The clarinet is a woodwind instrument with a single-reed mouthpiece. A clarinet player is known as a clarinetist. Originally, the clarinet was a central instrument in jazz, beginning with the New Orleans players in the 1910s. It remained a signature instrument of jazz through much of the big band era into the 1940s. Larry Shields was the clarinetist for the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the first jazz band to record commercially in 1917. The American players Ted Lewis and Jimmie Noone were pioneers of the instrument in jazz bands. The B♭ soprano clarinet was the most common instrument, but a few early jazz musicians such as Alcide Nunez preferred the C soprano clarinet, and many New Orleans jazz brass bands have used an E♭ soprano clarinet.
Swing clarinetists such as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Woody Herman led successful big bands and smaller groups from the 1930s onward.