Gino Cioffi, the greatest pure clarinetist .

Dear Sherman,
I have been playing clarinet professionally in Los Angeles since 1970, mostly commercial work, although I am basically a classical clarinetist and studied with John Neufeld and Gary Gray, winding up working with them on many film and TV dates over the years. My friend B.N., the bassist, played in the BSO from 1964-68, when he quit to come to L.A. And told me a few Gino Cioffi stories. Once Gino asked Buell after a concert,
“You coming to the party at (a horn player I cannot recall)?” So Buell met him there. It was a bitter winter night. Finally at about 2:00am, Buell offered Gino a ride home, but Gino replied, “no, its OK, my student drove me here, and he’s waiting in the car.”
But my favorite is when Gino’s last season ended, Buell was in the BSO locker room collecting some music from his locker, when he noticed Ginostaring for the last time at his locker. Then, outside Symphony Hall, Gino,with several clarinet cases under his arms, took a last look at Symphony Hall, not noticing Buell sitting on his motorbike a few feet away, and
said to the Hall: “Fucka da Boston Symph!”
Anyway, my question is: I’ve been fortunate to be around many talented
clarinet players with good equipment who were generous and I started out atage 11 playing on a Bettoney Columbia model mouthpiece that Kalman Bloch gotrid of. I still have it, although it was refaced by Glen Johnston (another great teacher – the first clarinetist to play the Rhapsody in Blue solo when Gershwin brought the piece to rehearse in L.A. Charlie Chaplin introduced them.). I’ve also got a sweet Kaspar Cicero #16 Glen closed up (refaced),and played on it for the last 15 years, until a friend on a job let me try his new Kanter (Zinner) facing. And on my Selmer Signature clarinets it
was heaven! My friend is a doubler, mostly a tenor man, and liked his Kasper better, so I kept it and for the last year or so I’ve been playing that,with great results. But the reason I’m writing you is that yesterday the same friend gave me a G.G. crystal #3 and it’s something else! But the facing is more open (I haven’t measured it) and favors lighter reeds. I
use Evolution 3 1/2s, and the very broken-in ones play fine after I work them down with the knife. What blew my mind was that the first reed I took out of my case played perfectly well. I learned how to fix reeds studying oboe for seven years with Allan Vogel, student of Gillet. (Allan once told a story of visiting Gillet in 1985. Thru the door he heard a beautiful oboe solo. He knocked, Gilet let him in. “What reed was that?” Allan asked. Ferdinand looked down at the reed and said, “a student made this in 1936.”
Anyway, I’ve got a wonderful LP set of the Boston Chamber Players from 1958,and Gino kills on that record! My friend Gene Cipriano says Gino played a G.G. Crystal. What facing was it? I must have a dozen glass mps from no-name to O’Brien and Selmer, but they all feel too resistant. Except the G.G. I also have one from Kalman Bloch on the bass clarinet, which is great, but since Sheridan Stokes gave me his dad’s (Franklin, bass cl with the L.A.Phil) mp collection I’ve been playing on a 1930’s Selmer B*. I’ve been in training practicing the Brahms op 120 #1 sonata for arecording, and I’m in heaven with the G.G. Real dolce emerges on that mouthpiece. Hope you are well and I totally enjoyed reading your correspondence.
Hi Mart: Many thanks for your informative humorous note on the condition of music. If he is still among us, give Buell my fond regards, please.
I played a heavenly GG for 5 years until a student broke it at the intermission of a chamber music concert, but more on that later.

I studied with Gino when I first got out of the army in 1957. My brother was teaching at BU so I got half tuition at the university, plus GI bill made it very simple to go there.
I would go for lessons at Ginos apartment. I would ring the bell and.
When he answered , I would tell him “Sherman is here for his lesson”.
A very typical answer would be. “Oh, Frie…., you cuma back later. Ahma take a shower”
Of course, then I came back, there would be no response to the bell.
When I did get in for my lesson, it was all sales, all the time.
“Hey, Frie…. you gotta such a good dispozish, how come you don’ta play my clarinets!”
“Hey Frie….., why you know buy my moutha piece?”
I would try his mouthpiece, which would make me swoon .
“Will the one I get be the same as this, Mr. Cioffi?”
“Hey, they alla pay da same.”
Cut to me getting a Masters degree at U Mass.
Joe Contino gave me 6 GG mouthpieces for 35 bucks. I was trying them ,finding
them all stuffy, when my wife said from the next room, “Whats that?”
I answered it was one of the GGs. She said to keep it. It was without
question the best most gorgeous mouthpiece I ever got near and I played in to great success. Reeds were a little bit of a problem, but in that era I used to leave the reed on the mouthpiece for a week, my theory being that I owed it to the rest of the section. I just ran water through it backwards,
wait a minute and then play away.
(Who knows what they sounded like 45 years ago?)
Anyway, it lasted for five years when it was broken by a student at the intermission of a chamber music concert. I drove home and got my spare crystal, played the second half of the concert ( I have the recording, it is great)
Then I never found another as good, never, never, never.The GG I had was a minus 1 and played a reed that must have been maybe 2
1/2, but who knows?
The student waiting Gino in the car is very typical of the concern of the man.
One of my friends who played very frequently in the BSO was Felix Viscuglia, who also played tenor and everything and recorded the Debussy Saxophone Rhapsaody with the BSO and Leinsdorf.
Phil told me that when Gino got his “notice” from the orchestra he walked him up the street to the aparment on Gainsborough street. Every few steps
Gino would stop and say to Phil, “hey what I did?” “What I did”?)
But………., he was probably the greatest pure clarinetist who ever lived.
I played the Stravinsky Three Piece to audition for Tanglewood. Gino said,
“hey, why you play dat? Datsa Sheeet!.”
I got in to Tanglewood( we called it stranglewood) and he told me , “Hey they didn’t wanna takea you, but I fix it
But when he played good, as he said, “:It was justa like Jesus Christ” “When
ahama play bad, it
stilla bettah then anybody else”

All in quotations was stated to me or to Phil Viscuglia by Gino , I swear it.
Stay well



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