This compilation, released on the Jazz Legends label in 2004, and apparently compiled by Scott Yanow who also contributes excellent liner notes, is a must for anyone interested in jazz clarinet. It's by no means comprehensive, but Yanow and crew managed to fit 21 different jazz clarinetists onto one disc. For many, this disc will undoubtedly serve as an introduction to important players such as Jimmy Noone, Omer Simeon, and Edmond Hall.
It's hard to argue with the selections, as variety of clarinetists has rightly taken precedence over demonstrations of artistic range. I was happy to see Woody Herman's 'Chip's Boogie Woogie', Artie Shaw's classic 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes' and the foundational 'After You've Gone' recorded by Benny Goodman in July of 1935. But the real treats for me were the ones I hadn't heard before, especially Buster Bailey's wild novelty number 'Man With A Horn Goes Berserk' from 1938. 'Berserk' is 2 minutes 29 seconds of virtuosic frenzy--and as some of the phrases seem to have worked their way into Artie Shaw's later 'Concerto for Clarinet', there is some musicological interest here as well.
I was delighted to hear such players as Tony Scott, Joe Marsala, and the all but forgotten Swedish bop player, Stan Hasselgard. Really, this a remarkable set.
My one negative criticism is the cover photo of Sidney Bechet, playing a soprano sax, and as though this isn't bad enough, they repeat the image three times--one time reversing the photo!
Still, this is a compilation not to be missed.