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date: 17 November 2019

Crawley, Wilton locked

  • Barry Kernfeld


(b Smithville, VA, July 18, 1900; d Nov 1967). American clarinetist, singer, and dancer. In his social security application he gave his place of birth as Smithville (not Smithfield, as it has been published elsewhere). At the age of ten he learned clarinet from his father. When his family moved to Philadelphia he formed a band with his brother Jimmy, who played clarinet and saxophone. During the 1920s and 1930s he enjoyed much success with his own variety act; he appeared at the Sunset Café in Chicago and, around 1928, in the show Blackbirds. His best-known recordings are those he made in 1929 and 1930 as the leader of a group which included Jelly Roll Morton. These and his earlier recordings (1927–8), some of which involved Eddie Lang, display a repetitive but striking improvisatory style on clarinet, characterized by conventional blues formulas (sometimes played with a timbre that resembles that of Bubber Miley’s muted trumpet), extended passages of deliberately paced slap-tonguing, and an extraordinary cackling sound. His playing may be heard in all its variety on ...

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