Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pipes and Woodwinds: Clarinet Connections

Brave Old World: Brave Old Sirbas


One of the pleasures of this week‘s theme for me is the chance to present some klezmer music here. Some readers at this point may be going “aha!!” But probably more of you are wondering what I‘m talking about. Klezmer is Jewish celebration music that Jewish immigrants brought with them from eastern Europe to the United States in roughly the period from 1890-1920. This music often featured the clarinet, and it reached its peak in the 1920s, with clarinetist David Tarras leading the way. And then, klezmer disappeared.

Fifty years later, a group of Jewish-American musicians seeking their roots began to discover old klezmer recordings from the 20s, and klezmer was reborn. Brave Old World were a group that was in the thick of this revival. Brave Old Sirbas is a fine example of the sound of klezmer clarinet. I presented a fuller discussion of klezmer music last year on my blog, Oliver di Place. The songs are no longer up, but you can read that here.

Benny Goodman: Puttin‘ on the Ritz


So klezmer may be new to you, but I’m sure that you have heard of Benny Goodman. In discussions of Goodman’s music, not much is usually made of his Jewish background. But Goodman apparently received his first musical training in 1919 at the Kehelah Jacob Synagogue, so I think that it is not too much of a stretch to say that he must have heard klezmer music as a boy. I can hear the influence in his playing, although he was also obviously influenced by the sounds of early jazz that were coming from New Orleans. Still, the connection is there. Goodman is, of course, best known for his big band recordings, but I have chosen a trio recording to better focus on his clarinet playing. It may well be fair to say that the klezmer revival musicians, many of whom started out playing jazz, were also influenced by Benny Goodman.

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