John Kirby & His Orchestra

Genres: Jazz

Biography

31 December 1908, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, d. 14 June 1952, Hollywood, California, USA. Kirby’s career began in New York but suffered a hiatus when his first instrument, a trombone, was stolen. Replacing this with a tuba, he resumed his musical career, joining Fletcher Henderson in 1930. Soon after this he began using a string bass, at first alternating between the two instruments. He spent about two years with Chick Webb, then rejoined Henderson, but in 1937 decided to form his own band. Securing a residency at New York’s Onyx Club, Kirby set about honing his group into a smooth, thoroughly rehearsed and musicianly outfit. Although this was the height of the big band-dominated swing era, he settled on a six-piece band and within a year saw his judgement pay off. The John Kirby Sextet, billed as ‘The Biggest Little Band In The Land’, became the yardstick by which nearly all sophisticated small jazz groups were measured. For most of the...

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