Live with BEN KONO

Perfectly okay, you’re in your bunker, yeah, it looks like a bunker right. It’S it’s my basement, studio um! You can do whatever you want there. You do pretty much whatever i want down here as long as it fits the uh the family protocol. As long as it has to do with music, somehow exactly yeah yeah, well, it’s nice to meet you and uh.

Thank you for having me uh do this. This is great yeah. I checked out a couple year. Interviews and um got a really wide range of of talent and guests on here yeah. I guess it’s fascinating, yeah yeah, i’m glad you saw something you liked yeah, it’s uh!

It’S been a! It’S been a lot of fun so far, yeah yeah! So is it streaming right now or are you just recording it and then putting that’s why i i’m staring on my phone, because i would like to tag you right away. Maybe it’s appearing on your facebook wall immediately. I’M not sure about that.

But it’s streaming to my uh facebook twitterings well linkedin. I guess just various social media platforms great and then maybe you will tell us a bit about your musical upbringing and during those seconds i will try to tag you right away. If that’s, okay, with you sure, yeah fantastic yeah, so um well right now, i’m in new york, city and uh, actually uh north of new york city about by about 20 miles into town called nyack, which uh that’s. Actually it’s interesting since the pandemic uh hit it’s! It’S starting to look more and more like new york city, more, like brooklyn people are just moving out and uh, taking advantage of the uh, the change in their lives to uh to make to relocate or do whatever, whatever kind of change they thought about doing.

But i’ve been here about um i’ve been in new york city area for about 22 years, maybe and um. Before that i was in uh sort of the washington dc area in one of the service bands, the jazz ambassadors, the the army, um touring component uh yeah. I read about that when i, when i was preparing for the interview, maybe you can tell this is like the jazz division of the military or what yeah? Well, i i would say it’s the hearts and minds of the of the military, it’s sort of like the public face of uh of the military uh, so it was really more like a civilian job as a as a musician, you audition as a musician first and Then um uh and then once they once once you get the job, then you have to go through the basic training like every other uh military person has to do so uh. I i spent about five years down there doing that and uh.

That was very interesting part of my career kind of like nothing else. It really matches it in terms of just the difference in uh in lifestyle and um uh. Although working-wise it was very similar to what i’ve been doing before, which was a lot of big band work uh, i grew up in a town called brattleboro, which is in the southern uh southeast corner of vermont uh. It’S uh. We lived in the village, so it wasn’t really like normally when you think of vermont, you think of a very rural kind of farmland and woods and pastures, and that kind of thing, but this was actually uh not unlike where i live.

Now i mean you can walk to downtown. There were clubs there there were places to hear music. There was a lot of classical music happening because we were located near the marble music festival, which was kind of the summer home for a lot of uh boston, symphony musicians and new york, new york, classical musicians as well. There was a big classical component uh, harold wright from the boston symphony used to spend a lot of time up there, um uh. He was uh the principal clarinetist of boston, symphony uh marcel the moises marcel mauis uh, louise moyes um.

You know world famous flute, pedagogues um, so i grew up mostly around classical music music. My parents were not musicians, although music was very important, uh culturally to them, and they felt that we should all have some kind of a music upbringing included in our lives uh. But i didn’t have any real, like family role models uh. Nobody in my extended family uh was a musician really so uh. So i just you know it was banned.

I went to i started on clarinet uh. I went through the the elementary band school program and the middle school band and when i got into high school i really started taking clarinet seriously uh as a classical player and uh. So this was your first instrument: yeah yeah, b-flat, clarinet and uh. I auditioned for concerto competitions, [ Music ]. When i was a senior i got to play uh weber’s concertino with the wyndham uh windham orchestra, which was you know, a real thrill and terrifying uh, but uh, that’s really kind of where my my head was.

I mean i, i discovered jazz halfway through high school and uh it was. It really had a profound effect on me. I heard that the high school jazz band play and it was just uh. I never really heard what is there’s some difference when you hear uh, it’s amazing, of course, to hear a professional play, uh jazz, but when it’s your own peers and they’re up there and they’re improvising and it really hasn’t a profound effect, i think on you as A developing young musician, you know – and we had some really good jazz players in our high school band. They went to the eastman jazz summer camp and they came back with all this.

You know knowledge and uh skills and uh, and so i decided i wanted to do that. But the band director said i’d love for you to join the jazz band, but you know you play clarinet, so you can’t. You have to learn how to play saxophone or or trumpet or something so uh. So i learned saxophone and i was pretty terrible but uh. I had the clarinet skills uh to sort of carry me through the basics of saxophone learning and then eventually, i i did get hooked up with a saxophone instructor, who was very uh knowledgeable in a lot of ways uh.

I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, but i mean he he knew he could compare like a charlie parker tune to wagner. For example, you know harmonically and uh he’d spent some time in new york city and then stayed in vermont, and at this time there was uh this vermont jazz center. That was starting to really really become big, so i would meet jazz musicians just in downtown brattleboro. Vermont, like john abracomi or or uh jimmy heath, you know who are up for the camp and just hanging out in a cafe. You know it was really i took so much for granted back then you know it was a little piece of new york in southern southeastern vermont um, so i auditioned at colleges to be a classical clarinet player, because even though the jazz thing was starting to really Interest me so actually the band director, somehow uh put you aside with the clarinet in jazz for the for the first moments there yeah, i think i credit i had three band directors.

They they all came in and came out at different times in high school. It was just it was kind of a transition period for the band, but each one of them had a different uh skill set that they brought and the last one that i had uh was this woman named julie holmes. She was married to this educator from umat university massachusetts named jeff holmes and, and he had gone to eastman, he ran the jazz department at umass and he said you should really. You know should really consider eastman. I think uh they would love you there as just because i was a well-rounded uh, saxophonist clarinetist.

You know i could double and um play both genres fairly. Well, at that point uh, so i auditioned there as a clarinet major for stanley hasty, who was the outgoing professor of clarinet at eastman he’d been there for decades and has you know, was sort of a wool renowned, pedagogue and clarinet uh. But i i uh. I didn’t get accepted on clarinet because there were so many applicants uh such a clarinet heavy school conservatory, but i had taken an audition like a secondary audition on saxophone and it was all classical. There was no jazz, i mean it was just you know.

I had to play, i think, like maybe a something out of the fairling etudes or something and and then just play my scales and do some sight reading and ray ricker. Who was the sax teacher. There was also a very well studied clarinet. He actually has his phd in clarinet and – and i think he he liked the fact that ray ricker yeah, i think, he’d, like the the fact that i uh was versatile in both clarinet and saxophone and and so he accepted me on saxophone. So i i chose the school over the instrument, uh that i was auditioning on so uh it was uh.

I think it was a good decision. I went there uh and then, of course i got there and i found out that i was so far behind on my saxophone skills. I mean i’ve been playing clarinet since fourth fifth grade and have been taking it very seriously. But saxophone was like my my fun instrument, uh, where i would just go into a room and just improvise. I don’t know what i was playing.

I mean i was just it was. It was jazzy or jazz in my in my ears, but i i had so much catch-up work to do that. I felt that the clarinet just kind of got lost in the mix, and so that was 1985 when i started there in 1986 uh we had a visit from eddie daniels and he was coming through rochester to play with the rochester philharmonic. He had just released his record breakthrough, which is just you know. It was truly a breakthrough album for him uh.

I think it kind of took it from the commercial world into you, know the more artistic realm uh and it was it was. I had never really heard i i kind of knew who he was, but i knew him as a saxophonist from the fat jones, mel lewis, band and uh. I think i have freddie hubbard record that he’d play saxophone on, but i never heard him play clarinet before and so before he played that night with the orchestra. He he just played a quartet set for the school um with uh pianist bill dobbins, who was uh one of the jazz directors there at the time and uh at a quartet and man. It was just mind-blowing, like i never heard clarinet.

I think you know. I think i never got really into jazz clarinet. I i really kept like the clarinet and the saxophone very separate. You know uh, i think part of it was i just even though i appreciated benny goodman and artie shaw and uh and jimmy hamilton. It wasn’t the kind of music that i was really interested in.

I was, i was more into you, know the hard bop and call train post culture and that kind of thing by the time, by the time i went to college and to hear eddie daniels come in and basically sound, like john coltrane on clarinet was just like Wow this is this is what this is. What jazz clarinet should sound like to me at least to my it was just so burning. I mean he played giant steps and it was like faster than any saxophonist i’d heard it play it before in and and just just killing it. So this was a jazz kick before the classical gig at night, with the orchestra yeah. In fact – and it was funny because i mean the the the class the the set that he played with the orchestra – was very much like a crossover i mean it was going in and out like on the album yeah like it was based on on, like, for Example: uh solfegeto, you know by bach you know uh and then it would kind of morph into a jazz improvisation.

I’Ve seen him do this like demonstrate: uh improvising over standard, classical repertoire like he’ll, take like the pulank blank uh, clarinet, sonata and just improvise over it and just the fluency. The way he just kind of moves in and out of of, serious, classical and and jazz is is very it’s almost seamless. You know so this was somehow like a wake up call for you to maybe yeah stick to the clan yeah. I started. I started chatting clarinet again uh and for my senior recital i you know it was a saxophone degree.

Recital half the stuff i played on it was clarinet like i played the blank uh clarinet sonata as well, as you know, some other classical saxophone stuff and then uh. I took a year off and i toured with the tommy dorsey band uh and actually i started getting into sort of. I started getting into benny goodman and artist shaw like just that kind of music. There were a lot of old-timers in it band and had a lot of music to show me that i hadn’t really checked out before, and i really got into jimmy hamilton like to me he’s one of the greatest jazz clarinet players that ever lived. I mean just his sound and his concept with duke’s band uh and then um, and then i got my master’s degree in clarinet, so uh and now i’m back to primarily being like a saxophone and i’m kind of a jack of all trades in in new york.

I do i play a lot of oboe and flute as well. What about when came the bass climate into your arsenal? Well, uh, when i was in grad school. That’S what what what drew me to you, because i saw a clip on youtube where you play with the facts: oh yeah yeah with the guitar player and that really struck me and i thought yeah nice to chat a little with you about that kind of band Settings and uh imagination: well, the cl the it was really just uh. It was a very practical reason.

I got into base clarinet uh my scholarship at north texas uh, where i did. My grad school was based on playing in the wind ensemble and they put me on bass clarinet. I said like man, i don’t want to play this thing. It squeaks. You know it’s hard, it’s big heavy and reads just suck on it.

You know i. I really had no experience on bass, clarinet and they’re. Like sorry, that’s what we need. You know. If you want a full ride to the grad school, you got to play bass, clarinet so and funnily enough there was the other bass clarinet player in the orc.

In the wind, ensemble was a saxophone mainer and he was in the same boat. He was, he was a. He was playing in like the one o’clock jazz band, but he was there on a woodwind on a wind, ensemble scholarship, so uh it was kind of like sink or swim. You know i had to learn how to play it and uh. The wind ensemble stuff is is really hard.

You know, because there’s a lot of orchestra transcriptions that are, you know originally written for um orchestra, like you know the holst planets, for example. You know so a lot of that stuff uh well, that stuff was was probably originally written for for bass, clarinet, but there’s a lot of stuff. That’S you know goes to the clarinet because it was originally written for strings right, so uh transcriptions um. We did a lot of sort of more kind of like 12-tone kind of post-modern music as well um, and so as bass, clarinet player, you’re, pretty busy learning those parts, it’s not easy music and then i started getting work around the area playing in local orchestras um. I think the garland symphony uh they’re, all suburbs of dallas um but uh – i i kind of became like known as a bass, clarinet player in those – and none of this ever led me to you, know the aha moment like wow.

This could be a great jazz instrument. It was just really more like practical work. For me, there are a lot of clarinet players out there. It’S not so many, and it’s funny like some of the clarinet players who uh get put on bass. Clarinet are not necessarily that great at bass clarinet, because the embouchure is different, um, the way you blow it is different.

You have to be real loose, but at the same time you can’t play with a saxophone embouchure. I mean it’s. It’S kind of its own instrument. Right so uh um that band the i the i the what that band that i heard. What’S the story there, what’s the concept, what’s the music, my band, that particular thing that you’re you’re, probably talking about a river of fire, which was this piece that i wrote for um, a record that i did called don’t blink.

It was a chamber music, america commission to write music for multiple woodwinds and my quartet, which i or my quintet, which i’ve been playing for for a few years and writing for it, and that particular uh project was all based on um sort of a a path Towards environmental awareness and enlightenment, and that particular so each each movement had to do uh some kind of effect that mankind has on the environment, which leaves you know an awful lot of material to write about, but that particular one was based on uh this river. This body of water, if we can call it that that i used to live near in in brooklyn when i first moved to new york city, called newtown creek. It’S it’s a tributary to the east river, but you’d never know it. I mean it just looks like a big garbage sludge and uh. I lived there for five years about a block from the newtown creek.

Before i realized what it was. It was basically a super fun site where uh this oil leak had been happening for uh, 50 or 60. Some odd years before. Finally, uh this group called riverkeeper, came in and basically took uh the exxon mobil corporation to court and said you got to clean this up or you know we’re just going to keep levying fines against you. So i wanted to come up with this thing.

That was just kind of like real industrial sounding and uh angry and not pretty. A lot of the record is kind of pretty sounding. I wanted something that was more like uh, just kind of over the top heavy metal sounding and this guitar player i’ve played with for years pete mccann is, is uh he’s such a he’s, an amazing jazz, guitar player, but when he, when he turns the rock on Man – it’s it’s just so awesome, so i wanted to kind of you know, come up to his level and i’ve been experimenting with saxophone uh playing through effects. Uh there’s this group called bloom daddies when i first moved to new york as uh these two saxophonists seamus blake and uh chris cheek, and they had this group with two drummers and they would just play through these effects, and it was it was. It was exactly like what i was looking for, uh and but i didn’t want to do it on saxophone, because it’s kind of been done, uh and so i started messing around with bass, clarinet and putting like a contact mic on the yeah.

What’S the mic that you’re using there, it’s really it’s brand new. I don’t even know it’s just like one of these contact mics that i think mostly like string players, use them like like mandolin players or bazooky players. You know they. It’S you use this little piece of putty and you attach it to your instrument and it just picks up the vibration. So it’s like a piezo mic uh and it sounds terrible.

You can’t really reproduce the clarinet sound. No, so it just takes. It takes a signal and you have to boost it and put it through uh. Originally i tried putting it through a guitar amp, my brother’s a guitarist, and he left all these amps here when he moved out west uh, so uh and then i started going through um ableton live and then i just you know, there’s like a million effects. You can play with there.

I don’t know what i mean. I just there’s some sort of heavy metal guitar rack that i was was going through. It picks up a lot of it’s hard to use because it picks up all the key noise, so you have to gate it like crazy, uh to otherwise you’re just making noise. Every time you touch a key um, but i’ve also kind of incorporated that sound into it kind of sounds like an electric guitar. I mean it kind of you know the string, the fret noise, you know if you gain it enough, you can use it.

So you use distortion on that piece or what was the effect yeah lots of distortion, lots of like you’re, just over driven tube amps delay. Was it with uh. I mean pedals from bass, players or guitar players, or was everything in the computer in the computer that you used. That was a live gig. I think i think that’s what you’re talking about yeah.

So i like to try to. I had a lot of pedals that i was using like for looping um, but i was trying to uh keep things light, so i i i just run everything through the computer. You know i mean i i’ve gone back and forth and uh um. I find like the the computer processing is: is uh just got so good that um, the music was written by you, but that piece that i heard was kind of that that sweet that you uh mentioned about environment, and so this was cool that was all funded By uh chamber, music, america, new jazz works, grant so uh you apply and it’s a little different. Now it’s actually a little easier now um, but back then you had to uh write this whole sort of thesis statement on what you want to do.

Uh, it could have a theme or could not have a theme i basically applied for, like maybe three two or three times and then like third time was the charm. You know they said wow. We like this idea. We want you to go ahead with it um. So we got actually quite a bit of uh, quite a bit of use.

Out of that that grant we were able to tour, we actually was not for the for a composing part of you. It was was like a like a grand for the for the whole band to make music exactly yeah. There are different components of this. Of course, the composing, the composer, gets a a uh, a stipend to write the music, but then there’s another component. That’S just for concertizing, which that’s really the the um.

The main thrust of the cma grant is to get your band out there and perform and and actually give the musicians a decent wage, because you know so much of what we do is like playing for five dollars at the door right past the bucket or you Don’T so um we actually tore down, we uh were able to tour down to um uh, where is it missouri flew into arkansas and then drove to missouri, and so we’re playing this suite of music about uh. You know save the environment basically and we’re flying around right, as somebody as somebody put it. You’Ve just arrived at the lion’s den with this with this piece, because it’s like this is this is where they do. This is the the primary industry in that area was fracking like getting uh natural gas out of the uh out of the plus. It’S a very sort of, i don’t know conservative area of the country, and we had a huge impact at our concert.

We were really surprised. There were a lot of people that came out and thanked us and said you know. This is the kind of message that uh people in this community really need to hear because we’re getting sacked by uh global climate change and the town was actually town called joplin and joplin was leveled by tornadoes a few years earlier and they’ve. Just seen like you know, tornado after tornado come through man. This is not.

This is different. When i started that project uh, i was, it was really sort of um a response to questions that my daughter had. Who was four at the time uh about uh our environment, and i i started kind of looking around and – and it was just kind of before, global climate change had really become like a major political issue, um my daughter’s 14 now so this was like you know, Over 10 years ago, when i started working on it and now, like the you know, the message is even more dire than when i started so it’s interesting when you, you start something that uh you’re, not sure you know you have. You may have certain feelings about the message that it brings and then you know years later, uh and part of that just comes from educating yourself for any kind of cause, whether it’s um ra, you know racism or um, politics or or or even love. You know like, as you start to uh, dig deep.

You know you, you become more involved in it, but how was it delivered in that? In your case, concretely, i mean, like you, handed out like some papers with that with that topic on it or you played the music and between pieces, you announced what brought you to the music or what? How was it that purpose of environment, thoughts and whatever yeah? Well, it was an interesting uh way of writing. I’D, never written an entire, it’s basically an album’s worth of material.

I’Ve never written something that was that had an arc to it built in so it starts out with uh uh a piece about the dodo. It’S actually a dream that i had when i was when i was little and i was just starting to learn. I just learned about this. You know creature and why it went extinct. It didn’t get go extinct because of you know a meteor crashing to the earth or anything like that.

It went to extinct because uh the dutch settlers arrived at this island of mauritius and and killed them all so uh, so that was sort of the beginning of so it’s a little bit chronological that way and uh. I didn’t really. I didn’t really present it. That way, but it just kind of turned out that way and when people came up after the show and said thanks for that piece, i mean they somehow must have known about what brought you to to write the music. So you made an announcement or you wrote a poem or you had lyrics yeah the the uh.

The piece was uh well. First of all, the concert was interesting because we were playing for a classical music series uh in joplin and they always book one jazz group per year. So when you present yourself you’re kind of looking at what other groups that they’ve brought in over the year and uh and how they structure it, so i didn’t want to come in just like playing tunes. You know i wanted to come in with a program saying this is this: is the history of because that’s what you see when you go to a classical music console? Usually people want people are really interested in the pieces that you’re playing and what um?

What the narrative is for the music uh more than just like you know, we’re gon na play a bunch of cold porter tunes. You know, which is great too. You know, and that could also be part of that program, but uh. I wanted to make an impact with the message, so i sent them all programs ahead of time. They have like an education outreach uh program that they do uh in conjunction with the visiting artists.

So we, during the day before the concert we had a like a workshop at the university there and kind of a question and answer kind of session as well so and most of the people that show up to these concerts are very educated. You know uh, it’s not it’s like i. I hate to sort of paint an area of the country in uh, monochromatic colors, but they don’t get a lot of. You know: culture, new york, city, culture in that area. You know it’s, so it’s um!

You want to present yourself in in a way that’s going to be meaningful to the people that come out. You know it was a lot of the baseline was just one of the tools of the instruments you played all the other ones. Oh yeah yeah. I mean that was another part of the grant was to write something that things that were specifically like that tune. I’Ve played it on saxophone, especially if i’m having to fly around.

I don’t want to carry all these instruments and it doesn’t really work the same on saxophone. It’S just not a jazz tune, and you would think that even you know, playing saxophone through effects would make it more like the original concept. But it just sounds, like you know, a jazz saxophone playing through uh effects, rather than what i originally intended it to be, and the bass clarinet like there’s something about it. That’S it’s to me. It’S like there’s a sonic part of it.

That’S almost like sounds overdriven like like, or can sound overdriven like a like an electric guitar and i kind of wanted to exploit those sonic characteristics, um and kind of blend in with the other guitarist or the real guitarist. I should say uh and uh, and just the range you know being able to play low and when you play a low note and you play it through an overdriven two band, you get a lot of different sounds that are unexpected yeah doing it live, of course, Is just uh presents problems just in terms of feedback and um. Why feedback your mic is not going into the bore of the base clock? That’S that’s why i used uh the contact mic uh to avoid you know any kind of feedback, because i wanted to play loud. You know, and i wanted to really overdrive the sound and you can’t do that with with a microphone and plus the microphone is like for bass.

Clarinet, it’s really difficult to pick up the entire instrument. You know it’s hard enough with saxophone. So what what? What is it, what does it mean contact microphone like you just touch the instrument on the outside. I wish i had my i don’t know my.

I can’t really show you because it’s all packed away, but it’s not going into into the bore of the instrument. The one that you have no, no, i thought you said board, it goes into it. Just where do i? I actually have it attached to my ligature okay, because that’s about as far away from the keys as i can get, and the court for the mouthpiece actually kind of dampens, the um, the vibrations from the keys a little bit more too. So the microphone is sitting on the ligature top yeah and then there’s a long cable that comes.

The cable is actually the tricky part because it can get tangled up and in the keys and um. If you’ve ever seen, the sax the summer used to make a saxophone called the veritone in the 1960s, they used to take these mark sixes and they used to put an uh a contact mic. That actually goes. The bug actually goes through the neck and then the wire they actually soldered these um pieces of tubing onto the this is all done at the selma factory. They actually solder these tubes onto the the body of the saxophones.

The wire will go through that because you know people were getting tangled up in the wires um, but have you ever seen like pictures of eddie harris play uh? It’S kind of the concept that i was looking for with the bass, clarinet and really my next step would be to um. I mean i’ve seen lots of clarinet players. Do this, where they um drill a hole uh into the mouthpiece and then they put the contact mic actually inside and they seal it with like epoxy resin. So then you’re not getting the key noise you’re just getting the noise from um from the from the instrument.

But it’s very again: it’s like it’s not really well, some of them sound, pretty good uh, but there’s really like there’s two different sounds that i have in my mind for bass. Clarinet one is that classical sound that you know i was trying to really develop as an orchestral player uh, which i you know, clarinet is basically clarinet’s beautiful, but bass. Clarinet to me, i think, is – is just a beautiful instrument that uh is is very unique and underutilized um, even in classical music uh, and there aren’t too many jazz bass, clarinet players that i i really love to listen to in terms of just the purity of Sound um louis glavis is one i think, he’s fantastic. The way he plays uh paul mccandless, who is one of my big heroes of woodwind, doubling with the oregon oregon to me, he’s got the most beautiful bass, clarinet sound he’s using it that he’s using it in the in that band. Basically, oh yeah.

For from the beginning, but even before he was playing uh soprano saxophone, i think he was playing uh bass clarinet. Maybe i could be wrong about that, but he’s been playing that for as long as he’s been playing in oregon. I think i mean he’s primarily known as a as a double read player, but yeah. I know him from, but he sounds. Although yeah, he sounds amazing on everything that he plays.

Yeah he’s another guy who, like eddie daniels, like what completely changed my uh concept of of what a woodwind can sound like like uh oboe. You know i mean, i think to me – was just a j, a classical instrument and had no place, even though people have sort of uh messed around with it in jazz he’s the first one that i’ve heard that just improvises just completely free of any kind of Conception of jazz, i mean he’s a great jazz player, but i mean his improvisation is just so free and it’s just the sound is so beautiful on the instrument. He could be playing anything and any kind of music yeah. Maybe maybe you can tell a bit about your your practicing on the clarinet and bass clinic uh in regards to jazz, because this is like the jazz channel of the clarinet yeah um is, it is the? Is the practicing classically oriented to be ready for whatever is coming in in the jazz world or what how you, how your brain works?

Well, it’s interesting that that uh that you asked that um, because i asked that i asked that same question to eddie daniels uh. When he came, i said uh so on clarinet. How do you practice jazz and he said it just immediately said i don’t practice jazz and uh. I i had to really think about what he meant by that i think uh. I think it meant several things.

I think, first of all that you know mostly he’s practicing technical stuff that he can use as jazz vocabulary right and uh. Clarinet is such a different instrument than saxophone or flute, and even oboe i mean it overblows an octave and a fifth. You know, as opposed to just an octave, so your brain has to think differently. As soon as you go into the upper register, so um you know, just practicing patterns is really great is something i like to do on on clarinet. I don’t i, i hear a lot of saxophone players who play clarinet and play jazz and usually what i hear is uh they’re playing only in the upper register or only in the upper register and only in the lower register, but not across the registers.

You know why right do. I know why you know why. Well, i think it’s just because the upper register is more similar to the saxophone, you know and then uh and then the lower register, i don’t know the null register is hard. I think, except that it’s yeah to be heard even yeah, oh, and to be heard that and that’s actually that’s uh uh. I asked paul mcanlis about this uh.

Why how i said, how is your upper register so in your altissimo, so in tune like he has the most pure effortless sounding altissimo, even like compared to great classical oh boys like his altissimo chops are incredible. It says it’s because i play with drums. I can’t hear myself so i learned how to play that way: um but uh, but yeah. I hate that. I mean i hate.

That’S that’s the one gripe that i have about playing jazz clarinet in a uh big band, for example, or any kind of band. That’S going to overpower the instrument is, unless you have a good sound person and you have a monitor and you can hear yourself, you tend to start playing in the upper register and just staying up there. Because that’s what you hear i mean i you know. I think about yeah right think about benny goodman, and you know he was in front of a whole big band playing loud swing, music with gene krupa and uh. You know screaming trumpet section and what kind of sound reinforcement did they have back then.

So you know, most of his stuff is very uh, with the big band is kind of in the upper register. You know unless it’s unless it’s you know a slow dance tune right. That’S why i love. I really love his uh. You know his quartet recordings with lionel hampton and teddy wilson, because he he’s really my what much more of a chamber music uh instrument then he’s playing all the all the different registers but yeah anything that i can practice that’s over the break.

Uh, that’s the hardest part uh i’ll give. I love those close a exercises. Those are just finger exercises that just kind of go over the break, they’re kind of like you know, tongue twisters, for the for the fingers and uh. I give those to my students. You know to practice: if they’re you know trying to really kind of improvise around uh on on the clarinet, especially if they’re a saxophone player coming to clarinet.

You know just just find a you know, just find a charlie, parker lick and and transpose it to all. All the keys, but but do it in a range that’s like going across across the break. That’S a really good exercise, clarinet’s hard man i mean for for jazz instrument. I mean i’m i’m you know stating the obvious you know but uh. I think it really helps if, if number one you can get that facility across the break happening and number two that uh, you really learn how to play how to not overblow, because that’s the tendency to want to do one of my favorite uh clarence jazz clarinet Players actually is this guy uh chris speed, who is a really great saxophone player uh, but he’s kind of uh made clarinet his voice.

I think yeah he’s such a great tenor player too, but i used to sit next to him and uh when he was playing with uh john hollenbeck’s band and uh, and his sound was just such a. It was not. I would not, i would say, with not a jazz, typically a jazz sound. It was a real kind of classical sound and he was really approaches improvising. That way, i really enjoy listening to clarinet players, who have kind of a classical approach to playing jazz yeah, and, if you’re into that, like i just i just know a narrow part of you like that, especially only that song that i just mentioned what problem you, Like on the bass client with effects, but you should definitely check out that room burger microphone that is drilled into the into the neck of the base or into the barrel of the clarinet.

Because no feedback again and you can you can play beautiful uh with a pure sound, but you can also, of course, use whatever you want to use. Do you use to use one of those yeah? I use them and a lot of guys do it’s just what? What is the name, because i’ve seen a number of those? It’S a small brand, it’s uh it’s made in germany.

It’S called roomburger bloomberg, yeah yeah. I can send it to you. If you want, there was a great clarinet player. I met in um. There are plenty of others, of course, frankfurt, maybe he’s a jazz clarinet player.

He was, i think he plays with one of the radio bands there um and he plays the older system and uh. He i think he was playing one of those he has one of those pickups his microphone and gets an amazing, sound, yeah, yeah yeah again demands. He demands a good, sound guy or yourself to do the adjustments, but right, but it’s really, you can play classical a set with that if you want, but of course it goes directly when you need a clear signal for your effect. It works as well. Of course, very cool, yeah, there’s so much there’s so much uh.

I’Ve always been scared to drill a hole in my mouthpiece. That’S the only thing the next barrel. That’S all yeah wish one for christmas yeah exactly so. What what town are you in? Are you in um you’re in germany, right uh, i’m here in zurich, switzerland?

But, oh you, weren’t yeah, we’ll go back to saint petersburg in russia where i’m living oh you’re, from saint petersburg, i’m from zurich, but i i’m living there you’re living in saint petersburg right! Oh okay, i didn’t know that wow yeah. I spent a lot of time there. Uh years ago, uh i was working on a ship uh, one of those cruise ships. You know playing in the orchestra we used to port in st petersburg every every two weeks.

This was 90 uh, three, maybe 92 93, so it was very soon after you know kind of the fall of the iron curtain and all that it was crazy. It was just a wild time. I had some great music on the street, though it’s really it’s really pretty interesting. All these uh brass bands um playing really funky instruments. I don’t know what they were.

It’S like some different system of like valve valve trumpets and ben. I saw a mandel. That’S a mandolin uh orchestra, no uh, bella lyka, follow lego orchestra there too yeah, and that trio that you mentioned. When you listen to to my music. That’S it’s!

Oh yeah! It’S an instrument called goosely. It’S it’s not balalaika! It’S like a sitter. It goes into that direction like like a native uh like a special instrument from from russia, yeah it’s plucked with strings and um gorgeous sound too, and i really like the way you play bass clarinet in there it’s almost like uh, like uh.

It almost sounded like an indian bansuri flute kind of like yeah. You know you probably listened to the raga right in the church yeah, it’s like a raga kind of drone kind of thing. That is a lot of fun yeah. It’S also with the room burger by the way, and oh really, oh, that was through the runebook yeah with the help of roonberg. I think it was another mic because we were recording for that clip and for uh for an album.

Probably i remember some years ago, yeah yeah wow. Well that was entertaining ben. I i’m glad you could make it yeah. My pleasure, you know it’s. This is one day to the next.

We have an appointment. Yeah this pandemic is is uh. I mean it’s terrible. It’S terrible what it’s done to people’s lives and to music and uh, but it’s been interesting uh to connect with people all over the world that i normally wouldn’t have you know normally the people that i would see would be people you know in pit orchestras or You know wherever it is, i’m working whatever big band, i’m working with in town or i mean i never saw people in my own town. I would see people that live neighbors and i would only see them in new york city like in the rehearsal hall.

I wouldn’t see them in my own hometown and now i’m seeing them, you know on the street or or i’m seeing you on. You know the end via the internet, yeah um. So it’s been uh strange and interesting times yeah. I think it will remain a bit like that, for who knows how long, but yeah music makes it easier a bit at least when you can play it at home. Yeah, you know yeah, i mean i’ve.

I have like i’ve started, like i think, maybe 15 different projects since this started and i’m recording like remotely oh tons of recording remotely um. In fact, i’ve got this. There’S a big band project um one of these great composers from the bmi workshop that i been involved with for the last 20 years and uh. So we’re going to do a remote recording for her uh. I’Ve been doing some pandemic recordings of uh.

Just compositions based on uh sounds from around the town like wildlife. You know i’ll record during my biking, trips and walks. You know earlier in the year and have uh set them to music in different ways. I guess that’s sort of like sort of the sequel to my don’t blink, recording that you listen to um. I’M writing some big band stuff, some saxophone section stuff uh very few of it – is your completion.

I just keep because i just keep starting new things. You know, but uh it’s a good time to do that. You know what else are you gon na? Do i guess, but yeah, let me know when there’s some more on the bass clearand. I am writing something for bass, clarinet.

It’S it’s a little more sort of quasi-classical sounding, not really, i wouldn’t call it jazz, but it’s more new music. I guess whatever. That means well. Thank you very much uh. It’S great that you’re doing this and uh.

I hope you get a lot of followers and not about the clicks yeah. Well, it’s about you know people being able to see outside their window. You know see a bigger world how we saw into your room, you see. Now we have yeah well we’re enlightened and lively yeah. Honestly, it’s a little claustrophobic behind you, but so that’s we have to that’s why we haven’t.

You can see all my horns exactly set up there for for some video project, i’m doing uh but all right. Well, thank you so much simon thanks to you ben and see you later,

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