John Kirby (December 31, 1908 – June 14, 1952), was a jazz double-bassist who played the trombone as well as tuba.
Kirby was born in Winchester, Virginia. In 1926 he moved to Baltimore, Maryland, a town he is still linked to by some. He played with Chick Webb and Fletcher Henderson (where during the early 1930s, he performed some amazingly complicated tuba work on a number of Henderson's recordings) before starting his own band in 1937. His John Kirby's Sextet "The Onyx Club Boys" (usually included himself on bass, Charlie Shavers on trumpet, Buster Bailey on clarinet, Russell Procope on alto saxophone, Billy Kyle on piano and O'Neil Spencer on drums) would become one of the more significant "small groups" in a Big band era and had the first recording of the song "Undecided". He tended toward a lighter classical influenced style of jazz, which has strong defenders and critics. He was very prolific and popular from 1938-1941. After World War II his career declined and he died in Hollywood, California, just before a planned comeback. In 1993 he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame. Unlike other then-popular "novelty" jazz groups (like Raymond Scott), Kirby is not particularly well remembered today; his small group light jazz style is a great example how swing can also be quite elegant.
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