Z Oct 19 - The Clarinet in Jazz

An excellent turn out to hear Norman Simister discuss jazz clarinet and with particular note to Benny Goodman. We had two new members and a potential attend. Welcome John, Jim and Jennifer, and also to Norman and his wife Christine.

Norman outlined his introduction to Jazz - he was a teenager in the 1950’s and the likes of rock and pop were not really on the scene. In 1955 he saw the Benny Goodman Story film, and from that moment was hooked - wanting to play clarinet like Benny, and with the determination to learn too.
Norman moved on to talk about Benny Goodman (clarinet player and bandleader) - who was key in the development of Swing from the mid 1930’s to the mid/late 1940’s when Bebop arrived. BG was “The King of Swing”. Norman defined jazz as having an element of improvisation. BG played with his band on NBC’s radio programme Let’s Dance, and he wrote the tune Let’s Dance which became a signature tune for the programme. Norman played some excerpts to show the improvising flair that BG had. Norman did explain that the improviser in BG’s band was BG, and the other band members had an orchestrated script. BG had no concern with the colour bar which was prevalent at that time. He hired musicians if they could play. And for that reason he did not tour in the South of the US where non-whites were not accepted.

Next was a recreation of the BG Trio playing Memories of You. Norman took the role of BG on clarinet, myself (John) on bass (rhythm for Gene Krupa’s drums) and Stuart on guitar (for Teddy Wilson’s keys). We certainly enjoyed providing a taste of live music with the group, and it did seem to go down well. (There's something special about live music!).

By 1938 BG and his band were able to play to a sell-out concert in Carnegie Hall, New York - a mark that jazz had arrived and was accepted. Norman illustrated this with the live track from Carnegie, Don’t Be That Way. And followed this up with another track from the concert - Sing, Sing, Sing. This one has an unexpected improvisation by the pianist, Jess Stacey. BG seems to have thought the tune was finished, or possibly unexpectedly and uncharacteristically handed the pianist a solo spot where Jess Stacey continued with a remarkable solo, the highlight of the piece, and viewed as one of the greatest piano jazz solos ever. Here is a link to this Carnegie Hall solo on You-Tube:

BG disbanded the band in 1950 - Jazz was moving on, with bigger bands uneconomic, and swing declining. However, BG continued to play on occasion. The BG Story film was made in 1955, and BG reformed his band to tour alongside the film. BG also orchestrated a number of classical pieces for clarinet. BG’s final performance was in 1981, and he died in 1986.

The second half of the meeting was given over to members bringing along a clarinet piece for the group to listen to and there were some real gems.Tracks included:
Clarenetitus - BG
Keeping out of Mischief - Pee WeeRussell (with impressive bass)
The Main I Love - Edmond Hall playing a Gershwin composition
China Boy - played Anat Cohen - a contemporary take (and at high tempo) of an old 1922 classic
I’ve found a new baby -Sid Phillips
Washboard Blues - Pete Fountain - this has a 17 bar chorus (unusual), a very relaxed feel, “walking” bass, and one of the solos has the band all having a rest on the first beat of the bar, giving the clarinet solo “space”
Sometimes I’m Happy - Acker Bilk - with nice bass intro and solo
And to finish - an excellent finale (thanks Ray) - Single Petal of a Rose played by Joe Temperley. This was an old Duke Ellington tune, played at a live concert, at the Lincoln Centre in 2015. Joe Temperley usually played a tenor sax, but on this occasion played bass clarinet. The playing is mellow, clear and uncluttered, with just a piano accompanist. Beautiful!. This track is available on Amazon (had to get it - great 99 pence worth!) and here is a link to the performance on YouTube:

Now on a more notices front - at half time Cecilie appealed for us to consider getting along and supporting the Classical Music Appreciation U3A Group. They need more members and enjoy listening on the first Thursday of the month, 10am at the Friends Meeting House Beccles. Their web page link as follows: