One of the greatest jazz clarinetists in history. He pioneered Third Stream and even veered into bebop territory before he retired.
His first instrument was the saxophone, but he was playing the clarinet by the time he had left home at 16 to tour with a band.
He and his big band popularized Cole Porter's 'Begin the Beguine' with a legendary and influential recording of the piece in 1938.
He signed Billie Holiday with his band.