Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bartok Mikrokosmos -- For Clarinet and Bass Clarinet

Well, I had a request today for suggestions about what to play as a Clarinet and Bass Clarinet duet. It got me reminiscing about a few concerts I did with David Hattner back in the late 1980s. Hattner went to Northwestern, and studied with Marcellus. I went to Eastman where I studied with Neidich. Definitely different schools of clarinet playing. Once I went to one of Marcellus' "clarinet lunches" (I think they were wednesdays, but my memory doesn't always serve me too well.) Anyway, I remember Hattner telling Marcellus that I was in the room (he was blind by that time), and that I was studying with Charlie Neidich at Eastman. Marcellus said, and I quote, "Hmmmm. Charlie Neidich. I used to smoke pot with his father."

Anyway, Hattner and I were tight back then, and he would occasionally come up to Eastman to play recitals with me, and I would go to Northwestern to reciprocate. Or piss off the powers that be, more likely. We would do one solo piece each, but the rest were duos like the Mendelssohn concert pieces, or some stuff I'd write or Bach two-part inventions -- or in this case, the Bartok Mikrokosmos. These are the two-part pieces that Bartok wrote for the beginner pianist I guess, and since they were only two lines, I'd play the bottom on bass and he'd play the top on clarinet. This recording is from January 7, 1989 -- almost 18 years ago, jeeez -- when we played it at NU.

Here's the link to the MP3 (feel free to steal it if you want).

Yee hah. I'll try to post the Bach (which are SO fun to play) at another point soon.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Eric Dolphy, 1964

Today I got hold of (and edited) the Charles Mingus Sextet concert from Oslo, 1964 with Dolphy on, among others, bass clarinet. As far as I know, this is one of the last, if not the last, video recordings of Dolphy in his life. This clip is of the sextet playing "Take the A Train."

I have a like/dislike relationship with Dolphy's playing, as some of you might know. Of course, he's a genius in many ways, but over the years of careful listening I've come to notice that his bass clarinet solos in particular follow a sort of finger pattern that's a little unschooled and raw. For me, it's almost like he didn't really have complete command over the instrument. (I know this is sacrilege). This is why, in part, I have always thought that the "God Bless The Child" improv was probably worked out in advance, if not written out or maybe outlined on paper -- because it's different.

Well, today I am not so sure I was ever right. This performance, with Dolphy's solo at about 4:30 into the tune, shows some seriously advanced skill playing "outside" yet still clearly following the harmony of the tune. I could hear it brought back throughout the solo. By the way, I love the fact that Mingus gets up and walks offstage during the solo (probably to pee) while the other members of the sextet chat.

I'm impressed with how he controls and explores the range of the horn, not as much squawking/honking as I've heard on much of his recorded work. He doesn't revert to his "lick" that I've heard in about half of his recorded solos (to me, the equivalent of saying "um" or "you know" in the middle of a sentence). He inserts many pauses -- sometimes long ones -- into this solo.

Some other things I noticed: He uses 1/1 for Eb and Bb a lot. When the band comes in after his "acapella" solo, the audience claps, and Dolphy looks pissed. He waits for the applause to die a bit, and kind of gestures as if to say, "jaHEEzus, I'm not even done yet. Shut the hell up!" Oh, and I love the Tympani on the back riser.

Anyway, I'll let you form your own opinions -- here's the link:

Mingus in Oslo

One last word: you'll need the Flash 8 plugin to view the video. It's free at

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Issue Project Room

Rain, cold and a generally univiting part of Brooklyn didn't deter about 60 people from filling up the IPR last nite. I have to say, it was one of the more fun electro gigs I've done in a long time. Todd Reynolds curated an evening of music featuring Chris Tignor from "Slow Six", Jody Elff, Luke DuBois, me and himself. There were a grand total of 6 laptops onstage and about four miles of cable.

Todd's music has really matured over the past year, and it's really wonderful to hear how he, after years of searching and pining, has finally found his voice. Chris Tignor, whom I'd never met before, has a great ambient vibe, and knows how to build his textures beautifully. Cool stuff! Jody -- who is among other things, the sound designer for Laurie Anderson's show, also can create some lovely soundscapes. Luke's new project of shortening films to about ten minutes each (sped up, but with all sorts of visual "averaging" and filtering -- the sound also is averaged into a wash) was on display with "Casablanca" during the intermission. Luke is one of the most brilliant artists I've met in a very long time.

My part was a bit of a "foil" for the rest of the sort of ambient show - I did "Drift" and "Hum" from the upcoming cd, and about 3 children and "Sha."

Last but not least, Sebastian (who's last name I am not privy to) designed this spatial sound system with about 20 speaker arrays hanging on the ceiling. The sound is controllable via Max/MSP, which he had set to sort of a random pan throughout the space. This is real surround sound.

Anyway, it was great to see so many friends and colleagues there. Like I said, I had a great time playing and hanging afterwards. Hope to get back to that space soon.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

FL and USAir

For about 20 years I have heard about how Frank Kowalsky was a great man and a great teacher. I finally witnessed that first-hand (both counts) last week. I watched something incredible take place during the last 10 minutes of a Freshman's lesson. Watching someone like Doc K. teach makes me realize that I have sososo much to learn.

So dig this: I get to Tallahassee around Midnight. I'm on a pea-shooter plane out of Charlotte with the entire FSU baseball team, bringing all of their bats and balls along with them. I guess the plane was overweight and they decided to take my gear off the plane. No one knows this, not at the airport, nor at the company. (I guess US Airways has a computer system that's just for show). I get no sleep because I'm worried about having to do my "Plan B" show without the gear. At about 7AM I'm up calling the baggage services, the computerized voice from which is telling me that they have yet to locate my bags. I call every 15 minutes or so, and finally just start hitting "0" to try to get a human being. So at about 1:30 in the afternoon I finally get a person who tells me that the luggage is, in fact, at the Tallahassee airport. So, no problem. But let me tell you, US Airways' ranking as the worst baggage handler (10 per 1000 bags) is warranted. Just think: every USAir flight you take there will be at least one person with missing bags. Not a good record.

But all that notwithstanding, I had a great time in FL -- the weather was something like 86 degrees -- the concert went well, and I have to give a big thanks to Catherine Han for being so great shlepping me around (and to the airport 3 times). Hope I can repeat the trip sometime again...

More on Lubbock, TX soon...


Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Last 3 Dates

Man, this is what I love about touring: spreading the good word of "You-Don't-Have-To-Make-Your-Whole-Living-In-Music-To-Be-A-Musician". That, and the fact that though "classical" music may be on the wane, live music is alive and flourishing. You just have to find your audience. That's been my mantra over the past few years, and even moreso this year. I have to say thanks to the folks in TN, MI and DE. First off TN: The concert went great, and I really enjoyed playing out there. But then, watching American Idol back at the dorm commons with everyone took the cake. I was glad to see those twins gone though -- attitude too much for me...

Michigan was great too - got to see (and stay with) my good friend Bill Ryan (look for the new bass clarinet piece coming from Bill!). Played a fun show there (great sound system), did a STACK of classes and masterclasses, got snowed in, finally made it back to Chicago, etc., etc.

Delaware was a first for me -- I sold out of CDs. (That's never happened before.) Jenny Barker, a terrific composer, brought me out, and I had a chance to work with a couple of her students. I was blown away. Seriously.

On all of these I played two new tunes that went over well (read: I enjoyed playing them -- who knows if they were well liked, I just liked playing them). Drift and Hum.

Back to doing my taxes ... :) More soon.