Leon Roppolo was a prominent early jazz clarinetist, best known for his playing with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings.The New Orleans Rhythm Kings were one of the hottest jazz bands of the early 1920s, and a strong influence on many later musicians, including Bix Beiderbecke, Muggsy Spanier, Mezz Mezzrow, and Benny Goodman. Best known for their 1923 integrated recording session with Jelly Roll Morton, the NORK’s smooth, swinging style signaled a departure from the raucous novelty sound of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and its imitators. Another hallmark of the band was its emphasis on solo performances, while traditional New Orleans jazz was still heavily dependent on ensemble playing. The solos of Leon Roppolo on clarinet and George Brunies on trombone are still considered classic, and have often been copied on other bands’ recordings.
Leon Joseph Roppolo ( nicknamed Rap) was born in Lutcher, Louisiana, upriver from New Orleans. His family moved to the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans about 1912. Young Leon's first instrument was the violin. He was a fan of the marching bands he heard in the streets of New Orleans, and wanted to play clarinet. An older relative with the same name played that instrument in Papa Jack Laine’s Band. George Vital Laine aka Papa Jack, was one of the most important band leaders in New Orleans in the years from the Spanish-American War to World War I.