3 Amazing Jazz Clarinetists You Need to Listen To

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With a sound that can be both soothing and beautifully ominous, the clarinet is a fundamental part of any orchestra. Larger orchestras can feature up to 30 of these woodwinds, and their dulcet versatility give composition a richness and depth not heard with any other instrument. While the clarinet is largely seen as a classical instrument to be played as part of an ensemble, there's much joy to had from listening to its solo sibling - the jazz clarinet. The physical instrument is the same as an orchestral clarinet, but it's played in a way that demands more attention and requires a different set of skills. To take such a classical sounding instrument and make it work in a new style of music is a real challenge. So who are some jazz clarinetists whose music you should be listening to?

Woody Allen

The Oscar winning director experienced a career downturn in the 1990's and early 2000's, when the release of his films were met with a critical and commercial shrug of disinterest. While he returned to the top of his game thanks to films such as Match Point (2005), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), and Blue Jasmine (2013), Woody certainly had a career to fall back on if needed. A jazz soundtrack is a common feature in his cinematic work, and he's an accomplished jazz clarinetist in real life. When in New York, he plays each Monday with his group, The Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band. He owns numerous instruments, including a prestigious Buffet Clarinet, made by the famed French woodwind masters.

The Beatles and Gordon Lewin

Clarinets and pop music don't necessarily go together so often, but when they do, the results are memorable. In The Beatles' I Am the Walrus (1967), the brilliantly nonsensical lyrics are combined with an orchestra and 16 member choir, featuring the excellent jazz clarinet work of Gordon Lewin. The Beatles seemed to take the "more is more" approach with this work and produced a revolutionary cacophony of melody. It was supposedly influenced by their experimentation with recreational drugs, which would actually explain a lot.

Buddy DeFranco

DeFranco rose to the top of his game at a problematic time for his instrument. Swing was all the rage in the 1940's but was beginning its decline, and the clarinet became a less common sound on the radio and in live bands. DeFranco saw that the future of his instrument was in bebop, an improvisational form of jazz that featured a notoriously fast and complex tempo. A clarinetist needed endless energy to keep up, and DeFranco not only kept up, but became a leader in this new form of modern jazz.

While the clarinet offers an undeniably dreamy magic to orchestral ensembles, these three jazz clarinet masters show that as a solo instrument, it can be bold, brash, and beautiful. For more information on clarinets, contact a business such as The Music Place.

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8 April 2015

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