Jimmy Dorsey was an American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, composer, and bandleader born on February 29, 1904, in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. He was the older brother of Tommy Dorsey, another famous bandleader and musician.
Dorsey began his musical career as a teenager, playing in vaudeville and dance bands in the 1920s. He and his brother Tommy formed the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra in the 1930s, which became one of the most popular and influential big bands of the era.
Dorsey was known for his virtuosic playing style and his ability to improvise in a variety of jazz styles, including swing, bebop, and Dixieland. He was equally adept on the saxophone and clarinet and frequently played both instruments in his performances.
During his career, Dorsey recorded with many notable jazz musicians, including Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, and Lionel Hampton. He also composed several jazz standards, including “I’m Glad There Is You” and “Tangerine.”
Dorsey’s band underwent several personnel changes over the years, with many famous musicians passing through its ranks, including Bob Eberly, Helen O’Connell, and Ray McKinley. The band’s success continued throughout the 1940s and 1950s, with hits such as “Green Eyes” and “So Rare.”
Tragically, Dorsey passed away on June 12, 1957, at the age of 53. His contributions to the world of jazz music were immense, and he remains one of the most influential, albeit lesser known, saxophonists and bandleaders of his generation.
Page last updated 4/1/2023.