Dear Mr. Friedland
What should we look for to play jazz on the clarinet, where bending the pitch (e.g., rhapsody in blue), maybe vibrato, etc., are important, different from – I assume – classical? An open mouthpiece with a lot of clearance, and a soft reed, or a closed one with a reed that is softer than a classical reed but still firm enough not to close up completely? A crystal or metal mouthpiece?
Second, I’m thinking of getting a tenor sax to be able to play much lower than clarinets, without the expense of e.g., a extended bass or contrabass clarinet, which cost thousands. But I would like a C non-transposing instrument because I want to be able to play at score pitch. (That’s why I bought a lyrique C to go with my selmer centered tone B flat.) I want to play music, not the sax, as it were. The only company I’ve found that makes these at a reasonable cost is called aquilasax in Australia. Any idea if they are any good? Of course, they say they are, but . . . Sometimes these are called “melody C” saxes, I think. Or maybe you can find a decent contrabass clarinet on e bay for much less. Ridenour has one he’d let go for 2300 but even that seems like a lot (for me, not for the instrument). I’d like to come in under $1500 and the aquilasaxes are maybe $600 to $800.
Comment: I think you have felt unfavorably towards La Voz reeds . . . my experience has been quite different, finding them excellent. In fact my lyrique C came from ridenour with a LaVoz that is the best reed I have except perhaps for my forestones. Very free blowing, responsive in all registers. Of course the others I have are from the 1960s, not played on in the meantime, so you could called them “properly aged”. But if Ridenour uses them, they could not be too bad – especially if they are included when he’s sending you an instrument to evaluate. I also find the Rico thick blank great as long as you use Ridenour’s Against the Grain finishing technique to get them to play at all – then they play great.
Thanks. I checked the forums for these questions before asking and did not see anything.
Dear JW: Thank you for your interesting commentary, questions and possible solutions.
First, I do not think that any particular mouthpiece will facilitate the playing of Jazz an more than any other.So much of the mouthpiece is dependant on the sound you have in your head, and how you want to play. Lots of folk say the Van Doren JB is liked, and yes, some like crystal, but there is no favorite.When I asked Benny what he played, he had to look at the mouthpiece which had no name.Daniel Bonade espoused medium mouthpieces for all of his students, nothing extreme at all.
“Bending notes”, as you say is not a salient feature of any Jazz style or actually of any particular period in the history of music. Rhapsody in Blue is not really a Jazz piece, simply a reflection of the popular cultural ferment of the time and only some of its features. The glissando at the beginning of the work was more of a way of interpretation of the glissando, played by (I believe) Ross Gorman, a member of the Paul Whitman Band.
Some of us call it the worlds longest agogic accent, which is the accent by delay, the delay being the extension of the gliss, but certainly not cemented to Jazz.
The playing of Benny Goodman or of Artie Shaw was not particularly festooned with bending notes, though both used it.
Benny Goodman was a trained classical clarinet player and the “licks” he developed, the characteristic “Bennyisms” were not particularly bent notes. Artie Shaw was completely self taught and in some ways a more interesting and imaginative player than was Benny Goodman. Eddie Daniels, who carries their banner these days is just a superb player, playing all styles with equal excellence and excellent saxophone.
As far as vibrato is concerned, in my younger years, I played with vibrato almost all of the time, mostly because of the playing of Reginald Kell,with whom I was terribly impressed . I still use it from time to time, and I play no Jazz, at least not for many years.
Speaking reeds, the Rico, La Voz, Rj Maier, Mitchell Lurie are not considered reeds which have enough heart, while reeds such as FOF Zonda, Rico Reserve, Rico Thick blank are more conducive. I like the cane from Argentina and find it better than any Van Doren, but of course, I have used many Van Doren, but played for a while the White Master, a German cut Vandoren, the cane excellent.
As far as a contrabass clarinet, forget about it.About saxophones made in Australia, they are actually companied in New Zealand and made in China. I have never played one, but clarinets made in the Orient are needlessly disparaged, for some play quite well. I would expect the same for Saxophones.
The C melody Saxophone saxophone was around for a long time and I’m sure you can find something used for little money. transposing Bb parts to C is a very simple transposition, something that was part of our education, and as I’ve frequently mentioned, I learned to transpose my lessons to several different keys.
There were always those who played saxophone and who tansposed by Clef, changing from Bb, to Eb, to C, by changing the clef. It may sound difficult, it is not, just a matter of familiarity.
LaVoz reeds are OK; certainly I played them for a while, as well as RJ Maier, as well as Rico, with all their various manifestations. They do not have the heart which is needed in order to play consistently in the upper registers of the clarinet, but many use them. You mention Forestone reeds, of which I have great respect. They need to make their product more available., and naturally the prices are quite high, especially if you get the wrong strength.
Tom Ridenour has done much for the clarinet and even more for the clarinetist and the students of the clarinet. His ATG method is the same for me as all of the things I have picked up after playing the clarinet for 60 years. He has got it all catalogued and arranged and it works. I hope I’ve answered your questions.
Keep practicing, and look for that C melody. Get it inexpensively, have it overhauled and you will be quite happy.
“Jazz Mouthpiece”, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Eddie Daniels, and don’t buy a Contra Bass Clarinet ! | Sherman Friedland’s Clarinet Corner