Live with MICHAEL WINOGRAD


Oh doing everything that i can yeah some saw some of those videos that you did. Oh yeah uh i mean the the one main show. You know oh yeah. Well, you know whatever you can keep your mind occupied so um. When did you play the clarinet?

This was when uh. No, it was not my first instrument. Um, let’s see um piano was my first instrument um, but i was playing uh saxophone as a younger kid and then um. I got into klezmer music around 14 years old and uh. I went to a master class at tonic in new york city, the old venue in the lower east side uh.

They used to have this klezmer um uh series on sundays, that was curated by david, krakauer and and david gave a master class there uh. This was probably around 1996 or something 1997 and uh. He was like you should play the clarinet, so i went out and i bought a clarinet yeah. Is that club still around tonic? No, it closed down, probably about gosh, probably more than 10 years ago, now um, but it was uh.

It was really the you know. One of the one of the hubs for all good things in terms of downtown music and uh was pretty uh pretty big. For for uh, you know the whole downtown scene, including the klezmer scene of new york city. At the time, yeah sounds like a great thing like with clinics and master classes and concerts and yeah. I don’t know how much they did in the way of other clinics and master classes.

I know for this series uh, they kind of just gave david the reigns and he could he could uh do with it, what he wanted, which was really cool because he had concerts regularly but uh. Also, there was a couple of teenagers. You know like me at the time who he would every once in a while. He would give us a spot, you know, and it was super cool. We would get to play at this venue uh as part of the series – and we were you know, 16 years old or something it was uh, and then he would also do these uh.

These uh, these master classes as well, so it was pretty great yeah and what was your musical orientation before that when you played a saxophone? Where did you come from uh? You know general. I was a general saxophonist as a kid you know i played. I started.

Studying jazz a bit, you know, and i was playing in the school band and stuff uh. You know i i was uh. I mostly just like to kind of make music on my own at that point uh whatever whatever came about, but i guess i was studying some jazz. You know i i was uh, but it was early on enough that i you know i was playing in some different jazz bands and stuff in in long island, where i, where i grew up and uh, but uh yeah things got serious. Once i came to klezmer music jewish background, jewish family yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, pretty mainstream jewish backgrounds, uh didn’t didn’t, hear a whole, a whole bunch of klezmer music growing up a little bit um, but um uh, but once i got into it the whole family was Getting into it so um, you know, so we heard more of it uh over the years, but uh you know it’s not it’s.

It’S um! The music itself is not part of mainstream jewishness. Still isn’t you know it probably won’t be um. So uh you kind of have to come to it or find your way there um. So i didn’t hear a ton of it growing up, but uh living in new york.

It was uh easy to access. What kind of clarinet do you play? I i saw some videos that i couldn’t um. Oh yeah couldn’t get it really yeah this one yeah, it’s the one that i play uh, it’s um, so i got this clarinet about uh. 13 years ago it’s um, it’s uh, built by a guy named steven fox who lives in toronto, and it’s a c clarinet with uh, with an extension yeah, three keys so down there yeah.

What kind of notes do you play there yeah so like the top joint? Is uh there we go there, we go top joint. Is normal, uh bottom joint. You have this. This extra rod over here and uh gets you down to a low d which you access by your gosh.

That’S not getting all the camera! You access by your uh, your thumb over here so um. I can play as low as uh it’s a b flat clarinet. This is that guy stephen fox who built it it’s his his kind of signature, design, um and uh. I really like it uh it’s!

It’S really nice, the low end of it is quite a bit uh bigger than uh than you would get on a normalcy clarinet. I think see clinton. I never well the guy, the older. You know the the folks who were playing klezmer music back in the day in eastern europe uh and when they came over to the states, were playing c clarinet. It was kind of a folkier folk year instrument at the time uh a lot of them most.

It transitioned pretty quickly even a guy like dave harris who came over and was playing on c clarinet by the 1930s, was playing a b-flat um albert system but uh b-flat uh, and then all the folks following that uh we’re playing b-flat. But i think that for those of us who are there’s a whole bunch of clarinetists now in the music who kind of liked the idea of a c clarinet, just like you just didn’t – want to transpose right yeah, that’s what it is yeah and also we don’t Like the transpose, that’s what everyone says, oh it must be better for reading like as if i re i mean you played my heart everything. I saw that well a lot yeah i mean you know i do reading too, but it’s not as if that never played a part in the. Why c clarinet was interesting to me um and in fact it really was just that this guy’s clarinet was interesting to me. Um, my pal kurt burling out in chicago a great clarinet player.

He was playing an earlier model of this clarinet and i just fell in love with it, so i want to play that who had really never had considered playing a c clarinet before that there was nothing more to it other than i just really liked liked. That model did guys like uh brown, vine and uh epstein brothers, those guys they played a c clarinet or brand line did yeah brand mine played c clarinet throughout epstein’s no uh max epstein played a standard b flat bomb, clarinet, um and uh any of the pretty Much any of the uh american-born guys um pretty much any of the american-born guys played not only uh, b flat clarinets but generally played bone system uh, but the europeans uh came over brand mine. You know stuck with c clarinet. Terrace start at c moved over to b flat, but on albert’s system, i’m not sure about beckerman uh, i’m not sure if beckerman played an albert or um or a bomb uh, but his recordings sound, pretty b flatty to me so uh pretty sure he b5. I’M interesting yeah choice, instrument yeah, so once you got that input, you kind of navigated, totally into class more and they can that way of playing.

That was like new to you up to that point. Well, at that point, yeah uh! At that point, what was um so i came to it. You know, as a teenager uh. What was cool was that um to it, when i did, there was still a generation of uh of guys who had played it uh back in the 40s um and at that time, in the 50s uh who were still around and were accessible for teaching and stuff Uh they were pretty old at the time, but my first teacher was a guy named sid beckerman.

His father was slumpkin beckerman, the great clarinet player, so it felt like i really uh was able to get a really good link like to be able to study with that generation of guys, uh um, and then there was a few more following that uh paul pincus Uh and how he leads danny rubinstein and uh ray musica ray music are still around he’s 94 living in in long island. New york he’s still playing clarinet sounding great um, and his brother was sam muzeker uh, who played uh played with the uh gene cooper, orchestra, uh, so his older brother, so um, but anyway i came in at that time and i uh was really fortunate that i Got to learn from um learn from folks who had been, you know who were kind of part of the link and uh you know were were from were were from that time. You know and uh it was uh. It was really great for me, um, and you know a lot of folks following me, who came in just a few years later. Their similar age to me came in later, didn’t get that opportunity and they still learned to play the music great, but i think it was very good to have both the uh musical teaching and the cultural uh experience all together.

It was really you mentioned. You came, you played also a bit jazz or all kinds of music up to that point. So i i wanted to know like when we’re talking about embellishing melodies and you all already improvised before. Maybe a bit was, was it kind of something you can compare with? Well, i mean remember: i was 14, so uh how serious i was doing it at the time.

Uh is, is you know questionable, um, but uh, but um? I i always uh. I think that, within the canon of cl within the tradition of klezmer clarinet of klezmer music, classical musicians are improvisers. You know uh, that’s that’s the nature of the music um. Don byron had an interesting way of putting it in an interview from probably quite quite some time ago, uh, probably in the 80s or 90s.

He was interviewed about some interview with klezmer and i thought it was really insightful that he said uh. He he considered at the time – and i don’t know i’ve never actually talked with him about about any of this stuff one-on-one, but um uh. He was kind of talking about how, like all music, has some amount of improvisation. You know whether it’s you know in a in a in a free-form setting where things are where you have a lot more space or it’s in uh, a classical setting where it’s up just about very small uh. You know small amounts of it uh, so klezmer is somewhere in the middle.

You know uh, but there’s a bot. It’S like it’s like you have this box and you get to fill it up. You know uh, so a guy like brand mine who you brought up before you know. If you listen to his recordings now his recordings. Are you know three minutes long, each you know uh.

So that’s all we have to judge by, but every every time he would play a phrase. It was different, you know and uh, and he was not a studio musician like some of the guys who came, came came on a little later, so um. You have to assume that, like you know, he didn’t enter the recording booth thinking about what he how he was going to play it or what he was going to play it. It’S just what came out so uh, i think as an improviser, i’m probably i’m more uh. That was more uh, that’s more, where i’m coming from than uh necessarily from the jazz angle.

But that said, i’m a new york, musician and uh and you know in new york uh you take everything in and the um, the uh, the jazz scene or the downtown music music scene. It’S so um. The scope of it is so wide that uh, you end up incorporating lots of different ways of improvising from all over uh, so uh. I think that it plays a very big part in it and when i’m, when i’m playing i’m i’m improvising um now it’s the form that the improvisation takes is uh. You know it’s about embellishment uh, but sometimes it’s about things just like ornaments.

How am i going to treat a certain note or a certain note pattern, and then sometimes it’s about okay, let’s deconstruct reconstruct the melody, letting your improvisations, you know um. I think that there’s room for it all right rules like are there some some strict klezmer rules like don’t do that on a whatever? I think that the strictest klezmer rule is make sure you sound good. You know like. Like i mean i.

I think that the the rules are slightly more um, there’s a there’s, no rules, um kind of, but there’s a lot of uh tradition and there’s a lot of tendencies. Uh. I think that once you um, once your sound and your um style, is in a certain area, you realize what the how much, what kind of space you could fill it in with um and uh. So it’s like once i felt comfortable within the zone that i play in. I can you know it’s kind of seems like uh, the it’s pretty endless.

You know it’s there’s not too many restrictions. However, if you’re coming to it from an outsider, an outsider’s uh, you know if you’re coming from another style of music – and you want to enter through through this improvisatory way, it’s probably a bit tougher to to kind of um. It’S just interesting, like there was a really great musician in new york uh, who i happened to run into um, uh recently and um, not a classical musician. He is like a improviser. You know plays a lot of uh uh, south asian music, whatever and uh.

He was interested in getting in you know, learning some more klezmer. He says. Maybe we could just improvise on it a little bit. I was like yeah. Well, that’s kind of not how you start.

You know you start by knowing a thousand tunes. If you know a thousand tunes, you’re gon na know exactly how to improvise within this music. You know, however, if you just come to it, it’s not like a thing where someone says: okay, here’s the form and you improvise over these chords and it’s it’s uh. It’S a little more uh. It takes.

It takes a bit of uh. You know marinating in the world to me like, like the jazz guys, they’re talking about 32 bars or the blues form 12 12 shares. Is there something uh similar in that genre of music um? Well, it depends. It depends where you look in the music, because uh there’s plenty what klezmer music is today and what it has been.

It’S pretty open-ended and you get a lot of klezmer musicians who both play the traditional a more in a more traditional way and expand upon it in different ways. You know when i came up in klezmer music in the 90s uh in new york city, guys like frank, london and david krakauer and and john zorn. Even you know like all these downtown new yorkers were really taking it in in in uh. You know in a in different in different ways and incorporated lots of uh lots. There was lots more room for improvisation in in that uh and that exploration from the source – and i consider that as part of the genre.

But if you’re going to look at more um, if you’re going to look at if you’re going to slightly step step back and look at it uh at the um, i guess the more uh traditional, which is a bad word. But i would say the source, the source style, a little more um, your improvisation. How you can go about improvisation is more limited. However, it’s not it’s like you have a smaller space to do it in, but you can still do it as much kind of so. For example, uh like i was saying before, if you have a tune um that has a melody.

If you have plenty of room to be able to embellish it using different ornaments certain ornaments, you know just to name a few there’s ornaments like trills and like phrasing ornaments, you know, and how you how you tie, notes together and whatever and and and different types Of uh different types of extended techniques that you use to make the instruments talk a little more there’s those kind of stuff, but then there’s also improvising on the melody in a way that still can can uh can work within the phrase. So if you have some melody that has a certain cadence that has a pattern you know um. You can then change that pattern to something else. You know like a linear type of improvisation that exists, so that’s within, for example, uh like a dance tune. That has a specific melody now, there’s other there’s other sub uh, there’s other uh types of of of of uh.

I guess sub-genre within the larger genre that have a lot more room for improvisation, there’s something called a doina, um or and called zetsune, which are these um these. These are these melodies with uh that are not over time, not over time, necessarily, but there’s i’ll come back to that. Traditionally they are over. You know it’s ribato and um, and and and of course i think that um that on the older recordings, they’re slightly more composed than they may have done them in person and uh. I think that in person when um, these melodies were played – and they didn’t have a three minute limit on the uh on the 78 record – they were recording to they.

There would be a lot more room for improvisation, so i think that there’s a mix of composition and improvisation there, but there you have uh. I wouldn’t say that the chord structure is necessarily agreed upon in advance, but there’s there’s a uh. You know a a number of different places. You can go uh from one from one chord to another chord and the uh and the uh. The the melody instruments will um will improvise the melody and then also what’s a really interesting part in there is uh.

Is the transition from the next chord, so the the melody needs to signify, and you have to hear what the melody instrument is implying in order to go to the right chord and you you still hear on old records where you know one chord instrument went to You know the piano goes to one chord and the trombone goes to another, and it takes a second for them to come together, but uh. So there are some there’s some uh sub-genres within the larger genre that have uh more room for something like that. Now. What was really cool is that starting in about the 50s or so – and there might be – there might be some examples earlier, but i’m thinking right now in the 50s, some of these uh musicians, like sam musicker and like dave terrace on their records, would play jonas Over time, so they’d have a band playing a groove and then they would there’s a couple of examples of this and they’re they’re they’re few and far between but uh uh. It doesn’t happen too regularly, but it is uh.

It was a cool exploration. You know uh sam musicker had his one foot in klezmer music, one foot in the jazz world, so he was. He was right on target to do something like that and uh. So it’s pretty cool when he did it. You know and uh.

But let’s say you play a jewish wedding yeah. Can you take a 10 minute solo or is it more strictly like? Do you play the song? I don’t i don’t. Can i i don’t think that you, you would consider it a 10 minute solo.

So if i’m playing a wedding and i’m leading a dance set depending on how big the band is like, if it’s just a four piece band, a rhythm section and me on clarinet, i’m going to be playing the majority of the melodies and in order to keep The to keep it interesting for me and to keep the music interesting, i’m going to constantly be improvising on those melodies, but the melody still exists. You know so you’re improvising around this melody, the kind of line of the melody you can still feel it within the improvisations. That’S not to say that you can’t veer from it more or less there’s times when you kind of. If this is the melody you might be just staying, you know like right right on the line, but then there’s times when you might veer off but you’ll come back to it, but it’s not the kind of thing too often where um you uh. You know.

However, there are related genres that involve more improvisation. You know so like when uh, you know often um there’ll be some middle eastern elements that can come into uh klezmer. It’S a bit. It’S a bit outside the uh, the simplified genre. You know, but it is definitely it happens all the time you know uh and within there’s a whole.

You know, obviously within within different middle eastern um, uh uh. You know styles, there’s there’s whole systems of improvisation that sometimes we incorporate a little bit um but uh. There’S there’s a yeah, it’s it’s! It’S interesting, i mean there’s. Also, the you know: it’s a big big discussion because, where uh, where the style comes from like a doyna or it’s there’s, there’s there’s things that are related that have a a really interesting, uh improvisational structure that i’m not i’m not necessarily um the person to necessarily Talk about it too much, but within cantorial, music within jewish cantorial, music um, especially going back a bit.

There’S this whole system of how you get from one place to another um. You know tetrachordal uh movement and uh improvising in certain using certain modes in order to reach other modes and where you’re building up which to me is very similar to like macabre like turkish macaum, and that’s that and different arabic styles of improvisation and so um. And the fact that there are those similarities is really interesting to me. Uh. I think that there’s there’s common roots there yeah.

Can you talk a bit about your other projects? I mean other projects. Other bands, for example. I heard something beautiful with a i think. Pakistani singer, yeah, music, somehow but different different routes, yeah so yeah yeah, so that that’s a bangasha who’s, a singer from uh pakistan, uh from lahore and uh.

We met probably eight years back nine years ago, uh playing. We ended up playing a concert together in washington dc uh, where i was the guests with she was coming over to play at the uh embassy room and uh. We enjoyed it a lot, so we uh, we started making a lot of music together and uh, and you know we explored some cultural similarities within certain parts of the music. I think that something that um we were both uh. She sings a lot of music.

That is kind of fringe folk music, in a similar way. That klezmer is to uh. You know within jewish culture. A lot of the stuff she was exploring at the time was um was similar over there, and so we were both just kind of the idea of playing these uh semi, for i wouldn’t call it a forgotten culture, but a sort of fringe culture, music, but um And then we started writing writing a lot of music together and it was just uh. It’S been a real real joy to do.

Um uh, there’s uh. There is musical there’s a musical languages from that part of um from from that part of the world, especially within pakistan. Uh i mean i’d heard a lot of pakistani music before, but i think that i’d heard a lot of the stuff that other people had heard. I hadn’t heard like balochi music. I had never heard bilochae music before and that just blew my mind and then also there was it’s.

It’S a really uh musically, diverse country, the stuff that you’ll hear all the way up north is so different than the stuff that you would hear all the way down south. That’S just it’s! It’S crazy to think that they’re from the same place, um so really rich stuff to dig from. So when we were writing when we were writing music together, you know it’s like taking stuff from her cultures, taking stuff from my culture, putting it together and um, and it’s been really really rewarding, uh and uh and something i wouldn’t have seen coming. You know, but it’s been great, is that the band with oot and violin – or am i mistaken, yeah yeah uh, so uh there’s a guitarist who doubles on oot um uh morgan as the band kind of developed it was.

There was less ud uh, that’s yoshi fructor, who lives in brooklyn and uh. The violinist is a turkish violinist named elim bashalda and she actually moved recently from brooklyn out to la but uh. Someone who i went to the new england conservatory with in boston she’s. A great musician, so we were trying to take these different. You know the idea was that zave would come over to the states and we would kind of put together this very brooklyn band.

You know with these different sounds that we know would work. You know as musicians who i’ve all worked with, but uh you know involving, like the turkish violin, really was like one of the key elements to like how are we gon na tie it all together? You know, and it really was like uh. It’S been very interesting. It’S also been quite a while now uh, of course, this year, everyone’s on on hold but uh, we weren’t able to do a whole lot in the in the previous year either, but uh we’re hoping to get back to it once things kind of you know, return To normal, like if somebody says michael, is into world music, is that kind of offensive, or is that the right thing i mean, let’s say, for example, klezmer or like pakistani music, like?

Is it safe to say that you’re interested in folkloristic elements of a certain type of music or area? I mean you know it’s it’s i i you know if i’m not offended by you know so, i’m not offended by the term world music. However, i do find it interesting that uh there’s been a and i think it’s a good thing that there’s been a step away from using that term. Recently, in the last couple years, um i’ve always found it to be problematic, so uh, you know so. For example, the grammys changed that this year to global music, which i think is a step in the right direction, um.

But but but does it really matter because it’s like, if you say it and you’re and the reason you bring it up, is to have an interesting conversation, then so be it that’s great um. I think that i am a klezmer musician. That’S where i come from. I have a very specific you know: uh home base and anything else that and i’m interested in tons of different musics and the uh. The the project with zabe was uh such a strong calling that it it demanded.

I get into it more, but uh really it’s! It’S very clear where i come from, i think um. However, i’m as i said before, if you’re a new york musician, you kind of have to have very open ears and be and be up for, collaborating with just about anyone, and it’s makes being a musician rewarding and fun and uh, and you know it uh. The more i do in those other worlds, i feel the more i i’m enriched within the music that i’m gon na make. Even when i return to my to my world so yeah yeah, and can you give any advice of like how does your practicing or how did you?

How did your practicing change, maybe from before class, were like yeah into the transition like? Is there something special you’re doing that, maybe a classical musician is not necessarily yeah, probably i mean i think that um, so i think that it’s it’s great to be involved with something that is, for the most part, an oral tradition. You know that you learn from listening and you learn from from hearing and singing as opposed to necessarily learning from from uh written out uh notation uh, not that we don’t use written out notation. We use it all the time but um you know uh. The fact is is the way that you learn klezmer music, especially especially, if you’re a clarinetist uh we’re we’re fortunate as clarinetist, because there’s a lot of old recordings, as opposed to there’s other instruments that don’t have as many there’s far few fewer fiddle recordings than there Are clarinet recordings?

There’S even fewer accordion recordings? You know so it’s like. We have access to all of these great recordings from from just to name a few from from nuff tiller brand one and dave and dave terrace. You know recorded starting in the 20s through the 1970s, so it’s like. We have just this huge amount of um material to check out um and then yeah max epstein, as you said, sam musa, all these guys great recordings to learn from and that’s how you learn.

This music, you know you learn it from listening from micro analyzing it you know slowing it down. Um back when i started learning this music. The way you slowed it down was still uh with a a tape slower. You know and then right around that time there started to be software. That would come out.

That became available, the great slowdown or, i think, came out right around 2000 or something um, yeah and and and now now it’s you know multiple there’s many many ways to slow down recordings now: uh that are very easy and accessible. But that’s the key to learning this music is to listening to old recordings, slowing them down finding teachers. Who can do that in person for you and really figuring out? How does it all work um, because sometimes it’s really hard to tell it’s hard to tell uh listening to it, you know at at tempo um, but then also learning all the repertoire. It’S like those two things come together um.

I think that, as in terms of practicing the two things that have helped me the most over the years that i’ve that have really come to to, i think you know that i i feel like i’m. I might i i sound my best when um, when i’m practicing from old recordings, like if i decide okay, i haven’t never, never really micro analyzed that recording i’m going to slow that one down still do it um and really get into it. I’M like oh man. I feel great when i’m doing this. This is this is really helps me as a player.

Also writing uh. I found that that i i practice really well when i’m writing. So so it’s just uh. It’S like a vehicle to be able to um to work on on your plane through the music that you’re making and um, and i don’t know if this is true for everyone, not everyone’s a composer but uh as a composer. I i find that i’m on my game, both technically and um creatively when i’m writing a lot, so i don’t know if that’s if other people feel the same way but uh.

I think that it’s been very helpful for me. Some, like the jazz guys, are doing transcribing some solos or melodies and see how they embellished them. Yeah same thing, yeah yeah, i mean i uh. I’Ve been transcribing, you know transcription is the key to it. You know uh, you know how to that’s, how you get your your mind into the world that was at that time.

You know it’s uh, you know with jazz. Luckily, there’s a there’s a lot more musicians who play jazz really well than there are with klezmer music klezmer is a small world, so you can find a lot more uh. You can find mentors and teachers a bit easier and also there’s not as much of a broken chain where there was with klezmer music kind of you know after the second world war, it kind of really decrescendoed uh until the until the early 80s but um uh. You know old recordings are the key, i mean you know i just uh whenever someone is new to this style of music and they ask what should what’s. The first thing you should do is just bury yourself in old recordings and uh c-clarinet.

Does it sound? I mean: is there something something else to it, then to a b-flat clinic i mean you showed us the the d, the d note down there, but and but besides that it’s the same fingerings right, oh yeah, the fingerings are the same um. I think that there’s a uh there’s something different about the sound of a c clarinet um. It’S like it’s thinner in some areas which are um, it’s not as robust as it feels like it’s not as robust as a b flat clarinet, which, for some things would be not does not as desirable, but i think within klezmer music. It makes it a bit glidier and it makes it a bit uh just it’s hard to explain, but there’s something about the sound that i think is um you know is well.

I think that what’s nice about this clarinet is this. Clarinet is kind of uh kind of meets halfway, um uh, but um yeah. I don’t know that there’s uh, as i said, the reason i play c clarinet is because i play this c clarinet. It was never the idea to just to just play c clarinet like i have another one that i’m another c clarinet that i have no interest in playing uh. I mean it’s not a great horn, but i just like there’s nothing desirable for me to play it.

I play this because it’s a great horn and it’s and it just was – i was called to it. Yeah is there anything you would like to do in the future, like, for example, mixing certain instruments like to uh well to search for a unique sound as as always, musicians are driven like to find um within that klezmer yeah, i mean whether whether it’s instrumentation – i Don’T know i i i’ve um over the last good amount of years. I’Ve been very drawn to us. You know the thing about. Klezmer, music is a lot of times when, when it’s talked about, especially from with outside the small world that it exists in uh, it’s kind of made into this single genre thing where in fact, the uh you know if you listen to like early recordings of like Fiddle flute symbol recordings, you know from the early 1900s and you listened to an american klezmer band from new york city in the 1950s you’d, be hard-pressed to find all that many similarities.

There certainly are. You know i mean the a lot of the melodies and the and the the modes and the but like there’s so many differences like it actually is a pretty pretty uh wide genre. So there’s a lot of sounds to deal with um and there’s a lot of places to enter uh. For me, i um after years of of experimenting with what was you know, and i you know as a musician. You always want to be growing and and exploring new things.

Um. I’Ve found that the uh era of klezmer music of the mid-1950s has just been my kind of go-to. I always come back to it and uh. There was something about the sound and the fact that they were learning how to do all this hi-fi recording and just there were certain things to hear then – and i i can’t put my finger on it. But what i’ve been interested in is writing more kind of with that sound in mind, not necessarily writing in that style.

But writing with that sound. So, like you know, uh klezmer, music, really kind of took a big nap right around that period. You know starting in 1960, you didn’t hear a whole lot of it for uh. You know for about 20 years. It didn’t develop a whole lot, there wasn’t a whole lot of recordings and it was used certainly for functions, but um.

You know really didn’t. Have a creative development at that time, but what if it had you know like? Where would it have gone? You know um uh, so i really do kind of like going back to that. The sound of that time and uh creating new stuff using that you know that world that atmosphere.

So i know that’s, that’s pretty uh, not very specific uh, but uh. I mean no plans playing with dj some closers. I’Ve done it. I i was on tour with so-called for 10 years. I don’t know if you know so-called in montreal, he’s uh he’s an emcee and he’s a great klezmer musician and he does all the sampling and it’s super cool and uh he’s a collab good good friend of mine.

I’Ve been collaborating with him for years, uh uh! So there’s always stuff to be done like that yeah i do. I ha. I don’t have a specific um, a specific thing in mind at the moment um but um, but i will say that i bought a talkbox recently. So, what’s that so you put the tube in your mouth and you uh and uh.

It’S like uh, you could rush. It’S like uh, see it’s on, stevie, wonder records and steely dan records and uh talk box yeah! You you get sound, you look it up. So we’ll see, if that that, if, if that turns into anything, that’ll be uh as close, you teach as well. Are you playing only yeah so um?

In fact, i i spent a lot of time um, i’m the artistic director of klez canada, which is a um which is a a workshop and festival that happens at the end of august and uh that i spent a lot of time working on that and then Also, i’m um one of the one of the co-directors of well one of the co-curators of the yiddish new york festival, which is starting tomorrow evening, uh for the next couple days, which has a big learning component to it. Uh so there’s concerts. But then there’s for both of those uh, both of those events is uh daytime. The daytimes are full of workshops of um, instrumental music, vocal, music, dance, music, uh uh a whole whole lot uh. You know language and cosmoside yeah and not just klezmer.

It’S like the whole kind of we expand like the whole. You know, there’s there’s yiddish language, there’s uh the arts, there’s the the culinary arts there’s the theater. You know we try to. We try because uh, it’s you know these. This.

This world needs uh kind of needs, a hub like needs hubs like this so uh, so we try to pack it all into one place so yeah. I do a good amount of teaching um and uh uh with that and putting together. The program is something that i spend a lot of time on so yeah culture, worker and that’s uh. I guess online these days, yeah so um in so uh, so yeah. So the this whole thing is uh is online uh, so um, you know i was on tour in europe at the beginning of march.

We had to cut it short and fly back and pretty soon we had decided that our august festival was going to be virtual and it was – and it was really it actually turned out to be really great, and we learned a lot about what people uh. What people can do online? You know it’s, it is, i mean. Obviously we all want to get back to in person, but uh there’s a lot you can accomplish. You know and uh there were some things that we found were speaking of transcriptions uh.

We found that we, i taught a transcription course at uh uh at class canada during the summer. I co-taught it with another great clarinetist out in um in berlin, this guy christian david who’s, one of my favorite klezmer clarinetists on the planet and um he’s also really into transcriptions like i am. We taught a transcription course which we found worked better in the online setting than it probably would have in person, because, with with screen sharing and being able to to take have em, you know all of our recordings right right at our fingertips. Uh. It worked really great and it was really nice to be able to have a course in something like that which we generally shy away from um at in-person events uh, because it’s a little hard to put together in that setting so yeah.

And what kind of people attend those uh camps from which angles? Are they coming from from the instruments or from all kinds of corners yeah? So a international which is great uh both when it’s in person and even more so when it was online um? I think that there’s um the there is a an international klezmer scene in yiddish, music community, that uh comes together at these times, so you get um uh. I think that you’re getting a lot of folks from from the states and from canada, but also from germany and france, western europe and then from all over really uh.

I think that there’s people who are new to the music who come, i think, there’s people who have been around it for decades. Come it’s a really nice hodgepodge of of folks um, it’s i know for me, uh. I know that i learned this stuff by going to events like this um. That was where i learned it, and so i know that these places that they work you know and that like having these deep immersion, even if it’s just for four or five days when you do a deep dive in and you block out the rest of the World which is harder to do these days but um it really, it really works. You know, and it’s it’s a really great.

I never went to a another type of music camp uh like that. I did go to new england conservatory. So that’s a university setting, but this this immersion, like five-day immersion type of thing. It really really gets people’s juices flowing and they they leave. They leave these events.

You know checking out more old recordings and working on their style and and developing the things that they they taught and bringing it back to their home communities. So i think it’s a great way of learning and and uh, and you get like this parallel thing of like learning the music learning, the techniques, uh learning the you know the physical things you have to learn and then also community building and when it’s those two Things together, you really uh there’s a lot that comes from that. Is it open to everybody, yeah, yeah, yeah and there’s both of these events. There’S scholar, there’s uh youth scholarships and there’s um all sorts of ways that we want people to accept for it to be accessible to people so yeah. It’S open and encouraged for everyone.

There’S family programs at all of them. Also, we’ve really tried to to beef. That up. Is that, like there’s, um uh is that we have. You know kids programs so like if people want to come and study, there’s also programs that they could bring their families to so uh.

We try to make it yeah, for example, if somebody is interested in i mean in the music in the religion, he can be an outsider entering just to learn more about whatever he wants to learn right: 100, yeah yeah and these events are not particularly um. I mean they’re cultural, so you know they’re, not they’re, not particularly uh. I guess um. You know it’s interesting. It’S like there’s so much stuff about jewishness.

That is, it deals with religion. It deals with secularism and that kind of all plays a part into the music. You know, but it doesn’t, but these these events are open to to everyone and, and anyone and uh you know, and the in this community is a very, very diverse community jewish non-jewish. You know from all over the place. It’S uh, it’s pretty amazing.

What the klezmer world has evolved into uh, it’s very it’s something! That’S very exciting and uh of uh. A lot of people are very, very happy to be part of it. So, yes, it is open to everyone, and and now since we’re here talking specifically clarinet stuff um, it’s a great clarinet music. You know it’s one of i mean i think it’s one of the.

Obviously, i think it is because i play it but uh, but i mean it’s, you know it’s the clarinet, it’s like it’s the most expressive instrument. There is or one of them, and i think it’s one of the great languages that speaks is uh music. So i would absolutely uh encourage anyone to check it out. I will take this as a final sentence of the interview. Great nice good good.

Please do yeah yeah. It was a pleasure talking to you. I appreciate it. Yeah, sharing your thoughts, everything and uh. Let me know if you’re coming to zurich or saint petersburg, that’s two places, i’m the most often and zurich and saint petersburg yeah.

Okay, i mean i’ve. I well we’ll see i mean i i was supposed to be in zurich in march, but i didn’t make it. It was cancelled before my uh. Well, that was at you know i had to leave before then so uh. Let me know i mean i, i know the places where you could play and yeah yeah i’ll i’ll.

Let you yeah i’ll, let you know uh for sure it’d be great to connect in person when that’s possible, so yeah, so uh have a lovely weekend and uh see you at another time hopefully sounds good thanks. So much for inviting me. This is really fun. Thanks to you, okay, hi, michael

Read More: Live with EWAN BLEACH

As found on YouTube

Live with PETER ANDERSON


Yeah it does yeah nice to meet you you too uh. Where are you calling from i’m calling from st petersburg? Okay, so you’re so you’re um you’re in russia? Yeah not florida, not quite but uh go ahead, yeah yeah! So i’m not sure.

If you’re aware of the whole thing, but i’m basically having a chat with clarinetist, mostly jazz, [ Music ], just to to hear their story basically and to exchange some thoughts and views and whatever. So i would love to hear how you got started with the clarinet. What what made you play jazz and we’ll see where it leads yeah? Absolutely so, are we gon na is this live? Are we uh yeah?

This is a live stream. Yeah i’m streaming streaming, live to my social media channels and later there is a youtube playlist for people who watch it later sure. Well, just let me know when, when you want to begin yeah, i’m i’m ready, okay, great yeah. So, as far as when i started playing clarinet um, i started playing when i was nine years old. It was my first instrument and like most clarinetists, i started off.

You know just in school band and then i moved up into middle school and i started playing classical repertoire and you know i, like you, probably have um as i went through high school. I worked on a lot of the great clarinet repertoire, like the mozart and debussy and uh the brahms, sonatas and stuff, and at the same time i was playing jazz on the saxophone, and so they were kind of separate. And then it wasn’t until i got to new york when i was 18 that i started kind of i started working as a professional musician and i didn’t realize it, but my my skills on the clarinet and like the technique and the tone and everything were really Useful uh on the music scene, uh, you know i i thought i was coming to new york to be a jazz saxophonist and i would just keep up the clarinet for uh for fun or for enjoyment, because i love the instrument and it really like blossomed into An avenue for me to get a lot of work and collaborate with a lot of people and through those experiences i kind of delved further into the jazz clarinet and you know, uh – did research into benny goodman and artie shaw and buddy defranco, and you know the List goes on uh, so so any encouraging teachers at that time when being a teenager or yeah by yourself, yeah. Well, when i, when i first um when i first was playing in in the washington dc area, there was a there’s, a musician named dave, robinson and he’s actually the brother of scott robinson. Are you familiar with scott yeah?

I am yeah, oh yeah, incredible, so um. So here i was in maryland. I was like 13 14 years old and i was playing in this community band led by dave robinson and he’s very skilled and knowledgeable, but i didn’t realize that his brother was, you know one of the greatest read players uh on the planet. You know playing clarinet and saxophone, so i came to new york and scott was one of those players that i kind of met and was tutored by probably the biggest influence i had initially was victor goins, because when i moved to new york at juilliard, i was Studying with victor – and i know, you’ve interviewed him and and he’s just he’s, a great player he’s a really well-rounded doubler um, and he taught me a lot of what i needed to know in the beginning, to kind of break break in to being a a full-time Working musician, very cool yeah, so so, basically, when you study that juilliard this was like uh was this uh the jazz program or or classical program or yeah yeah? It was.

It was the jazz program. Um mr goins victor was was very uh gracious and that he uh taught me on the saxophone and the clarinet. I was also able to take some classical lessons on the clarinet, which i consider really important to my to my playing now like at that time. Back in school, i was really taking classical repertoire pretty seriously and much more seriously than i do now. Although i try to keep it up um i was studying with another clarinetist named alan kaye and he really challenged me.

You know to just go beyond the mozart and uh. Like really challenge me with some kind of modern pieces, we played the muchinski um, we played the bartok’s contrasts. He had me working on like a whole host of really difficult, uh exercises the creps and the yule. He really wanted to find he really wanted to teach me like a classical player, even though i had no interest of going down that road um and then, as you know, a lot of the skills from that type of playing are transferable to jazz. So you had the foundation laid out in front of you, that’s good necessary to adapt to the jazz yeah yeah.

I think so. At that time i was, i was doing both um, but then then, ultimately, i kind of like you know just blended them um. So yeah, so to answer your question yeah i would say: victor goins was my biggest influence, um scott robinson and then of course, um uh, probably ken paplowski uh was it was another he ken was was a especially when i came to town. He was one of those musicians that was working as a leader and a soloist, so he was playing at smalls, jazz club and birdland and the jazz standard, and you know i would i would it – was the kind of experience that i couldn’t necessarily get from those Other players like i would go to ken’s gigs and i would you know, listen to what songs he was performing and and the way he kind of tailored his set and his performance, and then i would at the break. I would go ask him, you know how he was able to do certain things on the clarinet, and you know what his influences were.

So i really got like a hands-on experience from from kind of following around ken, that’s nice. It’S yeah. I was going to ask that uh what interests me that when you play, i mean you play saxophone and clarinet or clarendon and saxophone at the same time, but we all know that it’s much easier to sound, rather okay, on a saxophone, much quicker than on the Clarinet and the sound is louder and everything is more funky in the beginning. So what kind of what kind of things happened that you didn’t switch completely to the saxophone folks, in this case yeah i mean, i think i think most people would agree that clarinet’s. It’S a more unwieldy instrument.

It’S you can squeak easier. You i feel like you can be out of tune um more often on the clarinet um. You know i notice, especially like in this cold weather. I know it’s cold in russia, like the the saxophone warms up. Very easily okay um, because it’s made of brass and the wood is it can crack first of all, but it’s it takes longer to warm up.

So if you’re going to a gig – and you put down the clarinet for say 10 or 15 minutes – and you pick it up – uh, it’s uh, it’s it’s cold and it’s so yeah. So i to answer your question. I think it really took me years of of practicing equally. So if i have an hour to practice i’ll do a half an hour on the clarinet and a half an hour on the saxophone, and i might go as far as to say is say: clarinet requires more practice. Uh you’ll you’ll hear people like ken paplowski talk about this um or or dan block someone who who plays both of them.

Uh. You know the clarinet, you you in order to get a sound, you have to cover the holes very accurately of the instrument and saxophone. If you’re a little bit sloppy, it’s not really going to interfere, so maybe maybe clarinet is is more important to practice. If, if you, if you’re, trying to sound good on both instruments – and you only have a limited amount of time, go to the clarinet first in terms of styles, were you attracted to one in particular like to one kind of jazz or what’s the story with you? Yeah i mean uh.

I’Ve listened to some of your stuff and, like most musicians, um uh. I do a variety of styles. So, like i’m, i love like the old swing stuff, um uh players like benny goodman and on the saxophone lester young and coleman hawkins. But then i i love like more modern styles, like john coltrane sonny rollins um. Would you play the alto right?

Oh uh? I i play mostly tenor: sorry standards, yeah, yeah, so tanner and clarinet um, yeah yeah, exactly yeah, there’s just so many tenor players. I mean when i was younger. I listened to joe henderson and uh hank mobley and uh wayne shorter. I just i was just transcribing.

So much it’s a shame on the clarinet there’s just not as many good players, and so you know if any people are watching this, that are that are really into playing jazz clarinet. I would. I would encourage them to to check out saxophone players because um you’re going to get a lot more material, uh and and solos and and repertoire uh than if you just try to stick to just the clarinetists, because, as as you know, there’s not there’s not a Ton yeah not comparable to this to the tenor sex yeah yeah. So can you tell us about your first? I don’t know maybe projects or bands with buddies as a teenager.

What kind of tunes you guys played and where did you play and what kind of working experience was there at the beginning, yeah sure? Well, when i came to new york, i moved to new york, essentially with my brother, we’re twins and we both came to attend. Juilliard and then, when we graduated, we had already kind of built up some contacts in new york. We were already working, we were subbing a bit on broadway and um. We were playing in uh various configurations, big bands and this sort of thing so um and we met a lot of the people that you’ve interviewed on your stream, dan levinson and ken paplasky dan block.

And so we were. We were already working. So when we graduated school i already had employment. I had income, you know i so i could have an apartment and pay my rent. I was doing a little bit of teaching, but mostly just playing like all types of stuff weddings concerts recordings.

You know uh summer concerts outdoors, just like whatever it was, if there was any opportunity to to play and get paid for it like i was there, you know um and – and i i did that for a little while and then after a while my brother and I started putting more and more effort into our own ensembles, so we started recording more and booking concerts and tours and stuff, and up until you know the coronavirus last year we were really lucky. We were fortunate, we had uh, you know trips, all over the world, mostly in the united states. We had trips, like i think we played in nearly all 50 u.s states and things were things were really going. Well, we were getting a lot of great opportunities and you know just really grateful for everything that new york and the jazz scene has provided so so the twins are headlining and and who’s in the rhythm section, or this is kind of what’s the band yeah yeah.

Well me and my brother: will we we’ve uh we’ve played in a lot of configurations, um our piano players um? Usually we hire ahu to sherry, um, sometimes rosano, yellow and then on bass. We use uh, neil miner and clovis nicholas. Sometimes, on drums we we hire a lot of people, phil, stewart, paul wells yeah i mean in new york, there’s just so many great players. There was.

There were several years there when, when my brother and i actually formed a group with the guitarist um, and we used a couple of guitarists felix lamero, adam mazzinia and alex wentz um, and so we booked um some tours that were uh four or six weeks. Long and we would go out and perform as a trio, so clarinet, saxophone and guitar, and we had all these um intricate arrangements that we’ve written and uh man. Our guitarists are just amazing. They did rhythm, guitar and all sorts of chordal stuff. So we kind of we kind of built up this trio and it was sometimes we would join local musicians, bassists and drummers local towns and cities, and it was a blast like all the all.

The places that we’ve performed and visited were really great yeah. That’S a great idea. I mean to travel lightly, not with too many too many musicians and too many equipment right yeah i mean when, when a lot of younger musicians ask how they can build up their touring and how they can get experiences like booking their own concerts, i always tell Them that uh, you know it might be good to give your uh employers like options um. You know even some of the great players that we look up to you know like eddie daniels. I i heard eddie daniels at dizzy’s and he was playing a duo with with him and a pianist, and it was incredible sounded like a full band.

Roger kelway was was playing piano and you know eddie plays in a lot of configurations. He plays with orchestras and big bands, but he can sound just as good when it’s just with uh, just and uh. That’S essentially what we did we, we wanted a tour. We wanted a headline at jazz clubs and stuff, but it wasn’t really feasible for say you know, fly to california with a full rhythm section and a bass and drums. So we we like paired it down and uh.

Like i said for some of the concerts, we would add musicians but yeah to younger musicians. I say: don’t be afraid about yourself and join others or kind of create, like a small project that might that might work in some smaller venues. You don’t have to go straight to these big. Could pro you know, get performances for like fifty people. First, it’s funny.

It reminds me of jeff civil silver trust. Many years ago, back in uh, he was playing. I mean, that’s a guy that took it quite far. He played the trumpet he played the hi-hat and and the piano so it was. This was a it’s quite cool.

I mean you, don’t have to do that, but i mean that’s. That’S the only thing you can do yeah. Well, if you i mean, if you, if you listen to like um, you know this is a clarinet podcast, so you can’t leave out benny goodman. If you, if you listen to benny goodman uh before his quartet, he had a trio um, and it was just teddy wilson and on pink group on drum it sounds like a full band. You know they they’ve got these mints and the way he’s playing with all of his our arpeggios and um and things i i do think it’s it’s a good lesson for younger players to you know, don’t be reliant on.

You know trying to get kenny baron and ron carter and uh jimmy cobb in your rhythm section. You know you you have to you have to learn how to play. You know a solo concert or a duo concert, and you know your your articulation and your your time. Your rhythm and your tone quality has to be so good that it’s got to stand out on its own yeah. Can you tell us a bit about your uh practicing about the instrument?

What kind of instruments you play? What kind of things you do, what helped you, but what would you recommend to to people coming up want to play jazz on the clarinet? What what what was particularly helpful to you or things like that yeah sure well i’ll, probably be repeating a lot of this um kind of things because um i i’ve heard you and you sound, good, um and i’m sure um. You know you’ve repeated a lot of this, but i’d say for me. Probably the most important thing that i learned when i was young was that i had to learn music by ear and because i think i think especially younger students are taught like they come up.

At least in america. You come up through the band program and you’re in fourth and fifth grade and you’re like reading music, as especially as an instrumentalist, and some students can’t get out of that mindset like they. They can’t play unless they have music in front of them. But musicians have an incredible ability to memorize. You know like uh, some pianists who play concert pianists will play an entire rock monologue.

Piano concerto with no music and jazz musicians should do the same thing. So if you’re a young musician, you want to be able to learn songs by ear and memorize it, and you know, because when you, when you go when you when you transition and you want to work as a professional musician, that’s the way it’s going to be. You know you’re going to go on a gig and they’re going to say. Well what songs do you know? Do you know all the things you are?

Do you know um the way you look tonight, whatever whatever it is, and you have to have the the songs memorized, you have to learn the melody like exactly the correct melody. You got to know the chords um and you you can’t be messing it up. You put away the phone yeah yeah yeah, so like this yeah, the whole thing of uh musicians like having uh their ireal book on their phone and going to the gig, and that’s that’s not what i would recommend, um so and and uh being in new york. For for a while, you’ll see that not only not only does it allow you to work to have a lot of songs, memorized and repertoire to go out when you play, but it really adds a lot to musicianship um. You know the the the more songs that you know that you’ve learned by ear and that you’ve internalized you’ve memorized them.

It gives you a lot of material to improvise with, so you don’t necessarily have to transcribe a million solos. If you just learn songs and you have the melodies memorized it’ll, give you a lot of it’ll. Give you a lot of material to improvise with you know we’re not necessarily making up everything we play uh when we improvise it’s derived from the material that we’ve learned. So if you know a hundred jazz songs by heart, you’re going to be able to improvise pretty well just just knowing that that brings me to the next question like how much when you improvise is kind of because of your training you had over the years. You know how to outline a chord or how much is is definitely in the spot, just listening to what’s going on and really to improvise, because that’s always something you can tell.

If uh i mean how much brain, how much heart is in one player right so uh yeah – i don’t, i don’t think there’s i don’t think there’s one way to do it. I think um there’s some players that i listen to, who are like really spontaneous um. I’D put someone like scott robinson into that into that group, or going back into time. Maybe someone like sunny, rollins or charlie parker, they’re they’re, so they’re playing something different on every solo. They’Re really spontaneous um and those people are really those people are geniuses, um, but then there’s you know those other musicians in history um, like maybe maybe i put like someone like cannibal elderly, into the group um that are very worked out.

You know they’re very practiced, so a lot of the material that they’re playing they’ve, they’ve, um they’ve prepared almost um and i don’t think there’s a right way to do it. I think there’s a lot of musicians out there who are improvising but a lot of what they’re playing they’ve practiced. But you know if it sounds good on stage uh. It is good. You know i i i don’t think uh if if a musician gets up on stage and and he has some uh uh uh a solo, that’s his own – that he’s come up with or she’s come up with and and uh it really sounds good.

I wouldn’t put them down for that me personally. I i like to practice and i like to work out. I definitely like to prepare. I don’t believe that you can over practice or being pr as prepared as you can, is gon na help you it doesn’t. It doesn’t hinder, uh being spontaneous, you know, so you can.

You can practice and work things out at home and you can be spontaneous when you’re playing so let’s say tomorrow. Uh somebody asks you for a gig and the guy’s gon na play a standard that you usually don’t play that much. You would just go over it at home, playing through the chords checking out. What’S going on yeah absolutely um, i think, like i was saying before i think i think uh the more preparation, the better. I guess there’s like i don’t know if it’s like a myth or or it’s like uh, the cool thing to say you know it’s like um, oh man, if, if you don’t practice, you’ll go on the bandstand you’ll like really feel it and you’ll uh, i i Don’T believe that i think um yeah, i think i think practicing is – is important and um in some ways.

It’Ll help you be more spontaneous it’ll it’ll just bring more to your bag of tricks, so yeah. If someone hired me to play something, i’d definitely practice practice. It what kind of instrument do you play i play, i play a buffet clarinet, i’m assuming you do as well are 13 or what do you guys play there? Yeah i play in r13 actually uh. Two years ago i bought a green line r13 and i’ve been playing that and i’ve been happy with it, because i had one before just a regular r13 and it kept cracking like many many times, and so you know i’m very happy with with the green line, Because i don’t have to worry about uh, you know bringing it out into the cold weather and it cracking yeah.

That’S great yeah. It’S pretty good. We got one like that in the army. I remember oh yeah did you play? Did you play in in in the military yeah?

I played marches, oh okay, so i i i had that instrument too for a long time, and i i mean it’s a great great thing, of course, that you have something so consistent. Yeah i mean i feel like uh buffets are are made like very consistently. I’Ve played dozens of them and, and they all they all play. Well, i’m not i’m not like one of those people that if i lost my particular clarinet today, i would just get another one, and i wouldn’t really like be sad necessarily and you guys arrange like you, you mentioned with your brother you’re playing together. So you guys arrange like horn lines for the two of you that that fits the music, the the style, the gig, whatever it comes yeah, especially especially with our our small small group or trio you kind of like have to arrange for that size group and the The horn player, that’s playing the accompaniment or the harmony like has to come up with some uh horn line or some complimentary line, because when you only have three people, you don’t have a lot to work with.

So in that group setting we’ve probably done like the most arranging and uh i’d, say i’d say a lot. A lot of my arranging knowledge, though, has really come out of, like just playing jazz, gigs and and especially like new orleans and dixieland um, because when you’re the clarinet player, that’s what you’re doing for the whole gig. You know if you have a trumpet player on the melody the clarinet player has to you, know, play harmonies under him or her and has to come up with like a horn line and just through doing so many of those type of gigs type of performances. I’Ve kind of like learned a lot about playing thirds and sevenths or playing you know a sixth below the melody, a third below trying to play a moving line. If the trumpet’s playing the same note, um, trying to like play, fills when there’s uh kind of gaps in the melody.

All these things that i learned on those gigs helped me when it came time to like formal arranging like with pen and paper. Okay, just have to write down what you usually do live at the gig yeah yeah. Is it the same way for you? Do you feel like? Well, i’m not an arranger.

To be honest, i i mean i i compose but uh you know it’s it’s small size. I mean it’s standard like it’s just 32 bars, not more. You know right right, yeah, i mean i feel like in jazz. It’S it’s mostly about the playing um. I, like, i feel, like i’m, mostly a player um like first i mean i’ve, i’ve written some originals and and and this and that, but i think most of what i do is like just trying to think about just my own playing and when i write and When i arrange, i really think about that, so like what you know, what’s going to be fun to play yeah as an as an arranger like, if i’m writing a melody, am i going to be able to you know inflect the melody like put vibrato or put Little nuances like on the melody, that’s going to make it really sound personal, and if it’s you know, if i’m writing, if, if i’m writing a piece or an arrangement, and it’s just very mathematical and mechanical, and it’s just a lot of 16th notes like that, doesn’t Do it for me, because then it takes all the personality out of it.

Yeah writing is a tricky part. I i noticed once i listened to a recording and the compositions were so great that all the solos afterwards, just you know, was nothing compared to that. So that’s the hard part of it when you have clearly remember that yeah yeah, it’s like uh yeah, i mean some some people, if you’re not writing for jazz. If you’re, just writing for a composition alone – um, you don’t have to worry about that. But since since i’m mainly like right for jazz, i’m usually thinking about how is the player gon na feel about my piece, and i want them to be, i want them to feel like they can their own personality into it.

Did you come across some uh claire? Not specific jazz books because i mean there are some things out, but let’s face it, nothing really, nothing really serious. I mean i i remember there is benny government and already shaw that they show some scales up and down, but it’s not really like, like a jazz method or some kind of i don’t know etudes or something did you ever see something like that like comparable to? I don’t know jerry bergonzi for a saxophone or things like that interesting. I i don’t really know many jazz clarinet books per se um, i’m trying to think um.

You mean advanced for yeah for advanced yeah. Whatever i mean guidelines or jump like like historical uh facts or i don’t know just i mean it’s interesting for every instrument. There is a lot of tons of materials around, but for when it comes to the clarinet, it’s it’s it’s quite meager, so yeah you’re right. I mean, i think one of the one of the big reasons is um. I feel like playing jazz, clarinet hasn’t really jazzed, academia, yeah, that’s true, meaning yeah, like meaning.

You can go to university or in jazz saxophone jazz, trumpet um, because the clarinet doesn’t fit into the big band um. They don’t have it as an option. So you don’t get many people um like focusing on jazz clarinet in college um. So so you, your major, was your major was the second paragraph at juilliard yeah. So no, i don’t really know of any books.

It’S i mean it’s tough on clarinet. You just got to um. It’S it’s! It’S really like dirty work. I mean you’ve got to get you’ve, got to get the recordings of sydney shay and uh and duke ellington and like jimmy hamilton and and benny goodman, and you have to sit there with the or the recording and and transcribe the solos.

Like note yeah, which is the best, that’s one thing yeah, i mean any students that watch this. To answer your question, if you go on my website, i have a trans page and um like me, and brother have compiled the transcriptions together and there’s like hundreds of uh jazz solos on there and they’re for free um. You can just down and there’s no charge or anything um, and so i think to answer your question about jazz etudes. Reading transcribe solos would probably be the best way i mean, i think, transcribing them on your own. By ear is gon na like just be looking for etudes you can.

You can check out my website. It’S the website is peter and will anderson and um you just go to the uh solos tab. No interesting thanks yeah! It’S! I just wondered uh how i came up.

I i don’t remember because these days, kids, they have all those books about everything you can it’s it’s everything on the page right, but but actually it’s the best way when you just sit down – and you have that record, you love you, try to imitate you. Try to listen, maybe write down a few notes or something i mean it’s it’s it’s obvious to me, but uh. It’S just interesting to see if people like you’re in in that case, how you came up and what was around. Was there a teacher mentioning something to you or you just had to to dig and find everything by yourself? That was basically my yeah on the saxophone.

I i had a really great teacher name and paul carr and he was uh like very deliberate about teaching um like the whole thing was like through transcription. You know so he would assign me to describe a solo and i would do the best i could at memorizing the solo and then he would like break it down like take little bits of the solo and um. We would play a lot of do you. Did you grow up playing jamie abrasol yeah? I had a face.

Yeah yeah, you had a phase yeah, so we would. We would just like for every hour lesson we would play. We would just play together. He would just turn on the amy abrasol record and the whole lesson would just be him playing and me playing and – and he would play something and i would have to play it back. You know um, we we did a lot of those two five one um on the jamie abrasive like play, the same d, my g7 c major over and over again, and so he would play like a lick or a tritone substitution thing uh, and then i would Like just have to listen and play it back and that’s yeah, that’s i mean you know it’s, it sounds it’s like elementary um, but but just just listening to somebody and trying to imitate them.

Uh is just really important. I mean we do it in language. You know we listen to our parents speak and uh when we’re learning a new language. We try to go to that country and listen to the people. Who are you know using all the slang words and and the ups and downs and the speech and and like that’s the best way to learn jazz?

You have to like sit next to the sun or listen to the recordings and really really try to imitate like the the nuance uh. I remember that was something that this way you came up like that yeah, like i remember victor going one of my early lessons. He he said i want you to get the nuances of the great players you know. So we listened to we ben webster and coleman hawkins and just to see if we could like just for a moment to get the essence of of that. And then, when i play on my own solos, i can use it or not.

Yeah. Well, that’s a great way to to have a lesson i mean: that’s, that’s! That’S! Basically, it yeah to have the teach great guy next to you playing something cute and try to follow yeah yeah, and also that the the chance that he had to follow around ken, for example, piplowski. I mean suddenly you’re next to benny goodman, with whom he played right.

So it’s it’s a small world. Somehow yeah i mean he did that he did that with benny um and yeah he’s been he’s been like just a great resource. I mean, as the other musicians you’ve interviewed. I saw you interview dan levinson. I did the same thing with him and dan block.

I went. I went and saw eddie a couple times when he was in new york. Pequito there’s another fl bob wilbur who who passed away a couple years ago, but he was a big influence. Um yeah, it’s like it’s a really it’s it’s a hands-on art form uh. A lot of what i learned was was just um was just going to hear the players in person maybe to wrap up.

You can maybe give us some some insight in in what’s what’s uh, what’s your plan, for i mean, let’s leave aside all those uh that awful situation with that is the most famous thing now, not the music but uh any ideas or plans or things that you Would like to do in the in the future when, if, if the world comes back as we know it, yeah yeah, i think i think we’re going to talk. Yeah yeah it’ll be um. My brother and i have been playing some outdoor concerts recently, um and yeah. That, like people are just as hungry as they’ve ever been for live music and for jazz. I i think, um, you know the music, where there’s a lot of like we’re talking about nuance, there’s just a lot of feeling in it and in an era when everything that we hear on tv and on the radio is like computer generated music.

You know whether it be music made with logic or pro tools or something it’s it’s very sterile. You know it’s um, it sounds. It sounds like a bunch of numbers and uh it, and so you know when a real jazz musician plays. You can hear that they’re human, they put death into it, they put the vibrato, they put the the feeling of of the blues and and um, and i think people really want that and and uh you know so yeah. So for the future.

I i i just on things things returning um. After you know, people take safety precautions um the the clubs will open up um. I do think this is also a good opportunity for for, like new venues to open up. You know a lot of the older ones. Um have closed.

Unfortunately, i mean there’s probably been at least a dozen or 20 around the world that have just closed recently. So i do think it’s an opportunity for new venues to arise and i think we’ll see that happen like in the next five or ten years. Um there’ll be some new jazz clubs in new york, um, perhaps in in russia. Um uh yeah, like uh for us like florida, is a huge state for performing um where me and my brother are actually going. We have a tour here, um things things are doing.

A lot better there people are going out so yeah. I look forward to things returning the way they are in addition to that. My brother and i have kind of increased our internet prints. So um we’ve put been putting out uh our concerts on youtube. So that’s like a new thing that we’re going to continue doing even when covid ends um.

So like twice a week, we put out some live videos of our concerts um. We have this thing on our website where we’re posting free trends uh from our solos um. So yeah in a strange way, um a lot of the things that we’ve had been forced to do during this time. Uh good and i look forward to continuing them uh when things return back to normal, you guys played some some jazz parties. Did they still exist?

Like i mean the audience is getting older and older and uh? Can you did you guys play actually? Some of those does it exist, are those yeah um yeah. We played we played in tech, desa, texas, yeah um yeah, like the i didn’t even know, uh that you were familiar with the term jazz party um yeah, like i guess, back in the 80s. They had.

These um yeah what what are called jazz parties, which were basically um performances where they just added a whole bunch of music missions, um that weren’t like made ensembles like a quintet or an octet. They were just individuals from all over the country and so basically the theory behind it is they. These musicians came uh, the jazz parties were in texas and florida and colorado and these musicians would come and they would like throw them together in in strange combinations, um and yeah, like like bob wilbur, was playing at all of them. Um warren bushey, randy, sankey, um, c uh, um uh kenny de verne was another great clarinetist who would play at these jazz parties and uh harry allen’s, uh, scott hamilton, and so it was um. I my brother and i got to play a number of them.

One was in ojessa texas, there was another in florida and yeah just to be part of this performance when you’re like thrown together, um with different musicians, and you ha and you on the spot. You had to figure out a set list and fortunately, for me, a lot of these other musicians at the jazz party were players like john eric kelso and randy reinhart harry allen, scott robinson, so i was getting to play with really experienced musicians that had a ton Of experience and kind of history behind them, that’s great. I hope i hope i can do more of that. Yeah, i’m sure you will yeah was a pleasure talking to you peter yeah. Thanks a lot.

I really uh appreciate your podcast. That was, i went on youtube right. Yeah yeah, no worries no worries at all um. I i checked out your youtube channel and um man. These these interviews are timeless.

Just like they’re, wonderful, uh, all the people that you interviewed and there’s like some of the best musicians in the world. So thank you for doing that. Yeah thanks for acknowledging so yeah somebody’s whistling. I think that’s our sign right! Yeah!

Probably this police is coming, see you later man and thanks a lot for for sharing. What’S what’s happened so far, uh in your life, i mean you’re, still a youngster, so we’ll look forward to everything. That’S coming thanks! You too yeah, i hope to be in touch. Also cheers

As found on YouTube

Live with GILAD HAREL

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Right that that’s where i saw you first when you’re giving, i think a cluster workshop or something yeah last uh last april. Oh all right! That was an old one, huh! Well uh! Yes, i get one like at the beginning of this whole corona episode, uh.

I gave one uh open uh session, but actually since then, uh i’ve started a whole course of uh 20 meetings. We just just did our 16th meeting today. It’S about to end great we’re. Jumping right in here there is no formal, yeah right anything uh interesting. So those are the same people over over those sessions that continue to learn from you or well.

There’S the people that were on the on the session you attended, uh were different. There were a lot more actually. I had at that time, almost 60 people from all over the world or people from brazil. People from i don’t know from wherever uh. No, since then i i actually you know i.

I was supposed to give uh a course at the academy in jerusalem, the university, where i teach uh, which was supposed to be open for any kind of participant, not necessarily the the university students, and i suggested them to open it up for a live stream. Each session, and so there were quite a lot of people interested from uh from around the world and eventually that course did not happen because of the lockdowns and everything, so i decided to open it. Nevertheless, on zoom, so i have a group. I have two groups of about seven or eight people, each group, so it’s quite intimate people from uh, from australia, from the united states from europe and, of course, here from israel, so we’re meeting once a week. I’M editing twice each group once a week and and for 20 sessions uh.

It allows us to really dig very deep into this whole klezmer thing really going through each and every mode. Looking at the different repertoire, that’s written in every mode. Looking at how this mode functions, one in front of the other, so how you modulate from one mode to the other different kinds of songs, songs in two songs in three, like the every aspect of the of this genre, that’s that’s called klezmer, it’s surprisingly, quite deep, As simple as it sounds as simple as it is, it’s it’s simple: it’s not jazz, but it’s uh, it’s actually very deep and we write music. They write their own tunes. They learn how to arrange their tunes.

They learn how to improvise in that language. So it allows us to go really deep and it’s great. I love it and i think they like it as well. Very interesting yeah. I would love to talk a bit more about that.

But let’s uh go back for a minute and tell us how everything started. Uh, i i usually i don’t prepare for those interviews to be to to learn first hand. So i just i just read: one quote on your website: uh got a tape from betty goodman and one from jorah feidman and somehow they both played the same instrument as i can tell and yeah the rest. You will tell us yeah so that that’s uh, that’s the essence of my uh of my basic relationship to music, i mean i’m, i’m from a musical family. My mother is a piano teacher.

My brother is a very good pianist and and uh music producer, and my grandfather was a violinist. So it’s it’s like it’s in it’s running in the family for for a few generations already, but i remember very clearly that after my second clarinet lesson when i was about six or seven years old, my mom came back home with the tape of cura, fademan and So that was basically the very first recorded clarinet sound i’ve ever heard in my life, and i don’t know if you’re familiar with this plane, but this is something that no matter your origins or your tendencies it. It throws an arrow straight to your heart. It’S it’s very capturing yeah. It is playing yeah, it’s very touching and it’s uh.

He speaks straight to the soul, whether you like it or not, i mean there’s. There are a few musicians. I know that uh that there is no instrument, uh interference, it’s just straight straight soul speaking so girlfriend is one of them and i was very, very touched with it. I i assume, because later on, instead of uh practicing my attitudes for my teacher, i would sit with this tape and just grab every note of it. And a year later my father came home with a tape of benny goodman, and i listened to that tape as well so many times that i think the tape recorder could could play without the tape uh.

It was uh yeah, so so swing, so klezmer and swing were my main influences and my first uh influences and there was classical music played at home, but i didn’t get into serious playing and serious practicing until i was about 12 or 13 And then i i i was drawn to get really serious about classical playing, and so i you know i basically stopped for a while with all the nonsense quote. Unquote and i i did serious work of scales and then – and you know, attitudes and repertoire, and i and symphonic works, and i was i was deeply into into classical music and and i got accepted to the paris conservatory, where i did my first degree and then I continued to do my second degree at juilliard in new york and in new york. I started playing klezmer again and at the beginning just for fun, because i i guess my my system needed it, but but then i started doing it in a professional way: uh uh joining uh a very interesting group that combined plasma music with cuban music. So that’s that’s uh that sums up the essence of new york city in new york. Uh.

You can find any kind of combination of music and it works. So so that was uh. That was a very exciting band to be a part of um. It was an existing band. The first clarinetist in this band was david krakauer and after him, um met dario, replaced him.

Matt is a wonderful musician playing any kind of of of tube, not just clarinet saxophone flutes everything and when he uh got too busy. Couldn’T do that gig somehow um they got to me and i started playing in his band. We recorded a few albums for the tabby label. You know john zorn’s label toured in europe. Quite a lot played at the krakow jewish culture festival and i i had another another little band of klezmer but kind of original klezmer, not uh playing the old tunes writing or on tunes.

It was. It was a trio, a weird kind of trio playing uh myself. A violinist and a bass guitarist, that’s it kind of weird: we called ourselves class shop and uh and um, so that was my new york uh plasma, a long side to of playing a lot of contemporary music classical contemporary music yeah. I’M aware that you’re a accomplished classical musician uh, but and it’s good to mention, of course, but i just uh narrow it down to the to the jazz customer, because this is the general for for that, that i decided to to focus uh yeah the clarinet and That kind of music, but just as a little side, note uh. So it is gyora that it is gilad right.

Yes, my name is gilad. The g yeah, the g is uh. Yeah yeah learns something again beautiful, um, yeah, yeah, and, and is there something like we will go back to that um online course you’re, giving how to learn uh klezmer um? Have you come up with a system that you basically can teach everyone who’s interested? I think i did, i think i finally did you know it’s like a language.

When you speak a language, you speak it and you don’t uh, you never stop thinking uh. Why am i saying it this way? Not the other way until you have to teach it i’d, be curious to hear how you uh got your jazz education, because for me jazz uh jazz. I i also study jazz recently quite seriously, because i love this music and i and i i need to know how to do it. The way you guys do it and i i realized that on one hand, there are many methods.

On the other hand, there isn’t a single method to to teach you jazz many i’ve seen many good teachers and each one of them told me something else and eventually you know i do my my thing. I you know all the copying, charlie parker and the sony student, and all these great guys and working on the blues and two five ones, and all that all that big. You know, but i believe that there should be – and there can be a method to learn a language to to to take a student from zero to 10, at least and then supply him with enough tools to take it further on, because it’s limitless there’s. No, there isn’t a single place where you say: that’s it. I know everything i mean sonny rollins was practicing on all the time so and i think that um.

So when i started teaching at the university about 10 or 11 years old 10 years ago – and we started a course over there for klezmer music, i had to start an and come up with a method, and i obviously it’s someone else, has another method. You know there are many ways to teach a certain language, especially when it comes to music or it’s kind of abstract, but um. I think that nowadays i i came up with something that’s very efficient and that gives the student both the tools to understand the language. To uh to use the right accent, because that’s also important in language, if you don’t swing, it will never sound like jazz, and if you don’t know how and where to ornament, it will not sound like like klezmer. That brings me to a question.

If i may interrupt it is um, is it necessary to learn the language of the of the country as well? You think, no, not at all hebrew is actually not the language of placement. If at all, it’s yiddish, which is a is a, is a dialect of the jews of eastern europe and it’s a it’s a kind of a mixture between hebrew and german, okay, and so, if at all, this music is uh is, is its language? Is yiddish, um and the dialect of the prayers of that uh part of of the world? So eastern europe, because jews there are also jews in morocco and africa and and south america and other places.

So it’s mainly eastern europe, but i you don’t necessarily have to know the language. I personally don’t speak yiddish. Okay, i’ve heard i heard yiddish all my life because of my grandparents, but i don’t speak the language. It does help listening to people saying songs in this language and, of course, learning a musical language is first and foremost about listening. You can have all the theories and the and the licks and whatever, if you don’t listen hours and hours and hours and play along and copy the experts copy, those that you find that they sound best you’re not going to get it.

That’S that’s a given. No other method uh can can do the trick if you don’t listen hours to no end and copy for sure, but i think that same with jazz you can cop, if you copy, say you copy uh, 10 choruses of of charlie parker, that’s great and you are Able to really sound like him in terms of articulation and time and all that good you’re still not able, i think, you’re still not able to take a simple solo on a blues by yourself. If you don’t understand. What is it, that is doing right you got ta you, have to understand and your hand you have to be able to. Take that little phrase, he’s doing, over over, a dominant, chord and change it juggle it around yourself.

You know make it. Your own, it’s the same, so it’s a combination of listening tones imitating tones but understanding and that’s uh. That’S what i’m trying to do in in my in my course and showing them the modes showing them how they function and showing them how they go from one another in a tune and learning how to express the mode in the right field. And that’s another thing. That’S that’s kind of unique both to klezmer and to to you know, to turkish music and to arabic, music, music that uses what we call the macam system.

You know what the macam is a mode. It’S a it’s another name for a mode and the difference between when you, when you learn either classical music or jazz. You talk about modes right. You talk about the dorian scale, the the fridging scale. You talk about scales and then you just in order to to demonstrate you play the scale up and down in turkish music and in classmate music.

There are modes, but these modes are actual melodies, so you actually learn a melody and the mode is hiding within the melody. Okay and that’s the main difference, you never play a scale just practicing up and down, because it’s uh it’s irrelevant to the music. It’S not gon na get you anywhere, but when you play an as a line, a melodic line, you get the the the right taste of the mode and you are able to to recognize it in a tune and to work with it. I think i think most of us that are just listening on the surface or have a a vague idea. It’S when you hear that uh harmonic minor fifth uh scale is it?

Can you tell yes, can you tell us a bit about that myth or what’s going on it’s a myth, it’s a myth. It’S a myth, because what your ear recognizes is basically the augmented second, that’s somewhere in the mode right. What you hear you can demonstrate softly because it’s a it’s like, but what you hear is this either this. So you hear this half a step between the first degree and the second degree, and you hit the augmented second and you relate it to a different key. You actually related to this [ Music ], you related to the harmonic minor, but it’s it’s it’s not true.

The truth is that two of the main modes. Actually it’s very simple in case when i began by saying that there are only four modes. That’S it! It’S a whole story, uh, so two might two minor: two majors, okay, uh and two of them have that augmented. Second, in that half step, and none of them are actually the harmonic minor, the first one, the major one is uh is, but the turkish music calls hijaz and what the klezmer people call ahava, which is the name from the jewish prayer.

Ahava means lots of love. Sounds good and other people call it friggish because it’s almost phrygian, but not all together, phrygian because of the augmented second, so we start from the tonic. It’S a major mode. First of all, if i play just the the the chord i get simple major mode uh, with a with uh, with the lowered seventh degree, so [, Music, ] and then from the first from the tonic. To its second degree, there’s half a step and therefore to the major third.

There is an augmented second, so you get this sound [, Music, ], okay, its brother-in-law, is lying a step below. So if i start that same mode from the 7th degree, i get a minor mode, [ Music ], which is another mode, that’s very typical to the eu. When you hear klezmer, of course, most of the tunes are written in this or in the other one, and none of them have has anything to do with harmonic minor. It’S just that our western ear uh, when when we hear that augmented. Second, it’s an immediately uh a harmonic minor for us, but the tonics are are different.

The tonics are away from that uh in this case, from a minor yeah. So there are, there are really like, like uh siblings, it’s the it’s the friggish and what and the other one we call it uh alter dorian, because it’s like a dorian, but it’s altered because it’s cutting the augmented uh a second between the third and the fourth Degree, so we also get a tritone between the fourth degree and the tonic, and so these that’s kind of the basics. The other thing is that every mode of the four has its basic content, but many little alterations you can, you can play around with to color it more so it gets it gets. It gets somewhat complicated, not again not as complicated as as plain giant steps but uh, but still uh. There’S quite a lot to very interesting that you can break it down and make it explainable to to beginners or or even uh, to people who are already a bit familiar and playing already but uh so yeah.

But but once you know, this is all theory which is good, but once you once you hear it, and – and you know you point out that here it is you see that see it’s, okay, it’s it’s not so complicated. It’S uh! It’S actually quite quickly. You just have to you know: spotlight the right the right place, there’s another wonderful uh thing in klezmer, which is called doina. Okay and doing is the sort of the equivalent of the taxi from turkish music, which is a free kind of improvisation.

Basically, the only um opportunity, one of the only opportunities for classical musicians to improvise altogether. It’S a pre, it’s a free model, improvisation, meaning that usually there isn’t any time behind it’s just a drone and you just um juggle around between different modes, really coloring, each mode pointing out the nice colors and but it’s within a cert. Sorry, i think you’re getting there about rules or not rules or yeah, yeah and then, and so so what’s interesting is that uh when you listen to enough uh joiners to enough uh examples you realize like like when you listen to enough, you know bebop, it’s always The same i go back to that that there is a language and they’re all using the same language, okay, the same voice and so for the donut it’s much simpler and i really narrowed it down and i’m i to to teach them. I give them words. I give them little phrases in each uh for each degree for each part of the donor i saw i show them how to go to the next place, how to modulate what to do once you’re modulated and how to come back, and so they have like it’s.

Like a puzzle, they can juggle around with the with given blocks and so little by little it becomes more and more natural and they can do it by themselves without uh, obviously without reading the music and without having to to um, to redo or to juggle what I gave them but to just come up with their own thing and if you compare to jazz, is there a basic repertoire of so and so many standards that you have to know until you have some repertoire, you can go out and play weddings or whatever you Do or concerts yeah, i think so i think obviously there’s there’s the core repertoire that you need to to know depending on what you want to do with it. I must say that i i don’t play with i. I played some weddings when i was younger in order to you know to make a living a little bit. But if you put me today in a wedding situation with a with a very well-trained wedding band, i don’t think i will be familiar with a lot of the repertoire. Somehow the course of my life.

Whenever i played klezmer, i made it um i took it. I took a turn with it. I i never always i never really played for a living in a professional situation, uh the good old klezmer. I listened to a lot so like jazz. They are the the the masters you know, the charlie parker, solid state and so forth of the klezmer.

You must you, one must be familiar with the recordings to the to the smallest detail, and today there are software’s with which you can take a recording and slow. It down so you can really break down the way, the ornaments and copy it and then little by little speed it up again, and i think it’s really important um. It’S like like uh checking out the way sony’s tito stan gets articulate that’s how they swing. It’S the articulation, that’s that that makes a difference and until you really get it, can you zoom in on those things yeah yeah um. So you need to listen to all the great old recordings and we’re lucky to have them because it’s it’s uh.

You know all these uh eastern european immigrants came to a lot of them, came to new york in the 20s of the previous century and and they recorded all their music. It’S all documented in in a pretty good uh quality and then, in terms of repertoire, you obviously you need to know the different genres. There are the fast dancers, the slow dancers, the three meter dances. The repertoire is enormous. Surprisingly enough, it’s enormous hundreds of songs.

Right. Yes, hundreds of songs, and also i mean there are songs that are dances and there are songs that come from prayers, but there’s also the whole repertoire of of the jewish theater that was flourishing in in new york at that time in the 30s and 40s that The jewish theater, the lower east side of new york, was the main thing not just for jews. Everyone went to see those those those shows and there’s tons of music. That came out of that that that place, and even you know, benny goodman had his share because the the the famous uh, when the angel sings you know that do that yeah yeah, that’s a classmate. Let’S see that’s a classmate there we go and in every recording, benny griffin couldn’t play klezmer, so in every recording he took uh this trumpet player by the name of ziggy elman, who could swing and play klezmer so uh.

So it’s very interesting yeah i didn’t know and the angel thing yeah with with vocals right. I it’s with uh yeah and there are recordings with vocals with uh, with uh tilson thomas thinking, i think and uh. But let’s say you’re playing a classmate concert. Uh. Is it like, you have to make a set list like one ballad, one up tempo to have kind of yeah?

If you make a concert you you need to have it work like any concert, you need to keep the tension and have a nice and slow one. Yeah yeah um, my my current project is uh is a tribute to one of the greatest klezmer players by the name of dave terrace. If you don’t know, dave, terrace go ahead and listen to dave taras, because first of all he was a wonderful clarinetist and he he wrote some great tunes. But the other uh wonderful thing about him is that when he was living in new york, he came from ukraine and and found himself in new york working, and he was one of the first ones that was open to the culture and the thing that was famous. That was popular at the time was swing, so he’s one of the first ones to combine klezmer with swing.

He was working with a great musician by the name of sam musicker, who was the saxophonist of jane krupa, the drummer and sam musical made amazing arrangements for him and and some of those albums. If you don’t hear you hear just the band, you you easily think that it’s benny goodman and then dave taras comes in and he’s he’s playing his classmates. So it’s a nice mixture of of klezmer and swing. So what i do recently, i i joined up with uh with the dixieland band. I just wanted to say yeah, that’s that’s the thing i wanted to talk about.

That’S the thing you’re talking about right now: yes, exactly so uh, so we i took, i took a bunch of his tunes and we arranged them um to a dixieland style. So we have a banjo and we have a trombone and trumpet and another clarinet. So we have two clarinetists, my colleagues, kobe salomon, which is the who’s, a great swing player, he’s a jazz player and so there’s always back-to-back uh, the the klezmer in the swing – and i just love it actually, next uh tuesday, we have a show here in israel. That’S going to be live streamed, so once i have the once, i have the link i’ll i’ll, send it please yeah, let us know yeah, it would be great yeah, and what about you’re playing? I saw you playing classical repertoire.

Is there also i didn’t find? Is there also a niche to to let some klezmer slip in or or some it depends on, the musical director of where i’m playing, but some of them are adventurous enough, and so they allow me to do it. My very dear colleague, david grey summer he’s a pianist and a conductor and he in the past uh i’d, say seven years or so he runs his own chamber orchestra in geneva and he himself is a very adventurous musician, so uh. So i, when i play with him, it’s we’re always combining crazy things, so it it can be a mozzarella concerto back to back with uh with the klezmer brand new concerto. So a composer who wrote concerto specifically this one was a concerto for clarinet mandolin, an orchestra and we played it with with avi avital, the mandolin player and any other klezmer tune.

So that’s mozart with jewish, music or uh. We created an incredible program. Actually that combines check this out. Baroque music with balkan music sounds challenging too yeah yeah, so so uh as a baroque, so the orchestra plays the baroque pieces and in between i play music from the balkans, and i also play in this program. Um concerto for oboe of telemann, so that’s my part in the baroque play and we finished it up with the klezmer medley, so so yeah it can.

It can. Work would like to attend yeah. It’S not nothing boring in it, yeah! No! No!

It’S fascinating! It’S fascinating and you know for for me, it’s uh yeah, it’s great to be able to play all the things. I love not just one thing that i love. Yes, but it depends. There are some music directors that they don’t.

You know you want to play play vaper, it’s good enough! That’S enough! Okay! Fine! It’S fine!

It’S fine and did you notice uh, like audience wise, the exception or or the the surprise or or i mean if i mean i think it’s fast. If you have so much variety in one at one night, uh going from one style to another yeah, what else love it? I think i think my my theory i mean my my joker card you know is: is my ability with klezmer, because i can play a recital with the craziest most difficult contemporary music repertoire, the most unfriendly repertoire and as an encore at the end of it? I will play a little classmate show piece and the audience will be on his feet. Standing ovation like they will forgive me for everything else.

I did during that concert. Tension tension, tension, the release exactly exactly and uh it’s working all every time, and especially with klezmer music. You know i played klezmer for audiences in in um in the east. You know in uh in taiwan. I think they’ve, never not that they’ve never heard klezmer music before, but some of them didn’t even know that there’s a country by the name of israel and and they were they were so caught into this music – they loved it and uh.

You know because it’s it’s there’s something something human about this music, something simple yet very, very soulful about this music and that’s the essence of us human beings. You know we’re simple and we like to to have our heart touched yes beautifully when it’s when it’s played at its best, like i like the singing quality, so much like yeah, i i remember i once heard kyora in zurich. I don’t know 20 years ago or something, but this was uh. Just the singing quality was beautiful in it that that concert hall really touches every everyone. I would say, of course, yeah because because that’s that’s the music and that’s him as well he’s he’s one of his own one of a kind he’s one of a kind i find i mean.

I know that there are a lot of klezmer officials. There are a lot of chasm specialists that don’t really appreciate what he’s doing, because he’s not playing klezmer in a traditional way. But i don’t care because i find it to be so beautiful that it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter whether he’s ornamenting like the old guys or not. It doesn’t matter even in that community.

There is frozen pros and cons like in everything. Of course, especially among jews. Come on [ Laughter ], you got ta have a for someone, someone has to be guilty right, yeah, that’s it, but he’s really special. Nobody plays like him, and i also don’t recommend my students to try and copy his playing. I i recommend them to copy all the old, the old guys, not him, both because it’s uh, it’s it’s, not traditional, and because it’s very difficult for me.

It’S it’s! It’S it’s natural because he’s the first thing i’ve ever heard, but if you try to learn that language, you shouldn’t try and learn it with his recordings. There are other, very, very good recordings of the you know the good old classmates from eastern europe yeah. I will go back now and listen to some. It’S really inspired me to to there’s a there’s, a youtube channel uh by the name of classical klezmer, okay with tons of recordings, some really really all that it’s almost difficult to to to hear.

But but some are great, with orchestras and and quartets and solos and tons of stuff, it’s very interesting yeah we’ll go there for sure yeah. Well, i hear the two children in the background. I think father is needed, uh well, but yes, they should be asleep. By now i see somebody has to check on. Thank you very much for sharing all that uh.

My pleasure, my pleasure, thank you for what you’re doing for inviting me thanks for inviting me, and i was checking out your your videos. You sound great thanks man. Thanks really great, i love it, i’m i’m all into jazz these days. Even if i you know, i teach classmates and everything and my practicing is jazz and i love it every minute of it. It’S it’s a universe for itself, right, yeah, yeah!

That’S what i’m saying so, maybe 20 years from now i’ll i’ll change, my profession i’ll, know something cool, i hope to stay in touch and uh thanks again, thanks again for for having this loose chat about whatever you’re up to great. Thank you my pleasure. Thanks a lot see you later bye,

Read More: Live with SCOTT ROBINSON

As found on YouTube

The Mysteries Of Skip James

Can’t Find No Heaven

by Matt R. Lohr

“The bluesman is the undeciphered enigma on the American landscape…”

– JULIO FINN, THE BLUESMAN (1)

There was no blues artist who deserved this ambiguous appellation more than Nehemiah Curtis James (1902-1969), better known to blues listeners and scholars of musical history as “Skip”. The Skip James discography, consisting of 18 sides cut for Yazoo Records in 1931 and several albums of new tunes and rerecorded vintage material released following James’ rediscovery during the “folk blues” revival of the mid-1960s, is frequently recognized by musical aficionados and critics as one of the most creative and distinctive in the blues canon. Not only are these works notable for their uncommon utilization of blues conventions and precise, disciplined musicianship, but they are also remarkable in the uncanny feelings they conjure within the listener, feelings of unease, foreboding, and soul-dead dread unlike that produced by anything found in the blues before or since.

My own relationship with Skip James began, inappropriately enough, on Christmas Day 1997, when I was gifted David Harrison’s photo compilation Blues: A Photographic Documentary. Though the book did not feature any photographs of James among its contents, an introduction detailing a 1960s “folk blues” revival tour described James in grim, startling language:

“[James] didn’t come across as someone with whom you could enjoy leaning on a bar; his songs are unremittingly gloomy and devil-ridden, and if his 78s were the only ones to have survived, the myth of the blues as a depressing music would have been fully justified…[the songs] hint at anger and lurking madness…If the blues can really be said to have a genius, then Skip James is the sinister contender for the title.” (2)

Gloomy…sinister…lurking madness… Worlds away from the music of Mississippi John Hurt and Bukka White, artists with whom Skip James performed during the revival tour in question (and with whom, according to most popular accounts, he did little to make himself friendly). Though I had never heard James’ music at the time I read this passage, Harrison’s words helped him to assume a dark little home in the corners of my imagination, where his mystery began to gnaw away at me.

I finally got to hear the sound for myself on an edition of Ken Batista’s “An American Sampler”, a Sunday morning folk music program on Pittsburgh’s WYEP-FM. Although I had not heard a single James recording before listening to the broadcast, I was nevertheless able to identify a song near the end of the show as James purely on the basis of Harrison’s intense descriptions (the song was the classic “Devil Got My Woman“, widely regarded as the finest work in the James oeuvre). This was music that cried. It cut. It haunted like no music save that of the man who fit Harrison’s description could. I left the program struck by the fact that an untrained ear such as my own was able to identify the song I had just heard as James’ purely on the basis of a written description. Such is his music: vivid, idiosyncratic, and unmistakably his own.

I was later able to examine a live Skip James performance captured by Alan Lomax at the 1966 Newport Folk Festival (this performance is available on the video Devil Got My Woman: Blues At Newport 1966, released by Stefan Grossman’s Vestapol), and the faces of those listening to James play and sing bear out my own reactions. This audience has been rendered disconsolate and downcast by an eerie vocal style and a guitar sound at once rough-edged and almost supernaturally delicate. Even the great Howlin’ Wolf seems to be having trouble looking into James’ piercing blue eyes, and is frequently seen with his gaze drifting around the room, as if facing a man able to cloak himself in such spiritual desolation is too much to bear even for the Wolf, whose own music dredged up its share of troublesome feelings in those who heard it. Though he occasionally permits himself the slightest of smiles, James is almost spooky in his detachment as he effortlessly conjures his musical unease. His eyes never zero in on anything within his surroundings, and he does not acknowledge the applause that follows his performances. He plays for himself alone, and the reaction of his audience seems to mean nothing whatsoever to him.

Why did this music, this wrenching, disquieting sound, come from Skip James, a man whose upbringing and experiences, at least on the surface, were not strikingly dissimilar from those of other blues artists of his time? The music, borne of skillful manipulation of the blues musical form and atypical handling of sociological and autobiographical thematic elements within the lyrical content, is a testament to the complex psychological makeup of the man who created it, bespeaking an existence predicated on the constant fear of God and the devil, both of whom James trafficked with during his tumultuous life. Through the examination of several literary and musical sources, blues musical theory, African-American social history, and cognitive-behavioral psychology, I hope to illustrate how Skip James’ tormented mind shaped the music that issued from it, delineating a raw, angry madness through sounds that will live forever in the canon of the world’s great music.

Cross-Notes and Other Musical Curiosities

In “A Brief History of the Blues”, Robert Baker explains that the standard blues musical form was the result of fundamental differences between the Western 8-note diatonic musical scale and the West African pentatonic scale, which features neither the third nor seventh tone commonly found in Western composition, and is also missing those same tones’ flat variants. Musicians looking for comparative tones to replace those absent eventually discovered pitches that fell approximately between the major and minor third, fifth, and seventh tones of the Western scale. By lowering the noted scale degrees by a half step, a sound is produced that resembles a minor scale. These highly emotional notes allowed musicans to create a distinctively powerful affect within compositions in which they were utilized, and they eventually became known as “bent” or “blue” notes; thus, the bedrock of the blues was born (3).

The majority of blues songs, whether played in a slow, pensive Mississippi style or in the fast-paced, rag-influenced Piedmont idiom, are in a 12-bar structure. The lyrics are commonly constructed in three- or four-line stanzas, with the second line customarily being a repetition of the first:

I’m goin’ get up in the mornin’, I believe I’ll dust my broom,
I’m goin’ get up in the mornin’, I believe I’ll dust my broom,
Girl friend the black man you been lovin’, girl friend, can’t get my room…

– ROBERT JOHNSON, “I BELIEVE I’LL DUST MY BROOM”

Skip James hailed from Mississippi, where the blues sounds produced are commonly charcterized by a driving, insistent rhythmic approach and a visceral, wailing style of vocal delivery. It’s a raw and gritty sound, and few musical embellishments are allowed to dilute the naked emotions behind the words being sung (4).

As Stephen Calt emphasizes in I’d Rather Be The Devil, James’ music deviated from both the formal standards of blues and the idiosyncratic style of his native state in several ways. The most overtly atypical tool utilized by James in the creation of his sound was the “Bentonia tuning”. According to Calt, James learned this tuning, which came to bear the name of his hometown, from an itinerant musician named Henry Stuckey, who had himself picked it up from black soldiers, likely from the Bahamas, whom he met while stationed in France during World War I. In “concert pitch tuning” for blues guitar, the strings are tuned in a E-A-D-G-B-E pattern, creating a natural C tonality considered “standard” by most blues musicians. When a guitar is tuned in the open-string “Bentonia” style, the resulting pattern is E-B-E-G-B-E, which, provided the G string is not raised to G sharp, creates an E minor tonality. The result of this “cross-note” tuning (a term coined by James) is an off-center sound with an unmistakably dark undercurrent, a sound that can be heard most vividly in the bottom-scraping bass notes and chilling ascending treble figures of James’ “Devil Got My Woman”. Though James used this tuning sparingly (only two songs from the 1931 sessions, “Devil” and “Hard Times Killing Floor Blues”, were performed in this minor-key tuning [5]), the strikingly ethereal sadness it produced is so unique within the blues repertoire that he has become inextricably associated with it. The “Bentonia tuning” is Skip’s, and Skip’s alone.

In addition to the E-minor melancholia of the “Bentonia tuning”, James created other haunting musical effects through idiosyncratic utilization of the blues musician’s more quotidian tools and techniques. In his original compositions, James forsook both the “rapping” (strumming) guitar style popular during his youth and the telltale sound of Mississippi blues, with its strangulated vocals and thumping, heavily rhythmic musical accompaniment. Instead, James developed a finger-picking style similar to that of classical guitarists, plucking the strings with his fingernails instead of thumping them with the fleshy pads of the fingers themselves (6) and thus achieving what Giles Oakley describes as an “icy precision” (7) by prominently isolating individual notes, rather than blending them into the rhythmic melange commonly found in Mississippi blues. This separation of notes had various effects on James’ tunes: in his 1960s recording of “Hard Times Killing Floor Blues”, the sparse arrangement of notes within the playing imparts a stark quality to the music that reflects the desolate lives of the characters foregrounded by the song’s lyrics, while the rapid-fire 1931 recording of “I’m So Glad” achieves its considerable tension primarily because we can hear literally every note that James is whirling through in this display of instrumental virtuosity. Interestingly, there are several songs within the James repertoire, the bulk of them recorded after the rediscovery, which adhere to a more traditional style of playing. The most notable of these is “Drunken Spree”, which James learned in his youth from Henry Stuckey and which he played in a style not far removed from the “rapping” fashion in which he had originally heard it performed (8). Rather than detracting from the power and importance of James’ stylistic diversions, these more traditional tunes are in fact crucial to appreciating the singularities of the James oeurve, for they demonstrate that James possessed considerable knowledge of and facility with the more common styles of blues and folk music, and thus illustrate that the bizarre stylistic decisions that informed the creation of James’ sound were not the result of blind luck or musical ignorance, but were consciously considered artistic choices made for reasons which will be further explored later.

James’ disturbing guitar sound was matched, and at times surpassed, by his distinctive and bizarre style on the piano. His keyboard work is distinguished by its almost avant-garde utilization of irregularly spaced breaks, helping to create within the music a gripping fits-and-starts tension, and his 1931 piano recordings possess a heavily percussive quality thanks to his complex, syncopated foot pounding, which was picked up by the primitive recording equipment and is clearly audible on the Yazoo sides. James was also skilled at using runs, fills, crescendo, and diminuendo to create musical power within his piano pieces, whether he was performing elaborate treble-to-bass runs on “Little Cow and Calf Is Gonna Die Blues” or creating the gut-shot effect of thudding rapid-fire bullet hits on “22-20 Blues” (9). Despite the obvious effects of these outre stylistics, James’ playing is nonetheless marked by a sense of classicism which lends his pieces a certain formal sophistication. He was one of the few blues multi-instrumentalists regarded as possessing equal technical facility on both of his chosen instruments (10), and whereas most bluesmen used their vocals primarily as an embellishment for their instrumental work, or vice versa, James’ songs, whether performed on guitar or piano, are unmatched in the synergy achieved by the music and vocals. This reinforces the “art music” feel of James’ work (11) and allows the songs to achieve a cohesive, concrete power.

James’ vocals strengthen the unnerving atmospheric bedrock laid down by his instrumentation. He does not sing in the growling, raw-throated style favored by such Mississippi contemporaries as Charley Patton and Son House. Instead, James’ vocals are delivered in either a pure, keening falsetto or a flat, affectless tenor, both tones almost supernatural in their melancholic detachment and both expertly complementing the chillingly pristine tone of his guitar playing. This voice, eerily ethereal even on the 1931 Yazoo sides, had become even more high-pitched and ghostly by the time of the rediscovery-era recordings; the singing on the 1960s tracks conjures nothing so much as the wailing of a tormented Deep Southern banshee. James’ vocal and instrumental affectations frequently render it difficult for the listener to become involved in the music on a direct emotional level, as one does when listening to a recording by Son House or Robert Johnson. James once stated that his music should “deaden the minds” of those who heard it (12), and indeed, the spiky instrumental techniques and frigid, disembodied voice displayed on his recordings create in the listener feelings of disquiet that linger like unsavory thoughts long after the music has come to a close.

Some critics and historians have stated that Skip James’ sound emerged from a “Bentonia school” of blues performers noted for falsetto vocal delivery, elaborate finger picking on the guitar, and dark lyrical thematics, creating what David Evans described as “…some of the eeriest, loneliest, and deepest blues sounds ever recorded” (13). James’ musical development was indeed influenced by the presence of blues artists in and around his hometown, and the styles of other Bentonia musicians, notably Jack Owens, are quite similar to that of James in terms of vocal delivery and instrumental technique. However, the idea of region as a overriding force in the creation of blues musical styles, while doubtlessly accountable for certain instrumental and musical consistencies within individual areas of the country, can nonetheless be at least partially discounted by the reality of the early twentieth-century bluesman’s lifestyle. As Stephen Calt describes him, the bluesman of the period was often only a semi-professional performer, playing for a few extra dollars (or sometimes just a hot meal) at juke joints and plantation parties after long days as a sharecropper, timber cutter, or levee worker. Steady jobs were scarce in the South at this time, and men were often forced to travel to wherever work was available, their music accompanying them on their journeys. Therefore, even an isolated “plantation town” like Bentonia was sometimes host to performers from all across the South, and this mobility allowed different blues styles to travel to and influence musicians throughout the region (14). This puts the idea of a wholly unique “Bentonia sound” within the domain of reasonable doubt, and thus the “Bentonian” elements within the music of Owens and others from the region can be regarded not as the manifestation of a regional stylistic phenomenon, but as a conscious emulation of the music of Skip James, which is the only music from the “Bentonia tradition” that has truly endured and which was itself influenced both by the work of migratory musicians like Henry Stuckey and Rich Griffin, and by the influential recordings of performers like Leroy Carr (James himself recorded a memorable version of Carr’s “How Long Blues”). It was James’ unique utilization of the stylistic properties of blues music, rather than the influences of a particular regional style, which gave his work its unparalleled formal distinction, and which made it unmistakably his own.

Outside Looking In: Skip James and the World of the Blues

During the first half of the 20th century, the lyrical and thematic content of blues music was heavily influenced by the socioeconomic realities of the rural South where the music was born. As Giles Oakley explains in the brief social history which commences The Devil’s Music, the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, both intended to finally elevate blacks to equal status within American social and legislative systems, had actually done little to change said status. As the twentieth century dawned, Jim Crow laws were in effect throughout the South, preventing blacks from using numerous public facilities and even from walking the streets after dark. Lynchings were still frighteningly commonplace, and racial hatred, fomented by the Ku Klux Klan, was a harsh reality. As previously mentioned, the demand for cheap manual labor in the unruly turpentine and logging camps, on river levees and on white-owned plantations was erratic, and forced a rootless lifestyle upon many men, who had to travel to find work through which to support their grindingly poor families (15). This drifter’s lifestyle, thrust upon black men by a culture which left them few other opportunities to better themselves, created in many what Alan Lomax described as an “orphaned status”, a feeling that society had left them to fend for themselves in a world ready to reject them (16). Sometimes the frustrations this feeling created within these men were released in bursts of aggression and violence, resulting in the large number of blacks mired within the abysmal Southern prison system and in the frequent murders which occurred at plantation parties and social gatherings when competition for women or “doing the dozens” (an insult game popular among blacks in the early 20th century) went too far. Some indulged in excessive drink, drugs or sex in an effort to forget their troubles. Others, instead of trying to blot out their problems, told the world about them…through music.

The thousands of blues sides recorded during this period of hard times and worse luck are perhaps the single most illuminating extant chronicle of the sociology of postbellum southern blacks. While few recorded blues specifically address the racial hatred of the Klan and white lynch mobs, the institutionally sanctioned persecution of southern blacks is well chronicled within the blues canon, many songs reflecting a world where politicians are hostile, jail time frequent, and the legal and judicial chips stacked against the black man, often implacably:

Now I’m in prison, but I’ve almost did my time,
Now I’m in prison, but I’ve almost did my time,
They give me six months, but I had to work out nine.

– BIG MACEO, “COUNTY JAIL BLUES” (17)

The harsh jobs which uneducated blacks were largely confined to also influenced the music in both lyrical content and style. Songs such as Son House’s “Levee Camp Moan”, Mance Lipscomb’s “Captain Captain”, and many others testified to the tough conditions, low pay, and cruel bosses symptomatic of these occupations (18), and the pleading sound of the hollers and work songs used to pass long labor hours are likewise reflected in the vocal styles of many blues singers.

Violence is prevalent in blues just as it was in the lives of those who sang it; the narrators of blues songs frequently carry pistols or razors, the better to properly deal with the men attempting to steal their women, or the women who tempted the men in the first place:

Now I’m going out this morning, forty-five in my hand,
Now I’m going out this morning, forty-five in my hand,
Now I’m gonna kill my woman for loving another man…

– LEROY CARR, “TAKE A WALK AROUND THE CORNER” (19)

The necessarily transitory nature of interpersonal relationships in a society of itinerant laborers is reflected both by the dearth of clear-cut “love songs” within the blues canon and by the countless songs about sex, which was often the most involved interaction men and women were able to instigate within such a society. The sexual content within these songs is frequently handled through the usage of clever euphemisms which are simultaneously explicit and abstract, further illustrating the essential unknowability of the opposite sex to many of the blues performers of the period:

Now I ain’t no plumber, no plumber’s son,
I can do your screwing till the plumber man comes…

– BO CARTER, “ALL AROUND MAN” (20)

One aspect of sexual relations the bluesmen knew all too well was the danger inherent in such intimacies; many of these men had painful first-hand knowledge not only of the violence wrought by vengeful lovers but also of venereal diseases such as syphilis, which heavily affected the black community at the time (21). Songs about drink and drugs are frequent as well, and the blues narrator can often be found drinking to forget his troubles or the lover who abandoned him:

I’m so glad good whiskey have come back in time
Well now I’m so glad good whiskey have come back in time
Because now I drink so much hooch, Ooo well well, I’m bound to lose my mind…

– PEETIE WHEATSTRAW, “MORE GOOD WHISKEY BLUES” (22)

As a result of their origins in the South, which was at the time still heavily dependent on agriculture for its economic livelihood, the blues songs from this period have a distinctly rural cast, with many tunes about farming, animals, and the wide-open qualities of a rural lifestyle. The songs also address subjects unique to the early 1900s South, such as the government relief and work programs designed to aid the poor during the Depression, sung about in Peetie Wheatstraw’s “Working on the Project” and others, and also some of the problems unique to an agricultural lifestyle, such as the floods which plagued the economically vital southern riverways (Charlie Patton sang about a particularly devastating 1927 flood in the two-part “High Water Everywhere” [23]). Finally, and most notably, the blues offer stinging testimony of the solitude and hopelessness which was often a fact of life for an uneducated black man forced to live life on the move, looking for unsteady jobs, leaving behind families or lovers and drifting through towns full of strangers like a ghost, leaving behind nothing tangible to mark his passage. The language of the blues is the language of worry, fear, and lost or forsaken love, perfectly illustrating the socially estranged situation the southern black found himself trapped in during the early twentieth century:

I’m a stranger here, just blowed in your town,
Yeah, I’m a stranger here, just blowed in your town,
But just because I’m a stranger, Ever’body wants to dog me ’round…

– BLIND BOY FULLER, “I’M A STRANGER HERE”

The frequently solitary nature of this itinerant lifestyle drove many blues performers of the period to look inward for compositional inspiration, and as a result, their lyrics are often heavily autobiographical. The hardscrabble laborer’s life sung about in countless blues had usually been experienced firsthand by the musicians, who performed primarily on camps and plantations where they worked during the day. Leadbelly and Bukka White, among many others, had done time in prisons throughout the South for various crimes, and they lamented these experiences in songs like White’s “Parchman Farm Blues” (24) and Leadbelly’s “Governor Pat Neff,” a song which actually helped the performer receive a pardon from prison in Texas. Many bluesmen celebrated their hometowns in songs such as Mississippi John Hurt’s “Avalon Blues” (25), and these “home songs” are often tinged with a forlorn sense of yearning, being sung by men who had abandoned these towns for the migratory life of the worker, and who missed their homes and families. More often than not, the lost loves hailed or eulogized in blues lyrics were real people rather than mere poetic devices, and some lyricists even used real names within their songs, perhaps intending them as last-ditch attempts to regain these loves. Many of the tales of financial woe, disease, persecution, and violence found throughout early Southern blues lyrics are drawn from actual events in the performers’ lives as well. The autobiographical quality of blues lyrics betrays the inherent anonymity of the folk ballad, but it is this very specificity, with each blues song providing a piercing X-ray glimpse into the personality of the individual who wrote and performed it, that allows blues music to achieve much of its power and distinction.

The lyrics of Skip James are unique in that they deal with sociology and autobiography from a frame of mind that can best be characterized, in relation to other blues music of the period, as atypically ambivalent. Like many bluesmen, James had traveled the South looking for work, and spent time as a sharecropper, road worker, and timber cutter. However, these experiences, so richly prevalent within the music of other performers, are seldom referenced within the James discography. One exception is “Illinois Blues,” a song about a Pelahatchee lumber camp where James once worked (26) which, in addition to speaking about James’ lumber-cutting days, also features an offhand reference to his experiences as a sharecropper:

Gin my cotton and sell my seed,
Gonna give my baby everything she need…

(27)

However, “Illinois Blues” does not dwell on the specifics of labor conditions either on the camp or the plantation as many other performers were wont to do, instead alluding to camp life and cotton picking in such an oblique fashion that one who did not know otherwise could conclude that James may have never actually worked on a camp or plantation himself. The cotton-ginning reference in “Illinois Blues” notwithstanding, James’ music is also notable for its lack of specifically rural thematic elements. There are a few James songs that reflect roots in an agricultural milieu, principally “If You Haven’t Any Hay Get On Down the Road” and “Little Cow and Calf Is Gonna Die Blues,” which also includes a mention of the river levees on which James had worked in New Albany, Mississippi:

I walked the levees from end to end,
I was just tryin’ to find my calf again…

(28)

However, even when James gets rural as he does on these two songs, he defuses any feeling of down-home authenticity his lyrics are able to conjure by performing the songs on piano, an instrument not usually associated with the country blues sound.

There is also little within James’ lyrics that connotes a specifically black milieu of origin. “What Am I To Do Blues”, “Four O’Clock Blues,” and a small number of other tunes mention “brownskin women” in various contexts, and there is some usage within the lyrics of slang terms common among southern blacks of the period. James is also unafraid to draw on the lyrical traditions of black music by utilizing phrases and verses from the “storehouse” of black musical phraseology; “I’m gonna sing this verse, ain’t gonna sing no more”, “shoot my baby just to see her fall”, and other common pieces of blues terminology pop up frequently throughout James’ music (the usage of these phrases, in fact, constitutes perhaps the most concrete link between James and the rest of the early twentieth-century blues musical tradition). “If You Haven’t Any Hay” even contains a reference to lynching (“If I go to Louisiana, mama, lord God / they’ll hang me sure”), a commonly held and frequently justified fear of blacks who found themselves in unfamiliar Southern communities (29). However, these elements seem more like token adornments than like essential cornerstones of the songs’ emotional or thematic construction.

Of course, James did experience the hardships of the Depression as he traveled, witnessing the abject poverty which people were being subjected to by the country’s economic free-fall, and he sang of the hopelessness that such hardship had inspired in “Hard Times Killing Floor Blues,” perhaps the only overt piece of social commentary in the James musical repertoire (30):

Well the people are driftin’ from door to door
Can’t find no heaven, I don’t care where they go…

Many James songs also feature references to “ramblin'” and the rootless lifestyle which many black men were forced to adopt in order to survive, and which played the primary role in the creation of the southern black’s “honorary orphan” status:

I’ve been to the Indian nation, and I’ve been to the territo’
I’ve been to the nation, I’ve been to the territo’
And I’m a hard luck child, catch the devil everywhere I go…

– “HARD LUCK CHILD” (31)

However, the very complexities of James’ music, which is generally more intricate than that of his contemporaries, casts suspicion on the validity of the social commentary present within the songs by making them feel more like the intellectually approached and crafted work of a skilled composer than like pieces of unpolished, sincere social comment ripped straight from the songwriter’s soul. James always regarded himself as something of an outcast, both in the musical sphere and the world at large, and his songs’ detached presentation of the social issues of the period illustrates his outsider’s attitude, the despair and harshness of the lives of southern blacks as commonly expressed in the blues being muted by James’ ambivalent perspective on his own cultural and racial milieu.

The autobiographical content of Skip James’ music is also limited, at least insofar as the specific events of James’ life are concerned. Bentonia is never mentioned in his songs, and little is said about other places in which he had lived, “Illinois Blues” being a rare exception. The vagueness of the songs’ geographical sense reinforces the idea of James as an outsider, and makes the aimless drifting common of the blues song’s narrator even more direct and vivid within the music. Most of James’ lyrics are oddly generic, seeming like they could be drawn from the experiences of virtually any bluesman (the heavy usage of lyrics from the “storehouse” also helps to account for this). James’ songs discuss sexual and violent activities with a detached impersonality reinforced by his austere, almost inhuman vocals, and there is no usage of the names of real people, save for his own name, “Nehemiah,” which shows up in “What Am I To Do Blues” and “Special Rider Blues,” and that of his second wife Lorenzo, who is described in most unflattering terms in the otherwise commonplace “Lorenzo Blues”. Nonetheless, there are a few songs in the James repertoire which draw inspiration from his personal experiences. As previously mentioned, “Illinois Blues” was occasioned by James’ stint at a lumber camp. It was while James was working on this camp that he first shot a man, an event which was to resonate throughout both his life and his music (32). “Washington D.C. Hospital Center Blues” is a post-rediscovery James tune inspired by his stints in various hospitals when he was sick with cancer (James was in Tunica County Hospital when he was rediscovered in 1964), and the song drips with the pain and loneliness of illness, something James was quite familiar with during the last years of his life (33):

In a hospital, Lord, in Washington, D.C.,
I didn’t have nobody to see about me…

“Devil Got My Woman,” the first song James ever recorded, also possesses autobiographical connotations, though admittedly of a somewhat more tangential nature. Early in his life, James had been married to a minister’s daughter named Oscella Robinson, who eventually left him for a close friend of his. This loss devastated James, who toyed with thoughts of suicide, and it contributed to the misogyny that pervaded his life and infests his lyrics. Although James wrote “Devil” before his entanglement with Robinson, both he and his fellow Bentonians came to associate the song with Robinson, whom James later described as “…so contentious, unruly, and hard to get along with, I compared her to the devil, one of his agencies” (34). These references notwithstanding, the bulk of James’ lyrical work is curiously anonymous in construction, idiom and theme, much of the songs’ distinctiveness instead being provided by the artist’s particular instrumental style and vocal delivery.

However, this description of James’ lyrics does not do adequate justice to one of the most idiosyncratic discographies in the blues, a repertoire unique not just in style, but in attitude as well. The qualities that make the music of Skip James stand out within the rich lode of early twentieth-century blues recordings were not merely the result of musical iconoclasm or sociological ambivalence, but were in fact largely derived from James’ singular and bizarre personality. Here was a man driven by elitism and deep-seated resentments, who worshipped the power of both the gun and the cross, and who feared nothing but death. Skip James was never analyzed by a certified psychologist, and it is therefore unknown whether or not he actually suffered from some form of mental illness, but his peculiar behavior and grim personal philosophy marked him as a profoundly troubled individual, and stand as reasonable indication of a possible psychological disorder. These mental difficulties may have created impairments in Skip James’ abilities to deal reasonably with the world around him, but they became the bedrock of the music that has made his name endure.

“Messiah of the Doomed”: The Psychology of Skip James (35)

In numerous ways, James’ life and music were influenced, and in many instances dictated, by his cancerous paranoia, virulent mistrusts that extended to virtually all of humanity. James’ deepest misgivings were directed against women, whom he believed were “insidious creatures against whom it was necessary to protect oneself by cauterizing feeling” (36). James felt it was his responsibility to “educate” men about the dangers of female companionship (in addition to the Oscella Robinson situation, there was also James’ shooting, at the lumber camp referred to in “Illinois Blues,” which had been the result of a dispute over a woman), and his lyrics are full of misogynistic language and homicidal impulses directed toward women. In addition to “Devil Got My Woman,” there are several James songs alluding to the heartlessness of the female sex, including “Cypress Grove Blues,” in which James states “I would rather be buried in some cypress grove / than to have some woman, Lord, that I can’t control” (37) and “D.C. Hospital Center,” featuring a “damsel” who “couldn’t understand,” and who forsakes the narrator in his darkest hour of illness. Although there are no known acts of violence against women on James’ personal record, several of his songs foreground the shooting of women, the killings described notable largely for the lack of remorse they elicit in the murderers. “22-20 Blues” is about a firearm the narrator is planning to use on his woman, to “cut her half in two”, and also present within the James discography is a version of “Crow Jane”, a traditional blues in which the narrator shoots the title character “just to see her fall”. While part of the music’s misogyny stems from James’ own experiences, and from the general detachment from the opposite sex experienced by all black itinerant workers of the period, there was likely a hatred of women, rooted in James’ off-kilter psychology, which accounts for these lyrics.

Oddly, although James’ songs feature few acts of violence directed toward men, in life he was unafraid of violence, frequently armed, and willing to “pop” anyone who got in his way. The shootings James committed during his lifetime (details on these shootings are sketchy at best, though it is known that more than one did occur) were marked by a frightening coldness and pragmatism, as he never let his intentions be known to his adversaries until the lead was flying (38). James believed violence was essential equipment for survival, and he often spoke of how it should be used to discipline women and children. In his later years, the increasingly paranoid James entertained fantasies about his own death, which usually involved a cataclysmic shoot-out with the police. “If you kill somebody,” James once said, “you know you got to keep on killin’ till you get killed” (39). This resigned, fatalistic attitude about the necessity and inevitability of violence is writ large within James’ grim, near-nihilistic music.

Another paranoia which affected James’ work was his mistrust of other blues musicians, who he once referred to as a “barrel of crabs,” pulling anyone who reached the top of the barrel back down, rather than let him get free to achieve success without them. When other bluesmen watched James perform, he would alter his playing style to keep the secrets of his unique sound concealed from their eyes (40), and this may have resulted in the speed and frenetic quality of some of his pieces, such as the lightning-fast “I’m So Glad” and the jagged “22-20 Blues.” He was never forthcoming with information about other musicians, and when he did speak of them, he seldom had a kind word to say, instead using the opportunity to praise himself at their expense. James also felt contempt for fans of the “folk movement” who attended his late-period performances. As previously stated, James hoped his music would “deaden the minds” of his listeners, and this is reflected in the pitch-dark feel of his best tunes, a combination of vocals and music so oppressively sad that once during the Depression, James was paid by several people on a public street to stop playing, because he was depressing them even more than the Depression already had (41). James’ ambivalence about the emotional reactions of his audience was clear during the folk-circuit days. Unlike the other performers on these tours, James would not associate with his fellow musicians or with the fans, instead keeping himself remote and aloof. This condescending attitude is reflected both in the notably basic repertoire of his later years, which implies that he felt his audience deserved no better than the most rudimentary and tradition-bound music, and in the simplification of his piano style, which bears none of its early fire and imagination. James’ paranoia and fear of relationships, which did not fade with time or personal familiarity, is concomitant with the social anxieties that strike many people afflicted with mental disorders, notably those affected by schizotypal personality disorder (42), a disease which James manifested several symptoms of during his lifetime. Knowledge of James’ alienations makes the loneliness and hatred of others that permeate his music much more authentic to the listener, and thus that much more disturbing.

In addition to his self-imposed isolation from interpersonal relationships, James also alienated himself on an intra-racial level, cutting himself off from the strong kinship fostered by American blacks. After the Civil War, many blacks attempted to assimilate into white culture, forsaking their African and African-American heritage, which they openly disparaged as primitive. In the eyes of many blacks, it became shameful to be black, and this denouncement of negritude contributed to the country’s already intense racism (43). James’ separation of himself from the fellowship of his race thus has cultural roots, but the bulk of these sentiments seemed to have been born from James’ own iconoclastic, mistrustful mindset. James had experienced racial prejudice throughout his life, but to him, this was never due to his color, but to personal animosities which his persecutors held against him. Since the majority of James’ enemies had been black, he harbored intense anger toward other members of his own race. To James, the word “nigger” was not a signifier of color, but of personality, of “mean disposition and dirty ideas,” and because of his integrity (James’ own word), he actually saw himself as an honorary white man, trapped in a black skin and defending himself against “niggers” out to get him (44). This self-imposed racial alienation has roots in James’ paranoia and is reflected in the dearth of specific racial identity markers within the lyrical content of his music.

James’ life was clearly a marked study in contrasts, and the most notable by far was the relentless clash between his fundamentalist religious faith and the amoralities which frequently plagued the lifestyle of the typical blues performer of the period. James was a man attracted to fast living, and he, like many other bluesmen of his day, spent time as a pimp and bootlegger. These vocations naturally drew him into violent situations, as his shootings attest to. However, buried within this raucous, devil-may-care petty criminality were intensely religious sentiments that caused James much anxiety when he weighed them against the circumstances of his life. James was not unique in suffering this crisis of conscience, as the religion / amorality dichotomy was one that affected many blues musicians. The early African-American church actively preached against blues, calling it the “devil’s music” and citing the violence, promiscuity, and drunkenness common at juke joints and house frolics where the music was performed as evidence of its corrupting influence. By providing the impetus for sinfulness and encouraging people to dance (another act viewed by the early church as evil), bluesmen were branded as children of the devil who had forsaken God for the evanescent allure of earthly pleasure (45). James once stated a belief that before God cast Lucifer into Hell, he sent him and several other angels to earth with the explicit purpose of bringing sin to mankind (46). James therefore saw sin as an inescapable facet of human nature ordained by God, and thus seldom expressed remorse for specific acts of cruelty or violence he committed during his life, as within his philosophy, these actions were merely ways of acting upon the nature of man. Despite a belief system that all but condoned sinful activities as the work of God, James was nonetheless torn between the faith and his music, and for a time, faith won out. James’ father, himself a bootlegger and guitarist in his early life, later became a minister, and James sought him out after his abortive attempt at recorded musical success in the early ’30s. For a time, James, like fellow musicians Ishmon Bracey and Thomas Dorsey, became an ordained minister, and he did not perform blues professionally for thirty years, instead putting his musical gifts to service as the leader of a gospel quartet in his father’s church (47).

However, various factors served to keep James’ moral conflicts alive. He still found himself drawn to alcohol, women, and blues during his time with the church, and though he seldom played blues during this period, the music’s influence was still present in his life due to the stylistic idioms of the gospel songs he performed. Gospel, sometimes called “the stepchild of blues,” had evolved from the same slave spirituals that had spawned blues music, and though the church officially denounced blues, its syntax was nonetheless present in the call-and-response style and dramatic vocal inflections of the gospel songs performed during African-American worship services (48), thus allowing James to retain his familiarity with blues stylistic modes throughout his conversion period.

Another factor contributing to James’ moral ambiguity was his continuing belief in folk religions and the power of magic (odd or socially unacceptable beliefs are another symptom of schizotypal disorder [49]). James once said, ” I learned to sit under the feets of people who are styled as gazers” (50), and he always harbored a belief in voodoo, a religion which contained roots of the African-American church that later preached against it, and which appealed to blues musicians in its promise of power and invulnerability to those who practiced it (51). Also unusual was James’ preaching, relying as it did on the stern proclamations of the Old Testament. This style was out of step with the more uplifting, New Testament-derived preaching that was popular at the time, but it was certainly a more accurate reflection of James’ doom-laden philosophy of life. Eventually, the lure of the blues became too strong, and James returned to music. The constant battle within James between religion and the blues, and by implication between God and the devil, is present within his music, particularly the post-rediscovery recordings, in several ways. James’ hiatus from blues did adversely affect his playing, and the post-rediscovery work, while competent and often commanding, lacks the rough intensity James musters in the early recordings (this can also, of course, be considered a by-product of James’ illness and advancing age). Also, while James uses his given name, “Nehemiah,” in numerous early songs, he does not refer to himself as “Skip” within his music until after the rediscovery (the line “You can go home now, Skip / you a sound well man” appears in the late-period “D.C. Hospital Center Blues”), signifying the victory of “Skip” the bluesman over “Nehemiah” the preacher of God. The faith was never totally gone from James’ heart, however; after his rediscovery, he began all of his performances with a spiritual, and he always performed this style of song with striking sincerity, even at his 1931 recording session. Perhaps the most telling musical illustration of James’ secular-religious conflict is 1931’s “Be Ready When He Comes.” The song is a warning to people who stray from God, dancing, reveling, and “raisin’ up judgment,” that Jesus will one day come to save men’s souls. James was no stranger to the lifestyle spoken of in this song, and these lyrics can be interpreted as a warning to himself as much as to the song’s listeners.

These secular-religious conflicts informed as well on the other central contradiction present within the life of Skip James. Skip was a man full of hubris and bravado. He was fond of describing himself as “one of the best men who ever walked” (52), and often praised his own music while running other blues performers into the ground. He believed his music was “absolutely gonna stand” the test of time, and even went as far as to wear a tuxedo to performances at ramshackle coffeehouses in the 1960s (53). However, these kind of bold, arrogant attitudes often speak of deep insecurities within those who express them. James, a man who had spent most of his life as an itinerant worker and who had almost nothing tangible to show for his labor, was no exception. His music notwithstanding, he was a person of extremely limited accomplishment, and this likely accounts for his excessive building up of himself. The refrain of “D.C. Hospital Center” states “I’m a good man, but I’m a poor man, you understand”. These words seem intended more to convince James than his listeners of his worth, and can be read as a desperate, searching question posed to anyone who will listen. James’ insecurities, intense as they were, were not wholly unwarranted. Indeed, had it not been for his 1931 recordings, he would likely have faded into complete obscurity, with nothing left behind upon his death to indicate he had even been alive.

As his numerous violent encounters and generally contentious personality indicate, Skip James did not harbor much fear of others. With a cold, unthinkingly ambivalent attitude, he mistreated women, shot men who crossed him, and stood up to whites who called him “nigger,” a suicidal action in the Jim Crow South (54). James also possessed pitiless confidence in his musical ability and knowledge, disparaging the work of other musicians and smugly lecturing audiences at his later performances about musical styles and mechanics. These actions indicate a man who lived life according to his own callous, selfish design, and who utterly disregarded the desires of others or the standards of society. However, the music of Skip James also blatantly reflects the one great fear that marked his existence: the possibility of dying before receiving the opportunity to make peace with God. While on his deathbed, James denounced his past, acknowledging the “sinful” nature of blues music and announcing that he would perform only spirituals if God would let him live (55). It was a last-ditch attempt for James to reconcile his past with his faith, and to enter the afterlife with a clean conscience. This fear of damnation creates an undertow of anxiety that is manifested throughout James’ music, from the plaintive vocals of “Devil Got My Woman” (“I laid down last night, tried to take my rest / My mind got to ramblin’, like the wild geese from the West”) to the dirge-like melody of “Hard Times Killing Floor Blues” to “Be Ready When He Comes,” a song which directly addresses the necessity of making peace with the Lord. Although few of these songs are directly connected to ideas of death, the grim melancholia of James’ music reflects a dark knowledge that sin, be it through promiscuity, violence, or performance of “the devil’s music,” will lead to eternal suffering unless one reconciles with God before death. James was never able to entirely resolve his own moral conflicts, and therefore he may have felt that the vengeance he so desperately feared and which was so incisively reflected in his music was to be visited upon him in the afterlife by a displeased God. However, in a way, this very vengeance would prove that James’ musical message had not been delivered in vain, and would therefore validate his life as a blues singer, which had provided this message to the world. James himself was likely aware of this, and therefore his statement that his music was “absolutely gonna stand” and his absolute confidence in the quality of his compositions may have been based less on bravado and more on a belief that by sharing his personal conflicts and the importance of spiritual equilibrium with others through his music, James was performing a sort of holy work, a valuable service that would outweigh the sins of his past and earn him the seat in heaven that he so desperately coveted.

Skip James’ strikingly singular music was a product of his surroundings, musical iconoclasm, and bizarre psychology. The standard 12-bar blues format and rough Mississippi rhythms were forsaken by James, who, despite the influence of local musicians and blues tradition, created a haunting style that made his music unique. James also rejected many of the sociological and personal themes of typical blues lyrics, instead presenting an ambivalent view of society and his own life which attested to his detachment and outsider status. All of these influences were themselves affected by the damaged psychology of James, a man whose paranoia and misogyny spawned edgy, violent songs that rejected society, race, and gender roles, and whose life was a constant battle between the influence of the church and the dangerous blues lifestyle, a battle which James never resolved and which lent his music its distinctive anxiety and fearful pleading for peace in the next world. The life of Skip James was not a happy one, but the sadnesses and angers that fueled his existence were distilled into his music, allowing him to create accomplished, emotionally deveastating work that will let his name live on, even if his life, in his own eyes, was something of a failure.

“It’s just Skip’s music…I don’t sing other people’s songs. I don’t sing other people’s voices. I can’t.”

– SKIP JAMES (56)

Acknowledgements

In preparation for writing this essay, three individuals provided assistance which was crucial to the development of the final product. Prof. Philip Smith was kind enough to record for me a large number of Skip James’ songs, which are generally hard to come by in your average neighborhood record store, and which were instrumental to the development of the paper’s perspective. Singer / guitarist Ernie Hawkins demonstrated the “Bentonia tuning” for me, and thus gave me an invaluable first-hand idea of the sound of Skip James, and the effect it can create in a listener. And my sister, Shannon Malone, B.S. Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, provided much insight into the psychology of Skip James, and, based on information provided by me, helped me to arrive at the “diagnosis” reached in the essay. My thanks go out to all three of them for their assistance.

Works Cited

Words

1. Julio Finn. The Bluesman. New York: Interlink Books, 1986, p. 192.

2. David Harrison. Blues: A Photographic Documentary. New York: Crescent Books, 1997, p. 13-14.

3. Robert M. Baker. “A Brief History of the Blues”. Available on the Blue Highway website at www.thebluehighway.com/history.html

4. Keith Shadwick. The Illustrated Story of Jazz. New York: Crescent Books, 1991, p. 61.

5. Stephen Calt. I’d Rather Be the Devil: Skip James and the Blues. New York: Da Capo Press, 1994, p. 89.

6. Ibid, p. 88-90.

7. Giles Oakley, The Devil’s Music: A History of the Blues. New York: Da Capo Press, 1997, p. 142.

8. Calt, p. 30.

9. Ibid, p. 144-145.

10. Ibid, p. 100.

11. Mark Humphrey. Devil Got My Woman: Blues at Newport 1966. Booklet accompanying video of the same title, released by Vestapol Productions, a division of Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop, Inc. 1996.

12. Stephen Calt. Liner notes accompanying The Complete Early Recordings of Skip James. Released by Yazoo Records, circa 1994.

13. Robert Palmer. Deep Blues. New York: Penguin Books, 1987, p. 117.

14. Calt, Da Capo, p. 210-211.

15. Oakley, p. 9-11.

16. Alan Lomax. The Land Where the Blues Began. New York: Pantheon Books, 1993, p. 362.

17. Paul Oliver. Blues Fell This Morning: Meaning in the Blues. London: Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 202.

18. Eric Sackheim. The Blues Line. Hopewell, N.J.: The Ecco Press, 1993, p. 135.

19. Ibid, p. 384.

20. Ibid, p. 170.

21. Oliver, p. 175.

22. Sackheim, p. 394.

23. Bekker, Peter O.E. The Story of the Blues. New York: Friedman/Fairfax Publishers, 1994, p. 28.

24. Humphrey, p. 17-18.

25. Bekker, p. 28.

26. Calt, Da Capo, p. 57-58.

27. Robert Macleod. Yazoo 21-83. Edinburgh: Pat Publications, 1990, p. 416.

28. Ibid, p. 409.

29. Ibid, p. 407.

30. Calt, Da Capo, p. 118.

31. MacLeod, p. 408.

32. Calt, Da Capo, p. 59.

33. Humphrey, p. 14.

34. Calt, Da Capo, p. 109-111.

35. Harrison, p. 31.

36. Calt, Da Capo, p. 53.

37. Sackheim, p. 177.

38. Calt, Da Capo, p. 49, 60.

39. Ibid, p. 335.

40. Ibid, p. 18.

41. Ibid, p. 17.

42. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition). Edited by the members of the American Psychiatric Association. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 1994, p. 645.

43. Finn, p. 122.

44. Calt, Da Capo, p. 28.

45. Finn, p. 144-145.

46. Jon Michael Spencer. Blues and Evil. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1993, p. 18.

47. Calt, Da Capo, p. 189, 191-193.

48. Bekker, p. 15, 17.

49. DSM-IV, p. 645.

50. Calt, Da Capo, 284.

51. Finn, p. 117, 145.

52. Calt, Da Capo, p. 157.

53. Bruce Cook. Listen to the Blues. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973, p. 80.

54. Calt, Da Capo, p. 49-50.

55. Ibid, p. 345.

56. Sackheim, p. 466.

Sounds

Blind Boy Fuller. East Coast Piedmont Style. Released by Columbia/Legacy, Roots ‘N’ Blues Series. 1991.

Skip James. Blues From the Delta. Released by Vanguard Records, 1998.

Skip James. The Complete Early Recordings of Skip James. Released by Yazoo Records.

Skip James. Today! Released by Vanguard Records, 1988.

Robert Johnson. The Complete Recordings. Released by Columbia/Legacy, Roots ‘N’ Blues Series. 1990.

Images

Devil Got My Woman: Blues at Newport, 1966. Released by Vestapol Productions, a division of Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop, Inc. 1996.

More Advanced Tone Improvements to Teach to Your Clarinet Students | Backun Educator Series

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I’M going to show you a few things that will really help improve the tone of your clarinet students. Now sometimes these are considered a little bit more advanced techniques, but I actually really like to teach them as early as I can. As a student is learning because if they learn with good habits, they don’t have to unlearn those bad habits later and it will make it much easier for them to play and they’re going to have a lot more fun on the instrument. So I’m going to talk about embouchure. Most people have a good understanding of how embouchure works, but I’ll show you some of my favorite ways of helping the students really learn it and absorb the best habits. I like to think of a clarinet embouchure as having three steps so step number. One is simply that they put enough mouthpiece in their mouth and it is important that they get the optimum amount and we have another video that goes into that in more detail. Now most players will play with their top teeth. Touching the mouthpiece directly, some people use, what’s called a double lip balm, be sure where their top lip goes over their top teeth either one is alright. My personal training has been with my teeth on the mouthpiece and I think either one is fine, but we want to make sure we’re putting enough mouthpiece in the mouth a really good guideline for the students if they were to turn their clarinet sideways and look at A bright light you’ll see a space between the reed and the tip of the mouthpiece and at some point it touches on my mouthpiece, that’s right about here. So if I were to just mark that spot and bring it around to the back of my mouthpiece, that’s right about where I want my teeth to go, so that gives you a really easy guideline for your students. So that’s step. One step. Two is the most important part of the clarinet embouchure: it’s what we do with our bottom lip and our chin. You want the edge of your bottom lip to go over your bottom teeth and then everything else needs to be pulled down and away, and when you’re looking at a student from the side, you want to see this nice curve here so that curve inward is a Sign that we’re pulling everything away from the Reed and we want the reed to vibrate as much as it possibly can. You know the world’s worst clarinet embouchure would look something like this now I know your students aren’t doing that, but that’s putting Maksim blob and flab onto the reed. However, many students play something like this. You can see my bottom lip was folded over and very, very loose and flabby. Now here’s the tricky thing for many many people, their muscles literally do not know how to do this. It’S not a skill. Those muscles have learned, and so students do have to train themselves how to do it and the best way I know of for them to do that. Yam, you can start without their clarinet is just to put a finger, holding the edge of their lip over their top teeth and literally pulling it down. With their other hand like this, when we do that, it actually sends a message to your brain that you’re wanting these muscles to move in that shape. I had a student who is a physiotherapist who worked with stroke victims who had lost the the neurons. That would help them move their hand and literally they would move the fingers until the brain developed new neurons to do it, it’s kind of the same way with clarinet embouchure. We pull it down and it teaches how to do it step two is, I would have them play an open G, so they can hold their clarinet in their right hand and literally have them pull the skin down away from the Reed while they play it would Look something like that. You know when they do that they might be pulling their jaw out a place and they might get some weird sound. So they’re, not necessarily gon na sound great when they’re doing this as a training tool, but it really helps to teach them. How to do it just to show you the difference it makes so I’m gon na try and play a note and let my lip go flabby and pull it down and you’ll see and hear the difference. When I’m doing that, you know I’m kind of throwing my embouchure out a little bit in doing that, but you can hear the difference as I was pulling it in and out and it’ll make a big difference for your students. So the way I work with my clarinet students is, I tell them every time they put it in their mouth before they blow just pull it down. So that’s the most important part of embouchure. The third part of the clarinet embouchure is what we do with the corners or the sides of our mouth, and what this does is it puts the polishing touches on the tone it warms it up. It gives it great resonance. It especially makes the high register sound. Warm and inviting instead of shrill and harsh, and what we want to do is bring the corners in as roundly as we can a good trick to help your students know that is. I have them put a finger in the middle of their bottom, lip just where the reed would go, and then I ask them to take their other hand and wrap the edges of their bottom lip around the edges of their finger. It’S like they’re trying to crush the sides of their finger like that. It gives them a feel for what you’re doing and then I would say, take away the supporting hand and try and crush the sides of their fingers just with the corners of their mouth. Now it’s kind of fun you can ask them to grunt. I find my students do it better if they go look and it kind of gets them into that shape other than the fact that my bottom lip when I do this is flabby in the middle. It brings my lips in the corners of my mouth into the perfect clarinet embouchure shape. This is a trick. I learned from Bill Jackson, who’s an amazing teacher and player, and it really helps to define how we want the embouchure to go. Then you can have them again and just try and open G and the idea is they’re going to crush the sides of their mouthpiece with the corners of their mouth. Just like that, and it’s a really helpful tool to. As I said to round the high register and give them a beautiful sound, so that’s our three-step embouchure, that’s how I like to teach it it’s it’s a way that most people can learn it pretty easily and if they look in a mirror they can see it Again, if someone’s working on the bottom lip taking a picture of them in profile is the best way to do it, so you can team them up with a friend. They can take a picture on their phone to see what they’re doing with their bottom lip and chin and if their corners are coming in when the corners are coming, and you can see a vertical line on the mouth and that’s kind of a sign that we’ve Got the corners in the right shape, so those are visual cues. You can look for as a teacher to see if your students have a good embouchure, there’s another part of embouchure that most people don’t know about when they’re teaching, clarinet and even a lot of players. Don’T know – and it has a drastic effect on our tone – it’s what we do with our tongue inside of our mouth, when we’re not tonguing just when we’re blowing and the technical term for this is the voicing how we hold our tongue makes a huge difference on Tone – and it’s really useful for you as a teacher to know this, because it will especially help your students when they’re trying to play their high notes in tune and with good tone. So you can see why I’m not an artist but I’m a clarinetist. Here’S. My very bad drawing of your student playing clarinet. I want to assume that they’re sitting with great posture and their lungs are putting out really fast air, which is what we want to support the clarinet. So it’s zooming up here through their windpipe at full speed in between our windpipe, which is about the size of a quarter and our clarinet, which has quite a small opening. We have a relatively big space here, which is our mouth. Our tongue will normally rest down here at the bottom of our mouth. That creates a big space for the air to hit and when it hits it just like a river hitting the ocean, it’s just gon na slow down and for clarinet to get the reed vibrating. We want the fastest air stream possible, so we have a bridge if we could take our tongue and put it up here. The air is just gon na whoosh through there and really really help your tone. Now. That’S to show you what we’re working at it’s a little bit abstract, but I’m going to tell you how you can teach it to your students and how you cannotice the difference when our tongue is in that position. It’S as if we’re saying the word he and we want to emphasize the H, sound kind of as if you’re hissing he that puts our tongue in just about the perfect position for clarinet. Now, if you’re going for a classical sound, which is what most school bands and our Striz would aim for, it we’re gon na keep it in that position virtually for every note. So when I’m teaching beginner intermediate students, that’s how it’s gon na be for the whole time, the only time we really change it is in the extreme altissimo register or, if someone’s playing a lot of jazz and klezmer and bending pitch it’s the tongue that bends it. For your purposes in teaching a good basic tone, he having that tongue high in arch is what we want using our high C, the thumb and register key, which is such a reactive note. We can experiment with that a little bit, I’m gon na play with my tongue and he and then I’m gon na slowly bring it down he down aw, which is where it’s in its lowest position and then bring it back up and you’re going to hear what It does to the sound in fact, as I’m playing I’m gon na try and have my hand sort of model what my tongue is doing inside my mouth. So this is your x-ray machine. You can see what I’m doing and you’ll hear the difference. Now I was trying not to move anything else I might have inadvertently, but for the most part that change in sound was my tongue and I probably could have made it go even lower, so it makes a huge difference. Most people aren’t playing in ha but they’re playing with their tongue kind of in the middle and what you’ll hear when the tongue is too low, you’ll see flat pitch on the tuner and you’ll hear a scratchy sound. Here’S me playing a scale with my tongue too low. That’S, not an uncommon sound when you’re playing with your beginner. It’S not a sound! I really like to listen to, but you may recognize that that’s just my tongue being too low lift my tongue up to that. He and the way I’ll have students work on. It is actually close their mouth on the mouthpiece and literally speak, hey, hey, it feels very strange and you can tell them it’s a goofy exercise. They should say he frees their tongue and then try playing that same thing. He so there’s me at the top, as you can see by my hand, moving the tongue down and up. It makes a huge difference in sound, so it’s a little bit abstract a really useful tool to use if you’re trying to teach your students to play with the proper voicing is a tuner and the exercise I recommend is a four note exercise if they’re playing in The high register to start on the high G to A to B, to C and have the tuner right in front of them as they’re doing this, and what we want to look for is that the tuner does not move now, if they’re in a cold room, They might be flat overall or in a warm room. They might be sharp overall. But if you see that tuner needle going down to flat it’s a sure sign that their tongue is too low. If the needle can stay high, then they’re in the right place. Even just taking a high C and using a tuner to see where the needle is will make a big difference, so the sure sign is we go from almost in tune to flatter to flatter to flatter and it doesn’t matter whether they start sharp or flat. It’S that progression, if their tongue is in the right place, it should stay much more stable than that. Now my clarinets a little cold, so I may be a little low, but what we’re looking for is that it stays constant. So when it’s staying more or less the same, then that’s a good indicator that our tongue is in the right position. This makes a huge difference not only to intonation but also to pitch so working on. That hi-c is a good way to gauge whether the student has it in the right place and once they do, if they keep it there, every single note from low to high is going to sound, better

Read More: Mr Clarinet Phenomenon-Buddy DeFranco

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Cork Replacement: Clarinet Instrument Repair


Hi, this is Master Sergeant, Dale Barton today we’re going to be talking about cork, specifically tenant corks on clarinets oboes and such that also applies to mouthpiece corks, some of the first kind of don’ts on these when they’re loose attempting to reglue them often is a really Bad idea it makes for a big mess, for you makes for a big mess for the repairmen later on to have to clean up. I know that it works it’s kind of an expedient method. If you have a loose cork, you have one that the corks come off. Your best friend is teflon plumbers tape. If you’ve got that this joints coming apart, it’s just hanging in the wind to start it in one end work your way down wherever you need to. If you’ve got a really loose spot, you can build up a number of layers. It sticks to itself, it works really great. It’S inherently slippery things come on and off you don’t even hardly need any cork grease later on and and usually it sticks a lot better than that to itself, and then it can come off by itself. Masking tape is bad. It leaves a lot of residue that makes it difficult to get it off, but right now I just would kind of like to teach you how to properly replace one of these clerks now, one of the first things if you’ve got an old, worn one. For example, this one here is in great shape and it’s a little bit dark, but there’s nothing wrong with it, but it just the barrel doesn’t stick to this instrument, so that makes it really difficult for the player to keep the instrument in tune. They can lose parts, have parts fall off, so this tool is a cork scraper, tenon, cork remover. There are things that you could use to try to get the cork off, but the biggest thing that you want to do is avoid removing wood from the instruments. So once I’ve got under here and I can start to peel the cork off a little bit, you can kind of see that I can peel that off. If I’m scraping enough that I’m removing wood that’s kind of a bad thing. So if you really can’t get this cork off I’ll show you something else that we’ll want to do one other thing is once we’ve gotten the edge of the of the cork visible you can take acetone. I usually have a little more industrial grade. Acetone fingernail polish remover is essentially acetone with with some moisturizers and a little bit of fragrance, but get a little bit of that in there get it along the edge of the cork and it will it’ll kind of seep underneath there and start to dissolve that glue. So that you can, then you get a little bit further along put a little bit more on. It comes out this way. If we have especially on an older instrument where the corks been there a long time, sometimes you just can’t get the old glue off. One trick that I have found the best thing for removing old contact cement is new contacts of it. So you take a little bit of your contact. Cement put it over the old crusty glue, spread it around just a little bit, believe it thick and let it kind of sit there for a bit and the solvents that are in the kind of thick glue will start to dissolve the old glue. And then, at this point you kind of do like you used to do with rubber cement when you were a kid and you’d make it into little balls and things. So we we just rub our finger across that until it starts to get the glue and it’ll start to ball up, and you can probably already see that we’re we’re getting that balled up glue off of there, and that leaves us with a really nice clean surface. Before we put the cork on, we also want to make sure that the whole surface is clean. Can the fingernail polish remover works? Okay, acetone and just the pure acetone is what I like on a q-tip get it in there. It evaporates almost instantly. It works good. On wood and on plastic, if you have a plastic instrument, you want to be real, careful about using alcohol, for whatever reason the structure of the ABS plastic that most student instruments are made of. It becomes very crystalline when it comes in contact with the alcohol, which is a number one thing for breaking the middle joints on clarinets is because in the past somebody has replaced the cork cleaned it with alcohol. Unwittingly, messed up the molecules of this thing and you end up either having to replace the instrument to have a very expensive repair. Okay, so that’s nice and clean one other thing: I use contact cement, but for many years instrument corks were put on with shellac. It kind of like looks like this. This is a plastic adhesive, but shellac comes in a stick form. It’S very hard, brittle actually excreted from a beetle that that’s in India, they scrape the stuff off the trees form it into these things. You’Ve eaten it it’s what makes the shine on your apples and oranges. It’S a really great substance. It’S sticky enough that when melted it’ll hold quarks and things on, but it’s it doesn’t come off quite as quite the same way. It is dissolvable, however, in alcohol. So if you have an instrument where the cork is put on with shellac, then the alcohol will be your choice for cleaning off the excess material. Now, I’m going to have the assumption that you do at least have access to some sheet cork material, the better variety of thicknesses. You have the easier your job is. Sometimes you just don’t have too much so the first thing that we’re going to do is trim the cork to fit in this channel as far as finding out the thickness of the cork. If it was working pretty well and you’ve got some of the remnant of the old cork and it’s just a little bit a little bit loose, you can kind of compare it to some of your sheet stock and find something that will be a pretty close fit. It needs to be thicker than what you did before if you can find one, that’s exactly that’s ideal, but that happens in the fairy tales first thing that I want to do is make sure that I’ve got a really nice straight edge in my shop. I go through tons of single edge, razor blades and q-tips and pipe cleaners. It’S one of those things I just have them on hand. I don’t try to skimp on them. I get them, I use them. I throw them away, they’re, just handy enough and cheap enough. That you don’t really need to worry about that, so get a good ruler. A metal straightedge is nicer, but for the first few times the plastic one will work until you start to gauge up the edge a little bit so just a little bit on the edge get a good cutting board these. These mats that you get from the fabric stores work really well. You can use a plastic cutting board that you can get in the kitchen department that works. You know you can use a wooden thing, but your you know your wife, your mother, the maid is going to be real mad when they see these big score marks on there. So so we just start by making sure we got a nice clean edge. There’S all kinds of things: I’ve seen people with with calipers and measuring things and all kinds of stuff to try to get the proper width. I’Ve found a method that works just so slick. I put the edge of the cork on one side and I hold it down and now I’ll be following the this shoulder on the other side, with my razor blade, so that is going to be a guide here. So I start the razor blade here and I just Rock just rocking enough to make a tab. Okay, we go to the other side of our sheet material and we do the same thing. So I’ve got a tab on this end. A tab on that end. Now, with those bets up a little bit, those now act as a stop for my straightedge, so I put the straightedge right up to those little tabs. Just gently push it in there not too hard hold it fast. Okay, now that’s already the perfect width for our channel. That was really easy. I can do that in just seconds then the next thing on a on a 10m cork, you want the cork to overlap. You want a bevel on one side and the other one on the other side. You don’t want it to butt up like this, so we don’t just cut it. Flush bring it around and cut it flush, that’s a spot for the air to get out cause a leak on your instrument. We want that overlap that makes sure that it’s sealed all along the way. So yeah again I see people with files, sandpaper and all kinds of stuff. If you do have one side of the cork that, for whatever reason you want it to be the upper face that you see, that part faces down if you’ve got particularly old and brittle cork, and you can kind of tell that it naturally bends one way or The other, because you’re going to have to wrap this around you want it to be flexible enough to do that. If you’re doing that, and it’s feeling kind of crinkly or whatever then position again, this will be the outside that will be down on the bench if you’re using cork, which is somewhat old, it’s a good idea initially to kind of soften up the you know, kind Of a meat tenderizer thing, so you’ll soften up your cork. That makes it more pliable easier to bend. Okay back to the bevel, we’ve got the good side facing down. We take a razor blade if we’re doing a clarinet. You know a narrow cork. We just use the razor blade. I have it facing this way at an angle, and I just draw it towards myself with a slicing motion, and that leaves us a bevel. Okay, next thing that we’re going to do is apply the the cement I use contact cement. It’S either called contact, cement, contact, adhesive every now and then you’ll get one. That’S like a all-purpose adhesive, and if, when you’re reading the instructions it says apply to one side and then apply to the other side and let it dry before connecting it. That’S a contact. Cement, but those types don’t tend to be nearly as good quality is what we’re going to want on here. So first thing that we’re going to do is place a little bit of glue. Just on that bevel surface. This is going to wrap around and it needs to have a glued surface for the other side to to grab. So I put just the tiniest amount of contact cement there. I spread this on that bevel with my pinkie. You want just enough of it for it to be a sheen, you see if you can. Okay, any any glue that goes past. The bevel is something you’re going to have to clean up afterwards and it it just makes things difficult. If you do it this way, it just takes care of itself. Then we go on to the side that is next to the instrument, I’ll put a like a bead of glue and then I go kind of in a sideways motion this to spread it to the outside. Ideally, you don’t want a lot of glue on the edges. You want it on the surface that is contacting the the court channel, but not anywhere else. So again, not a thick coating but a complete coating. It needs to coat the whole thing. It’S real important that you get fresh glue if you’re buying it from somewhere. That hasn’t turned over their stock in 15 years. You’Re going to have issues with this, so a nice coat on that set. That aside, we move to the the joint itself I’ll put a little bit. Thicker glob see that and then I use my my index finger and as I’m pressing it I kind of I twist it and it it spreads the glue side to side right in front of my finger that that thing so I’ll just kind of go this way Until it has spread that, ideally, you want to avoid having too much cement along this surface, if you’re really good, with your your finger tip and how you spread, that you can kind of only get it edge to edge really good, but that doesn’t always happen. It’S not that hard to clean off now we’re going to let this dry a second it if you’ve got the good glue and you haven’t put it on too thickly it’ll dry in under five minutes. Okay, now we take our cork. The glued surface is facing that direction or towards the glued part of the clarinet. The bevel that we’ve cut and glued is facing to the left. If you’re left-handed, you may find that it works easier for you to reverse these things, but that’s the way that goes so. The first thing I’m going to do is carefully place that glued portion between the channels. If, for some reason, you cut this, just a little bit wide try to kind of flex the cork a little bit, lay it in there and allow it to then work side to side. But first we put that in there do a gentle press down with your finger, but not too much as we go around the corner. I want to press downward, but I also want to tug just a little bit on this cork that shrinking stuff tends to just pull everything tight when I’m done so and as I’m going around, I want to keep this really nicely centered between the edges on it. If you had it perfect, it’s just going to slide right in there, but the contacts event is also so aggressive that if you get off to the side, it’ll stick to any glue that is outside of the channel and make it hard for you to get your Cork back in so nice and easy around as we get to the overlap, that’s where you want to really be sure that it’s that it’s touching really good. At that point, I’ll press that down nice and tight get the razor blade. I want to have the razor blade flush with this. I don’t want if I’m like this, and I go to trim this, I’m going to have kind of a scooped out area on that overlap. Ideally, when this is done, we want this to just look perfect and almost undetectable. So first thing I’ll do is I’ll just come in here and with razor blades a lot of times. People will just try to do a straight cut or whatever kind of imagine a scissor with with these blades that go past each other and your cuts, you want to slice through them. You don’t want to just jam it through. You want to gently slice so, even though I’m in here I’m using a little bit of a slicing motion here to get that that excess off right now, we could see that we’re just a little bit high on your first cut. You do kind of want this to be just a little bit high so that you can see what you’re up against. If you had managed to find cork, that was like absolutely perfect in thickness. You really don’t want to sand any of it off because then you’re just removing what you’ve just done. But if it’s just a little bit thick, we want to get it just get that little hump out of the way for right now. Okay, so that’s that’s! And now this is not going to fit, but we don’t want it to fit, but you can test it just to see where you are so next thing. We’Re going to do. Is we’re going to sand this court you’re going to want to get a good quality of wet or dry sandpaper, or something with a very even grit on it, something between like 220 grit up to 400, the higher the number the smoother it cuts, but the longer It takes you to cut, make yourself a strip of sandpaper a little bit narrower than the one that we already cut. Okay, now one thing with this: as we’re sanding, you can do things a couple of ways you can hold it and use a drawing motion as we go around most repairmen have what’s called a bench peg, which is a is a peg that goes in the side Of their bench that you can rest the instrument against and rotate it and it’s held between your body and the bench if you’ve got a really high tech thing, you can set this in a lathe and turn it. So we’ve got our strip of sand paper and we’re sanding on it. But typically, you end up having to cut a whole bunch of strips because it wants to break as you’re going along something that really is going to prevent that and give you just a little more life out of your sandpaper is to take some type of packing Tape or you can use masking tape whatever, on the back of your sandpaper, put a coat of this down. Okay. Now, when we, when we use this, this is significantly stronger and I can’t get that to come apart to save my life. So let’s come back, but I’m going to assume that you don’t have a bench peg. So the things you really want to be aware of is to not sand the wood. You just want to get the cork and avoid sanding the wood. That’S going to give you the more of the longevity for your instrument, the way that I wrapped this tenon cork has the overlap going this way at this point, so it wrapped around it’s this way. We want to sand in this direction so that all the sanding that we do is feathering that overlap in this direction. If we sand this way, it wants to lift that up and pull that joint apart, so make sure that you’re aware of what direction you put. Your cork on okay, so now I’m pressing down pressing down with my thumb and drawing stuff. I want to have this draw a bit of a portion down. I don’t really want it right under my finger, because that creates a lot of scalloped things as I go around. So I start by just gently pulling this sandpaper around being real careful to keep it on a nice parallel line, so that I don’t that I don’t end up standing the actual body. Okay and you’ll keep you’ll, keep doing this looking at it, trying it and tell it until it’s a good fit. This is really getting very close already, I’m quite surprised also after you’ve gotten the glue on you need to take one time of finding a surface and very firmly press and go all the way around. The contact. Cement gets its its strength from a chemical bond that occurs out after the things have dried, then they come back in contact with each other and having that little extra press gives them a lot more longevity once you’ve done a quark this way. Typically, it’s not coming off because it was not put on properly it’s going to come off for some other reason way down the road. So we’ve got the cork on it’s sanded, it’s pretty clean. The biggest reason that I found that corks fall off is the the cork grease that people use. Sometimes it tends to be really thin. It’S got a lot of solvents and those solvents kind of migrate through the cork and they kind of attack the contact cement or whatever glue was on it before so. Sometimes you’ll get one you’ll you’ll take your barrel off or you pull your mouthpiece out and you’ll. Have this round ring of cork? That’S usually because of the cork grease going and migrating through the cork. So, to prevent that we’re going to lay down a barrier of paraffin wax paraffin wax you can find in a block form the stuff it tends to be in the either the baking and preserving section of a grocery store or next to, like the charcoal, lighter fluid. Some of those areas where I find this stuff – another thing you can use is just a plain white candle. The you know the closer to this color. It is the more pure paraffin it is. So what we want to do is we’ll melt this and apply it to the cork to create kind of a base thing. I use a alcohol lamp which has denatured alcohol as the fuel. If you don’t have that, you can also take a cigarette, lighter you’ll need to find something to hold this tab down. Take a rubber band, just anything on there to hold that down, and then another lighter to light. So that keeps that going keeps both of your hands-free. You could then melt your wax put it on here. That tends to get particularly hot, but it does work and works. Well, I kind of like how clean the flame is on a regular alcohol lamp. So we we melt the paraffin and we just work our way around the joint that we’ve just corked and we get us. You want to make sure that that anytime they move it that it’s actually melted wax. You don’t want to just be spreading the wax. You want the hot wax to actually kind of melt into the cork a little bit so once we get that coated all the way around between your thumb and index finger. We’Re going to rub that you want to press really hard that the friction that you create here I mean it gets really hot and that will melt that wax again and drives the wax into the cork. So you can see, we’ve got the excess a bit of the excess wax there. We wipe off the rest of of the wax make sure. As you work that you get everything nice and clean there is, you know I mean people say well. The cork is a cork, it just holds the thing together, but there’s something about a really well done: cork, that’s nice and clean and white and wealth is well fit and that you can’t find the joint that is just really pleasing to technician to the player. They may not even know what it is, but they look at it and go wow. Somebody cares who did this thing and and they’re? You know they’re going to be really happy about your work, they’re going to feel better about their instrument. Now, after we’ve cleaned the excess paraffin off, then we’re going to want to lubricate it any regular cork grease that comes with your with your clarinet that you go by the music store is sufficient. I prefer anything: that’s just a little waxy err, rather than you know, kind of like a soft lip balm consistency. But another thing that works is also regular, plain, unflavored chapstick. It doesn’t really matter what variety it is. I’M kind of convinced that the same manufacturer that makes cork grease and lip balm is the same one and they just have different labels, so you can use you can use cork grease as lip balm. You can use lip balm as cork grease put a small amount of the cork grease on here and kind of like when we put the glue on just kind of let the cork grease run in front of your finger. Put that a bit that bit on and then we’ll come in here and that just slides on just perfect, you want it to be easy to put on but able to be adjusted as you as you play on an on a clarinet, the center cork, the holes Of joints together, it needs to be fit somewhat firm and it’s not hard to put together, but when it’s together there should be no rocking. This needs to be rock solid. Otherwise, the adjustment that we have here across the joints won’t be stable. The cork that happens here on the the barrel again, it needs to be free enough that you can adjust it and then the cork on your mouthpiece. You want that to be pretty firm. You don’t want the mouthpiece to fall off in the middle of performing on the bail. You want this easy enough to put on and not fall off when you’re playing, but it doesn’t need to be really tight, just tight enough to hold the bail on so we’ve been covering joint corks. These principles apply to any woodwind instrument that uses this type of quirk. Oboes English horns: if you’re interested in learning more about musical instrument repair go online, do a search under band instrument, repair management, repair kits and don’t forget to check out our extensive educational resources at Army Field band.

Read More: How to play the clarinet (basics)

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How playing an instrument benefits your brain – Anita Collins

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Translator Rami Nawaya Validator Khalid marbou. Did you know that every time the musicians pick up their instrument Fireworks go off all over their brain? They may appear calm and focused on the outside In reading the notes and applying the required movement accurately and literally, But there is a wild party going on inside their minds. How do we know that In the past few decades, Neuroscientists have made qualitative advances In understanding? How the brain functions through direct observation By tools such as magnetic resonance imaging and tomography scanners.

These devices are installed on people And when reading or doing exercise exercises, Certain centers of the brain are active Where the brain activity can be monitored. But when the researchers asked the participants to listen to music Watch fireworks, Several centers of the brain are stimulated at the same time, While working on sound analysis And it separates it into parts to understand its elements such as melody and rhythm. Then it puts together the parts again to become a unified singing experience, Our brains get all of these things done in a second. Between the moment we hear the music and the moment we start interacting with the rhythm And when scientists switched from observing brains. Listen to music to the brains of musicians, The little fireworks turned into a wild party.

It turns out that listening to music turns the brain on Some amazing activities. As for playing the mind is just as sporty with the body Neuroscientists have observed that multiple places are active in the brain Simultaneously, with the analysis of various information With complex, interconnected and high speed sequences. But what about composition that ignites, the brain? The research is still young, but neuroscientists have a great idea When playing an instrument. Each area of the brain is activated simultaneously, Especially visual, auditory and kinesthetic.

As with any other job, you do regular continuous musical exercises To strengthen brain function, allowing us to apply that power On other activities. The most prominent difference between listening and playing music Is that playing requires fine motor skills. It is managed in both halves. It also integrates linguistic and mathematical precision And that is managed by the left hemisphere, With fictional and creative content managed by the right half. For these reasons, it turned out to be strummed.

It increases the size and activity of the corpus callosum. It is the bridge between both halves. This allows messages to cross the brain faster and through more pathways. This may allow musicians to solve problems With more effectiveness and creativity in both the academic and social sectors. Musical composition requires formulation and understanding Emotional content and message Musicians.

Often have higher rates of executive function, It is a series of interrelated tasks, Includes planning strategy and attention to detail. It requires the simultaneous analysis of the cognitive and emotional side. This ability also has an effect on how memory systems function And memory functions of musicians are well developed In terms of composing, sorting and retrieving memories more quickly and effectively, Studies have found that musicians use their very connected brains To give each memory a different character, Such As a fictional tag, an emotional tag, an audio tag and a contextual one, More like a good search engine. So how did we know that these benefits come exclusively from music? Why don’t we say sports or painting, Or maybe those who have entered the world of music?

Were they smart from the start? Neuroscientists have researched these issues and so far they have discovered that Technical and aesthetic aspects of learning to play an instrument. It differs from any other loop, including the remaining arts. Several randomized studies were conducted for the participants, Those who showed similar rates of cognitive function and neurological processing at the onset, And I found that those who studied music for a certain period. They showed improvement in multiple areas of the brain compared to others, The backward search for the mental benefits of playing music.

It improves our understanding of mental function, Revealing inner rhythms and complex interactions, Who compose the amazing orchestra of our brains.

Read More: The Artie Shaw Spouse Carousel

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Live with CHRIS TANNER

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It’S always a bit dangerous. You know yeah. I can imagine how many, how many of those you have two two yeah, that’s nice. I just found out that you’re from australia. Originally i’m actually not danish.

That’S right! No! I’Ve been living here, 11 years, that’s great yeah! So you know the australian guys, uh clarion players. I know some of them yeah sure yeah talked already to some of them like alex hutchinson, yeah and uh jack wired, well, who’s, originally american, but yeah yeah.

So so you lived there a long time before you went to uh copenhagen right. I grew up in melbourne. Yeah um, yeah and uh yeah started playing when i was about 14

I played, i played saxophone first actually and then uh. I heard carl hurd play the clarinet and i went i want to do that. So i bought myself a clarinet and bought myself so uh.

You had like teachers that were like allowing you to to learn jazz early on or how did you develop uh? That kind of i i saw i just started playing with other musicians. Actually i started playing on the street quite a bit with uh with a band called the hudangas, an australian band and uh yeah. I i mean i wasn’t very good at the start, you know, and then it was more the more i did it the better. I got it, you know um, so it was more doing by trying or crying by doing or you know, like uh getting improving by by doing it more yeah.

You had regular lessons in the clarinet, not so much. No, no, i had uh. I i played piano when i was eight um, so i learned how to read um and then i then i started a saxophone when i went to high school and uh played in some bands at high school and and was reading and that sort of stuff, and Then yeah i just decided to to to make the switch, because i knew it was actually quite hard to do. It’S not the easiest instrument in the world. Usually it’s the other way around yeah, exactly yeah, all right.

You played the alto or the tenor i played. I played all: of. Them. Actually. I, played i started on soprano and then um?

And then yeah played tanner and alto and some baritone, but but i don’t play saxophone anymore, but i don’t have a very good instrument, so i don’t you know, play it yeah and it’s i find it hard to double i. You know you eventually studied music in australia or something else or was no i’m just i’m just self-taught. Basically, i’m not. I just uh play it. I play play professionally and and challenge myself in different ways.

You know yeah started playing gigs as a teenager. Like 15 16 started working yeah and then i was playing professionally when i was about 15

Yeah what kind of work was around at that time coming up uh mostly mostly bars and clubs and parties weddings that sort of thing you know so i never i’ve never done a um you know like a chair job where i had to play the first clarinet or you know uh regularly i’ve never done any of that sort of session work so it’s always just being gigs like traditional jazz swings mostly traditional jazz yeah yeah yeah yeah and uh i went on a tour actually to uh to russia when i was when i was 19. yeah i just read it on your website yeah that’s great five weeks right it was yeah it was the whole tour was five months um and the first part of the tour was uh uh what was it it was like you know some petersburg tomsk and then it was like from yeah siberia and ukraine and kyrgyzia and kazakhstan it was it was it was a 104 hours on russian trains 31 gigs in 30 days what’s your favorite tea vodka yeah this was with that band you just mentioned yeah the who dangers yeah yeah and that was basically traditional jazz with a with a funky punk style influence you know sounds good to me yeah yeah and this was your band you were booking the gigs or how you guys ended up in in another part of the world we we had um we had a couple of agents in in one in some petersburg for the east side and one in uh like uh in siberia to help us get those jobs in in siberia for example and kyrgyzia kazakhstan these were uh gigs like you you knew them from before like bars restaurants or these were more concerts in concert a couple of the guys in the band had uh had been busking around europe and when when they were in amsterdam they met um and uh dinka who’s i can’t remember his last name but uh but they were busking and so it was three aussies and three russians and uh they just started they joined up and started playing together and they were playing jelly roll morton and king oliver music you know that sort of 1920s jazz and yeah they were just having a good time and then a couple of them went to russia and then the year after we organized it were sponsored by the australia arts council yeah so i think we got 20 000 australian so we could buy the tickets to go to uh to russia and then after russia we went through scandinavia and yeah then we we started making some money you know um but it was real a really great experience i mean any funny road memories come to mind many missed trains or yeah you know a few there was a bomb on a train once um we were it was the middle of the night we were all woken up by babushka you know just going in something in russian basically get off the train get off the train and so the whole train was out you know uh on the side of the train while they yeah apparently someone jumped on the train said there’s a bomb and then jumped off to the moving train and so they stopped to train them so that that made the trip a bit longer you know that was from coming uh donetsk i’m not familiar with uh traveling by train is this um trans-siberian uh route somehow i don’t think so no no we did some of that um i think when we went to volgograd for example that that sort of from where was it moscow so there was a bit of that um that one saratov uh yeah are you russian no i’m not you know no i’m sure he’s pleased yeah yeah but uh i’m going back and forth i’m my wife is russian i’m i’m living in saint petersburg most of times oh crap i’m here for some christmas jobs surrey to play churches right and you and you play mostly classical or you play jazz i play multi jazz but during christmas i play mostly classic oh fantastic wow well started basically when the lockdown started in mar in march like i think i in summer i started to to uh start doing these interviews and um okay how many have you done uh well i’m not sure i think you’re number 120 around that okay i’ll send you the playlist you will be surprised who’s there i’d like to say actually yeah and so tell me you played so many times than in denmark that finally you met your wife there or you you said you guys know we’re used to going back and forth all the time look i mean you know it was one of those things we kept going back every couple of years uh to do tours and then yeah one thing led to another i mean i’ve known my wife since 2001 and we got together yeah the middle of 2006 for example so and then she’s danish yeah and so yeah and then we yeah got married in 2009 and yeah i’ve been living here since then went back in between we had yeah yeah we’ve been back a couple of times but it’s you know it’s really expensive um and yeah i mean it’s it’s hard when you have a life there and no life here and when you got to sort of make the decision to do one or the other i mean yeah and how did you arrange how did you fit in uh you you learned the language or or how did you make connections i speak danish but it’s it’s not great you know okay i mean i mean i i yeah i mean my kids uh have have taught me a lot i think you know i’ve learned more danish from them than say going to a school um yeah so you just know the guys to play with there or i mean basically you yeah over the over the years i’ve ma i’ve managed to you know build up quite a network of friends and musicians and and so when i moved here it was relatively easy to fit in and you know get some jobs and and then i started playing at charlie scott’s uh the bar that i play in every tuesday okay and yeah that was about that was about 11 years ago when i started playing there so we’ve been playing every tuesday for about 11 years um and yeah when the lockdown happened and we just we just made it online streaming you know with a guest every week oh beautiful that’s on the on the website did you stream yeah yeah that was that’s that’s on facebook live yeah on the on on his uh facebook page on the bars facebook page yeah yeah i just saw that you commented on the on the the streaming about me giving an interview sorry i just saw that you you commented on the on the the streaming that i shared yesterday probably yes i think i’ll leave yeah i listened to yeah that that was charles scott’s that’s charlie scott yeah yeah yeah that’s a nice place yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah that’s where i listen to your playing yeah okay so you you made a nice deal with that bar or is it one of those tough jobs um he’s a good friend of mine i’ve known him yeah over over ten years and uh yeah persuaded him to have music in his place and so yeah we’ve been we’ve just been doing it ever since [Music] what about that la fontaine is it still going yeah it’s still going uh maybe obviously it’s not going now but um yeah i think they’re doing it really tough actually because that’s that’s really a late night bar and when they started opening up in the summer again um then it was you could only open till 10 o’clock okay and then it shut you know and the owner just he didn’t he didn’t open it because it just wasn’t it wasn’t worth it he felt i think um i have nice memories because i don’t know when it was but i when i visited copenhagen i i there was a jam session on a certain day or every day yeah they usually had this sunday the sunday jam yeah yeah did you did you go and sit in or yeah i played and it was a nice i think it was a nice drummer or or a chromatic harp player or something something was going on there yeah yeah it’s a lot of fun yeah there’s some good musicians in this town i mean it really is you know some fantastic um you know yes patella tillo you know for example a fantastic clarinet player and and fantastic 10 applied um yeah yeah i think what about this uh uh morton drummer morton um no i forgot the last name yeah anyway i mean replaced there are great players but i remember remember uh seeing a concert as well there with uh the great band but anyway the names are different in every country to heart that’s true yeah so any recordings that come to mind like i mean you you play the saxophone but somehow you decided to switch to clarinet what was the initial yeah i mean i i this i was listening to jelly roll morton and i heard uh i’m a simeon play the clarinet and i was really uh i’m moved and i really wanted to sound like that you know and then i later listened to some you know albert nicholas and louis russell’s orchestra and barney begard in uh duke ellington’s orchestra so these were early recordings from the 20s you know early 30s so you were you were a strange kid listening to that kind of music totally total weirdo absolute nerd you know um but yeah that’s what i liked i mean and and now i’m sort of proud of myself that i stuck by that and i didn’t get persuaded into stealing cars or you know robbing houses so it kept me off the streets or did it i don’t know yeah well i don’t i don’t know you that well but uh it’s the truth you’re telling me so you will uh kind of just absorbing like how it could or should sound and then imitate it or you transcribed or you took a book or a teacher i just uh imitated basically yeah um i tried a little bit to transcribe things i found it really hard and you know didn’t really have the tools like you do today like you know you can slow down uh youtube for example and really learn a lick properly you know um so but yeah i just imitated basically played with the record yeah no yeah and yeah just i mean listening to me is so much of it too like you know listening to things over and over and over again and hearing things differently and um yeah and trying to trying to imitate that that passion or that vibe that that sound yeah but that interests me yeah when it comes to practicing is there something that you that you’re doing or find that helps you to to stay in shape and to grow and to work on something what’s the process yeah i’m i’m starting to practice some showro music actually at the moment because it’s a little bit more technical and it’s something different um but mostly i practice scales and and long notes and and just going from the lowest note to the highest possible note for example and and trying to keep everything consistent in tone and sound you know and loud and soft so i have a variety of color yeah you know a variety of options so it’s uh more like the technical aspect of the instrument that you’re working on yeah or is it also you play jazz by yourself at home in your room yeah sure yeah i might play over some changes some bebop uh changes or uh i might work on a bebop head or you know and and yeah try and play it in other keys and try and work work through different things you know like take a tune and yeah play it in four or five different keys to uh to see where it sits on the instrument and how it yeah yeah french system german system a french system yeah yeah i play a buffet uh i see a green line i actually played that carbon fiber see no cracks at all oh no cracks at all that’s right i just wanted to maybe ask you um i have a green line that i i would like to check in like a luggage when flying in the airplane did you ever check in your clarinet or was it always hand luggage that’s always hand luggage for me on i think it should not crack right yeah i don’t think it would i don’t think it would 50 or something i think you’d be really unlucky for correct they don’t crack do they i mean they’re they’re basically you know glue essentially yeah um but they’re a good instrument i don’t you know like this i i think i got a good one actually i’ve heard horror stories about buffet and how they can be inconsistent you know um just played that one and it felt great and you decided yeah it was really happy it had nothing to do with uh that you played outdoors a lot or was that a thought too yeah there was a bit i mean i had a i have a prestige um and it was just getting a bit old uh i think i just blown it out you know it had just you know done too many gigs uh and even even even over overhauling it a lot it was still like i wasn’t really happy with it i wanted to change so i got a different one and uh yeah it took me a while to play it actually it was like so different a little bit smaller and it was so it took me a while to really uh find out what is this and it was so much brighter actually the green line yeah it’s quite a bit yeah um but yeah i’d love to love to try other clarinets so just can’t afford it that’s the store to go there in in copenhagen to try out godfors this is a yeah that’s really good actually um yeah and i always take my instrument there to be repaired or overhauled yeah and i have a good they have a good selection of clarinets actually but yeah nothing i can afford though it’s not going to happen so so you’re not teaching you’re just playing no i’m just playing yeah yeah so i’m playing tomorrow at a church playing some christmas music outside so i’m going to try my clarinet outside i think it’s going to be four degrees well yeah so but they’re paying what can i say in front of the church in in instead of inside the church yeah because of corona you know yeah well the temperature is more or less the same inside or outside the church usually oh this is a slightly newer church i think maybe it’s probably warmer but yeah yeah i know that’s true that can be bloody cold those churches yeah and how did you met how do you manage i think it’s an interesting question for for for clarinet players uh in general that i mean we are not bass players that you know i need a bass player can you play that gig or can you come here yeah was it always is it always you that are the driving force to find where is your next gig or how how is that i’m in a couple of different bands so that’s sort of helped me like with norbert susamil he’s a german trumpet player um and then with fessa all of us a linguine and so i’ve been lucky because i’ve had those bands where those jobs have come in and i’ve been on tour with them so i had that option right um and then i’ve had other little projects you know like a benny goodman project and then uh i’ve had more traditional jazz options you know i do need an extra horn and then i also sing so so that adds you know some personality to that behind the clarinet you know being able to sing four or five numbers or or seeing the whole gig you know that’s what you do yeah okay so it’s more that you’re getting the call for for that band we we we’re gonna have a gig or a tour and it’s it’s you just have to say yes or no yeah yeah that’s that’s the gold edition i think yeah yeah i’ve been really lucky i mean just to be able to have some sort of personality you know and uh yeah but it doesn’t stop i mean i still have to work on the clarinet every day sure it’s not like that’s cool i’ve got some gigs oh actually i got some gigs i gotta learn how to play it again you know so these uh australian gigs that are listed on your website this is when you were a teenager or twenty ager yeah it was probably from about 19 to yeah when about 30 31 that was yeah they still exist those kind of festivals that he played you know that oh no why not at the moment i think a lot a lot of them are cancelled and a lot of them obviously this year they’re friends yeah i don’t know when those sort of things are going to happen again when it comes down to festivals um yeah it’s very grim isn’t it i mean it’s not yeah it’s what has happened this so you guys with with one of those bands or all the bands you’re playing you guys have like you have a steady gig like in that bar you said tuesday night but it’s or they’re also like traditional jazz festivals where you guys are kind of the headliners every year sure in in um in denmark there’s a there’s a few like there’s a silica ball uh the riverboat jazz festival and then there’s some other other ones as well like femu and you know some island festivals um so we can find you there every year but yeah some maybe every second year um i think that’s a great thing i think because uh tell me if i’m wrong but i think it’s it’s a great thing that is mostly known in the traditional jazz uh scene that the same band you can see them every year at the same festival it’s not if you’re if we’re talking about other music festivals it’s you’re not going to play there every year no no that’s right i think that’s a big plus of that kind of yeah i mean that’s the same with like silkeborg i mean it’s such a big international um and mostly traditional jazz festival um and yeah you don’t you don’t usually get it two years in a run in a row i mean i have done it a few times two years in a row but with different bands for example so yeah what’s the combination you feel most comfortable with playing like with what kind of what kind of uh sidemen and what instruments and what kind of i like the basic uh new orleans traditional lineup trumpet trombone clarinet and then rhythm section you know i really like that always have enough power to to be heard on the clarinet between those guys yeah yeah yeah um i can be pretty loud how do you do that i have a open mouthpiece and a hard read actually so i have a 5jb vandoran and a three and a half plus um v21 read you know these ones yeah so i you know and you know some of them in the box they can be just too hard you know so but if i go if i go any lighter then they’re all too soft you know it’s sort of one of those yeah it’s better to play without reads that’s for sure that’s right nice do you ever play these um the plastic the synthetic reads yeah i i tried uh just i’m open-minded but uh i also play wooden wooden reeds yeah yeah yeah by the way if you’re not familiar with i recently discovered there are uh fedordov reeds russian reads they’re fantastic i must say okay and do they grow their cane in russia uh well i’m not too familiar i don’t think so no but there are two brothers one is in russia and one is in austria and uh okay send me some samples and uh i was really amazed how good those reads are but as you know it’s all about the marketing we all know just vandoren and that’s right rico and uh who knows what else is around yeah so there there is other there’s other options that’s for sure yeah have you played in switzerland at any time yeah i played at a ascona and montreal [Music] and i think of where else there has been others i just can’t remember um yeah uh yeah i can’t remember but yeah that’s grown up fantastic really pretty part of the world um and montoya i mean yeah we were with the houding as that time so that was was that was that on what kind of open air or main stage or backstage or it was uh it was inside yeah it was an inside concert and it was oh what’s that what year was it 1997.

97 yeah yeah yeah and uh so it was it’s central san golon yeah yeah i played there too that was good that was on a big stage and that was with another band with uh the united nations which was you know a french trumpet player and uh swedish trombone player and it was a swiss bass player and [Music] a dutch banjo player and what’s the name of the bass player remember uh like he was the owner of the festival or something like that no no he wasn’t actually no i was a friend of a friend but yeah our bass player couldn’t do it so yeah yeah yeah and how do you balance family life now with with uh being musician i mean you you’re basically gone from time to time for a couple of days or weeks or that’s right yeah so maybe a weekend you know i don’t do too many long tours i mean yeah it’s just not possible it’s not very fair you know um and you know my kids are five and soon to be eight so i mean they’re getting older and they more understanding and they’re a little bit easier to you know activate and keep amused so their mum can do other things for example you know but yeah i don’t i don’t do too many of those like uh long tours and they’re just not around anymore so there’s also that maybe my family like me for that your wife is a musician too no she’s a researcher yeah any final question any final any plans or wishes uh anything is in the pipeline that you were that you’re doing these days or that you wanted to do soon well not really i’m actually pretty happy just playing my regular gig and you know hanging in there and practicing and but i don’t know what the what the future will bring and yeah like lifestyle is expensive in copenhagen how you compare it to paris london or yeah i mean i guess it’s pretty expensive but uh i mean you pay a lot of tax um but you get some things out of it if you get sick for example the the health systems you know pretty good so i mean it has its benefits in a way but um yeah it’s okay all right and i see you already have your christmas uh sweater on that’s right you’re prepared for tomorrow it’s nice yeah you have the tree and the whole thing with the kids this is a this is a card my son and i made and it’s like a mirror image yeah yeah that’s happening and uh yeah i take you into the lounge room but i think my wife’s watching you can see the tree if you like you don’t know each other that well exactly yeah yeah it was a pleasure talking to you chris yeah thank you so much and um take care and have a great christmas yeah you too and uh see you somewhere in the future hopefully i’m sorry cheers

As found on YouTube

How to play the clarinet (basics)

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Hello, I’m Alexandra, I’m from Orono high school and I will be teaching you how to play the clarinet today, like a basic understanding of it.

Assemble the Clarinet

So, first I’m going to go through how you assemble the clarinet, and I will talk about the different pieces of clarinet Carl okay. So, first of all, what you need to play the clarinet is a reed. I have that here you can see. This is what a reed looks like this is for b-flat clarinet, there are different types, and I will get to that later on.

When you assemble your clarinet, you should always be sucking on the reed. That’s the first thing that you could have you need to put it in your mouth to wet it, because that’s what causes the sound to come out so put it in your mouth. This is going to sound, really weird, but just make sure you get the whole part wet get this part wet up to the halfway line and then on the back. You can get it up to like, where the words start um I’ll, take it out. So I can talk easier to look on okay, so you should have that in your mouth, the entire time, while you’re putting your instrument together this top piece.

All this can come off its cap. This is called the mouthpiece and this is a ligature. This is a ligature and it’s what holds your reading, and sometimes they have it facing backward. It just depends on what type of clarinet you have mine is facing front, and so you put this on to the barrel, which is this flat thing now flat is round, so you connect those there’s a wider part at the bottom and a thinner part at the Top as you can see it kind of flares out, so you put the top piece into the thinner part and you kind of just twist it in there.

Middle Section

Then you put this on to the first middle section because there’s two middle sections just called the middle joint. So you put it on so this part, this flat part is where you’re going to put the Reed – and you put this flat part facing this back key button because you will end up putting your thumb here. I’ll talk about fingerings and how you put the fingers there.

Second, so you make sure this flat part is lined up with this key in the back so facing you guys. Its like should be around that, so the flat part is in line with this. After that, you put this whole part onto another middle section. This is the front where all the keys are. This is the front of the clarinet, and then you rest, your other thumb here and so there’s a key right here. You can really save your one. This key that’s moving right here. You connect that onto this part, this part that’s moving right here right there. You put this part of the top part onto this, so it overlaps when you can join it, it’s like, so you can’t, so you can kind of see it.

So then, once you move the top, this top is moving, but if you move the bottom now the whole thing moves, so it’s just overlapping. So then, looking at the back of all of this, the flat piece through this key down to here should all be lined up. And then you put on the bell of the clarinet, which looks like this, and you can just put this on anyway, but it just connects to the bottom of it, and then once you’re done, you put the read that you should have been sucking on this entire Time onto the flat part of the clarinet, which looks like this, and then you want to leave about like a fingertip of fingernails with between it so like, as you can see, you can kind of see the top of the black up here.

You should leave about a little bit that you can see, so the reed is a little bit lower than the back of the clarinet, and then you put the ligature on like that, and then you twist the screws, so it’s tightened, but not all the way tightened. It’s just tightened enough: you can twist it still, but it should be. It should hold the reed on.

Reeds

I briefly said earlier that there are different types of reeds um. When you’re starting off, you usually play one or one and a half size, read the more advanced players go to like a four or four and a half along with and there are different types of, there are different brands of reeds. So it just depends on which type or brand you like best, but beginners should start off with a one or one and a half size, and I recommend either the Ricoh Reed’s or Van Doren Mandarin yea Mandarin, because those end up with the best sound

Types of Clarinets

There’s also Different types of clarinets, the main one that beginners use, is a b-flat. That’s what I have here, there’s so an e-flat that has a different size, Reed and I think it’s it just looks slightly different, there’s also a bass, clarinet, and a contra clarinet and a few others that you don’t need to know but the bass clarinet in the Contra planer net are big longer instruments and they look more like a bassoon, so um and then there’s also a plastic versus a wood clarinet. The plastic clarinets are what beginners to use and the wood clarinets are for more advanced players and they generally come soon but own.

Embouchure

So yeah, you just begin. If you start off with a plastic clarinet um next is making sounds so your embouchure is what your mouth like the form your mouth should take, and when you play the clarinet, you want to have a flat chin um. So when you put it in your mouth, you should have your chin is like flat, but it shouldn’t be really loose. It should just be. Your mouth should be tight around the clarinet and around the reed here, so you want to have a firm mouth.

So you want to have your flat chin when you play you wanna hear one you want to have it. It looks weird when you look in the mirror, but I suggest looking in a mirror when you first start out. You want to look like this. So from the side of a look like this, so as you can see, I have a flashing and my cheeks are not puffed out um, and then you want to blow like down. Also, when you put your clarinet in your mouth that your bottom lip should be. Tucked over your bottom teeth, so the bottom teeth are not touching the reed at all. Its just your bottom lip and then your top teeth should be touching the top of the clarinet over here just very lightly just enough, so you can hold it in place.

You should also when you play, should have, rather than having your clarinet just like completely flat, so it is resting against your chin. You should have it out at a slight angle. So, as you can see when I play there’s like a little bit of an angle between like my neck, my collarbone, to hear, rather than having it completely flat, um along with that um, if you don’t have your clarinet in the right spot in your mouth, you Will end up squeaking, so I can show you what you squeak.

Sound

So this is like this is what it should sound like. Hmm, that’s just an open G I’ll talk about keys in a minute and then if you squeak it’s this really high-pitched noise and it happens when your embouchure is not tight enough. It’S not in the right spot or if your fingerings are wrong. So this is what a squeak sounds like um yeah.

As you can see. I also blew on my cheeks, which you’re not supposed to do you’re supposed to like. Have the air just come from your mouth, so you don’t want your cheeks to blow either, and when I did that my rather than having my teeth up here, my teeth were way down here, so I had most of it again my mouth um.

Oh, I also forgot to mention when you play, you want the tip of your tongue to be like at right at the top, rather than like really far down on the reed. You want it to be up here where my finger is rather than all way down. Here, because it makes it lighter, and it’s easier to play, it’s faster to play that way, because you don’t have to have as much distance between the lead and your tongue and when you play you should rather than just. If you say to to to to to to to to to that’s how you should be playing, so your tongue should be moving fast rather than Tata Tata, like that, as you can hear, on the lap or the leg and my tongue, and it sounds really heavy. Rather than to to to to to to to to to it sounds um light, so when you play just make sure you’re doing that to to to to sound um on the top of your reed, because that will make the best sound.

So, when you’re practicing to make sound just make sure your teeth are taking it about a half a centimeter of the clarinet and your lip is resting about two centimeters, like your top. Lip is resting about two centimeters down on the clarinet um, and your teeth are on your top. Teeth are resting on top of clarinet lightly, and your bottom teeth are covered by your bottom lip, which is placed on your Reed.

Spit

As you can see, I keep licking my Reed because you reach always be wet when you play um. Another thing is also there’s from playing the clarinet. You get spit. That goes down the whole thing and um it’s just from when you blow, and you just have a lot of stuff running through your mouth and spit, and it just like collects on your Reed. Because that’s what you need to keep, what you need your spit and your saliva to keep the reed wet. So it can make vibrations and move to make sound and so that access drips through the clarinet.

And sometimes you can feel it like through the keys, because it’ll drip out through the holes of your keys, um so, and that affects your sound because it makes your sound more spitty and you can hear the spit in it because the spit is like vibrating. So when you to avoid that you want to either this is going to sound gross, you wanna either suck up the spit back into your clarinet or you want to like shake it out.

But you don’t want to be shaking it out in the middle of a performance, so I suggest that you suck it up when you play it so like that you can that’s gross, but you can suck it up and but yeah you get used to it later.

To get sound, you want to blow with enough air, but you don’t want your cheeks to pop out, so you don’t want to play because then no sound will come out or it will squeak like.

Clarinet Fingering Positions

I talked about early now on to the fingering positions. So I’ll hold it up here, so you can see um probably closer, so you should have your left hand on the upper part of the clarinet and your right hand on the lower part of the clarinet.

When you have your hand, you should have your pointer finger on this first hole, your middle finger on the second hole, and your ring finger on this third hole and your pinky is just resting on this key. This won’t actually be played for a lot unless you get two sharps and flats, and then your thumb, your back thumb, should be resting on this key back here. So it just looks like this when you play, and then your right hand should have your pointer finger on the first hole middle finger on the second hole ring finger on the third hole and your pinky resting on these four keys, because these are used later for Alternate fingerings, which I’ll get to in a second and your thumb should be resting underneath this.

Sometimes these finger pads look a little different and you can vote for this clarinet. You can move it up and down with the screwdriver and so that just depends on how your thumb works, a tip for holding the clarinet. When you have your hand placed on here, you should have your hand at a resting position.

So this is what my hand looks like at a resting position just like. If you hold it shake your hand out and then just put your hand back. Mine looks like this, and so then you should just put it right on here and put and your finger should just right overlap the holes and that’s the way you should hold your fingers. You want the pads of your fingers, so you can see there’s some hole marks on my fingers. You want them to be resting right over the hole, so you don’t have any spaces, because if you play like this, where there’s a bunch of space on this hole, you’re going to squeak – and you don’t want squeaky – sounds so make sure the pads of your fingers Are covering the holes at all times.

As I said earlier a few minutes ago, there are some extra keys down here, such as these, these over here these side ones, these keys. All of these extra keys are for alternate fingerings. So once you become more of an advanced player, you get into more advanced rhythms and skills that it would be easier to use these rather than the original fingerings just for fast purposes. So you don’t really need to worry about all of those just the main scale um now on to the notes.

Woodwinds

So, the woodwinds, there are two different types: there are wood ones that play in the treble clef and the brass which play in the bass clef. So you want to make sure that you’re playing at all times, if you’re clinic you want to play in the treble pop or else the notes won’t make sense if you’re in the bass, clef um the classic scale that beginners start on is called the b-flat scale. For clarinets that starts on a C which is weird clarinets are if you’re, looking at a pattern of scales, clarinets start to nose down.

So a b-flat on the scale. The pattern is two notes above a C, and our B-flat scale starts on a C, which is this note right here, so the whole left hand is down from this thumb all the way. Through these three keys, your pinkie is not doing anything because that’s just resting there and then your whole right hand is left open on these keys.

So that’s how you play a C I’ll just play the sound for you. So that’s what a C sounds like and your B flat scale is. You will fur clear? Not you generally just go up the clarinet as you play so this and the scale goes from an a to a G.

So if you’re like the alphabet abcdefg, so if we start on a CH, the next note would be and, then an E and for all of this right here you keep your thumb down. So there’s a sea, and which you lift this one up and E with the second one up and F, which you’re only holding that thumb down and then a G is all of your hands. Are no keys are being held down and that’s the middle note and then the middle note of the clarinet, because, as you can see, when you have that from that middle note, down is called the lower register and then there’s a key back here. That’S for it’s called the register key.

Switch Octaves

So when you switch octaves, which I will talk about octaves in a second so after the G, which is this open note, you go to an a just this key up here and a and then a B. You have to hold down this register key here with the thumb, so these two all three of these and then this key right here is the top one and then this one here so there’s one-two: three: you want to play this third Key right here and then that’s the B, so so far, it’s CD, F G, a B and then the C which is the next.

No, you just lift up this third key here this pinkie key and then you have everything down and that’s a C. So that’s the scale from C all the way up to C um. I can just play through it, so you can have here. It sounds like so starting on the C going up to the F. I see for the mill C, so I went up and then back down. So that’s what it should sound like when you play it’ll take a while to get the sound right but you’ll catch on pretty quickly from four scales it’s from nope. No, so just from like that one with C, the other notes can be from like D to D or G to G with different flats and sharps in there, and that’s just depending on how advanced you are you getting two more scales, um for when you’re Practicing you’re learning you’re showing off learning.

You want to use practice books and fingering charts um to help you learn the practice books, teach you rhythms and other types of keys and notes. The fingering charts teach you the fingers on the clarinet, so it’ll teach you where to place your fingers for each of the keys. It takes a little bit to learn, but once you got it once you learn it, then you just remember it forever.

So um also there um there will be another video other than this one. That will teach you how to do it’ll be another video that teaches you how to play the notes and the rhythms, and it will go through all of the different types of notes. There are on the scale on the treble clef and the different types of rhythms that you can have in you live, so I talked earlier about the register key in the octaves, so for clarinets, there’s well, beginners, usually play in the first register, which I showed you. The first register is from all the way down here, but not holding this key down. So all of your keys, except for this one are down. So you want to hold all those down from there all the way up to that open middle G and that’s called the lower register. So you just go off this clarinet for the lower register.

The middle register is for slightly more advanced and that’s holding down this register key, but the same scale except the notes are slightly different, which you will learn about in the notes, video, because the fingers are playing the same, but the note search is called different notes. So in the lower register not holding down this key, this is a C but no higher register. If you put that jump down, that’s a G, so it just depends on where you are in the scale and then the third octave or register is for really advanced players. So I’m not going to get into that um.

Posture

Moving on to the posture, when you play, you want to have your back straight rather than slouching, because you’re not going to get good air support through it. So your clarinet will sound bad and your sound quality won’t be as good as it should be. So from Santa sit up straight, have your shoulders rolled back slightly? Have your head up a little bit and you have your clarinet at an angle like I’ve talked about that’s how you want to sit when you play so you have the best um, sound and best air support for breathing.

You always want to breathe before you play like when you start it’s going to take a while to, actually be able to hold your breath. While your Bible, you shouldn’t, hold your breath, you were just blowing up your air through the clarinet but it’ll. Take you a while to be able to blow more air for a longer period of time. So when I first started, I was able to take one breath for every two measures: um. But now I’m able to take depending on the music one breath for like every eight measures. So it gets you as you go along, but it just takes a while to learn.

So, whenever you start a piece make sure you take a deep breath and then like so so you just start and then you blow through just depending on the dynamics um and it just takes a little bit to learn. But when you actually get sound from your sound to be coming from your air and you just blow through and blow hard, but not too hard. If you blow too hard you’re going to squeak so find a medium, and if you blow too soft, no sound will come out so find a happy medium between the two.

So also when you’re playing um, you want to breathe from your belly, not your shoulders. So if I’m breathing through my shoulders, it just looks like, whereas, if you’re breathing through your belly, your shoulders, don’t move as much so as you can see, my shoulders did not move up as much. So when you play your instrument, you want to breathe through your stomach, because you have better air support and you’re able to play your clarinet with better sound um.

Breathing

Another thing is to do with breathing, there are different types of you can have faster breaths or slower breaths. When you’re actually breathing through the clarinet, also warm air Borgias versus cold air, but it just depends on how well your dynamics come out and the different types of dynamics. So that’s the general video for the overview just remember to have good posture back straight shoulders. Slightly back head up a little bit and clarinet at an angle, you want to have your embouchure right, which is your mouth remember. So that’s, you want to have a tight mouth, a flat, chin, um and then also your fingers.

Just remember, your left-hand goes on top. Your right-hand goes on the bottom. Your left thumb is resting on this key back here and your right thumb is resting under this um. So that was it now, I’m going to show you how to clean and put away your instrument um. I probably should have said this earlier, but when you hold the instrument you put it together, you don’t want to hold it super tight and squeeze it because that’s going to break so you just want to have like a light hole on it, but hard enough That you can take it apart, but just not hard enough that you can break it up. So the first thing you take off is your read: you don’t need to suck on it at all, so you just have you.

They generally come with cases like this they’re clear, but I can put it against so it depends on the type of reed company you buy, but that’s where they have them um one of the types you can buy at a store and they come in packages of This this is a size. Three read remember you want to start on a size, one or two or a one or one and a half, and they go up by halves. Um, oh, oh yeah, so you want to start to want to have parently because that’s the softest read and as you get more advanced, you switch to harder reads and it just helps you play better.

Taking Your Clarinet Apart

So you take off that read and then you take this off and just set it aside. That will go on later. So then, what I do is I take off the barrel and the head joint together and set the other thing down and then the rest of it down, and then I just separate those two and when you’re taking apart, you want to twist it. You don’t want to just pull it apart, so that’s going to take the cork off because the cork right here is what keeps the clarinet together. So we want to twist off lightly and then take it apart on the ligature, which is the silver thing, goes back onto the mouthpiece the way it is the way you had it when it was the Reba’s on, but about three. Sometimes they come with a cap. Like this, so that can just go on over the whole thing, and so the ligature is just right into that hole.

Sometimes they don’t. It just depends on what type of clarinet you have um. So then the barrel just sits. When you get your clarinet, it will come already broken apart um into the different pieces, so you can see where it goes, and you can put it back so the barrel just sits in the clarinet case by itself, and then you want to twist these apart. Remember and you’re going to not be able to twist this all the way these two pieces because there will be other keys in the way. So just twist it half like slightly apart, and this just comes off and goes in the case. And then this comes off. The bottom comes up and goes the case um.

So that was how you take it apart, but then, once you’re done playing you want to clean it because there’s a whole bunch of spit nasty stuff that goes through your clarinet. So you want to make sure it’s clean every time you play so you can either well there are different tools. So this is what the cases usually come with. This is called a spit, swab, or spit rag. You can either put this all the way through the clarinet, to begin with. Before you take it apart, you will have your Reed off, but you can put it through the mouth, from the mouthpiece all the way down to the belt or you can take it apart and then put it through. So I already took mine apart earlier.

So you want to take it apart, so this is one of the middle joints and you just put there’s usually a weight at the end of it, so you just put that weight through the UM instrument case, there’s a hole that goes all the way through the Instrument, you put it all the way down and then you can see it come out at the bottom and then you just pull it through and then it just comes out and that’s just how it cleans the spit out of the instrument.

So you can do that for every piece or you can just do it as one piece for the whole instrument. If you have the instruments together and then there’s this, which is just called a cleaning rag – and this is just to wipe down the keys on the outside so using the middle joint again, you can see like the silver and sometimes they get gross with your fingers And the oils on your finger, so you just want to wipe it down with the rag just to clean off the fingerprints and stuff just to make it look shiny and new um. Another quick housekeeping thing for it is the clarinets usually come with cork grease. Sometimes they come in bottles that look like chapstick, and sometimes they come in bottles that look like this. You just twist the top off and there’s like gel inside. That’s called cork grease and you put that on the core part of your clarinet, which I talked about. It that’s what keeps your clarinet together when you first get your clarinet.

These won’t be. These will be like hard um, so it’ll be hard to put your instrument together and to take apart, because the corks won’t be soft in what the cork grease does. Is it softens and adds moisture to the corks, so it like loosens it enough that um, it’s easy to twist the clarinet together. But if you like, you don’t want to soak the quarks in water or else the quarks will fall off so um. That’s what the cork grease does it just helps make the clarinet easy to put together.

If you put on the course and not every piece’s course is the UM, as you can see when you get it so this middle joint upper middle joint as two one and two, the lower middle joint, only has one on the bottom. So it looks on the bottom and then the head joint has one to connect to the barrel. So then you just put the core piece on there um another thing: the last thing is you don’t want to bring mostly.

This is for wood clarinets, but you don’t want to bring your clarinet outside into a rainy environment or humid environment, because that also makes the corpse fall off, so your clarinet will be able to stay together so just make sure when you’re playing you have your instrument, Not outside, or else your client will be ruined, that’s all I have for you and so good luck with your playing

Read More: The Real Jazz World – The Auditioning Process

As found on YouTube

The Real Jazz World – The Auditioning Process

by Todd Coolman

Chances are, amateur or professional musician, that you will have to audition from time to time for playing in situations that you want to be part of. In my years of playing and teaching, I have experienced the audition process from many vantage points. I have been both the evaluator and evaluated, as well as hearing anecdotal accounts of auditions of all kinds. I’ll take a moment here and free associate on several impressions I have had about the audition process and illustrate some of the most common formulas for success and failure that I have either experienced personally or through others. I hope you will find my accounts both informative and entertaining.

Jam Sessions in New York

The first couple of auditions I had after moving to New York in the fall of 1978 were informal. In fact, I didn’t even know I was auditioning. I spent most of my early days going over to guys’ lofts for daily jam sessions. When I moved to New York there were literally scores of young players like myself who were always looking to jam. It was the way we were honing our craft. Typically, I would go to a friend’s place and while there, I was able to meet and network with a whole group of players that were as yet unknown to me. I was not a very businesslike person at the time as I recall; I simply wanted to play with good players and have a good time. It never really occurred to me that the guys I was playing with were already somewhat established in the city and had gigs of their own. I was quite naive.

The jam session atmosphere was quite informal with lots of jokes and good humor, guys relaxing with a beer on the breaks, etc…In reality, my new colleagues were most observant, not only of my playing but of my attitude and musical philosophy. I was auditioning right then and there and was unaware of it. The informality of the situation made it appear otherwise. I realize today that you are “auditioning” every time you play your instrument. You should approach every situation as if you are in Carnegie Hall because you never know who is listening. As it turns out, I received quite a few recommendations for gigs from guys that I played with informally during the day. I believe one such recommendation led to my first audition with Gerry Mulligan.

I had heard that Mulligan was quite particular about how his charts were played and that his writing should be adhered to “by the book.” So, I was invited to a rehearsal and I had to do a lot of sight-reading. Fortunately, I had played in all kinds of ensembles including big bands and symphony orchestras, so my reading was pretty decent. Even so, I tried to really understand the essence of each chart, play my part faithfully without being “fancy,” and tried to make my part fit into the whole. I was most attentive to Gerry’s comments, even if they were not directed at me because I knew they would have something to do with what he wanted to hear overall. Many times what a bandleader says to someone else can be as insightful as if he had said it to you. I think Gerry could sense my alert attitude and willingness to adjust. I got the gig.

Formal Auditions

Some auditions are in fact, quite formal. I was called to audition for Horace Silver in 1979. He called about two weeks before the audition. Immediately after hanging up the phone, I went directly to the nearest record store and bought every Horace Silver record I didn’t already own. For the next two weeks, I learned every tune and every arrangement on every record by ear. I imagine I was either practicing with or listening to those records sixteen hours a day for two weeks. By the time I went to the audition, I was well prepared. I had virtually memorized all of the music.

I went to the rehearsal studio at my appointed time and entered the room. Horace and his quintet were there, sheet music was everywhere, and there were nine other bass players seated along the wall. It was weird. One by one Horace would call us up to play a couple of tunes with the band while the other bass players watched and listened. I felt like I was in a fishbowl. Many of the bassists in the room were fine players who I personally knew. As I listened to the others, I realized almost immediately that I had an edge. Most of them appeared to be sight-reading the charts and were not nearly as familiar with the music and arrangements as I was. I was stunned to see some of my peers actually having to read a chart to a tune like “Song For My Father.” It didn’t seem like they knew much about Horace’s music. I believe that Horace interpreted this as not caring. I don’t think that I was the best bassist in that room on that day, but I was by far the best prepared. I got the gig. Preparation was the reason. That was a valuable lesson that has stayed with me all my life.

Auditioning for Benny Goodman

I have not always been so fortunate. I auditioned for Benny Goodman at his apartment in the mid-1980s with some other good young players. I had heard some of his records but was largely unfamiliar with his repertoire. I didn’t know the tunes he liked to play. About three tunes into the audition he looked at me and said point-blank, “You don’t know these tunes, do you, young man?” I had to admit that I really didn’t. He replied, “That will be all…thank you.” Although I was embarrassed and humiliated, I stopped at a record store on the way home, got some of his recordings, and started learning some of those tunes that the older guys referred to as the “old chestnuts.” I figured they would come in handy someday.

That day came about nine months later. I got a call from Goodman’s office to be a last-minute replacement on a concert in Pittsburgh that included Andre Previn and the Pittsburgh Symphony. Luckily, neither Benny nor his office remembered me from my earlier disaster. I didn’t see Benny until we actually took the stage that night…there had been bad weather that delayed my flight and we had no time to rehearse or soundcheck. Benny turned around and counted off the first tune, “Don’t Be That Way.” I was amused as he stared at me for a moment, trying in vain to place me. In his advanced age, he simply couldn’t remember where he had seen me before (lucky for me!). Anyway, the concert went well, I knew every tune he called (preparation again…) and I wound up staying in his band for the next nine months. Another lesson learned.

Informal Auditions

One of the more unique auditions I ever played was for James Moody. We lived very near one another in New Jersey at the time (1985) and he called me on the phone one day. He said, “I’m looking for a bass player and I’m wondering if I can come to your place in twenty minutes and play two tunes with you.” Naturally, I was stunned, but I said, “Sure.” Twenty minutes later on the dot, Moody rang my doorbell. There we were, just the two of us, tenor saxophone and bass, without drums, piano, etc. I remember thinking, “What should I do with this?” All I could figure was to play in such a way as to make him comfortable and provide him with as simple and basic a strong foundation as I could. I guess that is what he wanted. He handed me a plane ticket to Indianapolis for the following Saturday and thus began our association, now in its eighteenth year.

Student Auditions

In more recent times, I have found myself in the position of holding auditions for others, mainly students. By the time you read this, I will have heard about 50 of the 100 auditions this spring for students seeking admission to the Purchase College (SUNY) Jazz Studies Program that I direct. It is interesting being on the “other side of the table” so to speak. I have witnessed auditions that have exhibited all levels of success and failure.

I think the most common mistake I see in student auditions is the desire to impress evaluator(s). The purpose of an audition is not to impress anyone. The purpose, in my view, is to simply demonstrate a solid command of the jazz idiom or language and to play in a clear, concise, and straightforward manner. It is best to simply demonstrate your potential.

If you should find yourself in an audition situation, whether formal or informal, here are a few suggestions, in no particular order that you might find helpful:

•Remember that you have nothing to lose.

•Be aware that nervousness can be good as long as it is not debilitating. Some nerves will get the adrenaline flowing and actually make you more alert. Again, if you realize that you will live to fight another day regardless of the outcome, you should not be overly uptight. The greatest players have experienced failure and disappointment…it is part of the process. You can’t hit a home run every time you are at-bat. Go for a good batting average.

•Play within your means. An audition is not the time to experiment.

•Be as prepared as you can be and use your preparation as the foundation of your confidence.

•Take the time to wear something nice and be well-groomed. Clark Terry always reminds me, “They see you before they hear you.”

•Demonstrate a solid command of the essential aspects of music-making; sound quality, rhythm…rhythm…rhythm (my emphasis), intonation, expressivity, and control. If you possess good basic skills, people will know that with time and nurturing, you will mature. Good command of fundamentals will impress more than an occasional flurry of brilliance.

•Be genuine and be yourself. Don’t try to be anyone or anything that you are not.

•If you have a choice of material to prepare, play the things that you love most and have a passion for. If you do not have a passion for say, “Giant Steps,” don’t bother playing it. Your detachment and insincerity will show.

•Try not to stop and start repeatedly. Once you begin, carry on.

•Do not offer any explanations or excuses for anything that you play. They are meaningless.

•Try to have fun and demonstrate your joy and enthusiasm for music-making, as long as that is sincerely how you feel about music. I would hope that would be the case.

•It is better to err on the side of slower rather than faster tempos. Playing a bit slowly, but with control is much more desirable than playing too fast and botching things.

•If sight-reading is involved, examine the piece carefully before you begin to take in as much essential information as you can; key, time signature, style, form repeats, codas, endings, etc. Try to play all the rhythms accurately, even at the expense of a few notes, rather than the other way around. Most people have more trouble sight reading rhythm rather than pitch.

I’m sure that there are other suggestions that you might obtain from other sources that will be equally helpful. The list I have provided here is based on my observations of the things that most frequently occur in the auditions I have witnessed.

I have found that auditioning is a skill that one develops over time. Every audition should be thought of as part of the learning process. The more you learn of the process, the better you become executing it.

I hope this information will be helpful to you and that you experience some success in the near future. See you next time as I report to you from “The Real World.”