Born June 9th, 1934 in Jamestown, New York, James William Beatty was given a clarinet for his eighth birthday and has been playing ever since! He has traveled the globe to play his music with such energy, enthusiasm and purity of sound that he was recently acclaimed “the eminent jazz soloist of the 21st century” by critics here and abroad. A label well deserved!
Growing up near New York City was a blessing for Beatty as he was influenced by the most legendary and talented jazz musicians in the world! In his late teens he fell under the guidance of the brilliant clarinetist Omer Simion, who became Jim’s mentor, and thus Jim found himself in the company of many of the jazz greats of the time, such as Edmond Hall, “Wild Bill” Davison, Eddie Condon, Pee Wee Russell, Sidney Bechet and Henry “Red” Allen. Late night sessions listening to these giants of jazz in and around Condon’s, Jimmy Ryan’s and The Metropole inspired Jim to master his instrument, the clarinet, to the magnificent heights we hear today.
Jim started his career playing in his hometown in 1952. He later moved to Los Angeles until the US Army drafted him in 1956. After graduating from the Army’s School of Music at Fort Dix, NJ he was assigned to the 384th Army Band at Fort Eustis, Va. It was here that Jim formed his first band, playing at the Post NCO Club as well as in and around Virginia, and winning the Post All-Army talent contest! Jim culminated his Army stint by being a featured soloist for the 1957 visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of England.
As a civilian Jim accepted an invitation by the famed Wolverine Jazz Band to play for their season stay in Nassau, The Bahamas. Then it was on to New Orleans to join Murphy Campo and the Jazz Saints, performing with them throughout the US and Canada. Jim left the Jazz Saints in 1963 when he was asked to play with New York’s Salt City Six as they presented their “Dixieland USA” concerts to colleges and universities throughout the US, lectured by the late Downbeat jazz critic, George Hoefer.
Jim returned to Jamestown in 1964 and formed his own band, The Dixielads. This hot and swinging traditional band soon became one of western New York’s most popular bands. Frequently featuring old friend and fabled cornetist, “Wild Bill” Davison, Beatty developed a large following in cities such as Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester. However, despite his popularity in New York, Jim decided to take on the challenge of pursuing his music in the Pacific Northwest, and in the fall of 1967, he moved with his wife and two boys to Portland, Oregon.
Once on the west coast Jim was quickly recognized as “one heck of a clarinet player” and soon was playing seven nights a week with many local bands including Monte Ballou’s Castle Jazz Band. Within months he formed his own band, the first “Jim Beatty Jazz Band”, and started a record-breaking four-year engagement at the nationally known Barbary Coast Room in downtown Portland’s Hoyt Hotel. The band played six nights a week until the hotel’s closure in 1972. It was during this time that Larry Hunter of the Oregon Journal wrote, “Beatty’s clarinet needn’t be compared to any other – suffice it that Pete Fountain gives no more.“
Portland was a hustling and lively city during the seventies and the Jim Beatty Jazz Band was in demand playing nightclubs, parties and jazz clubs. During this period Jim staged Portland’s first traditional jazz concert, featuring his band along with San Francisco’s Turk Murphy Jazz Band. Jim and Turk played to a sold out crowd at Portland’s Civic Auditorium – over 2500 people enjoyed a night of hot and swinging traditional jazz! Another concert featured once again famed cornetist,’Wild Bill’ Davison, again to sell out crowds. Jim and his band also performed with the Oregon Symphony, and working with Young Audiences, a nationally funded organization of the arts which provides musical concerts to schools, presented “jazz lecture” concerts to schools throughout Oregon and Washington. Beatty performed over 500 such concerts, experiencing a jazz musician’s nightmare – morning jobs!
With the decline of the night club scene in the eighties, Jim and his band hit the jazz festival circuit throughout the US and Canada. They traveled extensively playing engagements from coast to coast and made several recordings. During this time Jim also did a solo stint with the Turk Murphy Band at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.
In recent years Jim has emerged as a highly renouned jazz soloist. In addition to the Jim Beatty Jazz Band, Jim has been performing as a guest soloist literally around the world! These guest appearances have taken him to China, Scotland, Wales, England, Canada and parts of Europe. He has become particularly popular in the United Kingdom where he tours several weeks out of the year as a guest soloist at concerts and jazz festivals. After a recent performance The London Times had this to say: “It was a grand discovery to hear Clarinetist BEATTY. He plays with a broad tone emphasizing the lower and middle registers with a mixture of Creole delicacy and fiery imagination”. Jim also makes annual guest appearances in his home state of New York and in the winter months performs in the Phoenix and Palm Springs areas lapping up the sun between jobs!
It was Jim Beatty and his music that inspired German screenwriter Tim Dabringhaus to write a movie about an American musician and a German undertaker. The movie stares Ben Gazarra as Jim and is somewhat factual until it takes a bazaar twist into black comedy! It was filmed in Aberystweyth, Wales and is called Undertaker’s Paradise. The movie was released at the 2000 Berlin Film Festival.
Jim Beatty has always kept his music honest. No funny hats or gimmicks are seen. It’s the music first and foremost; and he plays it well! Above all, Jim Beatty’s special strength and attraction to those who admire his work, is his ability to make his notes stand out and pierce through the sound of the band. He uses his instrument to its’ full extent, from the bubbling and sensual sounds of his notorious low register to the incredibly high and breathtaking notes of his high register causing even dancers to stop and listen! As Jazz Scene Magazine once said, “Jim Beatty plays a magical clarinet. He offers a “tour de force ” in style and technique with solos that speak of the great New Orleans players. His playing brings back that “inspired abandonment: of Jazz’s forefathers. He should be included among the ranks of the great soloists of the decade.”
Although known for his beautiful solos and technique on the clarinet, his piercing notes and wide vibrato on the soprano sax has been catching the attention of audiences and critics of recent years.
Beatty plays the New Orleans style – plus more! He has expanded his repertoire by playing, along with the jazz standards, popular hits, light classics, marches, ragtime, swing, spiritual hymns and of course, the blues! – all this in the New Orleans idiom. Jim Beatty is a versatile performer and tailors his music to fit the occasion. So whether he is performing for a private party, reception, concert or festival, his audiences always want more.
Jim not only shares his love and knowledge of jazz and it’s history with other musicians both young and old, but it spills out in every tune he plays! The editor of Jazz Soundings Magazine once summed up Jim very well both as a man and a musician: “He’ll go anywhere, anytime to make music and play until there is no one left to keep up with him. Jim’s a special person, a special musician, and a joy.