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Jimmy Dorsey was known for playing the clarinet and alto saxophone in the Dorsey Brothers, which performed with all the big names in big band and swing music.
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The demise of the big bands in the 1940s, spurred by the focus on vocal performers, led the careers of both Dorsey brothers to decline. Both men disbanded but later reformed their orchestras, and they worked together briefly on the 1947 film, The Fabulous Dorseys. In 1953, the two musicians were reunited in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra Featuring Jimmy Dorsey. They gained a good deal of notice for their regular appearances on The Jackie Gleason Show, witnessing the beginning of a new musical era when they introduced the young Elvis Presley. From 1955 to 1956, the Dorsey brothers co-hosted their own television program, Stage Show, on CBS.
When Tommy died suddenly and unexpectedly in November 1956, Jimmy took over the band, recording a new version of one of his much earlier songs, "So Rare," that went to the top of the charts and gave Dorsey the biggest hit of his career. He died in New York City on June 12, 1957, less than a year after his brother's death.
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Saxophonists have been an integral part of the American jazz scene, with the timbres of their chosen instrument often at the center of layered compositions. Coleman Hawkins was the first American jazz saxophonist to become famous during the 1920s-30s. Jimmy Dorsey and Johnny Hodges also had major success with big bands during jazz's heyday as a popular music juggernaut, while Lester Young popularized the West Coast, cool style. Later, soprano and tenor saxophonist John Coltrane created pioneering works that ranged from "sheets of sound" bebop to unbound, rhythmically complex free jazz. And Branford Marsalis has taken his sax to great heights in non-jazz arenas; he's toured with rock artist Sting and served as musical director for The Tonight Show.
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