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Fri, 04.01.1910

Harry Carney was a sideman with Duke

Harry Carney

On this date in 1910, Harry Carney was born. He was an African American jazz musician.

Born in Boston, Carney began his music life on clarinet. He lived not far from Hodges. After being noticed by Ellington in 1927 during a working trip to New York City, the famed bandleader talked Carney's parents into allowing their son to join his band. He began on alto sax, then shifted almost exclusively to baritone, occasionally playing bass clarinet and clarinet over the years. Carney, who for years also acted as Ellington's chief driver, was very closely linked with Duke and his orchestra.

When one thinks of the sound of the Duke Ellington band, one recalls the sweet alto saxophone tone of Johnny Hodges, the growling plunger mute trumpet sound of Cootie Williams and the deep, thick, licorice quality of Harry Carney's baritone sax. For 45 years, Carney was the low voice in the Ellington orchestra and, perhaps, the greatest baritone player of all time.

After Ellington's 1974 death, Carney said: "This is the worst day of my life. Without Duke I have nothing to live for." And four months later, Carney also died. For examples of Carney's best work, try any of the multitudes of recordings made by the orchestra over its long life.

Reference:
A Century of Jazz by Roy Carr
Da Capo Press, New York
Copyright 1997
ISBN 0-306-80778-5

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