late that year Earl Hines was accompanying a singer at the Apex, and Noone's pianist was unable to appear; Hines sat in and held the job. Unfortunately, however, Noone was, according to Hines, jealous of anyone who received greater applause than he did. When the club management asked Hines to lead a band and the musicians' union then fined him for allegedly trying to steal Noone's job, Hines quit as soon as his contract expired. (Reed player Franz Jackson also described Noone as overly sensitive, although by other accounts Noone was admired for a kind and gentle nature.) Despite the Apex Club's closing in the spring of 1928, Powers's death, and Hines's discontent, the orchestra between May and August 1928 made magnificent recordings documenting the stature of Hines and Noone as two of the finest improvisers in jazz. In their virtuosity, rhythmic feeling, and choice of repertory, they participated in the emerging swing style, but in keeping with the earlier New Orleans jazz style, Noone was devoted to improvising against an explicitly stated melody rather than soloing with only chords, bass, and percussion. In this context Noone wove clear, fluid, elaborate countermelodies on such tunes as "I Know That You Know," "Every Evening," and "A Monday Date." He favored the clarinet's luscious low- to mid-range and reserved high notes for climactic passages, not in a simpleminded way (i.e., start low, end high), but with a fine sense of musical architecture, the climaxes arriving in flowing succession. Noone was not a great blues player, but on "Apex Blues" he plays a solo distinguished by its warm, delicate lyricism. Another sort of melodic lyricism, heavy and sentimental, may be heard on versions of "Sweet Lorraine," which achieved a popularity in jazz for some years after 1928, particularly in its association with Noone. With further changes in personnel, the band kept working in Chicago; pianist Teddy Wilson joined for a period in 1933 and Budd Johnson played tenor sax and wrote arrangements sometime before May 1935. Noone also led a larger group at the Greystone Ballroom in Detroit, played for a month at the Savoy Ballroom in New York in mid-1931, and in mid-1935 made an unsuccessful attempt to establish the Vodvil Club in Harlem in partnership with bassist Wellman Braud. With the increasingly uninteresting recordings of the Apex Club Orchestra drawing to a close early in 1935, Noone the following year made four excellent sides in Chicago with his New Orleans Band, including "'Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" and "The Blues Jumped a Rabbit." At this time his band was regularly broadcasting on radio. While continuing to hold long residencies at clubs in Chicago, Noone also began touring the South and Midwest from 1938 into the 1940s. The promising revival of New Orleans jazz on the West Coast enticed him to bring his family to Los Angeles in 1943. In the East End Kids' film Block Busters (1944) he performed "Apex Blues" and "Boogie Woogie." After joining Kid Ory's band, which broadcast on Orson Welles's radio series for Standard Oil, Noone was stricken by a fatal heart attack at home in Los Angeles. His son Jimmy (or Jimmie) Noone, Jr., developed an international following as a jazz clarinetist from around 1985 until his death in 1991. Noone's recorded legacy is not the equal of Sidney Bechet's or Johnny Dodds's. Nonetheless, his best recordings remind us why, in his lifetime, these three men were mentioned in the same breath as the greatest of the New Orleans jazz clarinetists. Bibliography The outstanding survey of Noone's life and recordings is by Albert J. McCarthy, "Jimmie Noone," Jazz Monthly 10, no. 4 (1964): 10-13; further information on his association with Cook appears in McCarthy's Big Band Jazz (1974). Briefer surveys are by J. Lee Anderson, "Evolution of Jazz," Down Beat, 13 July 1951; Martin Williams, Jazz Masters of New Orleans (1967); and Barry McRae, "A. B. Basics, no. 36: Jimmie Noone," Jazz Journal, Dec. 1969, p. 16. Gunther Schuller analyzes Noone's style in Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development (1968). William Howland Kenney III, "Jimmie Noone: Chicago's Classic Jazz Clarinetist," American Music 4 (1986): 145-58, summarizes his career and assesses his playing, with annotated examples. Revised and in many cases problematic details of his recordings as a leader are summarized in Laurie Wright's "Jimmie Noone," Storyville, no. 153 (1993): 84-86, and "Jimmie Noone (the Vocalion Recordings)," Storyville, no. 154 (1993): 124-28. Kid Ory, singer Tommy Brookins, clarinetist Joe Marsala, and Louis Armstrong recall Noone in Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff, eds., Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of Jazz as Told by the Men Who Made It (1955). Hines, Teddy Wilson, Budd Johnson, saxophonist Franz Jackson, and drummer Wallace Bishop discuss their associations with Noone in Stanley Dance, The World of Earl Hines (1977). Noone's brief periods with Oliver are described in Walter C. Allen & Brian A. L. Rust's "King" Oliver, rev. Laurie Wright (1987). Information on his family comes from Stanley Dance, "Jimmie Noone Junior," Jazz Journal International 38, no. 7 (July 1985): 18-19, and Johnny Simmen, "A Note on Jimmy Noone," Storyville, no. 127 (1986): 19-22. An obituary by Vincent McHugh, "The Blues for Jimmy," appears in Selections from the Gutter: Jazz Portraits from 'The Jazz Record,' ed. Art Hodes and Chadwick Hansen (1977). Barry Kernfeld Citation: Barry Kernfeld. "Noone, Jimmie"; http://www.anb.org/articles/18/18-02704.html; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000. Access Date: Copyright (c) 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. From American National Biography, published by Oxford University Press, Inc., copyright 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Further information is available at http://www.anb.org.