Albany Leon Bigard (March 3, 1906 - June 27, 1980), aka Barney Bigard, was an American jazz clarinetist and tenor saxophonist, though primarily known for the clarinet.

Bigard was born in New Orleans and studied music and clarinet with Lorenzo Tio. He moved to Chicago in the early 1920s, where he worked with Joe "King" Oliver and others. During this period, much of his recording with Oliver and others, including clarinetist Johnny Dodds, was on tenor saxophone, an instrument he played often with great lyricism, as on Oliver's hit recording of "Someday Sweetheart".

In 1927 he joined Duke Ellington's band in New York, where he stayed until 1942. With Ellington, he was the featured clarinet soloist, while also doing some section work on tenor.

After leaving Ellington's Orchestra, he moved to Los Angeles, California and did sound track work, including an onscreen featured role with an allstar band led by Louis Armstrong in the 1946 film New Orleans.

He began working with trombonist Kid Ory's band during the late 1940s, and later worked with Louis Armstrong's touring band, the All Stars, and others. He died in Culver City, California.

Bigard wrote an autobiography entitled With Louis and The Duke, and he is credited as composer or co-composer on several numbers, notably the Ellington standard "Mood Indigo".

Barney Bigard and His Jazzopators

The first version of the song Caravan (composed by Juan Tizol and later rearranged by Duke Ellington) was recorded in Hollywood, 18 December 1936, and performed as an instrumental by Barney Bigard and His Jazzopators. Two takes were recorded, of which the first (Variety VA-515-1) was published. The band members were Cootie Williams (trumpet), Juan Tizol (trombone), Barney Bigard (clarinet), Harry Carney (baritone sax), Duke Ellington (piano), Billy Taylor (bass), and Sonny Greer (drums). All of the players were members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, which would often split into smaller units to record small-band discs. Even though Ellington was present at the recording date, the session leader was Bigard.

In keeping with Ellington's formation of small groups featuring his primary solists, Bigard continued to be featured under his own name on Variety and subsequently Vocalion and OKeh through 1940. When the entire Ellington organization signed with Victor in 1940, Bigard recorded for Bluebird under his own name.

After WWII, he recorded under his own name for independent labels Signature, Rex, Black & White, Selmer, and Keynote in 1944-45. He also recorded an album for Liberty in 1957 and an album for French Vogue Records as "Barney Bigard-Claude Luter Quintet" in 1966.

Bibliography

With Louis and The Duke ISBN 978-0-333-40210-8) - Barney Bigard's autobiography.