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Perry Robinson 1938-2018

The clarinetist helped establish a place for his instrument in jazz’s more exploratory corners

Perry Robinson
Perry Robinson (photo: Peter Kuhn)

Virtuoso clarinetist Perry Robinson, one of the last remaining voices of the 1960s New Thing, died peacefully at a Jersey City rest home on Dec. 2. He was 80. Robinson had undergone heart valve surgery earlier in the year and never fully recovered.

Though not a high-profile player, Robinson was a musician’s musician, and he made serious contributions to jazz and its derivatives for 60 years. On the timeline of freely improvising players, Robinson was the leading exponent on clarinet after Jimmy Giuffre and before John Carter. Time and again he fell away from the New York jazz spotlight, only to turn up in another city, playing in a new format. He recorded over 120 albums in his career.

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