Jack Maheu, passed away August 27,2013

August 30, 2013

For all clarinetists and lovers of Dixieland: I received this today from Barbara Z Banks, former sister-in-law of Jack Maheu .

 

Jack Maheu, whose career as a top jazz clarinetist spanned over 50 years and included many appearances in upstate New York, died on August 27, 2013 in Ithaca. N. Y. at 83. He had suffered a severe stroke years before and was a resident at a nursing home in Ithaca.
Knowledgeable critics considered Maheu one of the finest jazz clarinetists. In 1951, he became a founding member, with fellow student musicians from the Syracuse marching band, of the eventually well-known Dixieland group, the Salt City Five.(later Six). They won the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts on tv. and appeared on Godfrey and Friends and his radio programs. As a result, the band was later booked for a long term engagement at Child’s Paramount in Times Square where it had the opportunity to share the stage as the house band with some of the legends in jazz on Sunday afternoons.
Born in Troy, N.Y., he spent his formative years in Plattsburgh, NY. After graduation from high school, he studied commercial art for two years at the Pratt Art Institute in Brooklyn, NY, then, on the advice of a musician friend from Syracuse, studied music for two years, majoring in clarinet at Syracuse University.
` During the early ’50s, two albums were recorded for Jubilee Records. In 1957, Maheu left the band and joined the Dukes of Dixieland where he recorded and helped arrange eight of their albums. He left the Dukes in 1959 to form his own band at the Preview Lounge in Chicago and played opposite the George Brunis band. He then toured with Muggsy Spanier for about a year and a half and recorded with Bob Scobey, Jimmy McPartland, Art Hodes, George Brunis, Pee Wee Russell, Vic Dickenson, George Wettling, and Bud Freeman. In 1961, he re-formed the Salt City Six as co-leader with Will Alger. Wild Bill Davison joined this group for a one-year tour in 1962.
Beginning in 1979, Maheu joined the house band at Eddie Condon’s Jazz club in New York, and recorded Condon’s Hot Lunch album with Pee Wee Erwin in 1980. After the club closed in 1985, he stayed in New York to work and record with Grosz, Dick Wellstood, Mark Shane, and Howard Alden and played at the Red Blazer.
Maheu moved to Marco Island, Florida in 1988 to help form the Paradise Jazz Band, with which he toured and recorded. In 1989, they played an impromptu jam session for the newly liberated East Germans coming through the demolished Berlin Wall. In 1990, Maheu moved to New Orleans and, using his architectural knowledge from Pratt, designed his own house. He toured for six months with Al Hirt and played engagements at the Fairmont Hotel plus various Bourbon Street clubs and Mississippi riverboats. He formed the Fire In The Pet Shop Callithumpian Jazz Band, which won First Place three years in a row in the New Orleans French Quarter Jazz Festival Battle of the Bands.
In New Orleans, Maheu became one of the most sought-after musicians in town. At Fritzel’s Jazz Pub on Bourbon St., he was known as “The General” by many of the City’s best players who sat in and younger clarinet players who listened and learned. Eddie Edwards, head of the Louis Armstrong Foundation told the Times-Picayune (4/23/94), “Maheu is the best clarinet player in New Orleans. He’s a real pro. When Jack talks, other musicians listen. His presence commands the respect of other musicians.”
Jack remained active in jazz in New Orleans until 2006 when a stroke forced his retirement. During his career, Maheu was featured on over a dozen national TV shows and over twenty record albums. His last recording was My Inspiration with the Jack Maheu Quartet (2004) on the Jazzology label.
Richard Sudhalter, noted jazz critic and Grammy winner for record liner notes, described Maheu as, “the master of a totally expansive, melodic way or playing that acknowledges its debt to admired figures of the past – Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Pee Wee Russell – but which speaks forcefully in its own accents and eloquent means of expression.”
As for playing the clarinet, Maheu told The Mississippi Rag (05/95), ” It is so difficult to play it well. You have to put a lot of years into it. A lot of guys can pick up a saxophone, a guitar…and in a couple of weeks they can play a job. Clarinet players have become the orphans in the music business – except for New Orleans.
“It’s the only town I’ve been in where the clarinet players get first calls for the good jobs. In the same article, Maheu said, “To me, there are only two kinds of jazz – good and bad, whether it’s a modern group or a Dixieland group. In Dixieland especially, the ensemble sound is absolutely one of the greatest things in music. Leonard Bernstein was quoted in print saying, “the most exciting sound in music is a good Dixieland band at full tilt”
Irving Berlin’s 1922 ‘Some Sunny Day” was Maheu’s favorite song. “I like the words,” he once said: “Some sunny day, with a smile on my face, I’ll go back to that place far away..”
He is survived by four children; Joy Maheu, Lisa Hawthorne, Michael Maheu and John Maheu; two sisters: Patti Mooney and Merilee Trudel;
three brothers: Robert, Bill and Jim Hargraves and three grandchildren:
Jenessa and Devon Maheu and Olivia Hawthorne. He had been previously married to Sharon Gravelet of New Orleans. A private ceremony is planned.

Thank you, Ms. Banks. We are all sorry for your and our  loss

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Schumann “Fairy Tales” in concert

August 26, 2013

Etude2thumbrest(With T. Kooimann Etude 2 thumb rest)

Several months ago, I had posted news about this thumb rest. My reason was simple: severe pain in my right thumb after playing for even one hour. I had forgotten how painful this could be. It simply makes you cringe as you hold and play the clarinet, which ,of course, disturbs virtually everything.
I had simply put off the thumb rest, mostly because I found that lack of practice resulted in no pain. No practice, no pain, right?
Wrong. Initially, practicing went fine, but as the hours passed, the pain increased reminding me of my original article, and ensuing discomfort.
Practicing a bit may have helped, but since “between engagements” ,( retired.) I did not.
So, when my friends,extraordinary musicans,Sara an Donald Pistolesi came for our rehearsals and concert, the pain returned, and was even more severe. (Sara, Violin and Viola, Donald, Cello and Piano, retaining their virtuosity and youthful enthusiasm)

Here is the very good news. I attached the thumb rest myself, with no assistance, and with only one screw, and it held perfectly . It was a very easy change to make. It must be removed when putting the clainet in the case, but it simply slides on and off, easily.
I had read several reviews of this thumb rest, and was taken by one which said the thing just snapped off after ten minutes. This is not the case, and only one of the supplied screws was used.
The pupose of this thumb rest is to shift the weight of the clarinet from the first joint of the thumb to the joint closest to the palm, which completely eliminates the pain because this part of thumb can sustain so much more weight. The thumb rest itself swivels to adjust to many positions. The big news is that it is a very simple installation, and I used only one of the three screws provided.

I paid about 25 dollars several years ago, and the thing just laid in the drawer. So, with such a simple procedure, taking less than a few minutes, I was playng without any pain in my thumb. Yes, I should have installed the thing several weeks in advance, bu ,frankly, I was reluctant. I needn’t have been, nor should any reader.

Here is what I did and used: I removed the thumb rest, which needed a jewelers  loup and a thin ,strong screwdriver. (eyes get weaker at 80 years) Indispensible was a small tool called the “Leatherman Squirt”, a tiny many- bladed thing which can be caried anywhere and has an actual miniature pliers, which fold out of the tool. This was used to unscreew the original thumb rest, and the short screwdriver, also in the tool, has enough strength to loosen and tighten screws. Amazingly useful, and small enough to keep on your key chain. I received mine as a gift from my nephew, Randy.

Here is my report: It is an easy installation, and I used it immediately after installing it. No practice, not a note. It worked, providing painless stability. Of course, I was fortunate.

The concert, which included works by Bruch , as well as the Schumann was successful. The FAiry Tales are his last published work, which was allowed to be published by his wife, Clara, and Johannes Brahms. A wonderfully strange work with a gorgeous lullaby, complete with contemporary sounding dissonances. All of Schumanns works for clarinet are either beautiful, playable , unusual, and effective for the audience. Because Schumann had not played the piano for 30 years or so, the piano writing, especially in the last movement is very awkward , and takes an extra rehearasal. Please ,do not rush. Slower is faster, and you know what I mean.

If you have discomfort in your right hand, here is a way to fix it, without any operation, save for your own installation of this thumb rest. Initially, I had this rather exquisite pain in my left thumb, but it was easily fixed with a simple day surgery at the Montreal General. I prefer the new thumb rest. Incidentally, they make a metal one, with many adjustments possible,(200$) but the less expensive one works just fine. If it breaks, I will get another.

Good luck, stay well, and keep practicing, and or playing.

Chamber music is always the most enjoyable thing one can do.

sherman


Baubles ,Bangles, Beads, and Borodin

August 13, 2013

One is relentlessly bombarded with gadgets of all kinds for our clarinets. The profusion includes all the usual and some of the the more unusual.In the long list of clarinet problems. What is most neglected , is the music itself. As one reads about the many different types of ligatures, mouthpieces, barrels, thumbrests, extra keys, adjustments of all kinds, this song came into my head  “Baubles,Bangles, and Beads”. This cute song was made popular from the musical Kismet. And with the revisiting of Kismet came a virtual fountain of information, much more interesting than any list of wanted gadgets. Yes, having tried and played and used most of the gadgets, I know full well the feeling of wanting. Wanting to solve a problem through the use of something attached to the clarinet, whether is be mouthpiece, reeds, ligature, and even teacher.

But, with overwhelming importance, despite the interest in gadgetry, the stuff that we do on our clarinet became the most important study, the most fullfillig, beautiful and actually, never ending.

As I delved into the song, which actually had become quite popular both as the song from the musical, a popular tune, and a great vehicle for jazz, played endlessly for its interesting chord changes and variety.
All of the music of the show, Kismet is taken from the music of Alexander Borodin, a composer who lived during part of the 19yh century and was really not a composer. He was much more celebrated as a chemist, and was interested in promoting women composers and musicians and women chemists. His life is most interesting and perhaps can only be surpassed by the music he composed during his short life.

Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin was a Russian Romantic composer, doctor and chemist. He was a member of the group of composers called The Five , who were dedicated to producing a specifically Russian kind of art music.He is best known for his symphonies, his two string quartets, On the Steppes of Central Asia and his opera Prince Igor. Music from Prince Igor and his string quartets was later adapted for the musical Kismet.
He was a notable advocate of women’s rights and a proponent of education in Russia and was a founder of the School of Medicine for Women in St. Petersburg.

I thought that surely, here was a man for all seasons, literally a Renaissence Man from the 19th century, and while not just a composer, wrote some of the most beautiful and memorable melodies of his time. And, our time.

“Prince Igor”, his most notable piece , is an opera , known to all clarinetists who have played in any orchestra, band ore even chamber ensemble. It contains the Polyvitsian Dances, famous for its many clarinet tunes, cadenzas, solo passages. I remember not even being able to pronounce the title, much less spell it. My teacher could rattle all of the clarinet parts off as if a practiced warmup study. Perhaps, it was. If you have never had the Bonade Book of Orchestra Studies for the Clarinet, then, you have seen it in any other book of clarinet studies.

Borodin was born in Saint Petersburg, the illegitimate son of a Georgian noble, Luka Gedevanishvili, and a 24-year-old Russian woman, Evdokia Konstantinovna Antonova. The nobleman had him registered as the son of one of his serfs, Porfiry Borodin. As a boy he received a good education, including piano lessons. In 1850 he entered the Medical–Surgical Academy in St Petersburg, which was later home to Ivan Pavlov, and pursued a career in chemistry. On graduation he spent a year as surgeon in a military hospital, followed by three years of advanced scientific study in western Europe.

I wondered, did Borodin know Pavlov?
In 1862 Borodin returned to St Petersburg to take up a professorial chair in chemistry at the Imperial Medical-Surgical Academy[and spent the remainder of his scientific career in research, lecturing and overseeing the education of others. Eventually, he managed to establish medical courses for women. (1872).Women?
He began taking lessons in composition from Mily Balakirev in 1862. He married Ekaterina Protopopova, a pianist, in 1863, and had at least one daughter, named Gania. Music remained a secondary vocation for Borodin outside his main career as a chemist and physician. He suffered poor health, having overcome cholera and several minor heart attacks. He died suddenly during a ball at the Academy, and was interred in Tikhvin Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, in Saint Petersburg.

Why mention Pavlov? The concept for which Pavlov is famous is the “conditioned reflex” (or in his own words the conditional reflex: he developed jointly with his assistant Ivan Filippovitch Tolochinov in 1901. He had come to learn this concept of conditioned reflex when examining the rates of salivations among dogs. Pavlov had learned then when a bell was rung in subsequent time with food being presented to the dog in consecutive sequences, the dog will initially salivate when the food is presented. (so do we)The dog will later come to associate the ringing of the bell with the presentation of the food and salivate upon the ringing of the bell. Tolochinov, whose own term for the phenomenon had been “reflex at a distance”, communicated the results at the Congress of Natural Sciences in Helsinki in 1903.Later the same year Pavlov more fully explained the findings, at the 14th International Medical Congress in Madrid, where he read a paper titled The Experimental Psychology and Psychopathology of Animals.
As Pavlov’s work became known in the West, particularly through the writings of John B. Watson, the idea of “conditioning” as an automatic form of learning became a key concept in the developing specialism of comparative psychology, and the general approach to psychology that underlay it, behaviorism. Pavlov’s work with classical conditioning was of huge influence to how humans perceive themselves, their behavior and learning processes and his studies of classical conditioning continue to be central to modern behavior therapy. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell was an enthusiastic advocate of the importance of Pavlov’s work for philosophy of mind.
Pavlov’s research on conditional reflexes greatly influenced not only science, but also popular culture. Pavlovian conditioning was a major theme in Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel, Brave New World,
It is popularly believed that Pavlov always signaled the occurrence of food by ringing a bell. However, his writings record the use of a wide variety of stimuli, including electric shocks, whistles, metronomes, tuning forks, and a range of visual stimuli, in addition to the ring of a bell. Catania cast doubt on whether Pavlov ever actually used a bell in his famous experiments. Littman tentatively attributed the popular imagery to Pavlov’s contemporaries Vladimir Mikhailovich Bekhterev and John B. Watson, until Thomas found several references that unambiguously stated Pavlov did, indeed, use a bell.

Well, does one imagine that Borodin may have known Pavlov? That is inconsequential, but what is of great consequence is the Pavlovian conditioned reflex. Why were our classes always begun and ended with the ringing of a bell? Why do we answer the bell of the telephone when it rings. Are these reactions due initially to this Russian genius? Certainly the many ways we have of practicing and learning the clarinet have to do with conditional reflex, and behavioural modication, or how we learn to know and improve in our musical understanding.

But, back to Borodin, and Bauubles, Bangles and Beads from the second movement of his second string quartet made and used in the musical “Kismet”, and made forever famous.
And do we know or remember the very famous prize winning tune.”Stranger in Paradise,” which actually won a special award as this song. This too is from the String Quartet of Alexander Borodin, who was not only a composer of a few very popular works, but a noted chemist, doctor and was pivotal in starting a medical school for women. In 19th century Russia?

Or do we actually think that gadgets will replace and take the place of practice?

Stay well, and keep practicing. Start with The Polyvitsien Dances. It is a nice solo.

sherman


“A lovely sound, superior intonation”

August 8, 2013

The other day, I looked at a teachers website, which seemed interesting, or at least, busy and productive. But this teacher advocated only what she called the finest equipment,  Buffet-Crampon.

This is quite disturbing , simply because you may say what you want about Buffet-Crampon, but you cannot say it is finely finished or trouble-free. Usually, people who utilize this equipment readily admit to, much tweaking of the instrument for intonation and ,for adjustment.This can cost hundreds ,if not thousands of dollars.. In conclusion, they may have a fine instrument. But, they will have endless adjustments to make. I have taught at institutions where there were concert and marching bands which rehearse on a daily basis for hours. Actually much more than an Orchestra. And those horns were always in need of adjustments. The barrels become frozen to the first joint, the plastic dowels at the end of the bottom joint tend to snap. rendering one unable to play. It is not the finest equipment. In marching or concert bands in post-secondary institutions, Buffet-Crampon has only one thing going for it, and that is the price, which, for most parents, is totally prohibitive. So, for a teacher to advocate Buffet as the finest, is a lie. Young people and their sponsors are interested in playing and practicing for hours. The price of a French Clarinet is prohibitive for most parents. And they are the ones who get the loans of 4 or five thousand dollars to buy these horns. I knew many, people who had menial jobs, trying to take out loans for a clarinet costing thousands. By the time they complete the payments, the youngster has probably changed his major to something where employment is a possibility, which excludes the clarinet business. Unless, of course, you decide to open a clarinet school. Then you can perpetuate the whole thing.

Post-secondary education includes colleges of all kinds, and a college or university becomes the goal of a clarinet major. Unfortunately, they are urged on by their professors, who are refugees from orchestras that payed poorly ,or from Graduate Schools. Where are they, these professors, going to go? Only to another institution where they can teach orchestra studies to their students all day long, work with reed fixing, learn repertoire, buy more horns, look for a mouthpiece that will get them a job, change their embouchure, or change their major. Life is short, orchestras are diminishing, competition is increasing, and to start, there are no jobs. I have worked as a clarinetist , teacher and conductor all of my life, but that was then. This is now, and is pertinent for those living today. Take a look at the prospects for jobs in the music playing business, and please, get serious.

Prior to entering  High School in Brookline, Mass, I wanted to play the clarinet. I had been given lessons by whatever maid we had cleaning our house at the time. Both my parents worked and there was always a person to clean and watch over us, and frequently they played “enough piano” to teach a bit, the names of the notes and a basic finger position. Nothing much happened between me and the piano, but in high school I did find my way into the high school band and the the Jazz Club and a few other groups which attracted me to the clarinet. My parents were not insensitive to this, but they had a unique method. they put an ad in the paper, “wanted to buy, used clarinet” .I guess they got a few replies, but one was quite special and I was quite fortunate. Thjis fellow who came to the house with a metal clarinet , also gave lessons. So, a deal was made, something about renting the clarinet for three months , along with lessons, and for my parents, the deal had to be good, and it was. But, the person who got the very best deal was yours truly.This fellow turned out to be an excellent salesman, but best of all, he was a wonderful player. He was a clarinetist ,but was abe to make a very good sound on all of the woodwinds woodwinds, not terribly well, except for his sound. He sounded terrific on everything, all of the woodwinds. In retrospect, he gave me his sound and I was enthralled, and as I search for a word, enthralled is all I can think of. It was certainly the most beautiful clarinet sound I have or had ever heard. Of course, it is the sound I incorporated into my own sound, simply by listening, and trying to copy what I was hearing. I learned that the sound of the clarinet is the best reason for playing the clarinet.But, I also learned about incorporting that sound into a musical line. This phenomenon occurs whenever you put the instrument together with a person who has what is called an afinity for the instrument. My first lesson was completely filled with squeaks and horrible noises. The teacher told me to practice a half hour each day, and I vowed to myself, that I would not squeak for the next lesson. I would simply not allow any foreign noise. I have been that way al of my life, both as a student and a clarinetist. I made literally dozens of remote broadcast for Radio Canada, called the CBC. These were live concerts. There were no retakes. What that means is what you play is what you get. No splicing, no editing, nothing was changed. Just about every recording onthis site was made from recording copies of these concerts.It came from that very first vow: no squeaks, no mistakes. And, as well know, that means no excuses. It has been a wonderful standard.

For many years, I used to prowl the auction houses for used and new clarinets. It was great fun and , frequently very fine instruments were to be had, at very attractive prices. I was able to purchase some clarinets which were brand new looking and excellent players. Perhaps the most important aspect of a clarinet that has been pre-owned, or used is the actual written presentation of the instrument,plus the photographs,the condition and of course, the price, and the conditions of the sale. One hears again for all auctions online, CAVEAT EMPTOR, which means (in LAtin) Buyer beware. It is to be taken quite seriously, for there are many instruments for sale which turn out to be much less than the description, or just plain unplayable or clarinets one would reject immediately,upon first playing. For buyers , online auctions can be treacherous . Descriptions must be examined carefully, checking for accuracy, the exact conditions for shipping, and for any warranty offered. Shipping is to be examined carefully. But prices  of many countries have increased and the private shipping companies do not necessarily do a great job in shipping or packing or clarinet condition. I hve found that the US postal Service is the most reliable, and has been for me for at least a dozen years. I have never ever lost a shipped package . Not one.
One should attempt to be as clear as possible and use as little flowery descriptive terms as possible. You should edit your copy until it is perfect. As far as photos are concerned, furnish the best photos you can. If it means buying a digital camera, get a good one, and they are plentiful and very economical. Too many pictures are counter productive. In other words they do not necessarly prove a point or tend to impress the potential buyer.

For a careful shopper interested in learning to play the clarinet, without a big budget, the absolutely best recommendation I can give you for excellent workmanship, intonation and sound are instruments made from hard rubber, or ebonite. This material is natural, grows plentifully and easily and best of all, is much more stable than any wood. Finally, it is easier to machine as well, meaning that the cost is much less than any clarinet made in Europe, specifically, France. There has been a saying mouthed from people who really don’t know, or have not truly tried hard rubber, or ebonite. They  say, “if it aint wood, it aint good.” Usually, this is mouthed by folks who play wooden instruments, have forked over the big price, and have worked on their horn to an extent to where the horns are in tune. I have never heard this comment from one  who had played hard rubber for any length of time. The comment is understandable. If you pay 5 grand for a clarinet, you better like the horn, and had better look down your nose at a rubber clarinet, which costs thousands less, is better in tune, and will remain stable , even in winter.

Yes, you know I am speaking about the Lyrique clarinet designed and made by Tom Ridenour. It is my horn of choice, and my recommendation, which I make freely, having owned just about every wooden instrument made. I still have ten. Twelve…..

Stay well, and play well.

Sherman