8. Irving Fazola * "Faz" * 1936-45
Faz would make this list for his sound alone, but the compilation album above goes beyond a showcase of Irving Fazola's legendary tone, presenting a range of styles that are important in the history of jazz clarinet--from more traditional New Orleans jazz, to swing era arrangements, to some of the earliest blendings of solo clarinet with "easy listening" or "commercial" music.
Featured on the disc are a few important bands that Faz contributed to: Ben Pollack's Orchestra (which served as the cradle to so many important band leaders of the Swing Era), the all-but-forgotten Bob Crosby orchestra, Glenn Miller's Orchestra, and a generous number of sides Faz recorded as a leader himself.
In nearly every interview he ever gave, and for a substantial portion of his autobiography, Pete Fountain reiterated that Faz was his model for sound. Big, fat, warm, and remarkable for it's perfect balance, his sound is a worthy template to build a style on.
I had never heard the name Fazola before I met Pete Fountain in the summer of 1990. It dawns on me now, over twenty years later, that Pete might have kept the name alive single handedly over the course of several decades. This is an important lesson for the rest of us: what we say, and whose names and recordings we pass on can have a very important effect for those who come after us. Even if the current critical community is aloof to this beautiful history of jazz clarinet, we can keep it alive as Pete did--mentioning those who have meant so much to us to anyone who will listen. This keeps a tradition alive.